Praise deep in the woods… or cave.

Psalm 57

To the choirmaster: according to Do Not Destroy. A Miktam of David, when he fled from Saul, in the cave.

Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me,
for in you my soul takes refuge;
in the shadow of your wings I will take refuge,
till the storms of destruction pass by.
I cry out to God Most High,
to God who fulfills his purpose for me.
He will send from heaven and save me;
he will put to shame him who tramples on me.
God will send out his steadfast love and his faithfulness! Selah

My soul is in the midst of lions;
I lie down amid fiery beasts-
the children of man, whose teeth are spears and arrows,
whose tongues are sharp swords.

Be exalted, O God, above the heavens!
Let your glory be over all the earth!

They set a net for my steps;
my soul was bowed down.
They dug a pit in my way,
but they have fallen into it themselves. Selah
My heart is steadfast, O God,
my heart is steadfast!
I will sing and make melody!
Awake, my glory!
Awake, O harp and lyre!
I will awake the dawn!
I will give thanks to you, O Lord, among the peoples;
I will sing praises to you among the nations.
For your steadfast love is great to the heavens,
your faithfulness to the clouds.

Be exalted, O God, above the heavens!
Let your glory be over all the earth!

It’s a weird time. People are afraid, acting in ways they never thought they would. Children are home, stuck inside for the most part, and driving their parents up the wall!

Yes, I chose to quote an entire Psalm, because right now, more than usual, context matters. David wrote this song of praise while running for his life, hiding in a cave. If you’re familiar with the story, this is the cave where Saul comes to, ahem, relieve himself, and David is hiding in the shadows close enough to be able to kill him.
Saul had been pursuing David, to kill him. David, legally, had the right to defend himself, and his men, and strike first. What does he do instead? He sneaks up, while Saul is- um- yeah, and cuts off a piece of his clothing. Then, when Saul leaves the cave, David and his men emerge and show the cut piece of clothing, showing how close Saul had come to death, except for David choosing to show mercy towards Saul, and love to God.

Let’s be clear on a couple details here:

Saul was the man God had allowed to be king of Israel. Saul was the government David was called to submit to and obey. Saul was pursuing David, because God had anointed David to be king, taking his favor from Saul.

David did not pursue becoming king while Saul lived. He never raised up an army to take over the kingdom. Actually, David supported Saul, fought along side him, served him.

This context of the brokenness in David and Saul’s relationship, magnifies the dependence and strength of David and God’s relationship.

David relies on God.
Why? Not because of who David is, not what David has done, not what David has refrained from doing, not what David will do, but because of who God is.

David’s situation is not the best, he’s hiding for his life in a cave.
The situation of the world currently is not the best, many hundreds of thousands of people are effectively hiding for their lives in their homes (much better than a cave, but you get the point).

But God is…
Merciful
A Refuge in the Storm
Most High (none is higher!)
Fulfiller of Puposes and Promises
Savior
Just
Steadfastly Loving and Faithful
Exalted
Glorious!

Because God is, We can be…
Steadfast
Joyful Noise Makers
Awake and Alert
Thankfulness Shouters
Praise Singers
Glory Heralds

This crazy time reminds me of this song (it’s just constantly playing in my head!)

First Entry – Father and I

My name is Eleanor Marie Wiles, but don’t call me Eleanor, just Marie is fine. I’m just now nine years old. My birthday was yesterday and Father gave me this journal. Father and I visited Venice yesterday, which is where my journal came from.

Father says I should write in my journal once a week or maybe even more often than that. I’m quite a busy person, so we will have to see how often this journaling thing happens.

I think Father also gave me the journal so that he can talk to me about what I’m thinking and writing down. Father is trying to talk with me more, which is good I guess, but that means I have to think of things to say back to him. Sometimes what I’m feeling is not good for me to say out loud; it might hurt his feelings.

Father’s name is Basil Gregory Wiles (he has everyone call him Basil. I think he is more of a Greg). He’s a writer and photographer. We travel together so that he can find different things to write about for the magazine The Coffeetable. He writes the articles about other cultures and natural wonders, things that are interesting to have open on your coffee table. His articles are the most popular section of the magazine. He also has a fancy camera that I’m not supposed to touch. He takes pictures of the places we go to and the people we meet. Sometimes he even takes selfies of the two of us. I tell him that it’s weird that he uses his fancy camera for selfies. He laughs. 

Since I’m not supposed to touch his camera, last year in Seattle he bought me my own little camera. I like it because I can take pictures just like he does, and my camera is red. My favorite color is red.

