Category Archives: Devotional Thinking

A Prayer for Rebekah

(For those of you who don’t know, yesterday my wife and I gave birth to our first child. She is premature by three months. While she is alive and stable, there is a long road ahead of us. This is what I’m praying tonight. You don’t have to pray it; many of you might not even agree with it. But there are few things I’ve meant more.)

Almighty God,

A pious saint might stand over the trembling, fragile form of his too-small daughter and sagely nod, noting that your ways are beyond searching out. But I do not believe you are a God for pious saints, but for broken human beings desperate for mending in every way. I do not know your plans, I do not know the future, but I do know who You are.

You are the great Triune God, Father, Son and Spirit. Father, I beseech you to have mercy on your tiny child. Jesus, I beg you to consider the youngest of your sisters. Spirit, I groan with desires I cannot twist through my lips, and I pray that you might intercede with me for my little girl.

You are Yahweh, Covenant Lord. You have given your promises to me and to my children. You have knit my daughter together in her mother’s womb, known her hidden form, counted her among your people. You are the God who says the kingdom belongs to little children, and I can think of few smaller than my own.

You are Yeshua, God with us. You came not in heavenly majesty but with labor pains and afterbirth. You sympathize with us in our weakness, and her hand is the size of my fingernail. You show mercy to the least of these, and she struggles to move her mouth. To work salvation you took on frail flesh and bone, and I can see her lungs laboring beneath stretched skin.

God, I know you are a king, but you are no petty tyrant who breaks men’s backs with an iron rod. You are the Servant King, the Lamb who wins the victory at the price of His own life. In this knowledge, I do not hide behind platitudes, but ask plainly. Grant my daughter protection, peace, and many years. Let me hear her speak, let me watch her grow up in faith, or at least let me hold her in my arms.

They say men pray to lift their sagging hearts, but I have no interest in self-delusion. I bow my head and lift my hands in supplication because I know You are the most real thing in this universe. Your palm holds the ocean, your voice sets the cosmos spinning, and your will includes every day of my daughter’s lift. I bend my knee because I know it is your right to take her away if that is your desire; she already belongs to you. Yet this power cuts both ways, and I ask that you would watch over my Rebekah tonight with your sovereign mercy and uphold her with your omnipotent grace.

I do not presume to approach you as one worthy of your ear. I have no more to offer you than does my premature baby. I approach instead in the name of Jesus, to whom both I and this covenant child belong. In your mercy shown us on behalf of Christ, watch over her. She is my child; she is Yours as well.

Amen.

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Which Happy?

Marc Chagall, "Abraham Slaying Isaac"

Recently, Elizabeth and I had our first childbirthing class. It was interesting; given my personality, I loved the details about biology and grimaced my way through the doula’s rants about hospitals and glowing endorsements of homeopathy. (Side note: I have no problem believing in demons, resurrection, or a dude walking on water. But homeopathy? I often wish its proponents would drink one part arsenic diluted in one million parts water – only a threat if homeopathy works.) That aside, one thing that stuck out to me in the class was a discussion of the pain that accompanies childbirth. Within the curriculum, what was stressed was that this pain wasn’t like the normal pain our culture teaches us to avoid. Rather, the pain of childbirth was good pain, a pain that was worth it.

There is a true happiness that can only be birthed through hardship – through pain. For whatever reason, this thought keeps forcing its way to the front of my mind. There seems to be two camps in the discussion of Christianity and happiness. One says that God wants you to be happy; while meaning well, these folks often end up promising you sports cars or saying you should probably abandon your less-than-perfect marriage. Hey, God might say that’s wrong, but he couldn’t mean you shouldn’t do what will make you happy. In response, other Christians insist that no, God doesn’t want you to be happy at all. They instead recommend a regimen of discipline and guilt-driven obedience suggests everything short of buying a whip and becoming a flagellant.

I’ve never been able to join either camp. The happy-Jesus crowd have no place for crosses or a faith that gets you fed to lions; the dutiful martyrs miss the earthy joys and heavenly raptures with which the heart of Scripture pulses. The real problem, I think, should be highlighted by the question “which happy?” Continue reading

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Coming Down and Looking Up

As I write this, I’m studying in my favorite coffee shop – the one with electronic music blaring in the background and bumper stickers displaying nuggets of careful reasoning like “Eve was Framed” and “Republicans: Proof Against Evolution” plastering the walls. Behind me, a girl is shaking and muttering as she comes down off a drug high, while at the next table over, a lesbian couple flirts. The air is thick with cigarette smoke, and friendly calls of “F#$@ you” get bantered between the barristas.

This is, ironically enough, my favorite place to study. Sure, some of it is the ambiance. It tickles that part of my heart that still loves tattoos and eyebrow studs. There’s a deeper level to it than that, though. What I love about this place is how much it makes what I’m studying make sense. Continue reading

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We are Small, He is Lord

(Note: This is a devotional I gave this morning for the staff of the church where I work; thought I’d post it here too.)

5 What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each. 6 I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. 7 So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. 8 He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labor. 9 For we are God’s fellow workers. You are God’s field, God’s building. (1Co 3:5-9 ESV)

I grew up in the rural midwest, emphasis on the rural. You could literally go out my back door, walk a block and be in a cornfield. So while I wasn’t a “farm kid” per se, I spent a lot of time around farmers. Now, there are many reasons for this, but farmers on the whole tend to be religious. It’s often just cultural, but as folk wisdom has it, “there ain’t no atheist farmers.” And the reason for this is simple – farmers always have a strong sense of just what they can and can’t do. They understand that the universe is a big, uncontrollable thing on which they are dependent for their livelihood. They can plant and fertilize and spray and irrigate, but if the rain doesn’t come, or too much rain comes, or the price of grain is bad, or disease hits their crops, or any number of other things happen, it won’t matter. There’s a lot about their work that is out of their hands. As this passage kicked around in my head this week, I couldn’t help thinking about farmers, and not just because of the immediate agricultural metaphor. There’s something profoundly instructive about their attitude that we need to learn from. Continue reading

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