Quo Vadis

Last night I finished reading Quo Vadis, a beautiful love story set in the Roman empire during the reign of Nero. My good friend Cindi had recommended the book, having ordered it as part of her son’s homeschool history curriculum. Written well over 100 years ago, Quo Vadis tells the story of the Roman noble Marcus who falls in love with a young Christian girl, Lygia. In the course of Marcus’ pursuit of Lygia and his search to understand her faith, Rome is burned under Nero’s orders and the Christians blamed. Unimaginable persecution, torture and execution follow. Men, women, and children are fed to the lions and other wild beasts. Others are crucified. Others are used as human torches to light Nero’s wild parties. All for Roman entertainment. All because they placed allegiance in Christ above all.

In this novel, the Christians meet death with peaceful dignity, which inflames the Roman hatred against them all the more. They sing hymns. They rejoice “because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name.” (Acts 5:41) They know that “to die is gain.” (Philip. 1:21) They eagerly anticipate heaven. They are grateful for the privilege of martyrdom.

I think to myself–what if (perhaps when?) such persecution were to come here, to me? Would I stand? Would I claim Christ in light of such torture? Could I joyfully embrace death? I want to think I could and would. But what about my children? Wouldn’t I denounce Christ to save them? But what kind of salvation would that be?

Hard thoughts. Oh, for faith to stand…

Some faced jeers and flogging, while still others were chained and put in prison. They were stoned ; they were sawed in two; they were put to death by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated– the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, and in caves and holes in the ground. These were all commended for their faith… Heb 11:36-39

(By the way, despite the solemn nature of this post, I really do recommend the novel. It reads slowly at first, and I wouldn’t read it for its theology necessarily, but on the whole, a wonderful, intriguing read.)

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A Heart Set On Pilgrimmage

I was on my way out to sit on the back porch with my coffee and my journal (you know, those blank books people used to write in before there were blogs). I am facing an unusually hectic day and wanted to pour out my woes in paper form, which is generally the form my journal entries take. Woes, that is. I wish I were a faithful chronicler of my journey with God. Instead, I tend to only turn to my journal when overwhelmed or panicky or some other extreme emotion. Rather than an account of my journey of faith, my journal becomes instead the record of one “fit” after another. Before God, of course.

Awhile back I was cleaning out my bedside table and found a couple of old journals, one from over ten years ago, when my firstborn was my only-born. Intrigued, I sat down to read and remember. As I glanced through the entries, I began to realize these pages read like my current journal. Same struggles, same stresses, same “fits.” In fact, you could almost rip the page out of one and paste it in the other and never notice the difference. And over ten years’ difference between them.

“Haven’t I learned anything?” I cried out to God. “Am I really so shallow? So un-teachable?”

I thought of Psalm 84:5, “Blessed are those whose strength is in you, who have set their hearts on pilgrimmage.” I want to journey with God. I want to go forward. I want to “set the Lord ever before me” (Ps. 16:8) and follow Him wherever He leads. I want to know Him in ever-increasing intimacy. I want a heart set on pilgrimmage, a heart that refuses to settle for status quo, a heart that “strains toward what is ahead.” (Philip. 3:13)

Yet the Holy Spirit is teaching me there is no shame in taking the same issue to Him. Even for ten years or more. He is the only safe place to take it. Whatever weighs on me, whatever weighs on you, keep taking it to Him. Daily. Hourly. Minute by minute if necessary. “Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge.” (Ps. 62:8). What’s on my heart today? What’s on yours? Pour it out before Him. He wants it all.

So today, as I head out to the porch (after this little side trip to the computer), I will set my heart on pilgrimmage, looking to Jesus. I will pour my heart out before Him, casting my cares on Him, knowing He is my refuge. May you do the same, and be blessed as you find in Him your strength. Let’s be pilgrims, not settlers.

Let the games begin!

