It takes a village

As many of you know, we had a wedding in our family last summer. In fact, my son and his sweet bride celebrate six months (!) of wedded bliss today. 

The wedding didn’t get much coverage here on the blog but, hey, nothing’s getting much coverage on the blog. However, today as I was poking around on my laptop and uncovered a few draft posts in a word document, I found the following unpublished post and thought I’d share. I’m so very thankful for those who bless me as stewards of God’s varied grace and I honor them today.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned about weddings in general and my gig as mother of the groom, it’s this: weddings take a village.

The responsibility as mother of the groom is, admittedly, far less involved than that of the mother of the bride but I have to tell you, even with the lesser load I could not have pulled it off without a little help from my friends.

My main duty as mother of the groom included planning and hosting the rehearsal dinner. One friend lent me her beautiful tablecloths and toppers; another friend catered the desserts; yet another friend helped with setting up and arranging the room. My neighbor gave me free reign to cut some of her gorgeous hydrangeas for the table arrangements.

During the meal itself I had friends who filled cups with ice, refilled the tea dispensers, replenished the food in the serving bowls, and kept the cheese dip from burning. The evening was all the more beautiful thanks to the efforts of my sister who can take pebbles, candles, and succulents, as well as a stack of black chargers, and make a memorable evening stunningly gorgeous.

A friend made chicken salad for our house party to have here for lunch as well as sausage balls and cinnamon rolls for breakfast. Another friend dropped by with a plate of deli sandwiches.

Hear me when I say I could not have survived the weekend, certainly not as well fed or with as little stress, without the care and support of others.

When my husband wrecked his bicycle a few years ago and was in a wheelchair for eight weeks, we were the humble recipients of a similar outpouring of help. Naturally the circumstances could not have been more different but both remind me of how critically we need each other and how beautiful it is when the church serves one another as stewards of God’s varied grace.

Some of us have tablecloths to share and in our generosity we can minister to others. Some of us make chicken salad and sausage balls and so exercise hospitality. Others of us devote their culinary skills to bless others, with chocolate for example, yes and amen, and thus make the world a happier place. Some of us like my sister leave beauty in their wake and bring joy and happiness to the rest of us, especially those among us who can’t even.

A friend remarked on the success of the dinner and I could only give credit where credit was due: the caterers, my friends, my sister. If it were up to me, I admitted, we would have still enjoyed the delicious meal but I would have probably just stacked some paper plates at the end of the buffet line and considered my duty done. Not that I don’t appreciate beautiful décor, sometimes I just would rather not fool with it.

I am grateful for those who do. I know that the more “prominent” gifts-teaching and preaching and the like-are sometimes assumed to have more worth and those of us who exercise them may seem the more spiritual. This is baloney and I say that as one who teaches.

Generosity, hospitality, service, these too are important and critical in the life of the church and in the proclamation of the kingdom. I esteem those of you who exercise these gifts with grace and generosity in the joyous service of our Savior. Thank you.

Favorite reads of 2016

One of my favorite things about this time of year is the “best of” reading lists. I voraciously and carefully read each one I come across, often comparing my favorites (and my non-favorites) and always, always adding to the ever growing list of books I want to read. Someday, one day, maybe.

I read fifty some-odd books so far this year; a few I loved, some I hated, some were surprisingly good, some surprisingly disappointing. Apparently there were many I was just ambivalent about. For those of you who may be curious about my “best of” list, I offer the following favorites among the books I read this year, in no particular order…

Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson. I can’t stop talking about this one. If you’ve had any sort of extended conversation with me about politics or culture or anything really, I’ve probably mentioned this book. It will open your eyes, break your heart, and make you think. Related: I also appreciated Between the World and Me by Ta-nehisi Coates, a look at the black experience in this country, equally eye opening and heartbreaking.

The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness: The Path to True Christian Joy by Tim Keller. I think the title says it all. You can read this little book in one sitting and be convicted for a long time after.

