A Father’s Love

handsofGodParentI always thought it would be easy to be a baby.

I mean, I know I was one once, but I honestly don’t remember a thing about it.

Think about it:

No taxes

No dishes to wash

No homework due

No fight up the corporate ladder

Just lots of food, lots of cuddling, and lots of pampering.

I used to think it would be nice to be a baby, but since taking Baby A. into our home, I’m realizing that it’s not so easy.

Poor girl can’t even hold her own head up. She’s completely, and 100% dependent on us.

For everything.

And if she has an itch on the back of her hand, we have no way of knowing about it.

She’s thinking, Stop rubbing my belly and scratch that darn itch! 

(Except what’s really going on in her mind is, Poeihaoiehagpoei papoe apoeiemb!)

Here I am shoving a soggy bottle in her face, and for all I know she just wants a better look at the picture on the wall behind her.

And don’t even get me started on diaper changes. Imagine being soppy down there, then stripped bare and exposed to the elements, and then having a cold wipey rubbed all over – and all this done by an amateur, and somewhat clumsy, father.

So already, we’re not perfect parents, but we’re doing the absolute best we can.

It’s nice though, that God is a perfect Father. And though we don’t know every single need our baby has, we know the basics.

And God has provided us with the patience and love that we need to see her through every obstacle in her little fragile life.

Seems to me we as Christians have a pretty good resource to tap into for extra help.

And when we need that extra bit of love and patience at three in the morning, I’ve been learning that prayer over my child is a pretty good tool to have to remind me that my job is to love Baby A just as God loves me in my fits of rage.

Victory Through Tragedy


On this particularly difficult day in America, I’d like for us to take a moment and pray for those who were directly affected by the 9/11 terror attacks twelve years ago.

Pray for their hearts, wounded and salted by this anniversary.

Pray for their courage as they seek a nearly unreachable forgiveness.

Pray for their kids whose questions grow more difficult each day.

Pray for their parents who may have only known the love of one child.

Pray for their hands, that they allow others to reach for them in grace.

Pray for their souls, that they would be open to receiving the love of God in their lives.

Pray for their souls some more, that they would be able to discern the works of Jesus versus the works of man.

Pray for their souls yet some more, that they would hear the voice of God calling out to them in their pain.

Pray for their souls continually, that they will soon enter into a Place where their tears will be wiped away, and their pain will be felt no more.

And rejoice. When a soul is found by God through pain, who turns mourning into joy.

And that, my friends, is the ultimate victory through tragedy.

“You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” – Genesis 50:20 (Joseph to his brothers who beat, and betrayed him)


Tomorrow: Please be ready to welcome Kristy Mapp of Oh-mag.com as she weighs in on a previous post: “Here’s the Great Thing About Abortion.”

Always Wreckin’ It

650px-Wreck-It_Ralph_(2012)_-_Theatrical_Trailer_for_Wreck-It_RalphPoor Ralph. He just wants to be one of the good guys for once. He’s tired of his big, clumsy fists, tired of always hurting people, tired of wrecking everything.

Peter would have liked Ralph. Peter’s problem didn’t lie in his fists, but in his mouth. Always spouting off an irrational answer, making promises he can’t possibly keep, cutting people’s ears off, spewing poison before the cock crows…

Always wrecking things.

In the Toy household, we have enough faith in Disney to forego the theater outing and just buy their movies when they come on video. From Meet the Robinsons to Bolt to  TangledI’m not sure we’ve ever been disappointed.

Now, to be sure, Sarabeth didn’t care too much about our newest addition, Wreck it Ralph, which came on video last Tuesday. The video game setting threw her off, and she couldn’t connect with it. Until she decided to watch the second half… she gradually got sucked in and said, “I’m sure I’ll like it more when we watch it again next week.”

Yeah. That’s what we do here. When we find a fun new movie, we latch onto it for weeks at a time and watch it till we’re tired of it. Kids would fit in perfectly in our home, don’t you think??

So the story goes, that Ralph, this video game character was programmed to be a bad guy, always destroying the Nicelanders’ beautiful retro-style buildings. That’s what he was made to do. That was his lot is in life.

Destroy the nice people’s buildings, then go home to your junk pile until the next day.

We’re no different than Ralph in one regard.

Since the Fall, we too were programed to mess up, screw up, act out, lash out, trip up, slip up, break this, wreck that…

Calvin asked Hobbs of the famed Waterson comic strip, “Are people born good with bad tendencies, or born bad with good tendencies?”

Since sin squatted down and defecated on the world and since we are descendants of the first sinners, the answer is that we are all programmed to sin from the start. We are all programmed to wreck it.

If we’re not wrecking someone else’s heart, we’re wrecking our own.