I am a soccer mom. I drive a mini van, with folding chairs, umbrellas and a lone goalie glove in the back. I can probably drive to the soccer fields in my sleep. I know not to yell “Kick it! Kick it HARD!”, but rather “Cross!” or “Switch!” or “Shot!” I understand red cards and yellow cards and know, thanks to our good friend Bill Simmons, that one cannot yellow card a coach (another story for another time…let’s just say it involves my zealous soccer coach of a husband and an equally zealous albeit misguided referee from another city). I am fixer of gatorade bottles and washer of uniforms. I can explain the offsides penalty to the uninformed. I watched the World Cup. With interest. The number of soccer matches I have attended probably numbers in the hundreds. I am the quintessential soccer mom.

The thing is, for all my soccer expertise, it’s only secondhand information, based on observation (much, much observation) and what others (my patient soccer coach husband) have told me. I’ve never actually played the game. Well, except for that one time a couple of weeks ago when my husband got me out in the yard to demonstrate proper defensive strategy to our youngest son. It pains me to admit this to you, but I think I may have kicked the ball with my toe.

No, I much prefer the superior wisdom (that self-important kind) of my chair on the sidelines. There, I can talk the talk, loudly if necessary, yet properly maintaining my status as a spectator, not player. Not unlike many in our churches: those who know the whole Christian lingo and appear to know of what they speak, but really, if you get down to it, it’s only secondhand information. They only know what they’ve observed and what someone else has told them. They do not know Jesus any more than I know how to play soccer. Here’s how Jesus put it:

Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ 23 Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’
Matt 7:22-23 (NIV)

I know that life is more than a game and it is not my intention to suggest otherwise. However, I do believe that our pews contain spectators thinking themselves players who attempt to come near to God based on their words and their works and will instead one day hear the ominous words “Depart…I never knew you.”

As I watch my sons play a game they love, I am sometimes envious. Oh, it’s hard work all right. They sweat and run and push and get knocked over. Yet they know something I have never known: the thrill of the game, the exhilaration of getting out there and getting dirty. At the risk of sounding terribly trite ( and despite this post I really do hate sounding trite), I’m called to play on God’s team. He has a game plan, “good works, which he prepared in advance for [me] to do.” (Eph. 2:10) Yes, there are the spectators posing as players, yet sometimes I am the player choosing to be a spectator. It’s far easier and way more comfortable sitting in my folding chair on the sidelines with my sweet tea in the cup holder. Getting in the game involves some risk. There is that chance of getting knocked down. There are trials and suffering. All is not easy on the playing field. Yet there is much at stake: the glory of my all glorious God and not to mention an enemy who has a few licks coming to him. May I forgo the temporal comfort of the spectator and choose instead to strap on my shin guards and lace up my cleats and get out there and get dirty, for the sake of the gospel and for the kingdom of my Lord Jesus!

Confessions of a Newbie

Well, here it is. My first official post, and I find my fingers hesitating over the keyboard. Any thrill I may receive from seeing my words posted on the internet for any who would to read is somewhat overshadowed by a fair amount of trepidation. I find myself asking…

1. Do I even know what I’m doing? Easy enough to answer: NO. Not only am I a total newbie to this whole blogging medium, I’ll be the first to admit I am severely technologically challenged. Last night while trying to set this whole thing up I had to call in the geek squad, I mean my husband, and without going into a long, boring account filled with unnecessary detail, suffice it to say we found a way around the problem without solving the problem. My sweet husband, bless him, refused to let my ignorance nor my frustration become an excuse to not go forward. So, as previously stated, here I am and here it is.

2. Do I have something to say? Bookworm that I am, I have always loved words, especially words well chosen and well written. Words contain power to influence and challenge, to inspire and encourage, to provoke laughter as well as tears. Not that I claim such eloquence for myself. Certainly there are bloggers more skilled with the keyboard than I. Many who are wittier and smarter and easily more theologically profound. I am as ordinary as we come. Yet it is my desire that out of this very ordinary life, my God may show Himself extraordinary. I am the humble clay jar blogger “that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of [me]”. (2 Cor. 4:7)

3. Does what I say matter? I’m not quite sure why I feel compelled to post my thoughts and ramblings on such a public forum. I am not so interested in a great readership nor large comment counts, rather that these words of mine may somehow encourage others and thereby exalt the Lord Jesus Christ.

May God take this ordinary offering and ignite it with the fire of His glory so that all may see Christ only, always, living in me…