Father is busy with all the writing he does, but he is also busy with me. We travel so much that I don’t really go to a ‚Äúreal‚ÄĚ school, but Father teaches me. He has lots of books on his eReader, including textbooks. Textbooks aren’t as fun as real books, but I have to read them for school sometimes. Father loves real books, so we try to use those more than the textbooks. When he has to write for work, I do my school writing and projects. He says school is my work until I‚Äôm grown up, then I will have job-work. Real work seems like more fun than my school work.

Yesterday, in Venice, we had a day off of doing school and work for my birthday.
We arrived on the train that came to the city across this land-y bridge-y thing-y. It was kind of cool and scary all at the same time, because you can’t actually see what the train is on, all you see is water! 

Once we got there, we decided that the best thing to do was to go get lost in the city. 

We wandered and wandered all around the city, finding lots of random streets and buildings. Sometimes we went with the hoards (that’s one of my vocabulary words this week) of people, like when we bought my journal, and went inside the basilica (another vocabulary word), which is just a big cathedral: a big church-ish building, but old. It was big and fancy with lots of gold, and pictures of people, and decorations like that.

We were going to go ride in one of the boats, Father says they are called gondolas, along the canals, but instead we just watched them while we ate lunch. Father packed us some sandwiches (egg salad, my favorite).

Finally, we wandered right back to the train station. We noticed a little shop just before the station entrance with lots of masks all over the outside of it. We went inside and Father bought us both masks.

Father’s is white with silver and black detailing around the edges and had a long nose; he said it is in honor of a friend of his named Cyrano, but I think he is making that up. Mine is gold with lots of jewels sparkles and has a crown. I’m wearing it now and feel very mysterious and glamorous. 

Father says this year will be full of new and exciting things. I hope that means we are going to places as magical as Venice!

Father and I – reboot

A long while ago, I started a series of posts called “Father and I”. It was essentially a serial fiction series about a girl and her father, their travels, their relationship, and the people they meet.

Well, I decided to reboot that serial here.
Starting tomorrow, I will be posting these short stories, some with slight edits, some completely new, but all in their original format of a little girl’s journal entries.

It seemed an appropriate time to reboot this serial since the internet is full of fear, too many news updates, and not enough normal, good news.

Here is a sneak peek:

My name is Eleanor Marie Wiles, but don’t call me Eleanor, just Marie is fine. I’m just now nine years old. My birthday was yesterday and Father gave me this journal. Father and I visited Venice yesterday, which is where I wanted to visit for my birthday and is where this very nice journal came from.

Father’s name is Basil Gregory Wiles (he has everyone call him Basil. I think he is more of a Greg). He’s a writer and photographer. We travel together so that he can find different things to write about for the magazine he works for, The Coffeetable. He writes the articles about other cultures and natural wonders, things that are interesting to have open on your coffee table. His articles are the most popular section of the magazine. He also has a fancy camera that I’m not supposed to touch. He takes pictures of the places we go to and the people we meet. Sometimes he even takes selfies of the two of us. I tell him that it’s weird that he uses his fancy camera for selfies. He laughs.

I hope you find this serial to be uplifting, thought provoking, fun, and maybe a little escape.

But I want it…

Daughter: “Mooooooom! She has my bear!”
Me: “Were you playing with it?”
Daughter: “Nooooo, but it’s mine.”
Me: “Well, since your sister didn’t take it from you, and you really weren’t playing with it, I think you can wait until she’s finished playing with it.”
Daughter: “But I waaaaant it…”

How many times have I had this conversation? Countless.
How many times will I have this conversation in the future? Countless more.
When will my children out grow this phase of selfishness, control seeking, and greed? Never, and honestly I haven’t ‘out grown it’ either.
Nobody has, nobody will, because it’s not a phase.

It’s not a behavior issue. It’s not a childhood issue.
It’s a heart issue. It’s a humanity issue.

As adults we are a little bit more sneaky about it. We want, typically, good things.
We want things to go well. We want to be secure. We want things just so. We want time to do what makes us feel good, look attractive, feel accomplished, appear intelligent.
We want to be in charge. We want control.

Here’s the problem, we want what we want no matter what.

My daughter is not as sophisticated as I am, so she readily admits: I want it, and I don’t care about anything, or anyone else.
As adults, we would never say that out loud! Maybe not even in our heads…
But that is the reality of our hearts.

How do you check this?
For, as Jeremiah says, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9).

Here’s some ideas of how to check your heart:
What makes you upset? What ruffles your feathers? What makes you anxious?

Our hearts are deceptive even to us!
The problem arises when the good thing we want becomes, as Paul David Tripp says, “a ruling thing”.
When you want that thing more than you want to be in God’s word, serve his people, and come before the throne of grace in prayer; more than you want Him, you’re heart is in the wrong place.

God must be first.

