Toddling Toward Hope

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I love toddlers. Honestly, it may be my favourite age. Yes, I mean the tantrum-throwing, independent, illogical, ill-informed munchkins between walking and reasonable conversation age, the ones who cause their exhausted parents’ hearts to melt when they stand over their kid’s sleeping adorableness before they head out to clean up the day’s mess.

I love to watch them learn. They are voracious readers of everything and everyone. They crave knowledge and are driven to courageously expand their universe, but at the same time want to remain at the center of it.

As a baby a little girl learns that when she hollers Daddy or Mommy come to her. As a toddler she learns the hard lesson that when Mommy or Daddy call she is supposed to come to them.

It’s not an easy transition for anyone concerned. Toddlers are also discovering free will. Anyone who has tried knows you cannot make a toddler eat, sleep, sit still, keep their clothes on or pee where they are supposed to until they decide to do it themselves. You can cut down their options, you can try to pick them up (as they do the floppy noodle) before they dash for the road, but you can’t make them keep the water in the tub or kiss Auntie Bertha or stay out of the Tupperware drawer when company is coming if it is not on their agenda. They will let you know when they have lost patience with your interference.

But I love them. I love the mileage they get out of a few words. I love the excited laughter when they discover how to open, or flush, or unravel something all by themselves. I love the way they imitate older humans and want to be like them. I love them because they are headed somewhere and every day they change. I love them because they don’t stay toddlers.

It struck me the other day that as new believers in Christ we are like a baby who needs milk, shelter, warmth, affection and our heavenly Father obliges. He provides a baby with everything she needs. She calls; He comes. She knows how the system works.

Then one day he doesn’t come when she calls. He calls and holds out his hands for her to move toward him. After she chooses to toddle to his outstretched arms and she is rewarded with kisses and hugs he takes another step back – then another and another. He is becoming more distant. The next thing you know he is withholding her sippy cup until she sits in the chair nicely – wearing a bib that is not of her choice. What a shock!

The toddler Christian is accustomed to feeling that God is there to fulfill her agenda. Now it turns out he has an agenda of his own. Now there is this obedience issue to cope with. It’s a tough transition to make, and that is why many churches are filled with people who never grow beyond two or three years maturity level. It can be fun, but it can also be a wretchedly frustrating stage of growth because it means taking ourselves out of the center of the universe and putting God there.

The Bible says Jesus learned obedience. He grew in grace and in favour with God the Father and with people. When he laid down his Godhead privileges to experience everything we have he also learned as a human child that he had free will. As an adult he demonstrated that he was not doing the works he did because he was incapable of doing otherwise, but because he chose to. He listened to his Father’s plans. From his baptism, to his following the leading of Holy Spirit into the wilderness, to changing water into wine at his Father’s bidding – and definitely not his mother’s – to his battle with his free will in the Garden of Gethsemane he did nothing he did not choose to do. I believe he understands our struggle because he sweat drops of blood before he could say, “Not my will but Yours.” In the end laying down his life at the cross was his choice.

“No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.” (John 10:18)

I’ve heard it said that being part of the family of God means never being led into the wilderness (times away from his felt presence to discover and establish our identity as sons and daughters); it means never seeking God’s agenda but brazenly declaring our own want list; it means never being driven by frustration with our old habits to plumb the depths of his grace that changes us, but instead it presumes on our own definition of “grace” that enables stunted growth and self-centered living.

There is power and provision for a hope that does not disappoint, but this is not it. Of course God still loves to give good gifts to his children and to respond to them. Maturity means changing the way we think until we realize it’s not just about God answering us when and how we want him to; it’s also about us responding to him when he calls.

I love toddlers because unless something has gone horribly wrong, they are people in process. If we, as those growing up in faith, never get out of our strollers, demand ice cream for breakfast and holler every time events do not go according to our desired design and timetable, we will not be loved any less and our needs will still be met, but we will miss the joy of mature relationship with our Father God.

I love toddlers because they teach me to keep growing.


Skin People Stories

Take a picture of me jumping!
Take a picture of me jumping!

We wondered what our wee granddaughter was talking about when she asked a question about “skin people.” Her story books were full of talking fur or feather people, she explained, so she wanted her mommy to know she was talking about other kinds of people who look like us.

“They’re called humans, Honey,” her mommy answered.

The next day, within the hearing of other shoppers she asked, “What are those humans doing over there?”
More than one head turned.

I realized that many children’s stories meant to teach a moral lesson use personified critters –clever foxes, wise owls, sneaky snakes, innocent baby bears. It’s easier for authors to frame a story when you are in control of the rules in the fictional world simple characters live in. It works. Kids love it, and there are fewer stupid human tricks for us to explain.

Lately, she’s been asking me to tell her stories about me or her mommy or my friends. At nearly six-years old she has become a student of skin people nature, which can be pretty baffling at times.

Since we were discussing birthday plans I told her this true story about my friend and a birthday cake. There were two people who loved to play jokes on each other. One year “Dolly” decided to play a big trick on her friend, “Burt.” She hired a baker to decorate a cake made up of doggie biscuits frosted together (because he had already played a joke with doggie biscuits on her). From the outside, the birthday cake looked fantastic. Then she dropped it off at Burt’s house. He wasn’t home, so his wife took it gratefully and said she would give it to him later.

After a few days she had not heard anything from him and wondered if his feelings were hurt, so she phoned him.

“The cake was amazing,” he said. “Wow. Thank you so much!”

“It tasted good then?”

“Marvelous!” he gushed. He paused and then said, “I’m sorry, Dolly. I have to I have to tell you what happened. I was tired when I got home so we put it in the freezer and thought we would bring it out when we had company. But last night my wife suddenly remembered she promised to supply the cake for a birthday party for a person at the Old Folks Home. It was too late to order one and yours was beautiful so she brought it down to them this morning.