The One-in-a-Million Boy by Monica Wood. Loved it. My favorite novel I read last year, and one I keep recommending, is A Man Called Ove. This story evokes a similar sense of hope amid grief. It is not as sad as the description may make it sound!

Look and Live: Behold the Soul-Thrilling, Sin-Killing Glory of Christ by Matt Papa. I need to have this one on re-read yearly, monthly, weekly maybe. So, so good.

Honorable mentions:

I read a lot of fiction this year; no newsflash there as I read a lot of fiction every year. I don’t know if my standards are getting stricter or if I just had an off year, but only the one novel stands out as a favorite. In fact, I track my reading at Goodreads (otherwise I could never remember if I read any given book much less how many and which I might have liked); only a handful of the fiction titles I read I deemed a four star or higher. Interesting.

What about you? What did you read this year that stands out as a favorite? Have you posted a year end favorites list? Let me know in the comments so I can check it out!

Note: this post contains affiliate links.

New mercies on January 3 and every day

So it’s 2017. I’ve spent the majority of this new year either sleeping or blowing my nose. Nope, no somber contemplation of the year past, no careful goal setting or one word choosing. No organizational plans undertaken nor health and fitness changes implemented. Instead, the dawn of this new year is marked by a wad of tissues, regular doses of meds, and the occasional death-wish. The worst of it? I’m three days behind in my read the Bible in a year plan. Already.

Though our family had much to celebrate, not the least of which being the joys of a wedding and two graduations, 2016 was an interesting year, am I right? I am glad to put it behind us, if for no other reasons than acute disgust in the political process and profound disappointment in certain so-called evangelical leaders, you know, just keepin’ it real. Politics aside, 2016 was a sad year and not just nationally and globally. I grieved with more than one friend enduring profound and heart-wrenching loss. One of my friends who recently suffered the loss of a loved one told me she was ready for 2017 if just to know that this year of heartache was over.

Of course there is nothing inherently magical about January 1 as opposed to December 31 and my friend admitted as much. However, we tend to see the newly numbered year as representing something deeper–our collective desire for a fresh start, a new beginning, the old gone, the new come, and the chance to become someone different, better, happier, and yes, often more organized and skinnier. We make plans and dream dreams and formulate resolutions all because we are hopeful that something better awaits.

I have often said that New Years is my favorite holiday, not counting of course my current sickbed status. I claim it as a favorite because it is a day free of obligations and materialism, no gifts to buy, no decor to wrestle, no pomp and circumstance to observe, but rather a day of football and rest and general relaxation, a welcome sigh after the craziness of Christmas.

But I also love New Years because of that very desire for a fresh start and new beginning. It is a holiday marked by hope and I am hopeful, not in any resolution I may make nor goal I undertake because, hello, I know come February or even sooner, I will have failed. No, my hope lies in the One who makes all things new, Jesus Christ who offers fresh starts and new mercies and lavish grace not just on January 1 but also on January 3 with its wad of tissues and on days of grief and days of frustration and days of happiness and days of exhilaration and all the ordinary, boring days in between. All that New Years promises us–redemption and renewal and hope and the promise of something better–Jesus gives us in Himself.

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
    his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
    great is your faithfulness.
“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
    “therefore I will hope in him.” -Lam. 3:21-24

The story of a blog

Over lettuce wraps and spring rolls, I posed December’s most pressing question to my guys: Do I renew my domain or not?

My question was met with the sort of indifference reserved for queries with ridiculously obvious answers. Why wouldn’t I renew? Why indeed?

Because I don’t blog, I don’t write, and even when I think maybe I want to I still don’t.

The bottom line: I have nothing to say.

Write about us, one of my boys suggested, write about how we don’t want anything for Christmas because we’re so content and stuff, you can write about that.

Which may or may not have been the topic of the conversation just prior.

It’s true, they are, so content it’s frustrating when you really want to buy them something not just for Christmas but for their birthdays too, both of which fall in December, and both of them unable to come up with anything resembling a wish list.

