Solomon’s Fatal Flaw

Conversation was abundant around a table at the local coffee shop. The gathered friends hooted with laughter as they talked over their lattes and caught up on the things going on in one another’s lives.



But when the door opened and they turned to see the new customer walking in, they became silent.

“Can you believe she’ll even show her face in here?” one whispered. “I hear the affair started at work. Now people are saying she is leaving her husband for him.”

“Well,” said another, “I would never—I mean never in a million years—do something like that.”

Perhaps the most dangerous point in our spiritual lives is when we begin to consider ourselves immune to sin. The idea that we are invulnerable to temptation or spiritually superior to those whose sin is made public can gradually lead us to a place where we neglect our connection to God and let our spiritual lives atrophy.

Among the warnings for Israel’s king in Deuteronomy 17 is the warning that he is not supposed to “consider himself better than his fellow Israelites and turn from the law to the right or the left” (Deuteronomy 17:20). This means that the king is not above the law that his people are supposed to follow. The king is to be an obedient subject of the King of kings, just as everyone else. His power does not make him immune to the temptation or consequences of sin.

I often find that it can be easy to fill up my time doing “God’s work” without really spending time with God. My schedule looks like I am doing lots of spiritual things, but unless I’m paying attention, I can do a lot of talking about God and working for God without having prayer time and conversation with God. Each of us, no matter how long we’ve walked with God or what our position of leadership or influence may be, must always keep a vigilant watch over our relationship with God and the spiritual practices that keep us close to Him. Otherwise we will slip into doing life in our own strength and following our own temptations, and both of these things always lead to sin.

Following the breadcrumbs of Solomon’s sin, we can find the roots of his fatal flaw: the temptation to love power, privilege, and women more than he loves God.

A verse in 1 Kings gives us a clue to what would be Solomon’s fatal flaw: “Solomon made an alliance with Pharaoh king of Egypt and married his daughter” (1 Kings 3:1). That one bride, that one alliance, turned into an obsession for Solomon and became the destruction of his reign.

God’s people had been slaves in Egypt, and the Lord had instructed them not to go back (Deuteronomy 17:16). Solomon’s alliance with Egypt—both for a bride and then for horses and chariots—directly violates God’s careful instructions about the behavior of the king. The decrees of this law were to be written by the king’s own hand on a scroll and kept with him. He was supposed to read it all the days of his life (vv. 18-19) and he directly disobeyed. Solomon’s sinful appetite for women begins with just one wife from Egypt and escalates to the accumulation of hundreds of wives and concubines. Many of these begin as political alliances, but Scripture is clear that Solomon “clung to them in love” (1 Kings 11:2 NRSV). His love for his wives competes directly with his love for the Lord, just as his practice of burning incense on the high places does (1 Kings 3:3). In fact, Solomon’s appetite for new wives reaches addictive proportions, blinding him to the spiritual idolatry that they bring into his household and his kingdom.

Remember that you can tell a good king of Israel by how he deals with the “high places” dedicated to idol worship, because this reveals how purely he is connected to God. Good kings pull down or destroy the altars at the high places, while bad kings passively leave them standing, allowing idol worship to spread and pollute God’s people. Solomon’s love of his many foreign wives pulls his heart so strongly away from God that he drifts away—at first slowly and then dramatically.

As Christians we are called to give love and grace to all people, but we also must remember that those we spend the most time with will have an influence over us. We often remind teenagers to choose their friends and influences wisely. But as an adult now, I still have to remind myself to value the influence of some friends over others, looking to those who share the same values and desire to follow closely after Jesus.

The views of those in your closest circles are likely to impact your beliefs and actions. Offer friendship and love to everyone you meet, but be sure that you are staying grounded in the study of God’s Word and have a close group of Christian friends to inspire you “as iron sharpens iron” (Proverbs 27:17).

How does the study of God’s Word ground you in your faith?

Who are the Christian friends that inspire you “as iron sharpens iron”?


A Seal of Ownership

Jes kid pic

Here I am at 9 years old.

When I was nine years old, I went away to summer camp for the first time.  Judging from the whirlwind of preparation that overtook our household in the weeks before I left, you would have thought I was going to another continent, maybe even to the moon. In the midst of all the piles of supplies gathered in our living room that were somehow supposed to fit into one small trunk, one indispensable piece of the camp readiness equipment was the black permanent marker we used to mark my things. According to my mom’s instructions, everything that came into the living room staging area to be packed for camp was immediately marked with permanent marker. T-shirts, sandals, bug spray, even toothpaste—all were inscribed with my name.

I thought this ritual of marking things a little silly at first (Even the bottle of sunscreen?) and then a bit embarrassing (Really? Even my underwear?). But then I arrived in a cabin of twelve girls and two counselors and saw just how necessary this practice had been. From day one the cabin was in utter chaos: our trunks and suitcases spilling out into the middle of the room, wet swimsuits in puddles on the floor, and all the clothes our mothers had neatly packed and folded now strewn about. With multiple identical Rainbow Brite T-shirts thrown over various bunk beds, how were we to know whose was whose? I found myself relieved that I could always spot mine—the black permanent marker on the tag had done its job, and my mother’s wisdom had travelled with me even when she could not.

Marked. Set apart from the others. Ownership declared.

These are actions meant not only for camping supplies but for people as well. Again and again in Scripture God declares that we are a people who are set apart, called to be different than the world around us, marked for a purpose greater than we could dream of.

Anointing was used to mark prophets, priests, and kings as set apart for a special calling. Once they had been anointed, they would be recognized by those around them as being different from their peers. The sheen of oil would wear off, but their lives and identities were altered forever by that experience.

Having grown up in a nation that prides itself on the principle of the separation of church and state, it’s hard for me to picture a king, the leader of a nation, being given authority and permission to lead by a priest and a prophet. When I struggle with that picture, it makes me realize again how different our own culture is from that of ancient Israel. The king was not just a political leader or figurehead. Solomon’s spiritual lineage and his continued dedication to worship God alone was just as important as any civil or military role he played as the nation’s leader. In fact, the success or failure of his reign would rise and fall not on his military victories or financial gain, but on his commitment to staying set apart—marked to be different in the purity of his dedication to God.

Anointing means being set apart. It means walking in an aroma of God’s presence. It means being marked as one who belongs to the Almighty. And it’s not only for prophets, priests, and kings; it’s also for you. You are anointed in Christ.

Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.

