Accessible to Kids

Children have an affinity for rules. They want to obey, even if they struggle to do so. More, they want to take possession of the world they inhabit by mastering its ways and boundaries. They want to take possession of themselves in the same way.

The Ten Commandments speak to this. The biblical text is perhaps surprisingly accessible to children (provided one or two of the commands are interpreted for them). The text is also interesting to children to an extent that can be fascinating to experience.

My family experienced this again this week when we read aloud Bobbie Frazier’s new book, Dalton Discovers the Ten Commandments. The book tells the story of an angel named Homer teaching a boy about the commandments through object lessons from a young boy’s life. The book seems to have been written precisely at the level of my younger child, who tracked with one chapter after another and volunteered the implications she saw for her own five-year-old life.

As an aside, I think children also have an affinity for the idea of divine counsel. The story’s use of an angel was a welcome element for my daughter. The presence of an angel invisibly instructing the boy seemed to strike her as comfortably familiar and unquestionably true.

No to Woe

Originally appeared as a series of tweets:

1 Cor 9:16 really speaks to me.

1 Cor 9:16 says, “Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel.” Those are Paul’s words.

Paul is saying he has it in him to preach, to be an apostle. The Spirit was leading him to this. A pressure within was pushing him to this.

There was no explanation other than that -- no tidy account of Paul’s mission that could fit snugly within the plans of other people.

“Woe,” said Paul. Woe if he tried to ignore what was in him. Woe if he tried to curtail it, just for the sake of making sense.

Another word for this woe is -- are you ready for this? -- happiness.

Paul would’ve been happy sometimes if he stayed at home. Cozy, with time speeding by. It’s just that his soul would have been dim.

His soul would have been dim with wondering... What about this pressure I’m pushing down? What about this light I’m keeping covered up?

Thoreau wrote about the woe. He said, “Most men lead lives of quiet desperation.”

Paul traded up. Paul said, I’ll let go of the safety of making sense and having people pat me on the head. Paul chose joy.

Happiness and joy are different. Happiness fades. Joy builds. It is an outflow of the eternal Spirit of God. See Gal 5:22.

To follow God, Paul said no to woe. To know joy, Paul said yes to the way God made him, yes to the part made for him in God’s plan.

It didn’t all make sense. Paul couldn’t know the whole plan. But it was an adventure! And his soul was no longer dim. He blessed us all.

Stop making sense.

Stop trying to fit the episodes of your adventure into a plan so small that you can explain it all.

Where is the pressure inside of you pushing? (Forget the pressure on the outside for now.)

What is the direction in which you find yourself thinking less about happiness, because you’re busy encountering joy?

Write your own 1 Cor 9:16. Keep at it until true. “Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel,” said Paul. And woe to you if you do not ... ??


"Our knowledge of God rests on the revelation of his personal presence… Of such a presence it must be true that to those who have never been confronted with it argument is useless, while to those who have, it is superfluous."
—John Baillie, Hearing God

Being Free

I had a head cold last week that took away a lot of my focus and attention. Throughout the week, I could do everything I needed to do. But everything I didn’t need to do, I had to let go for another week. As a result, in the midst of suffering under a sore throat and its related miseries, joy crept in. I have come to see this cold as a gift—I still have a bit of it—and once it’s gone, I hope I can remember its teachings.

It turns out that there is a richness to sitting and just listening to the radio, rather than listening to the radio as an adjunct to something else. It turns out that there is a dessert-like pleasure in idling one of the day’s productive hours on purely diverting television. It turns out, more touchingly, that there is a depth to the conversations I have with my children when I am not distracted by any sense of something else I intend to get done before the day ends. None of these insights is new, but last week offered welcome fresh reminders of all of these things.

Part of what keeps me busy lately is my book. I have a list of little things to do on behalf of the book—efforts that might result in doors being opened or connections being made that could expose the book to more people. I do this work gladly. The book is God’s gift and my art—a part of the fruitfulness that a creative God is growing through my small life. The book is a calling. Still, it’s easy to get too caught up in the recognition of something like that. God’s will for you or for me consists of more than just this kind of stuff.

What is God’s will for you? Parts of the Bible are surprisingly plain in answer to this question. Paul, in the biblical letter that he probably wrote first, included this basic point: “For this is God’s will: your sanctification” (1 Thessalonians 4:3). You are to be sanctified—in other words, you are to be regarded as special or set apart. Set apart for what? Jesus seemed to answer that part. He described his mission as “to proclaim freedom to the captives ... to set free the oppressed” (Luke 4:18). You are to be set apart for freedom. You are to be regarded as special enough to be free. “If the Son sets you free,” said Jesus, “you will be free indeed” (John 8:36).

I am to be free. You are to be free. If I am not being free, then I am not accepting the gift that Jesus came to give. This freedom includes being free from the oppression I place on myself, and even includes being free of the busyness I saddle myself with out of the presumption (probably false) that I am doing some kind of special work for him.

Even if you consider your work a calling, this work is not the ultimate thing. In fact, going too far with allowing tasks to fill your time is the opposite of sanctification, because the basis of this busyness is the false belief that you are not inherently special. That is, the basis of this wearying burden is the notion that what you do or what you achieve is somehow more important than how you live or who you are.