I’m not sure I want to revive my blog with an humble brag about the contentment of my children, but I didn’t tell them that. Instead, I stammered out some sort of excuse about how blogging used to be a big conversation and a bunch of friends hanging out and now I don’t know what it is anymore…but I’ve said all that and more a hundred times over and still I don’t write.

I recently read an article about the benefits of blogging. Ok, so I may have googled something like “why should I blog,” suggestions by my children notwithstanding, of course.

Anyway, the article highlights various benefits to blogging, some of which I found appealing and inspiring, some not so much. For instance, I seriously doubt I will ever make any money in this hobby though it’s certainly a nice idea and one I would not be opposed to. 🙂

I didn’t really need the article to tell me that blogging/writing makes me a better thinker or that it encourages interaction with new people; I’ve experienced both firsthand. In fact, nearly all of the article’s points have proven true in my past life as a regular and enthusiastic blogger. Except the making money part.

So what happened? I don’t know, really. I’d like to blame the explosion of Facebook and Twitter and the movement of online conversation from blogs to those platforms. But that doesn’t explain my personal reticence here in my space. Somewhere along the way I grew self-conscious and I decided to keep quiet.

Not too long ago my husband and I were having lunch with a couple who was visiting our church. We asked, as we generally do, how they came to find us. We’re always genuinely curious; we’re a small church without the bells and whistles that tend to draw anyone in who doesn’t already have a connection of some sort with or invitation from someone in our congregation.

They described, of all things, a Facebook post written by my pastor that someone in their timeline had shared. Challenged by his thoughts, they decided to check us out.

I love that. Behold the potential eternal ramifications of the Facebook status! What we write / post / tweet can carry kingdom influence! Not that they deciding to visit our church is some kind of notch in our belt, that’s not what I’m saying at all. But in their coming to see us on a Sunday morning, because of something someone wrote online, that encourages me as much as any list of blogging benefits.

So maybe I will renew. I have nine days to decide. Either way, I can certainly still blog! When and if I write anything here, I don’t aspire to the sort of inspired writing that will change your life. It’s good to know one’s limitations after all! But I would like what I offer here, however humble, however rare, to encourage and to challenge and maybe point us both, reader and writer, to Jesus as our only hope.

Watercolour ponies one day ride away

Earlier this week, my sweet daughter in law texted me a picture of three of my guys sharing a meal around the table at their home. I love the pic so much, not only because I miss all those faces terribly but also because among the many things I have wished for my boys I have wanted them to be friends, to look out for one another, to value the bond of family. She and my son having my other two guys over for a home cooked meal makes me all kinds of happy.

I am sad too, just keepin’ it real. I have not transitioned well to our third son leaving home, to which my husband would probably reply is a vast understatement. I never transition well anyway, no matter the transition at hand, but this particular life change has been all the more difficult for me.

We married off our oldest son on a Saturday and it was sweet and precious and happy and beautiful, a glorious day of friends and family and celebration. I mean, it was exhausting too, don’t get me wrong, but it was altogether lovely and wonderful.

That was a Saturday and the Wednesday following we moved our third son off to school. Talk about an emotional roller coaster! I laugh and say that we tried to cram as many big life events in the smallest number of days possible. Not funny, really, but true.

It is quiet around here and much slower of pace. I am learning how to cook for only three of us which means my freezer is filling up with leftovers for future meals. The laundry takes no time at all. I tell my youngest son all the time he’s my favorite, to which he sagely replies, “You only say that because I’m the one still at home.”

Many, many years ago my husband and I were riding in the car with our very dear, very best friends. My oldest was my only and he was just an infant. In fact, if I really want to blow my own mind, I ponder the fact that the age I was then is the age he is now…

Anyway, he was a baby in an infant car seat perched in the middle of the back seat between me and my friend. The menfolk were in the front seat and we were all singing along to a cassette tape of Wayne Watson’s Watercolour Ponies.

I know, I know. I KNOW.