But our friend Ralph, just like our brother Peter, wasn’t happy with his lot in life. He wanted something more. He wanted to be respected as a hero, and liked as a friend.

He wanted to be good.

And don’t we all? I mean, even the worst of us, at some point in our lives want to be good. Even the most flamboyant liberal and most money-grabbing conservative wants to be good somewhere deep inside.

But we’re incapable of that.

“Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. 22 For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; 23 but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. 24 What a wretched man I am!” Romans 7:21-24

Most of us know this verse well. Many of us can resonate with it. The turmoil of ceaseless temptations, the slave driver of constant sin, the oppression of ousting God’s Word from our hearts!

We know this feeling! Ralph may not have voiced it, Peter might not have articulated it, but Paul gave words to our innermost groaning and shoved a bullhorn up to our hearts and exclaimed, “What a wretched man I am!”

Wretched. Always wrecking.

So what now? Just walk away with our heads down low, leaving behind a trail of wrecked hearts and broken promises?

“Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? 25 Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!” Romans 7 cont.

While we may constantly wreck things, remember in whom you are to put your trust:

“Behold, I make all things new.”  Revelation 21:1

Maranatha, Lord Jesus. Come fix this mess we’ve made of Your world.

[Image Credit]

If I Were Noah

noahs-ark-reconstructionYou know what the most fascinating thing about the true-life story of Noah’s ark is?

It’s not that all the animals were able to co-exist on one vessel for a long period of time.

It’s not that it took just a handful of people to build such a large ship all by themselves.

It’s not even that Hollywood was able to find a way to dumb down the story with Evan Almighty. 

Fascinating as those things are.

But the thing that catches my attention the most is that Noah didn’t argue.

There is no recorded mumbling or groaning or complaining by Noah, his wife, his kids, nor his kids’ wives.

Let’s put this in perspective, and you’ll see why I find it so fascinating.

Take my lead and put yourself in Noah’s sandals and feel the heaviness of the moment weighing down on you as you hear God speaking to you:

Then God said to Andrew, “The end of all flesh has come before Me; for the earth is filled with violence because of them; and behold, I am about to destroy them with the earth.” 

So at this point I’m thinking, “Sounds fair. It’s what I’ve been thinking should happen all along what with the 50 Shades and Twilight phenomenons.” 

But then after thinking about it, I realize my earth is going to end. My world. Keep in mind that I’m only 29, and Noah was around 600 years old. His memories, his childhood homes, his whole world was about to be destroyed. Family friends, relatives, cousins he’d grown up playing sticks and stones with. All were going to be destroyed. Six hundred years worth of friends, memorable places, favorite restaurants and other comforts.

The trees he once climbed, the meadows he once flew in, the bridge he shared his first kiss on, the alter where he made his vows. All of it destroyed.

Then God continues, “Make for yourself an ark of gopher wood; you shall make the ark with rooms, and shall cover it inside and out with pitch. This is how you shall make it…”

Noah either had a great memory at 600, or he was smart enough to jot these divine instructions down. I would smile and nod as I usually do, but somewhere in the back of my head I’d be thinking, “This is a lot of work. I barely have time to clip and sell enough wool to sell in the market to make ends meet, and now you’re expecting me to take on a whole new vocation as a carpenter?”

Maybe Noah already had blessed hands and worked well with wood, so it’s hard for me to fathom being handed such a task. Just yesterday I couldn’t even drill a hole correctly to hang the curtain rods up without screwing it up (pun).

It’s overwhelming.

So between the Doomsday prophecy and the extra work load, I’m fascinated that Noah didn’t complain.

But maybe that’s why God chose him.

But then again… Moses talked back, and he was only told to pass a simple message along to the Pharaoh.

… Jonah ran away and he was only asked to evangelize in God’s name.

… the young rich man was only asked to throw a yard sale and give to the poor.

… I’m only asked to pray faithfully for my wife and future kids.

What is God asking of you?

It’s not likely that He’s telling you to quit your job to build a bomb-shelter for the upcoming nuclear fallout and wave adios to your friends and family for forever.

Heck, it’s probably not even likely that He’s asking you to lay down your life for the sake of the Gospel.

Though that day may be coming.

Noah was ready to do all that God had asked him, and he didn’t complain. He was ready. True, he had 600 years to prepare, but he also had 600 years to mess around.

I heard on the News this morning that life expectancy is supposed to go up to 111 years in our generation. If you’re my age, that means you roughly have around 82 years to get ready for what God might be preparing to ask of you. But probably a lot less time that that, because realistically most of us will be lucky to live past 82, so we can now recalculate that we will only have 53 years left to live.

Genesis 6:9. Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his time; Noah walked with God.