2 Corinthians 1:21-22

Two Stories

In my grandparents’ sitting room were several large photo albums containing yellowed black-and-white pictures. Those albums also contained something more intangible: stories. If I sat with my grandmother with the albums open on her lap, she would turn the pages and tell me stories about these strangers who were actually relatives I had never met.

The stories those albums contained were from another era, but they always felt familiar—like the story about my grandfather’s brother feeding a pig so much buttermilk that it was found belly-up the next morning; or the story of how my grandfather asked for my grandmother’s hand in marriage by sitting awkwardly with her family all afternoon, with everyone knowing exactly why he was there, until he finally blurted out, “Well, I’m taking your daughter.”

After years of hearing those stories, I could repeat them as though I had been there in person, when in reality most of them happened long before I was born.

In the same way, God’s people have long held onto their heritage through the stories found in Scripture. By telling and retelling them, we have found an identity that started long before our stories on earth began.

Jesus had a way of rewriting the script of those old stories to give those who were listening new insight into both their own identity and God’s character. Jesus once told a story that seemed very familiar to those who heard it because it sounded so much like the story of the reconciliation between Jacob and Esau. While the story of Jacob and Esau is a true story about historical persons and Jesus’ parable uses fictional characters to make a point, a comparison of the two stories has some interesting lessons to teach us.

Let’s look together at the similarities and differences between the story that Jesus told and the closing of Jacob and Esau’s fraternal conflict. We’ll consider how they are alike, how they are different, and what Jesus was doing by changing the original story for new hearers. We may discover what Jesus wants us, the hearers of both stories, to apply to our own lives.

The last time we saw Jacob, he was at the bedside of his dying father, taking the last part of an inheritance that was not his, the blessing. Because of Esau’s rage Jacob has to immediately flee to a distant land to stay with relatives. It’s no wonder that, years later, Jacob is hesitant to burst in the door of his childhood home and announce his return. There is no way of knowing the extent of Esau’s anger or how he might take revenge.

The story was well-known to Jewish believers, who would have shaken their heads at Jacob’s deviousness each time they heard it. Although they knew Jacob had questionable beginnings, they also identified him as a patriarch of their faith. Jacob’s new name came to describe the entire family: the nation of Israel. They took great pride in the stories that marked their spiritual pedigree.

Once Jesus was in conversation with a group of Jewish leaders who were criticizing Him. Instead of responding to their argument with an argument, Jesus started telling stories. Jesus was a master storyteller and held the crowd spellbound with a captivating story about a father and two sons. The story begins with a family drama over inheritance.

Those who listened to Jesus tell this story would have immediately recognized some of the echoes of Jacob and Esau’s story. Both focus on family betrayal and the resulting conflict between two sons. In both, the younger son shocks the family by prizing his inheritance over his family and then running away to a far country.

There is also a notable difference between the two stories. Jacob’s ultimate betrayal, the theft of his brother’s birthright, occurred at his father’s supposed deathbed—although Isaac ended up living longer (Genesis 35:28-29). Such an act of deception was a low-down, dirty trick to play on an elderly father who was sick and blind. But in Jesus’ story, the younger son demands his part of the inheritance while his father is still alive and healthy. To the hearers of the story, this was a shocking plot twist. Basically, the younger son is saying that he wishes his father were dead and that all his family is good for is to give him the money he desires. He then leaves home for a “far country” to spend it all on shameful pursuits.

In both Jacob’s true life story and the story Jesus told about the prodigal, the younger sons:

receive their inheritance through dishonorable means,

run away and seek happiness elsewhere,

forfeit their ill-gotten inheritance—Jacob because he is not home to enjoy what is now his, and the prodigal because it has all been spent,

care for livestock while they are away from home (Jacob’s care of his uncle Laban’s goats leads to a new collection of assets—livestock of his own—while the prodigal’s occupation of caring for pigs, which were considered unclean by the Jews, is a true sign of his desperation), and

reach a breaking point and decide to return home.

ProdigalDespite their apprehension in returning home, both younger sons are welcomed with open arms. However, it’s here that the stories diverge, because the welcoming character in the prodigal story is the father while the welcoming character in Jacob’s story is his brother, Esau.
During his journey home, Jacob learns that his brother, Esau, is coming on the road to meet him accompanied by four hundred men. This sounds more like a war party than a welcoming party. Now, for the first time, instead of grasping other people’s gifts, Jacob becomes a giver and sends gifts ahead to Esau as a peace offering.

The prodigal son travels home empty-handed with his tail tucked between his legs. Like Jacob, he wonders what kind of reception he will receive at home. Before he even reaches the house, however, his father sees him from a long way off and runs to meet him. The prodigal has prepared a speech asking to be given a position as a servant, but the father will hear nothing of it. He welcomes his younger son unconditionally and lavishes him with gifts to celebrate his return, once again marking him as a son and an heir.

Although Jacob approaches with gifts and the prodigal has none, in both of their stories we see that welcome is not based on worthiness. In fact, one of the most beautiful parallels between the two stories is the reception the two young men receive from their relative.

These are the only two places in Scripture where we find this exact description of running toward someone, throwing arms around him, and kissing him. The similarity between the stories, while implicit until now, becomes undeniably strong at this point. Those listening to Jesus’ story would have noticed a very clear connection and leaned in closer to hear how Jesus would resolve the story.

The father in the prodigal story is clearly meant to mirror our Heavenly Father, who eagerly awaits our return when we stray from Him and accepts us just as we are. 

God reveals himself in the faces of those who offer forgiveness. When we are called to forgive others, our actions can reflect God’s face and God’s love. If we exhibit resentment and bitterness toward those who have wronged us or toward our heavenly Father, we are more like the older brother in the prodigal story who returned home angry that his brother had received what he did not deserve, and who was unwilling to offer forgiveness and grace.

As Jesus’ story ended, his listeners may have realized that they were being cast in an unflattering role. While historically they had identified themselves with Jacob, the one called Israel who became the father of a great people, in Jesus’ story they were the older brother, resentful that Jesus would welcome those who had lived lives of disobedience.

The father figures in these two stories are very different. Jacob’s father, Isaac, has always been aloof and detached. Easily fooled, he gives away the blessing to the wrong son; then when Esau asks for a different blessing, he proclaims a shortage of blessing: there is not enough to go around.

The prodigal’s father, in contrast, cannot be manipulated or bought by his son’s bargaining tactics. Instead, he gives away his wealth freely when asked, and he gives his blessing upon his son’s return.