My husband and I, being the experienced parents in the car, you know, having all of a couple of months’ under our belts thus rendering us experts in the field, got into a discussion of our interpretation of the song. I reflected that when Wayne would sing “when it comes back to you and me” he’s meaning the responsibility of parenting lying squarely on us, the parents. You know, the buck stops here and then what will I do? My inadequacy loomed large even then.

My husband interpreted that line as a foreshadowing of the time when it would only be “you and me,” as in the empty nest, just the two of us once more. We could neither of us imagine that day, it seemed so very far in the future it blew our minds just to consider it. Certainly we had no idea at the time that we would welcome three more little ones into our home and hearts! The years of Toy Story and Bible Man and Legos and soccer and basketball and band and choir, all of that was yet to come. And after that, what?

I don’t know which Wayne meant but I do know we were both right in a sense. Motherhood has taught me many things, chiefly my own insufficiency to the task. How much I need the grace and wisdom of the Lord!

And yes, one day, sooner than I ever could have imagined, the nest will empty. My youngest son has two more years and then he will follow his brothers’ footsteps, break his mother’s heart, and leave home. Who knew it would come so quickly? And yet here we are.

I stink at transition, and I grieve change far more than I should, but I do know that one reason this is a bittersweet season for us is because we have known so much joy. So. Much. Joy. The years of the watercolour ponies were good ones.

There are watercolour ponies on my refrigerator door
And the shape of something, I don’t really recognize
Brushed with careful little fingers and put proudly on display
A reminder to us all of how time flies

Seems an endless mound of laundry and a stairway laced with toys
Gives a blow by blow reminder of the war
That we fight for their well-being for their greater understanding
To impart a holy reverence for the Lord

But baby, what will we do when it comes back to me and you
They look a little less like little boys every day
Oh, the pleasure of watchin’ the children growin’ is mixed with a bitter cup
Of knowin’ the watercolour ponies will one day ride away

And the vision can get so narrow, as you view through your tiny world
And little victories can go by with no applause
But in the greater evaluation as they fly from your nest of love
May they mount up with wings as eagles for His cause

-Lyrics by Wayne Watson

A martyr’s pose, a burden, and a call to serve

My church has various community groups that meet on Sunday nights in homes for food, instruction, and, of course, community. Five classes are offered in the course of a year, each set in an eight-week rotation. The children have their meal and instruction at the church building and their teachers rotate each 8 weeks.

Yeah, it’s complicated but it works.

I am currently three weeks into my eight week children’s teaching responsibility. I have lamented loud and often over my dislike of teaching children, criticized teachers whose groups run late and whose participants are thus late in picking up their kids, and just generally whined and cried all the while striking a rather dramatic martyr’s pose.

Just keepin’ it real.

Something my husband said to me recently drew me up short and made me realize for all my disdain, I had been given both a privilege and an opportunity—one I had actually volunteered for, mind you—even if it wasn’t the sort of privilege and opportunity I most enjoyed. I’ve always maintained that I will rock the babies during my turn in the nursery and, yes, teach the children (for eight weeks a year, mind you) because someone once rocked my babies and taught my children, affording me the opportunity of a few moments’ peace and an uninterrupted among grown ups, yes and amen. In other words, I always thought I was serving the moms and I do.

I also serve the children. Sure, they interrupt me when I’m talking and they can’t remember one week’s lesson from the next and they surely would prefer a funner and funnier teacher (I would!). Hello, I don’t even do crafts.

But I do have a burden: Biblical literacy. Thus what motivates me to teach women on Sunday mornings in Sunday school and on Tuesdays in Bible study also motivates me to teach children on Sunday evenings. So every lesson I emphasize the following points:

  • Everyone has a Bible in front of them. We work together to find the correct passage and we read it together. We rejoice in the incredible, amazing privilege we have to read and hear God’s Word for ourselves!
  • We pray before our lesson because we acknowledge that God is the author of His Word and we need His Spirit to help us understand. We want to know more about Jesus, about the gospel, about God, about ourselves, and about the Bible. These things are spiritually understood and we need the guidance of the Spirit so we prayerfully and humbly ask.