Could that be said of you now? Could it be said of me? Because if we’re righteous and blameless now, not taking part in the corruption of the world that’s daily laid out before us on a silver plater, it may just be that we might not have a reason to complain when God asks us of things.

Just have your tools ready for when He does. And no complaining.

[Image Credit]

Of Silverfish and Prayer

200817751706“Honey, don’t look up. Just slowly get up and go to the bedroom,” I said as I eyed the giant silverfish sitting on the wall about seven feet above my wife’s head.

It was yesterday. Sunday morning. And we were just finishing up breakfast on the couch. Buttered chocolate-chip bread for her, and that plus a bowl of breakfast candy (Cocoa Puffs) for me.

I don’t know what made me look up, but I did. And there it was. Images from my book The Man in the Box flashed into my mind. I must be a prophet, I thought to myself. Except, this wasn’t a centipede as the characters in my book are apt to encounter. This was a silverfish.

A silverfish is similar to a centipede, and honestly, I don’t know which one is grosser. I had never even heard of a silverfish until I moved to Kentucky, but I learned quickly that they blend in more, so they’re harder to spot, and they’re quicker than centipedes, so they’re harder to catch.

I don’t suggest Googling them. Just imagine a centipede with larger legs and long curly antenna.

“Go to the bedroom,” I told Sarabeth. She grabbed the dogs and did as I said.

This was my moment to shine. I grabbed my sword (fly swatter) from the storage room and returned to the wall above the couch where the silverfish remained, eying me. Daring me. Taunting me.

I had to climb up onto the backside of the couch to get a good swat in. And that’s where I met my dillimma. The silverfish was close to the corner of the wall, and you know that that’s the worst place for a bug to be when armed only with just the face of a fly swatter.

You must meticulously graze the adjasent wall with the edge of the swatter at a rapid enough speed to stun – no, disable – the offender. Yet if you swat too hard, you run the risk of chipping the paint off the wall or making a long, bug-gutted scratch.

The other threat that was posed to me was that if I didn’t kill my opponent on the first try, it would fall twelve feet onto the carpet below, behind the couch, and could scurry any which way.

And we all know that a lost bug really is a phantom bug just waiting to strike – especially when you’re on the couch enjoying the latest episode of Downton(Poor Matthew, right?? And, I’m sorry, but Thomas is absolutely detestable, so they might as well not try to redeem him.)

So there I stood, precariously on the back of the couch, clad in my jamie-jams, hair disheveled, bright green $2 plastic weapon in hand. A true knight.

I strike.

My foe is stunned, and furiously clutches to my weapon. I lose my footing, possibly due to a premature celebratory jig. But as I fall, I lose hold of the fly swatter, but manage to fling my assailant into the bowl lamp standing behind the couch. The bug is trapped, and I continue to fall and my foot lands on the soft cushion of the couch

and twists. Ker-Rack!!

Words are scattered into the air that Sarabeth attempts to rebuke from the bedroom. This is not a very good way to prepare for church which starts 45 minutes.

I would have gotten up much quicker if I hadn’t made sure the silverfish was trapped in the lamp.

With sweat dripping from my brow and the bones clanking in my right foot, I manage to get back up and find the silverfish curled up by the bulb in the lamp, just as stunned as I am.

I should have just turned the light on and let it burn. But this job had to be finished sooner rather than later. Plus, I don’t really want to know what burnt bug smells like.

So, having convinced myself that the silverfish is either dead or too injured to move, I scooped it out of the lamp with my fly swatter – you know, because the laws of nature will just work out in my favor: the bug will stick to it, and I’ll have no problem carrying it over the couch across the room, open the window and fling it out –

and it falls.

Down behind the couch.

And it runs.

I didn’t know which way it ran. Heck, I didn’t even know if ran or limped or skipped away with glee and giggles. All I know is that it was not where it had fallen.

“I’m not sitting back on that couch until you find it,” Sarabeth said.

Now our lazy Sunday afternoon plans were at stake.

This. Just. Got. Serious.

So I searched far and wide for the little brute. I felt like Tom Hanks searching for Private Ryan. It was going to be a long day. And the little devil would have a long morning finding the perfect hiding spot while we were at church. Maybe it would even find a mate and have babies by the time we got back.

Church. Oh, yeah. And I remembered the book we are going through as a congregation in our small group. Paul Miller opens up his book, A Praying Life with a story about his daughter losing her contact outside in the grass on a camping trip. After searching for it, they pray. And they find it.

To be honest, I rolled my eyes at this story, because that always happens to someone else.

I could do with a little more faith in my life. And I didn’t pray to find the silverfish as a ploy to test God. I didn’t even have faith that I would find the silverfish, because so much time had passed and at this point it could be anywhere.