A final comparison has to do with a statement in each story that indicates an attitude toward blessing. In Jacob’s story, when he is returning home, his uncle Laban surveys the livestock he is taking with him and declares: “All you see is mine” (Genesis 31:43). The attitude expressed here is one of lack or insufficiency. Yet in Jesus’ story, when the older son confronts his father about why the younger, misbehaving son is receiving special treatment, the father proclaims: “All I have is yours!” (Luke 15:33). The father reminds the older brother that there is more than enough blessing for both of his sons, more than enough to satisfy all of their needs.

These two stories help identify two roles we often find in our own family stories: the one who breaks away from the family and is in need of someone to welcome her or him back home, and the one who remains faithfully at home and serves but holds resentment toward others in the family who are not serving.

While Jacob and Esau’s story is resolved with the reconciliation between the brothers, Jesus’ parable is open-ended, allowing His listeners to finish the story. He seems to ask his listeners, What will you do? How will you respond to the grace offered so freely not only to you but to anyone who wants to run into the open and waiting arms of the Father?

How about you? How will you respond when God declares, “All that is mine is yours”? There is plenty to go around. Plenty for all. Plenty of love, plenty of forgiveness, plenty of grace.

What Name is Given This Child?

I always thought it would be fun to have twins. Matching babies are so cute dressed up in identical outfits, wheeled out on display in a double stroller for the world to stop and coo over. The reality of having two babies at once is so much different than the dream world of matching outfits and adorable pictures.

santa-twinsWhen I read Genesis 25, I think that Rebekah and Isaac must have felt as ill prepared as any first-time parents. They had waited so long for these twin babies through the grueling journey of infertility. Rebekah’s pregnancy was so difficult that she cried out to God, asking Him what was going on within her.

No mother wants there to be animosity and fighting between her children, whether it’s a simple argument in the backseat or, as in this family’s case, a full- blown war. In addition to a difficult pregnancy, Rebekah had the stress of know- ing that her boys would cause the family constant anguish through their hostility.

After the twins were born, Rebekah and Isaac’s circumstances must have been both anxious and exhausting. So I want to be as understanding as possible toward this couple of inexperienced parents when it comes to naming their twin boys. But it seems odd to me in a family with such a rich history of naming stories that they didn’t put more thought into the process. In fact, they seem to have chosen the first names that popped into their heads when the boys were born. That’s the only explanation I can think of for the unusual names these twins ended up with.

Their firstborn was covered from head to toe in red hair, so they named him Harry, which in Hebrew was Esau. Original, right? When they got really creative with a nickname, they called the kid Edom, or Red. No baby-naming books needed here. They just went with their first impression.

As Esau was born they noticed that a little hand was tightly gripping his heel, as if to say, “Oh no you don’t! I want to be first!” The new parents took one look at that little hand and named their baby Grabby, which to us is the name Jacob.

Perhaps more than in any other story in the Bible, Jacob’s character was shaped from the beginning by his name. It not only rejected the circumstances of his birth, since he was grabbing at his brother’s heel, but in some contexts Jacob also means “Deceiver,” “Taker of What Is Not His.” This unfortunate connotation had a deep impact on the person Jacob would become.

Most biblical names were given with one of two purposes: to mark the circumstances surrounding a person’s birth or to describe specific character traits or gifts the child would grow to have.

Jacob’s name was both. His name started out as one that told the story of his birth—grabbing his brother ’s heel—and ended up describing the character trait for which he was best known—grabbing what was not his. The double meaning of his name had unintentional consequences as Jacob grew into his name and its character. Sometimes our names do come to have double meanings.

As a pastor, I find it’s always an amazing privilege to baptize people, whether adults or little children. When we are baptizing children, we always begin the ceremony by asking the parents a simple question: “What name is given this child?” In answering, the parents are given a chance to state the child’s name out loud to their community of faith. They are introducing the child publicly into a new family and declaring aloud the name they have chosen, the name by which this child will be known by family and friends and by God Himself.

In reality, parents answer the question “What name is given this child?” far more times than once. There is, of course, the moment they have to fill out an official birth certificate, but after that there will be countless opportunities to speak words over the child that will mark his or her future with either hope and promise or disappointment and despair. There are proper names we all go by, but there also are names that are hidden—seldom spoken descriptions that we receive branded on some internal name-tag.

In some families, children are marked with beautiful, positive words that will help them grow in confidence. In others, they are scarred with words that will become unofficial nicknames of negativity, names that brand them in ways they will struggle with for a long time. If we’re honest, most of our families have given us both.

The truth is that our internal name-tags are filled with both kinds of names: those that we have been given by people who shower us with encouragement and admiration, and those that have been given in careless moments of criticism. The reminder that we are also accountable for naming the people we love with our words is a sobering and sacred responsibility.

The challenge in life is to sort out the names on our internal name-tags. We need to recognize and accept the names we have been given that God nods and smiles at, ones given by people speaking with God’s Spirit and His character. He definitely uses people as His mouthpieces to push us forward in life to discover the identity that He has created for us.

We also need to identify which names are ones that don’t fit God’s vision and identity for us—harmful names spoken in haste or hate or anger, names that we will be better off allowing God to erase. For most of us, discovering and changing those names will be a lifelong endeavor, but awareness is a crucial first step.

The names that matter, the names that should stick, are the names given us by our heavenly Father. The Bible is full of the beautiful, life-giving names that God so lovingly gives us.

God often speaks to us through His words in Scripture. He can also speak through people who love and affirm us. And on certain occasions He speaks directly to our hearts. The names God gives are the ones that should stick for a lifetime. All others must fade away to make room for His dreams for us.

Jacob’s story teaches us that words matter, no matter how small. As we continue to follow his story throughout the week, I hope it also will teach us that no name is permanent if God wants to change it. It doesn’t matter how it is given or who gives it or how much it seems to mark us for life; God always has the power to start us over on a better-named path, showering us with His grace.

Waiting on God

Think about the story of Abraham and Sarah. When I recount their story, I find myself thinking “hurry up and wait!” That phrase or something like it may have echoed in Abraham and Sarah’s minds. They received awesome promises from God but no timeline about when they would be fulfilled. They learned quickly that trusting this God and His promises meant a lot of waiting, hoping, and praying.