These are simple truths but they are truths that I didn’t fully grasp until I was an adult and once I did, my spiritual life was radically changed. My passion is for others to see the beauty of God in Christ as revealed in His living Word. May the Lord do so and more in the lives of the children who must suffer my teaching on Sunday evenings!

I know that we all want to serve in ways we most enjoy. Sometimes we get to; sometimes, however, the need lies in the sort of service that tries our patience and exposes our arrogance. I am ashamed of those times in my life. Let me save you the same heartache and remind you: it is our privilege to serve others as Christ served His disciples, on His knees washing their feet.

I daresay your church is like mine and is in need of willing volunteers, particularly in children’s ministry. If you belong to the Lord Jesus then you have a message to share and a story to tell and, whether you are a man or a woman, whether you feel gifted or called, the next generation needs to hear them. My story is not your story, thankfully, but all our stories fit together in the grand, glorious Story of grace and redemption found only in Jesus Christ. May you find a need and fill it, serving others as you have been served!

In perpetuity

They—the experts, the prognosticators, the watchdogs—warn that what one sends out to the internet remains there forever. Status updates, emails, blog posts, all exist in perpetuity in the world wide web.

This fact fills me with dread and not only because I’ve written things which I hope will be quickly forgotten—indeed I have. There are posts I’ve published that are just bad, others that are just plain embarrassing, and still others that I ought never have written in the first place.

I’m pretending none of you are now searching my archives for any such crimes against the written word.

That is, none of you among the ten or so remaining among my loyal readership.

Yes, those early posts, and no doubt some of the latter, are certainly cause for dread. However, I worry mostly about my children in the distant future dusting off the ancient archives of what we once knew as the internet, pulling up my confessions and conundrums, and reading them. Not that they don’t read them now, they do. But what difference will years, decades even, make?

I think particularly of my younger two children whose dedicated word count here on the blog is decidedly less than that of their older two brothers. Will they understand their mom got tired, the blogging got hard, the words grew elusive, and the comparative silence here in this space wasn’t evidence of a lack of feeling but more likely the complete opposite?

Case in point: our number three son graduated from high school a couple of weeks ago. Can you believe it? I can not. Our contrary child, determined to march to any beat but that of his brothers, graduated and I am so proud. Yet there was no post commemorating the depth of my emotion, no lament over the quick of passage of time, no tribute to grace of the Lord sustaining us thus far; not because I had nothing to say but more that I had no words to say it.

All the beautiful expressions of nostalgia and bittersweet happiness that I’ve described before in relation to numbers one and two sons and their particular milestones; it is the same and more so as we celebrate the accomplishments and future of this son. He remains his own man, full of surprise and the occasional contradiction, and we are grateful to God for him, far more than any mere blog post can express.

So whether or not these words and this blog continue on among relics of internet past, I pray all my guys will know how very much they were loved and how very grateful their parents were for every day and every minute. What love and what joy we have known, in perpetuity.

Two steps behind

I feel as if I stay two steps behind my life. I never can quite catch up and this perplexes me. Years ago I wrote a post lamenting a similar state wherein I compared my life to spinning plates on poles–which plate will fall? That I would feel overwhelmed in that stage of life makes sense to me. None of the children could drive, for instance, and thus I spent much of my time getting in and out of the suburban and shuffling kids to school and home from school, to practice and home from practice, to games and, well, you get the picture. My life and my calendar were crazy, no two ways about it.

Now, however, I am a stay at home mom of nearly grown children. In fact, as I confessed last week, I can only claim the stay at home mom title for two more years. Then I suppose I will be…what, exactly? A housewife? Regardless the fact remains that much, okay most, of my time is as free as it’s ever been. Yet I feel caught in the tension of a constant trade off. If I clean house, that means I do not prepare for Bible study that day. If I run all the necessary and troublesome errands, the laundry suffers. Some days I feel like I have to choose who or what I will be that day: Bible student? Friend? Homemaker? The days seem too short to do and be it all.