Here’s the other deceptive part. We think we can do Jesus plus ____________.

God is exclusive. He does not tolerate sharing first place in our lives. He is not neutral, it’s all or nothing. We either give him all the glory, all our control, all our desires, all our work, all our everything, or we are giving it to something else.

How can a loving God be so greedy, jealous, selfish even?
That’s what we think, but here’s the deal, it’s not ours to begin with. Everything belongs to God, our lives, our stuff, our family, all of the universe belongs to him. More than that, in our sin, we were dead, and separated from God. Jesus Christ’s sacrifice for us on the cross gave us what we did not have: life.
Everything we have is from God, any sense of selfishness, need to control, or greed simply does not make sense!

As believers we do not have to be trapped in the deception of our own hearts. We are free from that! We still must fight as long as we are in these sin riddled, broken bodies, but we are not enslaved to sin any longer. Our victory is not realized yet, but it is assured, achieved, and indeed “finished”.

We are well equipped to fight, with the Holy Spirit in our hearts, the very Words of God in the Bible, our lifeline, and intimate communication of prayer, and our fellow soldiers in our local churches, our band of brothers and sisters.

I encourage you, as I encourage, exhort, and instruct my own heart, and my children’s hearts. Fight the good fight.

Soli Deo Gloria!

Confident in what?

Yes, she chose every item of her outfit.

This is my sweet, silly, second born daughter.
She sings at the top of her lungs, love the feeling of the wind in her hair, and longs for the day when she can put on makeup with mommy.
When I look at her and see her confidence, I wonder, is this really my daughter. Confident is not a word I would ever consider in describing myself.

My daughter’s confidence often exposes her heart and where that confidence comes from. Pride.
You see, she is so confident in herself that she is furious when she does not get her way. When Mommy tells her no. When her siblings aren’t playing the game she wants to play. When she doesn’t get to watch her favorite movie. When she can’t go play with her friends because one of her siblings are sick and we have to stay home.
“But I want it” is her new favorite phrase. Pride.
I want it. I deserve it. I cannot be happy with out it. Pride.
It’s all about me.

I struggle with pride too. I want my own way. I just don’t ooze with confidence like she does. I tend to go the “poor me” route. The result and the heart is still the same. It’s all about me. Pride.

So what is confidence? Is it really pride in disguise? Or is it something else?

The bible uses the word confidence in both positive and negative ways. The psalms speak negatively of those who put their confidence in their own ability, strength, or military power. Paul speaks of the confidence he could have in the flesh, but that his true confidence is in Christ (Philippians 3).
When I think a biblical definition of confidence, I think of Hebrews, really the whole book, but chapter 13 has a great summary of the concept conveyed in the rest of the book.

“…be¬†content¬†with¬†what¬†you¬†have,¬†for¬†he¬†has¬†said, ‚ÄúI¬†will¬†never¬†leave¬†you¬†nor¬†forsake¬†you.‚Ä̬†So¬†we¬†can¬†confidently¬†say, ‚ÄúThe¬†Lord¬†is¬†my¬†helper; I¬†will¬†not¬†fear; what¬†can¬†man¬†do¬†to¬†me?” “
(Hebrews 13:5b-6)

So the key to confidence is this:
Where is the root? What are we confident in?

Confidence in anything other than Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection is pride. We must look to Jesus Christ alone. It’s an all or nothing deal. Christ is either our all or we really don’t trust in him at all. But we can trust him with everything!

The powerful creator of the world, lived the perfect life for us, died our rightful death for us, resurrected assuring life eternal for us, and is with us moment by moment giving us grace to live and bring him glory.

This is where I want my little girl, and me, to find confidence, because Jesus will never give up on us, never fail us, and is always with us.
We will fail. We will mess us. We will be inconsistent. We will lose. We just simply can’t.
When we put our confidence, faith, hope, and trust in an unchanging, good savior we have something that nothing else on this earth can give us (even ourselves!).
Peace.

Peace because he knows.
Peace because he hears.
Peace because he sees.
Peace because he understands.
Peace because he is able.
Peace because he is willing.
Peace because he is good.
Peace because he came.
Peace because he conquered.
Peace because he lives.
Peace because he will complete what he began.
Peace because he is coming again.

This world, our own flesh, and the devil cannot give us peace.