There were a few years when my life felt like one big waiting room. I spent so much time waiting in doctors’ offices that I had read and reread the same magazines, studied the fading pictures on their walls, and knew the receptionists’ names by heart. My heart’swaiting-room-braille-engraved-sign-se-2730 desire was to become a mom, but my body just wasn’t cooperating. After a couple of years in the waiting room of my regular OBGYN, I moved on to the bigger and more expensive waiting room of a specialist, and a lab, and an operating room, and lots of other places where it seemed like all I could do was . . . wait.

It has always seemed strange to me that those who are in the care of a doctor are called “patients.” It was so hard to have any patience with a process in which I had no control. As we slowly unraveled the reasons for our struggle with infertility, more and more doctors prescribed treatments and medications and advised that I continue to wait in their care. I may have been their patient, but I didn’t feel very patient.

After what seemed like an eternity of trying, the joy of finding out we were expecting our first baby was quickly eclipsed by the devastating news that I had miscarried. That led to more tests, more doctors’ visits, and more practice being an impatient patient while I waited for answers and results. When our hearts desire something so deeply that we can’t think of or want anything else, the pain of waiting can be excruciating. I had been trusting God with my life since I was a child, but this was the toughest hurdle yet. When things looked and felt worse than ever, did God still have my hopes and dreams on His to-do list? It was hard to face the answer of “wait and see.”

Even if it’s not for life-changing news or results, waiting is one of the hardest things we do in life. We don’t even like the annoyance of waiting in line at the store, or waiting for our food at a restaurant. Learning to wait well is important, because we’ll always be waiting for something. Once we have what we’ve waited for, it seems to lead to waiting for something else. Hunger is a great example. Once we satisfy it, it’s only a matter of time before it returns. We can’t expect one meal a day to keep us full! Because our lives are filled with waiting, each of us has to make up our mind: Will I be discontent because I don’t yet have what I want, or can I find contentment along the way with God’s help? What will I learn in my time of waiting? Am I willing to listen for God as I wait?

Abraham and Sarah’s lives were full of waiting for their longing for a child to be fulfilled. Long after they had hoped to be grandparents, they were still waiting for the baby that God had promised twenty-five years earlier. That’s what I call a long time to be expecting!

From their perspective it must have seemed that their prayers were getting harder and harder to answer because of their age, but to a God who loves a challenge, the timing was just right. The more difficult something is to make happen, the more God enjoys rolling up His sleeves and impressing the world by doing what only He can accomplish. When God makes the impossible happen, we can’t deny that He’s the one behind the results.

Often we and that something powerful has happened within us while we were waiting. Waiting for the blessing can often be part of the blessing itself, since we have to rely on God in new and unexpected ways.

An old hymn talks about the learning and changing process that can happen in us while we’re waiting.

Have thine own way, Lord! Have thine own way! Thou art the potter; I am the clay.
Mold me and make me after thy will,
while I am waiting, yielded and still. 

Adelaide A. Pollard, 1902

Waiting may be one of the few times in life when we are forced to be still long enough for God to do some of His most important work in us, molding us into whom He wants us to become. Waiting is a struggle because we’re so used to the illusion that we control our lives by planning and acting on our plans. We believe that we are the ones who make things happen. Waiting strips us of that illusion and forces us to acknowledge the God who is in control and our need for Him.

Waiting may be one of the few times in life when we are forced
to be still long enough for God to do some of His most important work in us.

“I waited patiently for the LORD; he turned to me and heard my cry.” 

Psalm 40:1

In the Old Testament there are several words that can be translated to the English word wait. The most commonly used Hebrew word translated “wait” is Qavah. It means “to bind together” (by twisting strands, as in making a rope) or to “look patiently,” “tarry or wait,” “hope, expect, look eagerly.”

God used my time of waiting to bind my marriage and other relationships closer together and to bind my heart closer to His than it had ever been. I never would have chosen the path that we went down over those years. The pain of waiting and loss brings a twinge of tenderness in my heart even years later. But I recognize now that my practice being a “patient” actually strengthened my “patience” more than I could have imagined at the time. Those years gave me a deep appreciation for Abraham and Sarah. When I read their story of waiting, I see between the lines their years of discouragement and anguish but also their growth in trust and hope in God. I know all too well the longing they experienced for the gift they wanted to hold in their arms. But I also know they received countless gifts while holding their empty arms out to God.

Waiting means to trust that God is good, even when we can’t see it in the ways we wanted or expected. Waiting means seeking God’s help and comfort in prayer and worship when we can’t find it in our material world. Waiting means asking God to change us instead of expecting to change God. Abraham and Sarah had different hearts, a different marriage, and a different outlook on God’s promises after twenty-five years of waiting.

Trusting in God doesn’t mean that our prayers will be instantaneously answered, as if God were some cosmic vending machine ready to dispense our wishes and wants. Instead, it means that our waiting and longing can become a tool that transforms us rather than an obstacle to happiness and fulfillment.

Choosing to trust God’s goodness means that we turn our waiting over to Him. When we do, moments when we impatiently thought nothing was happening at all can become some of the most productive, transformational times of our lives.

What are some things you’ve had to wait for in your life? How did it feel to wait? 

Beasts of Burden

I love to read. You might even say that books are a bit of an addiction for me. The evidence is obvious: my home and office are over owing with bookshelves, which are over owing with books. I even got engaged in a bookstore!


We had been engaged about 5 min in this pic, and I’m showing off the pose every newly engaged women favors: left hand ring finger front and center.

So when one of my favorite authors (and one of my heroes in faith), Ellsworth Kalas, announced in a seminary class that he was about to tell us the three most important books we could ever read in life, I sat up straight and took notice. My pen was poised and ready to scribble down authors’ names and titles. Surely the first one would be the Bible. But what after that? I was sure my life was about to be changed by his choices. It certainly was.

“The three most important books you’ll ever read in life,” Dr. Kalas announced, “are your checkbook, your datebook, and your diary.” 

I remember my initial confusion. Then Dr. Kalas went on to tell us that these three “books” could teach us more about our hearts than any other book we could read. They teach us where we spend our money, our time, and our attention. If we understand these three things about ourselves, we have a starting point to know what holds the place of utmost importance in our lives, what we worship.

Worship is far more than what happens in an hour-long church service on Sunday morning. It’s about letting something become our reason for living and purpose in life.

Human beings are innately created to worship. It’s part of our makeup as spiritual beings. We all assign the role of god to something. To find out what that might be, we only have to follow the paper trail left in our checkbooks, calendars, and journals. If we track the decisions and motivations recorded in those three books, we’ll discover what we truly value. Worship is more than just belief. It means orienting our lives to give honor to something beyond ourselves. Whatever we put at the center of our lives is what we worship.

