A hole in my bucket

“Mom, there’s a hole in my sock”, my daughter said as she got dressed one morning.

“There’s a hole in your sock, dear Liza?”, I replied with a grin as I went to her dresser to get a new pair. She looked at me blankly and asked why I’d called her Liza.

“Well, you know, from the song about the hole in the bucket. You know, ‘dear Liza, dear Liza’?” I sang at her as I handed her the socks. When it was clear that I had neglected this aspect of my daughter’s education, I sang her the whole song and we laughed at Henry who was either too stupid or too lazy to fix his holey bucket. Later that day, in a moment of convergence, a friend of mine had a picture book of that song sitting her couch. Here’s a great picture of it:

ScholasticBooks

I am reading Donald Miller’s book Through Painted Deserts. Near the end there is a time when he looks up at the stars at night, staggered at God’s creation; he would never have seen the blanket of heaven’s lights if he’d stayed in Houston. “I would have bought a little condo and filled it with Ikea trinkets and dated some girl just because she was hot and would have read self-help books, end to end, one after another, trying to fix the gaping hole in the bottom of my soul.” [emphasis mine]

I stopped reading there. It’s such a comfort to me to hear that there is someone else in the world that has a gaping hole where their heart is. I call it my wound. It’s an enormous, raw injury that aches extremely tender if you touch close to its edges. Though I know that I’m not, I can’t be, the only one with this hole in my heart, sometimes when I look out and see how very normal everyone else looks I have to wonder. Am I really the only one that walks around hiding a hole in my bucket and wondering how to fix it. How shall I fix it, dear Liza?

Perhaps that’s why many people look like they have no hole in their bucket; perhaps they’ve learned to plug the hole with a straw or twig. Maybe when they were young their parents kept them busy with sports activities, crafts, day camps in the summer when there is no school. Maybe their parents taught them to make friends, fit in, keep distracted at home with TV and electronics. When you are busy and productive (and I say this from experience) the wound in your soul hurts less. As Donald Miller says, you buy stuff and get married and work hard, secretly reading self-help books by night to try to figure out why it’s not quite enough.

As a passionate follower of Jesus I would really like to tell you that I have it all figured out now. I’d like to tell you that by following these three (or six or twelve) simple steps you too can heal that hole in your heart. But that hole was created when we were torn out of a perfectly joined union with our great Lover. By an ignorant choice, we ripped ourselves out of His arms (see Genesis 1), creating a hole that cannot be fixed aside from a perfect re-joining once again. Augustine of Hippo in 354 AD tried for a long time to fix the hole in his heart through education, hard work, partying. He finally said to God: “You have made us for Yourself, and our hearts are restless until they can find rest in You.” When we are in a real, ongoing relationship with Jesus, His loving hand covers our wound so that we can be filled with His presence where there is love and peace and rest. Miller, continuing on his thought as he looks at the stars, writes “[the heart] hole seems plugged with Orion, allowing my soul to collect that feeling of belonging and love you only get when you stop long enough to engage the obvious.” Obvious equals miracle-making God.

I do think that some people’s heart wounds are bigger than others’. For a variety of complex psychological, physical, emotional reasons, some people experience the wounding of the separation of Lover and Beloved more than other people do. But there is absolutely no one without a wound like a belly button that says they were once joined with someone else.

Our Lover has promised that one day He will wipe every tear from our eyes and our pain we will remember no more. The re-joining will be perfect. We won’t just have our wound healed – there will be no wound. There will one day be no hole in my bucket. Dear Liza, what a day that will be!

Love you most

This is Love

Thanks to the movie Tangled, on any given night a bedtime hug with my sweet eight-year-old girl may end like this:

“I love you.”
“I love you more!”
“I love you most!!!”

We fight to be the one who is the “most” lover. In a mad rush to declare her undying love, my daughter will usually speak loudly over top of me with magic phrases designed to lock in her superior loving skills. Something like “I love you 100,000 times plus infinity plus beyond plus for ever and ever!” And she will continue to shout such phrases until I give up, laughing.

I usually let her win that war of words. However, I always remind her that mothers love their children more than they could ever possibly understand. Her affection for me seems to wane and wax with the food I feed her, how early I wake her up, if I take her shopping for a toy or how much TV she can watch. On the other hand, as a parent I willingly, knowingly gave up an entire way of life for her. Her very existence limits the money I can spend on myself, where and if I can travel, how much time I have to make friends, even the kind of house I have and how I furnish it. I chose this sacrifice and I would gladly make it again, but it’s the kind of sacrifice she couldn’t possibly comprehend that demonstrates my love.

Having children is an excellent glimpse into the mother heart of God. Rachel Held Evans wonderfully phrases it like this “…if three weeks of motherhood offer but a glint of the Ultimate Love coursing through the universe, then my heart could never bear it full force.”

God loves me in ways I couldn’t possibly comprehend; His sacrifice of love is infinitely greater than my own. His patience, His kindness, His generosity and His forgiveness are deeper and richer than I can imagine. When I yell at my children because I am tired or hungry, I think of my Father who is slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness (Psalm 145:8). When I am unmoved and impatient with my children because they’ve hurt themselves doing something I’ve asked them a thousand times not to do, I think of my Father who is gracious and compassionate (Ps 103:8). When I have my daughter in my arms, snuggling under a blanket watching the rain come down outside, bursting with love for this precious life I hold, I think of my Father, whose love for me is so proportionally higher and deeper and wider than mine (Ephesians 3:17) that I am greatly humbled. In the end, it is God alone who is able to truly say “I love you most.”