“For¬†to¬†us¬†a¬†child¬†is¬†born, to¬†us a¬†son¬†is¬†given; and¬†the¬†government¬†shall¬†be¬†upon his¬†shoulder, and¬†his¬†name¬†shall¬†be¬†called Wonderful¬†Counselor,¬†Mighty¬†God, Everlasting¬†Father,¬†Prince¬†of¬†Peace. Of¬†the¬†increase¬†of¬†his¬†government¬†and¬†of¬†peace there¬†will¬†be¬†no¬†end, on¬†the¬†throne¬†of¬†David¬†and¬†over¬†his¬†kingdom, to¬†establish¬†it¬†and¬†to¬†uphold¬†it with¬†justice¬†and¬†with¬†righteousness from¬†this¬†time¬†forth¬†and¬†forevermore. The¬†zeal¬†of¬†the¬†LORD¬†of¬†hosts¬†will¬†do¬†this.”
(Isaiah 9:6-7)

“You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.” (Isaiah 26:3)

Soli Deo Gloria

Wherefore, therefore Joy

I just recently finished C. S. Lewis’ book, Surprised by Joy. Throughout the book, I couldn’t really figure out what he meant by joy, because the way he described it was familiar, but not how I had ever heard joy described.

I actually listened to it, for free from the public library!
(not a plug or ad, just an awesome fact!)

“All Joy reminds.” Lewis states in the book.

He goes on to say that whenever we identify an object, experience, person, or whatever, is the cause of our joy, we miss it entirely. Joy, he says, is a sign.

In thinking about it now, I can see his point. For example, the joy of Christmas is more often in the excitement before, and build up to the day, but not actually the day itself.

Being the thoughtful, introspective, introvert that I am (enneagram 5, if you keep up with the trending thing), I was thinking about Lewis’ definition of joy while at the park with my children.

Clearly, from their expressions, they are enjoying themselves. Why? All three are feeling something they crave, and intangible thing that causes them to meltdown and throw tantrums when it’s time to leave the park.

For my son, it’s the joy of doing something with another. Togetherness is his favorite. You can’t touch that, it’s incredibly hard to manufacture it, and fake togetherness does not spark that same feeling of joy he wants.

For my youngest daughter, it’s a simple thrill. The little g-force of a swing, delight of being tickled, or playing peek-a-boo. Again, an untouchable thing, an emotion, which can be caused by several different things.

For my middle child, she’s a little trickier than the other two. She enjoys things that strike awe. How do you capture that? She finds joy in music, drawing, dancing, funny faces, the feel of the wind in her hair, a flower in bloom, a bird flying, a rain shower. For her, joy is a mystery. It strikes when she least expects it, and she does all she can to replicate it, usually resulting in frustration and the occasional tantrum.

All three of my children love the feeling of joy, they seek it, they crave it, they get very upset when they can’t reproduce it.

I have the privilege, as their mom, to show them that joy is not an end all. That feeling, that rush, that high, is rather unattainable, but it points to something better, something that is everlasting.
The togetherness my son craves is ultimately satisfied in relationship with the never leaving friend of his Savior Jesus.
The thrilling emotion my youngest loves is caused by the Creator of the world, the God of the universe who made her to have emotions.
The awe my middle child feels points to the fall-to-the-floor awe we will experience when we see God face to face.

Joy is a pointer to the ultimate, to God.

My prayer, as a parent and follower of Christ, that I would not look for joy in this world, and that I would point my children to the Lord of Joy. I pray that one day, I would be able to stand side by side with my children and make a joyful noise to the Lord.

Soli Deo Gloria

For the broken

I couldn’t help but laugh when this handle popped off in my hand.

We live in a pretty old town house, and while it has been maintained pretty well, “good enough” is definitely the standard around here, rather than “quality” (not even “high quality” just regular “quality”).

All sarcasm and sass aside, I also recognize how appropriate this was that the handle that broke is on the door that has a scripture passage taped to it.

This is what the passage says:

“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the names of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
Philippians 2:3-11

I have this passage taped on this door, because this door is over our kitchen sink. It is literally right in front in my face while I do my least favorite chore, washing dishes. It is a constant reminder of the humility I am to imitate, Jesus Christ’s.

This passage describes Jesus coming down into our broken, sinful, fallen, sorrow-filled world, in order to serve and save those in it. Jesus came to serve and save broken, sinful, fallen, sorrowful people.
We are like my cabinet door on our best days. Holding it together with too much paint and not enough screw. That is, without Jesus.

WITH JESUS: We are not just fixed up enough to work properly. No, with Jesus, our hearts are replaced and made new, our dead soul lives, our lame legs walk, our blind eyes see.

Believers are then called to not just be renewed, but to be renewers, to be tools in the Savior’s hands. We are called to go, like Jesus did, and serve others. Yet, not in our own strength, knowing that we were broken too, but in his strength, through the power of the Holy Spirit within us, as servants of the Master, as ambassadors of the King, as children of the Father.

So that in all things, even in a broken cabinet handle, we might give God all the glory due his name.

As always,

Soli Deo Gloria!