Worshipping an invisible God takes quite a leap of faith. It’s so much easier to believe in what we can see and touch with our hands than in a God we cannot see. To fix this problem, the Babylonians (and many other cultures like them) made idols, physical statues or representations of their gods. These were made of wood or metal and placed on an altar where people could worship them, bow to them, and make sacrifices to them.

The leaders of Babylon tried to force Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah to take God from the center of their lives and put false gods and idols in His place. Since God held a place of honor in their names, the Babylonian leaders took away those names and replaced them with names honoring false gods, idols. The gods at the center of their new names were Bel, Aku, and Nebo.

Daniel became Belteshazzar. Bel signifies the title “Lord” or “Master” rather than a proper name. This title was possibly used to signify Marduk, one of many Babylonian gods. Hananiah and Mishael became Shadrach and Meshach, with the idol Aku at the heart of their new names, the Babylonian god of wisdom. Azariah became Abednego, to honor Nebo, the Babylonian god of the moon.

The Bible addresses the damaging nature of idol worship in a poetic chapter of Isaiah. It actually brings up some of the exact idols mentioned in the new names Daniel and his friends received.

Bel bows down, Nebo stoops low;
their idols are borne by beasts of burden. 

The images that are carried about are burdensome, a burden for the weary. 

They stoop and bow down together; unable to rescue the burden,
they themselves go off into captivity. 

Isaiah 46:1-2 

The imagery of these first two verses is of large, heavy idols placed on the backs of donkeys or oxen to be moved. Instead of powerfully lifting burdens, these idols themselves become a burden. Instead of freeing people from captivity, they themselves can be carried into captivity.

God’s objection to people worshipping false idols is less about His need for adoration and more about how horribly it affects our lives when we give our worship away to the wrong things. God insists that we worship Him not because He is self-interested but because abiding in His character is in the best interest of His children.

God cares about us so much that He wants us to orient our lives to worship the only thing that can unburden us, Him! God mourns the fact that while people should be bowing to the God who made them and can save them, instead they are carrying around heavy idols. In the images of Isaiah 46, God ridicules the idols for themselves bowing down because they are causing such a burden to the people and animals forced to carry them.

Instead of lifting people’s burdens, these idols cause an extra burden on their lives, adding to the burdens they were hoping the idols would help to alleviate. The truth is that idol worship damages our lives. It’s a tragic irony that the very idols we suppose will save us are the things that destroy us.

God loves us so fiercely that He fights to destroy anything that could harm us. It’s no accident that when God hands out the Ten Commandments for His people to follow, He begins with these two:

“I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. “You shall have no other gods before me.
“You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above 

or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.” 

Exodus 20:2-6 

Exodus 20 reminds us that only God can save, that He brought His people out of Egypt, where they were slaves. This reminder is closely connected to the command that they should have no other gods and should not make idols. The implication is that when we turn to anything but God for help, we are deceiving ourselves, burdening ourselves, and separating ourselves from the help and salvation He is so eager to give. The benefits of choosing to worship God impact not only our own lives but also trickle down to thousands of generations that will follow.

While our current culture doesn’t often create physical idols to represent false gods (statues of clay and wood and bronze), we do have a problem with idol worship. We adopt things in our own lives and place them in the seat that God alone should occupy. We may take relationships or control, worry or financial resources, jobs or children, desires for food or sex, beauty or wealth, and begin to make them the center of our thoughts and priorities.

The question at the heart of the book of Daniel is this: What will you worship? 

Daniel and his three friends are given that choice again and again. Will you eat food offered to idols? Will you bow down to a golden statue? Will you pray to the king instead of praying daily to the God you love? Each conflict they face, each major choice they make, is about choosing whom they will worship.

The same is true for us. The most basic conflicts of our lives arise when we begin to worship things besides God. When we turn our lives over to Him, our most basic records (like our checkbook, calendar, and journal) will indicate choices that honor Him, decisions we’ve made because we want to be more like Him. His name and His character will shine through the line items, daily entries, and appointments, and our lives will reflect His joy because of it.

Idols will always burden us. God will always lift our burdens. 

An awareness of the ways our hearts easily slip into the worship of other things is the first step in turning them back to God. When we remind ourselves again that He is the source of our comfort and strength, the giver of every good and perfect gift, the choice to worship Him with our whole lives flows naturally. I hope that you have discovered the joy of worshipping the One who unburdens, who lifts up, who brings peace and contentment. In a world filled with competitors for our attention, He is the one choice as object of our affection who will give more love than He could ever receive.

I would love to hear from you. What are the idols we commonly worship in our culture—things that draw our attention, money, and passion in a way that diminishes our love for God? 


One Letter Different 

Jeff was one of my favorite speakers to invite to special events for teenagers during the years when I was a youth minister. He always held their attention, and he always had them crying by the end—one of the unspoken standards for success in youth ministry. Our teens loved the drama of Jeff’s testimony and the real transformation they saw in him. Each time he told his story, a handful of them realized they were on the same path of rebellion and made a dramatic turn with their own lives.

But then there were the rest of the kids—regular churchgoers living less than dramatic lives. Many of them had already given their lives to Christ. Most could not identify with the remarkable circumstances of Jeff’s life. When asked to tell about how God was working in their lives, some of them lamented, “I don’t really have a testimony. God hasn’t done much in my life compared to Jeff.” They didn’t realize that they were being daily transformed in little ways, or that it was important to expect God’s help with the smallest things. They were becoming new and different people, but sometimes the alterations were almost too small to see.

In light of the big changes God wanted to make in Abram and Sarai’s lives, the changes in their names seem so small. In fact, it was just one Hebrew letter each. But when God makes changes, the tiniest adjustment can communicate big things for us, our futures, and those whose lives we will impact.

hello-my-name-is Abram and Sarai each received the same letter as an addition to their names. In Hebrew the letter is called “Hey” (similar to our “H”). Abram became Abraham and Sarai became Sarah.

What did the addition of that one letter mean to Abraham and Sarah? It shift- ed the meaning of their names to fit God’s plan for their future. Abram, which means “The Exalted Father,” was now Abraham, which means “The Father of Many Nations.”