I’m frustrated. And I do realize that this kind of freedom to choose how I spend my time is an indicator of wealth and affluence. I daresay only a small percentage of women around the world enjoy such freedom of choice. In other words, I’m privileged and I’m spoiled. Thus I’m not only frustrated I’m also embarrassed by my whining.

I know what you’re thinking and you’re right. I could surely benefit from a well constructed organizational system, a plan to keep me on track and on task. The best way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time and all that. I don’t discount the wisdom of timetables and schedules, and I freely confess my lack of eagerness to pursue that kind of help may be somewhat lazy on my part.

I’ve been thinking over my pastor’s recent sermons on prayer. He asserted that one reason why many of us struggle with prayer is not that we need to pray more but that we need to learn to pray rightly. To pray rightly is to pray with an eye to the kingdom, to frame our petitions with the advance of the gospel. Ask your heavenly Father for whatever you wish, He surely invites such petition, but ask for His kingdom to come and His will to be done. Pray for healing of your loved ones but pray that they might be healed so that they might serve the Lord in strength. Pray for the new job or the promotion but ask for it so that with greater influence and a greater income you might be able to give more to the work of the kingdom.

When we pray like this we can trust God when He doesn’t give us the things we think we want or need. We can know that either we don’t need it to serve Him and His kingdom or, worse, it would be harmful to us. Praying in this way teaches us to pray after His priorities and according to what He finds delight in. We will ask for greater love for Him for His word and for each other and for the lost and for the spread of the gospel and for all peoples to know Him. We learn that our greatest need and greatest desire become intertwined: the glory of God in Christ.

I want this transformation not only in my  commune with God through prayer but in the craziness of my daily, busy life. Just as I am to pray with an eye to the kingdom, I want to also approach the tasks of my life with a kingdom perspective. I want to understand that efficiency and fruitfulness and productivity in God’s economy may not always look like a completed to do list but will always seek His glory and the good of others. When I am overwhelmed and frustrated, may I remember what’s really important: love of Christ and love for others. Even the seemingly boring and mundane aspects of being a stay at home mom become a holy offering when I see them framed in the gospel.

Why I cannot seem to stay on top of my life and my responsibilities therein may remain a perennial mystery to me. But I want to approach each day, whether I do and be all I think I should, with a heart for the kingdom and for the glory of Christ.

Rest for the weary

I am weary. It is, partly, the usual Monday morning weariness that follows a full weekend. It is also a cumulative weariness resulting from not only a full weekend but a full couple of weeks.

I am weary too from a migraine I’ve had off and on since Thursday, the longest and worst sort of headache I’ve had in quite some time. It is a bad thing to have the pain of a headache wake you in the middle of the night but such has been my experience three times over the last few days. I have meds that work and usually alleviate the pain but they also usually leave me tired and a little woozy. Weary.

In my weary and woozy state, finding proper preparation of a lesson on Jesus as a priest from the order of Melchizedek to be a little beyond me, I paused my Sunday school series on Hebrews and instead revisited a devotion on weariness. As we discussed Jesus’ offer for the heavy laden and the weary and the broken and the overwhelmed to come to Him and find rest, I made the point that we come to Christ by grace and we follow Him by grace. Trying harder in our own strength only fuels our weariness because we are inadequate and insufficient in ourselves. We need Him.

I was thinking of that truth this morning in my weariness. As I said, I had a full and fabulous weekend in the company of a group of godly women. It was my privilege to serve them in a teaching capacity at their retreat and I loved every minute of it.

But today I worry. I fret. I think of all I said that was dumb or stupid or unclear. I’ve come up with a hundred points and illustrations I could have made that would have been way better than whatever it was I said. Did they think me worthy of their investment of time and money? Were they disappointed I really am just a humble Bible teacher and not a suave, skilled orator? I’m driving myself crazy. I’m wearing myself out. No wonder I’m exhausted!

“Good grief, Lisa!” I finally told myself, rather sternly too. “It is not about you!”