I AM: the Door

Jesus is the Door

As soon as I saw this image of a door, this verse came to my mind and I haven’t been able to shake it free from my thoughts. It was interesting to me that John 10:9 was laid on my heart, and not the more frequently used Revelations 3:20 (look it up if you don’t know what I’m talking about <g>).

Perhaps it’s all the Brian McLaren and Vincent Donovan I’ve been reading. I think both have immensely important things to say to us about how followers of Jesus should be working in the world. But both are wrong when they say things like:

“Do we believe in a God who loves Christians more than pagans, or who plans to save only those who know of, and believe in, Christ?…Salvation is possible in Hinduism, Buddhism, animist paganism, Judaism.” (Donovan, Christianity Rediscovered, pg 142).

Or McLaren when he derides this idea about Jesus:

“His mercy extends to those who have correct saving faith and orthodox articulations of belief…He will damn to hell those who believe they can be saved through their own efforts or through any religion other than the new one He is about to form.” (McLaren, Everything Must Change, pg 103)

I’m not saying that we don’t re-think the context of the truths of the gospel for our time and place. But I am saying Jesus was pretty clear when He declared, “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father but through Me.” (John 14:6). Or “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12) Or how about: “I am the door.”

Jesus ALONE is the door, the gate that His sheep must go through in order to be safe within His pastures. There is no other door. You can try to climb over the wall, but then you’re just a “thief and a robber” (vs. 8). Enter through the narrow gate (Matthew 7:13) and be saved. And, yes, few are those who find it.

Letter to Self

It’s Leap Year 2016. I was looking up ideas of fun ways to celebrate this with the family and I read about writing letters to ourselves. So I thought, hey! Cool idea.

The idea met with some resistance from the rest of the crowd, but they eventually and good-naturedly sat down with me after dinner to write themselves a letter, not to be opened until February 29, 2020.

Here’s just a quick sneak peak at mine: I wondered about the physical circumstances of my life and how they will be different; what jobs will we be doing, will we still be in the same house? But more importantly, how will God have shaped and changed me? What aspects of who I am will have grown and matured?

I like the idea of reading a letter to myself; it’s kind of like a time capsule. Will I look back in four years and laugh? Or (and this is more terrifying) will so little have changed that it will be like reading a post-it note from yesterday alongside the grocery list.

The last paragraph of my letter was a promise to do my best so that, when I meet with myself four years from now, I can share all I’ve been and done since we last spoke. And that is a promise I think we can all make to ourselves, every day.

Leading Worship

I just came back from our church’s Annual Budget Meeting. One of the items on the agenda was to discuss our church’s need for a worship pastor. As the chairman of our worship committee I’m keenly aware of the holes left behind when we decided not to hire a replacement pastor but to manage the ministry solely with volunteers.

I had 15 minutes and a 16 page powerpoint presentation. It outlined our philosophy of worship, our core values and the key elements of corporate worship. Then I discussed the questions and challenges posed by executing the disciplines we long to see present in the life of worship at our church. Questions about appropriate ways of recruiting and training authentic worshippers to become grace-filled worship leaders. How to incorporate people of different ages and stages of the faith journey into our worship elements with sensitivity. It prompted some good discussion. Then we moved on to the budget and eventually we all headed home.

When I had taken off my coat and jacket I went upstairs to make sure my eight-year-old was asleep. As I cuddled her warmth and stroked her head I had a sudden thought: raising my children to follow God with their whole hearts is my spiritual act of worship.

Raising my children to follow God with their whole hearts is my spiritual act of worship. Deuteronomy 6:4-8 “Listen, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD alone. And you must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength. And you must commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these commands that I am giving you today. Repeat them again and again to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up. Tie them to your hands and wear them on your forehead as reminders. Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”

When I get to heaven, Jesus may or may not ask me about how I led worship in my church. He probably will. But I know for sure He will first ask me about how well I taught my children to worship Him.

Seek Wonder

I’m a big fan of New Year’s resolutions. I like the feel of a reset, and I’m pretty good at not beating myself up when (not if!) I fall short of my expectations. The last few years have seen very pragmatic resolutions like “get up earlier” and “exercise more”. On these matters I may safely say that I fell quite short of my goal.

This year, one of my intentions for 2016 is to seek wonder. I was very good at this through my childhood all the way into my marriage. However, there is something about endless loads of laundry, housekeeping, demanding children and the busy practicalities of life that erode away wonder and childlike delight. And it’s the childlike that enter the kingdom of God.

Seeking wonder doesn’t mean you need to get weird and believe in fairies, like Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (though, I’ll just say with Shakespeare that there are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of). Seek wonder in the light that shines through crystal snow. Delight in the fog that creates a Camelot out of downtown Vancouver. The warmth of a child’s hand trustingly held in yours. There are endless ways God has gifted us with wondrous things if we are willing to see.