The slight alteration in the spelling of Sarai’s name to Sarah changed the meaning from “Little Princess” to an actual royal title. Sarah means “A True Princess,” one who will be the mother of kings and princes.

Hearing their new names spoken by God must have been an awesome moment, one where God painted a clear picture of the future He had in mind for them. That little letter revealed a God who wanted to dwell in their hearts, making His presence as accessible as their next breath, as well as the new life awaiting them—a life that was fruitful and reproductive, infused with hope for a family they had dreamed of and a God who would surround and bless them.

Too often we underestimate the value of small changes God makes in our lives. What looks like one little letter to us meant the world to Abraham and Sarah. Dramatic testimonies are inspiring, but if we miss the small changes God is making, we will miss the big picture He’s painting for a big future. 

For every person with a big testimony, marked with a clear and instantaneous before and after story, I know dozens who can testify to tiny, incremental change. Change like this is almost imperceptible if you try to catch it happening, like trying to watch a tendril of ivy wind its way up a brick wall. Stare at it and it seems never to change. Look at it every few days, or every few weeks, and you’ll see its progress. Check on it once a year and you’ll see it take over the whole wall. I think God designed it this way. He knew we would need constant reminders, repeated help, and consistent attention to our relationship with Him. If everything changed in an instant, we wouldn’t need the help He offers on a daily, hourly, minute-by-minute basis. With His patient attention, though, the changes in us will become apparent over time. Our faith will bloom.

What are some changes you’ve experienced over the years with God’s help—whether small or large? How are you different now than five to ten years ago? 

Reunion of the Rescued

These was my message to the inaugural meeting of the Wesleyan Covenant Association, where over 1700 United Methodists gathered in Chicago on October 7.

In January of 2009, 7 years ago, U.S. Airways flight 1549 took off from New York’s Laguardia airport headed for North Carolina. The passengers settled back in their seats for the takeoff, but they weren’t settled for very long. Three minutes into the flight the plane struck a flock of geese. Passengers looked out the window and saw that one of the engines was on fire. Then both engines shut down and without power the plane quickly began to descend. Suddenly, all those emergency instructions we all ignore when the flight attendants give them were very, very important. What happened next was the news story of the year. Captain Chesley Sullenberger known by his friends and now the world as Sully, made more split second decisions than you and I can even imagine. Realizing he couldn’t make it back to the airport, he called the cabin to brace for impact and then took aim for the Hudson River. He even had the presence of mind to look for an area that was clear but also close to the ferry boats that criss-cross the Hudson, knowing they would need someone to come to their aid quickly. A few moments later, the plane plummeted into the River, and began to sink.


In this Thursday Jan. 15, 2009 file photo, airline passengers wait to be rescued on the wings of a US Airways Airbus 320 jetliner that safely ditched in the frigid waters of the Hudson River in New York, after a flock of birds knocked out both its engines. The audio recordings of US Airways Flight 1549, released Thursday, Feb 5, 2009 by the Federal Aviation Administration, reflect the initial tension between tower controllers and the cockpit and then confusion about whether the passenger jet went into the river. (AP Photo/Steven Day)


This is the iconic picture that sticks in most of our minds from that amazing day.

The plane, half submerged in icy water (it was January in New York, remember? It was 20 degrees outside) with all 155 passengers and crew standing out across the wings, crowding together as boats raced from all directions toward the sinking plane. On that day, every boat within sight became a rescue boat. The Ferryboats Capt Sully had seen from the air were the first to reach the plane to snatch the stranded passengers from the freezing waters. The passengers, literally saved by grace, were ferried quickly away and taken to dry land. What could have ended very differently ended with everyone safe in their own bed. The news stations called it “The Miracle on the Hudson.” Every single passenger on that flight was saved. Captain Sully was an immediate hero. You know you’ve reached international hero status of epic proportions when they make a movie about you and you are played by Tom Hanks!

As inspiring a story as the miracle on the Hudson is,  here’s what I really want to talk to you about today: the miracle that happened after the miracle. Within a couple of months of the accident one of the passengers hosted a reunion at one of their homes for passengers and crew. Now picture how that went:

The doorbell rang. A person answered it and found, standing on the doorstep, someone they may never have spoken to, may never have even made eye contact with before, but they were on the same flight that went down in that river, their lives miraculously spared and instantly they had an incredible bond. People who had never spoken a word to one another embraced and wept as soon as they were introduced. They said they felt as close as family because of what they had been through together. They agreed that no one in the world could quite understand what they had been through except the other people on that flight that day. Soon these get-togethers became a monthly practice. I love what they called their reunions: “celebrations of life.” They also began to call one another by their seat-numbers. As in: Nice to see you again 22C! This term of endearment served to remind them of their connection and the miracle they experienced together.

One young man, Ben Bostic, was 20A. Before the flight, he had spotted a beautiful young woman in the airport with sandy brown hair grabbing a bite to eat. It seemed miraculous that she ended up on his plane – but he couldn’t find the courage to talk to her or ask her out, which he really wanted to do. He noticed her again as they all scrambled onto the wings after the crash, he remembers checking to make sure she was OK – but never said a word. Finally, 6 months later, at a celebration of life gathering – he got up the nerve to approach 17D, whose name was actually Laura. They have been inseparable ever since. Here’s a detail I love – the couple now flies around the world together. When asked if they’re afraid of flying, they said that experiencing a miracle made them want to get as much out of life as possible. Another couple, Karin Rooney and her boyfriend had been on the flight together. They had been struggling with their relationship, and were about to break up, but Karen said “when the plane crashed, I just knew on that wing he was the one I wanted to be with.” They married shortly after the crash and have a daughter named Elena. There are other miracle babies born after that day who would never have been born if things had gone differently. One baby was born three years to the day after the event to two parents who had been on the plane was named (appropriately) Hudson. As the survivors continue to gather for reunions, they say they always pass the babies around, and that Captain Sully always wants to hold each of them. “These children are special”, Sully says, “it’s just another great reminder of how much good happened that day.” Every gathering they hold is a miracle after the miracle; it’s a reunion of the rescued.