Ah, the weariness of self-preoccupation. The fatigue of self-sufficiency. The exhaustion of self-conscious over-analysis. I love the honest truth of Isaiah 40:30, “Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted.” Even those in top physical condition will be weary because human strength will inevitably fail. Newsflash: I am not enough. Looking to myself doesn’t make me feel better, only worse! Nothing saps my energy like self-reliance. I am falling exhausted in all my attempts at self-justification.

My offering before the sweet women at the retreat this weekend is over and done. It is now for me to trust the Lord and to rest in Him, to bring before Him my insecurity and my desperation. As I turn to Him in repentance, I know the sweet rest of grace, the only true rest for the weary, found in Jesus alone.

The Lord God Saves His People

I actually wrote this post a couple of months ago. I post it now, well, for a couple of reasons. Some days it feels as if the world has gone crazy and everywhere I turn the news is either sad or bad. I find the book of Judges to be, strangely enough, a comfort.  Though times were certainly sad and bad–and crazy!–the Lord did not and would not abandon His people. Then and now true hope is only found in the mercy of the Lord.

And I don’t speak only of the global news cycle. For my church, it is our privilege to bear one another’s burdens through difficult and devastating circumstances. The book of Judges reminds us the Lord will be faithful; we trust His continued mercy and grace. 

I am currently teaching the book of Judges in the Bible study I lead on Tuesdays. What a fascinating—and sad—book! A few weeks ago we discussed chapters four and five and the two women featured there: Deborah and Jael.

And who can’t be fascinated by Jael? The evil commander Sisera is fleeing the battle and happens by her tent. She beckons him inside and he, knowing her husband to be a sympathizer, accepts her offer of refuge. She, however, has other loyalties, and drives a tent peg through his forehead, thus killing him while he sleeps. Talk about a strong woman of valor!

We discussed why some might find Jael a troubling savior. She lied, for one, and committed murder in cold blood, for two. What do we make of that? I asserted that we must recall the point of this narrative and of the book of Judges as a whole: that the Lord God saves His people. Thus Deborah’s song can exalt Jael as most blessed among women because she was the instrument of the Lord’s deliverance.

We must also trust the Lord when we encounter these seemingly ethical and moral quandaries, Jael not being the only example. As careful Bible students, we must distinguish between what the Bible is reporting and what it is commanding. Not all passages are meant to be prescriptive.

And finally I made the point that in Sisera’s death we see the awful but certain truth that the Lord will defeat His enemies. His wrath is sure. This a terrible truth taught to us in both the Old and New Testaments. The Bible is clear: the wages of sin is death and all who reject the Lord and persist in rebelling against Him will suffer His punishment.

But there is good news for those who are in Christ Jesus! He bore the punishment for our sins on the cross and we who repent and believe Him are now free! Not only that but we can trust Him with justice against those who have hurt us. I said yesterday that I didn’t know how those in class with me may have suffered at the hands of another—and I didn’t—but that the Lord is faithful and He will repay.

After class I learned that one of the ladies new to our group had indeed suffered horribly and tragically. Her story is hers to tell and I won’t share the details here; it is enough to know that she has endured a tragic loss. It was a difficult lesson for her, she admitted. “Finally, ultimately, I have to trust the sovereignty of God,” she said. “And I love Him more today, I trust Him more, and I know Him better.”

I left Bible study with a sober and heavy heart, saddened by the evil that seeks to devour. I thought over my lesson with its confident assertions; were they merely pat answers, full of the easy, empty ignorance that knows nothing of true suffering? My friend’s faith humbles me. Her story pierces through our (my) comfortable, unchallenged best life now to remind us (me) that evil is real, belief is hard, questions remain, but the Lord is trustworthy and His grace is sufficient.

My friend’s testimony is that of the book of Judges: the Lord God saves His people. This is not only the truth of Judges, but of the whole Bible and of the gospel message. He will have victory over His enemies, among whom we all once were apart from the grace of God. His mercy is our only hope, our only salvation, our only security, our only lasting joy.