Category Archives: Change

The Love of a Father

I didn’t mean to think of Him like that. I didn’t realize how lacking my view of God was, how off-course it was.

Growing up, I had – unconsciously – always thought of God as more of a wishy-washy Someone who “asked” to be “let into” my heart, and who only intervened in human problems when we asked Him to.

But that’s different now. I have come to a deeper understanding of the grandeur and big-ness of God—the One who created the world with a word and who sustains it day after day, molecule by tiny atom, without ever becoming tired or changing His mind or dropping the ball, so to speak.

The “Sunday School God” ideas I remember have given way to an all-knowing, unstoppable God. But at the same time, I wonder…maybe there are some things from Sunday School I shouldn’t forget.

Strong Views

I am truly, honestly, deeply grateful for reformed theology. In the last few years as I have come to (slowly) understand more of these doctrines, it has grown in me a trust in God’s ability over a reliance on my own lack of ability. I have found assurance that He is able to do the work in me that I can’t produce on my own, and I have found rest in doctrines that are well-supported biblically. Salvation is through His work and not mine. There is great peace in that.

But I have also learned to be careful. In swinging from one extreme (wishy-washy Sunday School God) to the other side (sovereign, all-powerful God), I have to remember to follow Biblical truth and not just doctrines organized by man—however Scripturally supported they are. I have to remember that “[s]uch is the human tendency to overcorrect,” as one historian noted.

Reformed theology can have a somewhat negative reputation. Absolute sovereignty, if referenced out of proportion to other doctrines, begins to sound like a power-crazy king who rules without tenderness or any concern for others. We hear phrases (and sermons) like “Sinners in the hands of an angry God” and remind ourselves constantly of the total depravity of man.

All of which are true, but they aren’t the whole story. Continue reading The Love of a Father

Growing Like a Baby

I remember holding him as he slept in my arms. Carrying him around the house, taking countless pictures of him doing the same thing, changing his clothes—all as he kept sleeping.

When my little brother was an infant, I loved giving him a bottle, trying to get him to smile, and taking him on walks in his stroller. He was just a couple of days old when my grandma reminded me that, quick as a flash, he would soon be a one-month-old. That’s forever away, I thought, and couldn’t imagine it coming so fast.

Now he is speeding around on his bike (sans training wheels) and using words like “stoked” and “insane” and “nevertheless.” It happened. Quicker than she said it would. How did that sleepy little baby turn into a funny and sarcastic eight-year-old?

It Seems to Happen By Accident

At what point does a baby become a toddler, or a toddler join the ranks of preschoolers? We say they are “growing right before our eyes,” but we don’t really mean it. Our vision can’t pick up the imperceptible growth that happens every second.

My two-day-old baby brother did not decide to grow. He didn’t choose to grow, or pursue growth as some kind of major life goal or something to check off his baby bucket list. He just grew.

Not Really By Accident

We feed the children and water the plants, clothe the children and fertilize the garden. But all of the things we do only encourage what is already there—we don’t give them life. They already have that.

The life bestowed on every boy, girl, man, woman, dog, cat, elephant, flower, tree, starfish, and sea anemone comes from God – the “Author of Life” (Acts 3:15). Not from anything we do. Not from anything we invent or create or try to come up with alone.

With all the care we give, we help to keep that child or flower healthy, but its growth ultimately comes from the life God infused within it. We are freely given the life, and we are freely given the growth.

Like a Baby

Our spiritual growth—like our physical growth—can be tough to measure, but God has provided an example for us in Scripture and in life.

“Like newborn infants,” Peter wrote, “long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation” (1 Peter 2:2).

All my baby brother did was sleep and eat and repeat ad nauseam. Somehow he grew. When Paul wrote to first-century Christians, he didn’t tell them to grow. He told them to eat, knowing that spiritual food and nourishment would supply the growth they needed through the life God gives.

Like plants and children, our spiritual lives need nurturing. And like physical life, we can’t create spiritual life—God does that. We are given the life and we are given the growth. Freely.

Just like a baby.

Never an Accident

Ultimately, the favor of the Father shines on us like the blazing star that warms our gardens from light-years away. We can feed and clothe and water, but “God…gives the growth” (1 Corinthians 3:7). We don’t have to “make” our children grow. We can’t even keep them from growing.

Similarly, the spiritual life breathed by God courses through us, growing us from the inside out in ways we don’t realize until much farther down the road. With healthy conditions—food, water, love, the favor of God—it just happens, like a miraculous accident. Which, of course, is no accident at all.

What Cinderella Taught Me about the Body of Christ

“Would who she was—who she really was—be enough? There was no magic to help her this time. This is perhaps the greatest a risk that any of us will take: to be seen as we truly are.”