When you told people you were coming to Chicago for some strange new thing called the WCA, it’s likely that you were asked questions. What are we doing here in Chicago? What is the purpose of the WCA? Why, in a quadrennial year when Methodists have met ad nauseum in annual, jurisdictional and general conferences –Why in the world would anyone choose to have another meeting? If you need an answer to these questions when you go back home tomorrow it’s simply this: This is a reunion of the rescued. We are meeting together because – together we were saved, together we find hope in our shared faith, and so together we stand. While you may never have laid eyes on most of the people in this room before today, we know the deepest thing we have in common is this: when we were sinking deep in sin, Christ reached us and Christ redeemed us. We meet not just to find a way forward, but to remember how we found the Way, the Truth and the Life in the first place and to remember that to fully know life is not just to be rescued from something, but to be rescued for something. To become the rescued and transformed means to be those intent on the rescue and transformation of others.

It’s no secret that United Methodism suffers from a perennial identity crisis. We have to remind ourselves from time to time who we are. If you want to know who we are you don’t just look back at the merger that occurred in the 1960’s. You don’t just look back to the circuit riders or Asbury and Coke. You don’t even just look back to Aldersgate and Wesley’s heart strangely warmed. If you want to know why we’re here, you have to go back to the cross – it’s our miracle moment. There can be no unity among United Methodists without the unity of the cross.

There’s another reason we are here, it’s because many of us feel that the church we love has been in a free fall of sorts, declining in influence, power and purpose. While we have looked for a steady and decisive hand to provide a safe landing. What we have witnessed is indecision, fear and dysfunction from many who should be providing leadership. We have wanted someone or some group to say it’s not too late. The people called Methodist may have a rough landing ahead of them. But we can still make decisions and we can still take actions that will save this great gift of Wesleyan orthodoxy and that will keep safe those who are in our care, and will stir to action those looking for leadership.

We are here because we need our own miracle and I believe that’s what is happening here. Leaders have stepped up and said, the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the church of God matter too much to do nothing but wait and hope and see what happens. We must act. We are here to say regardless of what the future may bring, we will stand together. We are brothers and sisters; we are family; and we will never forget or walk away from each other. That’s why we’re still standing with our friends around the global church. Friends who tell me that although in many cases the Western Church brought them the Gospel many, many years ago sometimes it seems to them we have left the Gospel behind but by the grace of God they have not left the Gospel and praise God they have not left us. Thank you for standing with us. That’s why we’re standing with United Methodists from the most embattled areas of the church. All over this room are men and women who come from embattled annual conferences where those who hold to traditional United Methodist beliefs and standards are treated like outsiders within the church that ordained them. Even in great times of pain and division in their own context, we want to stand with them. We praise God that have not left us and we will not leave them.

We’re thankful you’re here today – to know that our connection to the cross and to each other has not weakened, and even though these days are difficult and uncertain ones for many people in our churches. Many of us have sensed that this is a new day for United Methodists. This is not business as usual. I’m thankful that today is not your typical Methodist gathering. I know I’ve attended so many United Methodist events throughout my ministry and wondered if it had been worth the time. When my family and my church ask me when I return home: How was that Methodist thing you went to? And all I can think to say is: Well, at least the fellowship was good. I’ve grown tire of things with the Methodist name lacking the purpose and drive of the Methodist movement that the Wesleys began. But there are also times when we can’t even give that answer. Perhaps you may have been in gatherings where you found yourself attacked and accused of being harmful and hurtful because you stood on the Word of God and chose to uphold the covenant you made in your vows of baptism and ordination, a covenant that holds us together not only with United Methodists and other Wesleyans, but with the historic and orthodox Christian faith throughout time.

Are these our only options? A bland Christian unity where maybe the fellowship is good but we never do anything of purpose or one long fight with no end in sight. When people ask you “what was it you went to in Chicago? Was it one of those typical Methodist things? “ You tell them “NO” This, finally, was a celebration of life, not of decline and death. This was a reunion of the rescued. That the cross of Jesus – the narrative in which death is overcome, in which our worst day becomes our best, was not some abstract history but a very present and driving reality pushing us into a new day when the Church, vibrant and alive, acts again as the agent of Christ for transformation of the world. It’s a story so old that it becomes new every time someone is rescued again.

This is why we have given our lives to Jesus and His church, for the joy of seeing the next person pulled out of icy water of death, brought to life and restored to wholeness and joy. Our churches have sometimes come to resemble ferry boats, just shuttling the comfortable back and forth across the river on the same predictable path, but in reality we are meant to be a fleet of powerful agents of rescue and restoration. Our presence here together today says that we won’t be sunk by disobedience or nonconformity to the Word of God or the Book of Discipline. It says that instead of being content with the lot that we’re handed. You and I are committed to turn back to the river, don captain’s hats, and circle the waters to pull out people who need rescue.

We believe we are standing within the stream of a movement begun by John Wesley himself. In a season when the Church of England seemed to be heading toward icy waters, Wesley and the Methodists had the audacity to believe they could turn it back toward life. They dared to believe that it was prayer, Scripture, accountability, seeking justice, ending oppression, and serving the poor; that would renew the Church. Wesley said if he had just 100 people like this he could shake the gates of hell and set up the kingdom of heaven on earth. We have more than 16 times that just in this room. What will God do with the WCA? I’m excited to find out.

Even all these years later, The Miracle on the Hudson passengers continue to gather for regular reunions and celebrations. At their 5-year reunion the passengers who gathered decided to do something different. They went back to the scene where it all happened. They gathered at the New York Waterway ferry terminal to shake the hands of the ferry boat captains who came to their rescue; those everyday heroes who left their course to rescue people perched precariously, clinging to each other– oddly enough in the shape of a cross –across the body of the plane and its wings.

At this special anniversary, they looked out into the cold and murky water of the Hudson – and one passenger remarked: “It still feels like yesterday, every day.” Then they boarded a boat and sailed out to the very spot where the plane had gone down, and Captain Sully raised a toast to mark the spot – to mark the spot where they were rescued. This afternoon when two United Methodist Bishops lift a chalice in an invitation, a reminder of the Body of Christ, I invite you to take a look around at the Body of Christ standing next to you. These are not strangers. This is the Church. And it’s nothing short of a miracle.

We didn’t come here just to fellowship or to fight. We came here to be reminded that there is great power in what is behind us – and still more ahead of us. To be reminded that we’re standing together; that we’re part of a movement; that we’re on a mission: Full of the hope of the cross, committed to each other no matter what the future may bring, and we will not be sunk.

Thanks be to God.