But something very, very deep inside me had just enough faith in the One to whom I was praying. And just like Jesus told the fishermen to cast their nets on the other side of the boat, I went to the other side of the room where I honestly didn’t believe I would find it.

And there it was. Under the love seat waving a little white flag.

Our lazy Sunday afternoon was saved.

But more importantly, my faith in God went up a notch. And you know what? It was worth twisting my foot for.

[Image Credit]

URGENT: Bring the Howells Back Together for Christmas

HFP11_0008Our friend Adam Howell went to Africa a week ago to pick up their newly adopted one year old boy, Judah. Everything is in place as far as adoption paperwork is concerned (Judah is theirs!). Right now, they’re just waiting for their exit visa so they can come home and be with their family by Christmas. Adam, to be with his wife and kids and Judah to be with his new mommy, brother and sisters.

Adam and Liz just had their third child a month ago. So Liz would love to have Adam and their new son home by Christmas so they won’t have to spend the holiday on opposite sides of the globe. Below is a snippet of an email Adam sent out. Please pray that Adam and Judah can make it home to be with their family for Christmas. What a wonderful gift that would be! Share this on your facebook or blogs to raise as much prayer as possible.

Hey everyone.

First of all, thanks for all your prayers and support. It means more to me than you know. This is a very dark place in many aspects, and Iam more than ready to come home. The US has said we can come home… wehave Judah’s visa. However, the Congolese government hasn’t yet issued the exit letter to say that we can leave … [We’re not] going anywhere until the Congo says we can. It’s crazy.

So, part of the update is to ask you guys to pray. We need the exit letter by Saturday at the latest in order for me to come home on Monday as scheduled.

See you soon,
Adam and Judah<><

Visit their blog here.

For Whom the “Bell” Tolls: My Thoughts on Velvet Elvis – Part 2

For the first part of this review, click here.

“Is the Bible the best God can do?” asks Bell. Apparently not, because he doesn’t seem to be sure God even wrote the Bible to begin with. He wonders if Corinthians, for example, is written by Paul or God or God through Paul or Paul through God. I wonder, as he’s standing at the pulpit on Sunday mornings preaching through 1 Timothy what he does with chapter 3 verse 16 (“All Scripture is inspired by God…”), but there’s really no reason for him to preach out of the Bible anyway, according to him. 

“The Bible is open-ended,” he says. “We cannot simply do what it says,” because it first must be interpreted. Meaning, “Someone has to decide what it means.” Yes, he’s saying that the Bible can be interpreted in any way we’d like. “When someone tells you what the Bible means, it’s not true.” It’s just their interpretation. Yes, this man is the pastor of a mega church. If you’re not yet wondering about the devastating effects of the gut-wrenching statements here, take the time to read some reviews on this book online. People really think this is deep, sound, theological teaching and many say it has changed their lives. I have no doubt their lives have been changed because Rob Bell the “superpastor” is releasing people from the obligation of obeying the Words of God. No one ever said a changed life is a holy life. 

To take this hellish theology further, he gives the example of a leader in his church who had a question about a section found in the Bible and after asking many learned people and consulting many references to no avail, she in the end, decided to just go right back to the Bible to see what it had to say about this topic. Bell’s response? That’s “toxic.” And if that’s not far enough, he says that Jesus Himself gives His followers permission to make new interpretations of the Bible (somehow he gets this idea from Matthew 16:9 and 18:18).

Earlier in his book he admitted that Jesus came to fulfill the Word of God by giving it flesh and bones. Now he’s telling his readers to do what they think Jesus is saying, not what He is saying. After all, it wasn’t until the 300’s the sixty-six books were agreed upon, according to Bell. “This is part of the problem with continually insisting that one of the absolutes of the Christian faith must be a belief that ‘Scripture alone’ is our guide. It sounds nice, but it is not true.” 

If you want to irk Bell, tell him that you attend a church that teaches the Bible. According to him a church that’s growing has an easy yoke. Do you want to know why that church has “easy yoke”? Because it’s not holding its congregation to the standards of the Bible. The church may present an easier yoke on Sunday, but what are the attendee’s lives like the rest of the week, being starved for the Word of God, and having it withheld time after time?

Many yokes seem easy, which is what people will likely flock to. People want the easiest dieting books, the simplest instructions, the lighter load, the church that has very few standards and does not convict with the two-edged sword of the Holy Word of God. Many churches like this will grow. And why shouldn’t they? They’re giving out milk and honey! But over time that trampoline will get overcrowded and the few springs holding everyone up will give way and the party will end when the whole thing comes crashing down. Did I mention that not once, if my memory serves correctly, does Bell make any reference to Satan and the unseen world? 

To be concluded…