With that phrase Disney’s most recent Cinderella (2015) distanced itself from the animated version of my childhood.  I watched as the unloved stepdaughter emerged from the attic, coming face to face with the prince of her dreams and the memory of her night of escape. She didn’t know if the glass slipper in his hands would fit without her fairy godmother’s spell. Would her deepest longings come true? Or would the magic be lost—forever?

Photo source

We can empathize with Cinderella’s gamble: It is risky. What if others see who we really are deep down inside? Will they see our struggles and oddities and decide we’re more trouble than we’re worth? Will they catch a glimpse of our insecurities and walk away before they are entangled in our issues?

Will we be enough to keep them from turning away? Continue reading What Cinderella Taught Me about the Body of Christ

“The Five Silent Years of Corrie ten Boom”

silentyearsCome to think of it, I mused as we drove home, I have never seen Tante Corrie embarrassed. She always expected that people would take her just as she was­­. And now, after her stroke she still expects it. It was the result of a deep confidence that God accepted her just as she was and it had not been shaken now that she could not speak. She was accepted, and so she could accept people just as they were.”

Corrie ten Boom of the 1970s was a worldwide traveler and speaker, telling thousands of people from all walks of life about her World War II experiences and how God had sustained her through those years. Accompanying her was her personal assistant, a younger woman who could help with the rigors of travel and constantly being on the move. It could be a draining and demanding job, combining the exhaustion of travel with the uncertainty that came with accompanying a woman who followed God’s will wherever it led—however unexpected. Two women, Connie and Ellen, had already spent a few years with “Tante” (Aunt) Corrie before moving on to get married and begin their families, and now Corrie’s third—and final—assistant would be Pamela Moore, a young British woman who had lived in The Netherlands for several years.

Corrie ten Boom left concentration camp life when she was fifty-two years old. Her family’s experiences would inspire a book and a movie, and she would eventually write over twenty-five books and travel to over 60 countries sharing her story. Corrie died on April 15, 1983, her 91st birthday.

What many people don’t know is that a series of strokes halted Corrie’s public work and ministry several years before her death. For the last two-and-a-half years of her life, the woman who had endured so much and emerged victorious was not physically able to leave her room.

It was not the story anyone expected for the strong and persevering Corrie ten Boom. But Pam was there and, as Corrie’s final personal assistant, she chronicled those last years of Corrie’s earthly life. She also shared her own spiritual wrestling as she watched her friend and mentor endure the pain and frustration of her abilities slipping away. What was the point of this pain? How can God possibly find good in it?

In The Five Silent Years of Corrie ten Boom, Pam works through that age-old question: Why would a good and sovereign God allow His child to suffer?

“The days went slowly by. We heard the familiar whirring of the electric bed as we lowered it to change her position, the metallic clicking of the rails as we raised and lowered them to turn our patient, the ticking of the brown clock. Nine months passed. It was not easy for her or for us. It was very hard sometimes. There were days when the routine seemed endless and the hours seemed to last for days.”

It was in that suffering that Pam saw Him work. She saw lives touched and gained a front-row seat to Corrie’s own experiences through the ordeal. Could it be that God was using this, too? Just like He had used Corrie’s concentration camp experience? God had brought good from the horrors of Nazi cruelty. Could He – would He – bring good of this, too?

“Up until this time, in common with a large part of the western world, I had set great store by strength and achievement. A sense of satisfaction was gained by having a goal and employing all faculties, strength, and input from others in order to reach that goal. Particularly in America, I had found ‘self-image,’ or our view of ourselves, was related directly to what a person achieves. But what happens when a person becomes old, frail, brain-damaged, and in some eyes, apparently useless? How does God view that? How should society view that? I had been learning that our real selves can be discovered only in the Lord Jesus Christ. The Bible tells us that He died to save us from our sins, that we are ‘precious, holy, beloved, dear children, hidden in the hollow of His hand.’ And in that hand He also holds our times.”

People brought to her bedside were greeted with the same love and warmth (albeit quieter) that Corrie had shown to prisoners and audiences in her travels. Caretakers who spent hours with this incapacitated Corrie but had never met her before were impacted by her life—even as an invalid. Her consistent patience and kindness in the midst of suffering was not lost on the people around her.

The Five Silent Years of Corrie ten Boom tells the last chapter of Corrie’s life on earth, how a soldier for God endured her final battle. And it reminds us that no matter where life finds us right now, our times are in His hands, too.