Royalty and The Gift of Leadership

If you have spent any time at all in the checkout line at the grocery store, then most likely you’ve noticed the many magazines that draw us into the stories of our world’s royalty.  If you are old enough to remember Princess Diana, you’ll remember the minute-by-minute coverage of her life from the moment she came on the scene until her tragic death. Even now her story makes headlines with conspiracy theories and memories. And just a few years ago we became enamored with Catherine (Kate) Middleton, who became Princess Kate when she married Diana’s son Prince William. (I happen to think she pales in comparison to our own little Princess Kate!) For some reason, the concept of royalty captures our attention and keeps us coming back for more. The idea that a human being was at some point in his or her lineage set apart and called “royal” is fairytale-like and stirs our imagination.cb22d258de4cf7fff6e85953f07ae515

Early in the Scriptures we read that God would rather not introduce the pattern of kings. Instead, God would lead His people and speak through judges and prophets. But the people wanted a king. Even God’s people were consumed with the idea of royalty—so much so that they begged God to give them a king. They wanted something more: more ornate, more official, more royal. They wanted a king.

In contrast to an attempt by his older brother to usurp the throne, Solomon received the throne because he was chosen by his father. Leadership is a gift. The roles we have that allow us to influence others are always a gift—both from the leaders who have influenced us and for the people over whom we have charge.

Solomon’s life changed immensely in that moment when his father named him king. Consider the immediate transformation that Solomon went through in that moment. While he was already royalty by virtue of being born the son of a king, he went from being just one of many royal sons (1 Chronicles 3:9 lists nineteen sons and one daughter born to David) to ruler of the nation. When David gives instructions for Solomon to be named king over Israel, there is no name attached to give Solomon status. He now carries the rank of royal leadership.

This is the stuff fairy tales are made of. Cinderella finds herself transformed from maid to princess. The frog prince goes from the swamp to the throne with just a kiss. If the number of fairy tale books and movies sold is any indication, rising to the rank of royalty is something that many people fantasize about.

The Book of 1 Peter tells us that, just like Solomon, we were nobodies, with no status. And then God chose us to become royalty, with great privilege and great responsibility.

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

1 Peter 2:9-10

Chosen. Royal. Holy. These words go together. They could have been written about Solomon, but they weren’t. They are about us. They are declarations of who we are in Christ.

We, every one of us, have chosen for a purpose. We don’t get to choose whether we’re chosen or pick whether God intended us to lead. It’s a weighty responsibility, but one that comes with a full-time God. This is not about seeing ourselves as better than others. On the contrary, it is only God’s Spirit living in us that marks us and makes us different. It is by his Spirit that we are empowered to receive the gift of leadership and the gifts we need to go with it, beginning with humility, worship, and acknowledgement of our own brokenness and need. What if we began to redefine royalty? Not simply glossy pictures or beautiful images, but those who seek a new way in the image of Christ.

Learn more from my book Set Apart: Holy Habits of Prophets and Kings here.

Teaching my daughter a bad word

Toxic Beliefs Series

Our three-year-old, Kate, loves to do jigsaw puzzles. Long after her older brother has given up and wandered off to pretend to be a Jedi or a ninja, she will remain standing over the coffee table, moving the pieces around with her tiny toddler fingers in the empty spaces until they click into place.

As proud as this makes me, to tell you the truth it’s hard for me to watch sometimes. I can see looking over her shoulder where the pieces fit and where they don’t. It’s hard for me to restrain myself from giving her help by turning and shifting the piece in her hand – which as a very independent preschooler she rebukes every time. “I do it myself!”

A few months ago I was watching her in the ultimate moment of final satisfaction as she finally finished a puzzle: that act of discovering and putting in the last piece, the satisfying noise it made as it snapped into place. Her eyes lit up as her hands went up above her head and she yelled out:


That’s odd, I thought. I’ve never noticed her use that word before.

IMG_1625Then, later that day, she was “helping me” unload the dishwasher (read: putting the silverware in the wrong spaces in the drawer) when she dropped the last piece in and said it again: “Perfect!”
Not thirty minutes later I overheard the Spanish version come out of her little mouth while she was coloring a picture in her Disney coloring book: “Perfecto!” (Thanks, Dora the Explorer.)

That’s when I started paying attention.

To hear her say perfect once was cute. But three times in one day? And bilingually!? I started to worry a little.

I know from experience that the word perfect is a double-edged sword. It can feel so fulfilling to get things to line up perfectly, and yet most of the time chasing perfection is a burden. The reality of my life is that it is far from perfect, but the burden of chasing perfection has often filled me with shame, guilt, inadequacy, and stress. Over the years it’s caused me to procrastinate, judge, and despair.

I thought about where Kate might have learned that word, a word that would drive her to do her best and haunt her if she held it as her standard. Surely she had gotten this from school, from TV, from Daddy. But if I thought hard enough I realized it was me. I had taught my daughter a bad word.

In my effort to encourage my kids as they made crafts, practiced new skills, walked and skipped and danced, the words “That’s Perfect!” often popped out of my mouth in praise. At the same time, I often went along behind them correcting their “perfect” work: remaking the bed they had just made, switching the silverware to the right space in the drawer, finishing up the craft, manipulating the puzzle pieces to snap into place when she couldn’t find the right one. I’m pretty sure this is a toxic combination: Speaking out perfection as the goal while non-verbally showing that they’re never quite there.

My kids will have the burden of two parents who are recovering perfectionists. We are trying to do our best at not being the best, at not requiring absolutes of ourselves or those we love. I’ve seen perfectionism’s harmful effects too many times in my own life and others.

Brene Brown calls perfectionism “The 20-ton shield” and says “When perfectionism is driving, shame is always riding shotgun – and fear is the annoying back-seat driver.”

There are times when my children have meltdowns because they can’t do things perfectly. Their craft doesn’t look like the one the teacher showed them, they can’t get their clothes on right-side-out and with arms, legs, and head in the designated holes. I help them calm down and get over the need to do it perfectly, but I need to remind myself I melt down just as often.

I’ve cleaned up my language at home lately. I want my children to see themselves, their work, their play as beautiful signs of who they are: joyful, messy reflections God crafted from dirt and breath. I’m working on that myself – trying to do my best at not being the best, just being me.

Kate loves to watch me get ready for work in the morning. She stands on the scale in my bathroom and reads “her numbers.” Realizing this could be the start of a life-long pursuit of positive self esteem, I used to tell her: “Perfect.”
Now I say: “That’s just right.”
She is: Just right. Perfect or not. And so am I.

Have you struggled with perfectionism? What has helped?

This is the first in a series on Toxic Beliefs. Besides perfectionism what inner impulse has proved toxic in your life?