“The Drop Box: How 500 Abandoned Babies, An Act of Compassion, and A Movie Changed My Life Forever”

In 2011, the Los Angeles Times ran an article on a South Koreanivie_dropbox pastor grieved over the number of abandoned babies in his country. Families would leave their babies—often born with special needs—in the harsh winter elements. Many didn’t survive. As he wondered how he could help people in desperate situations, he decided to build a baby box that he installed in a wall in his house. Parents could anonymously leave their baby in the box where he or she would be safe. Through this box the pastor and his wife rescued disabled orphans and adopted several of them. They embraced the same children that others discarded. And people noticed.

A Californian film student read the article and immediately saw the possibility of the story. He contacted the pastor to ask about doing a documentary, and a few years later, The Drop Box was completed.

But there is more to making a movie than what we see onscreen. In this case, there was much more.

In The Drop Box (talking about the book now), director Brian Ivie begins by telling about his childhood interest in films and filmmaking. Growing up he watched multiple movies every weekend, and he often roped in the neighbor kids (and even his dad) to make home movies he directed. Throughout the book Brian also reveals relational strains between him and his family and his eventual pornography habit.

But then, during his junior year in college, Brian read about the South Korean pastor. Here was a real story—he knew that from his years of watching stories. This would be the movie he would make. Maybe he would take it to a festival. Maybe he would win an award.

So Brian and a team he gathered traveled to South Korea to meet a pastor. Very quickly Ivie recognized the differences in their goals for this movie. “‘I don’t want it to be about me,’” Pastor Lee told him. “‘It needs to be about saving lives.’”

Soon Brian met an unexpected character in the story, the Lees’ biological adult son, Eun-man. Due to a medical condition, Eun-man lives in a dark room of the house, unable to do anything for himself. His parents and other caretakers feed, clothe, and bathe him, as well as provide routine, nauseating medical care on a daily basis.

Brian came home with hours upon hours of footage—and continued bondage to his sin.

Who bought what?

“When people would ask me why God existed, I had answers in the chamber…I knew about the plans of God and the beautiful purposes God has for our lives. I knew about the goodness of God and the provision of God. I knew that God cared about me personally and that He was real. But when people would ask me about the cross, that’s when I had to repeat somebody else’s words. On the first trip, I really flaunted my wooden cross necklace, you know, the one I bought on Amazon for eight dollars…But at some point, the cross can’t just be something you buy on Amazon. It has to be what bought you.”

God continued to work on Brian’s heart. One day he listened to a sermon by Mark Driscoll that grabbed him from the first point. He realized not only that he was a sinner and that God could rescue him, but also that God provided the love of a father he hadn’t known he needed.

“It was the first time I realized why God wanted me to meet Eun-man, the child who couldn’t offer anything to anybody except problems. For the first time in my life, I realized I was just one of those kids too, with nothing to offer a perfect God except my sin. I was a broken child, bound up in the dark and then suddenly pulled out through the laundry room, by a Father, into the light.”

The Baby in the Box

He pulled out his footage and notes again. The movie would go a new direction. But he needed to see Pastor Lee again.

Brian and his team were once again welcomed into Pastor’s Lee’s home, this time with all the excitement as if he were a returning family member. And with his recent conversion, he was.

During their visit, as they were playing with the children, the alarm sounded. Pastor Lee and his wife weren’t there, but everyone else leapt into action. There was a baby in the box.

Before his salvation, when Brian directed movies with his friends, he saw the people around him as props instead of souls. When he first visited South Korea, he carried the same attitude. But this time, as a child of God, watching the rescue of a baby, Brian saw things—and people—differently.

“I did know he and I weren’t that different. Because I was an orphan once. Even with nice parents and a nice house, I was an orphan in my heart. I was begging for people to love me, to approve of me, to want me. And what I learned is that when you’re an orphan, even just in your heart, you can love only those who will love you back…But as a child of God, you can be completely alone and still love people who have abandoned you…[W]e’re all orphans until we know how much we’re loved.”

Amazing

Brian’s life kept changing. His family life, his goals, his dating relationships. He shares his journey with openness, and his tongue-in-cheek humor coupled with countless movie references makes for a leisurely read. The movie did go to a festival, but I’ll let Brian tell you about that.

The Drop Box (the movie) tells an inspiring story of a man loved by God who spends his strength and time loving others. The Drop Box (the book) shows us how those stories can inspire new stories. Stories just as amazing.

“So, yeah, I became a Christian while making a movie. And that’s funny to me because before that, movies were God to me. They were everything. Just like success or fame or security is to other people…If I’m honest, I have to admit that when I went to meet this man in South Korea, I thought I was there to save a bunch of helpless kids. But the funny thing about God is He is always the Savior. Because when it comes down to it, we’re all the ones who need to be saved.”