“Oh No! Did they give the dog biscuit cake to the old person, Nana?” granddaughter asked.

“Well, Dolly called the baker and asked him if he had a cake in the shop she could have and he did. So she hurried over there and bought the cake and rushed to the nursing home with it. She ran into the kitchen and asked the cook if Burt’s cake was there because she wanted to trade it for a fresher cake, but the cook said the cake was already in the dining room for the party. Dolly ran to the dining room.

“Don’t cut that cake!” she yelled.

“Why not?” everyone asked.

Just then Dolly’s friend Burt came in the room and everyone laughed and laughed because they were all playing a joke back on her. Burt knew the cake had dog biscuits inside and he told everybody he was playing joke on Dolly. He already had another one there for the party.

“Why was it funny?” my granddaughter asked.

“Why did she make a cake of dog biscuits? That would taste yucky. That could hurt his feelings.”

“How did Burt know there were dog biscuits inside? Why did he tell his friend he was giving it to the old person? Wasn’t that a lie?”

“Why did the lady forget to order the cake? Didn’t she write it on a calendar?”

“What bakery did Dolly go to?”

Well, I thought it was funny. My next story will start with “Once upon a time there were three bears…”

Skin people communication is so complicated. Friends who understand each other can share practical jokes and laugh at the re-telling for years. Let-your-yea-be-yea-and-your-nay-be-nay people will ask, “Why would you give me a dog biscuit cake? Why would you dishonour me this way?”

Nothing is more shaming than being told your attempts at communication with people you care about have been interpreted in the opposite way you intended – especially if they wait for years to tell you that they have only been smiling politely and they have found you offensive all this time.

Sometimes in our attempts to make connection too much is assumed. It’s like we have only a partial picture of this skin person and they are much more complicated than we think because unlike illustrations of fur and feather people in story books they keep bouncing out of the frame.

The moral of the story: Never assume you understand skin people. Never assume skin people understand you.

Do you know what I mean?

Someone Likes Cake

Somebody likes cake


I laughed out loud when I saw this photo these kids’ dad sent me. (He gave me permission to use it.) He captioned it, “Someone likes cake.”

It gave me joy.

I realized later this is a picture of hope. Talk about vision-led endurance.

The hope in the heart of the believer is not a wish to win the lottery or that our team wins. Hope for the follower of Jesus Christ is an expectation that he is true to his word, that what we have seen and have come to believe about who he is and his promises to us is being accomplished. It’s an actual substance we can see by faith.

Hope is joyous anticipation that the promise of cake in the oven will be fulfilled in the mouth — maybe with a little ice cream on the side.





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I love ideas. I love to think about ideas. I love to read about ideas and discuss ideas.

Someone asked me once, “Why do you have to ask so many questions? Why can’t you just have faith?”

She was not a thinker. She was a doer, the kind that hates sitting still. Sometimes when I saw her running in circles to meet commitments I would be tempted to ask, “What were you thinking?”

So here we were, one of us stuck in theory without experience and the other in practice without aforethought, both lobbing civil little incendiaries over the fence when we perchanced to have tea. We could have been good friends, but we weren’t because we failed to bless each other for our differing strengths and we both became rather defensive. Alas. She passed away before I realized my error.

Lately I am realizing that a lot of the annoyances that crop up in my life are actually sent by the One who is motivating me to work out the things he has been teaching me. An obvious example of this occurs when people pray for patience. We make jokes about it. What follows is often an opportunity to work out the patience He already placed in them.

I love watching kids do this so naturally. My youngest grandsons have watched very few superhero movies. They have only to sit on the couch in front of Netflix long enough to grasp the premise and they are leaping from the furniture putting theory into practice. The next viewing is merely for the purpose of refining identity. Theirs is a world of potential, rapidly becoming reality.

Can I admit I also loathe exercise that goes nowhere? I would a thousand times rather hike in the woods, or turn dirt in a garden than ride a stationary bike that doesn’t progress an inch after 23 minutes of sweaty effort (the length of time it takes to watch a renovation show with the commercials fast-forwarded). I joined a gym and forced myself to go religiously. One day I woke up and realized I didn’t have to go that day because I had double pneumonia. I rejoiced. When having pneumonia seems like a much more pleasant prospect than grinding through a circle of exercise devices you know you really hate it and need to find a better way to work out.

Some of us need more prodding to get off the couch than little kids with towels tied around their necks and this week, although I protested loudly, the prodding made me put some things I have been thinking about into practice. I recognize the necessity of these circumstances and that the exercise is actually taking me somewhere. I may be getting to the point where I can consider it a joy when confronted by various trials. Maybe. There is a time to hear, and a time to do. It’s time to do.

Have done, then, with impurity and every other evil which touches the lives of others, and humbly accept the message that God has sown in your hearts, and which can save your souls. Don’t I beg you, only hear the message, but put it into practice; otherwise you are merely deluding yourselves. The man who simply hears and does nothing about it is like a man catching the reflection of his own face in a mirror. He sees himself, it is true, but he goes on with whatever he was doing without the slightest recollection of what sort of person he saw in the mirror. But the man who looks into the perfect mirror of God’s law, the law of liberty (or freedom), and makes a habit of so doing, is not the man who sees and forgets. He puts that law into practice and he wins true happiness. (James 1:21-25 Phillips)

Faith Looks Up

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“The most powerful mentors in my life all had one thing in common, and it has released a hunger in my own heart. They gazed at the Lord with a child-like simplicity and wonder. They had an innocence about them — a simple purity, humility, grace, and a deep abiding love for Jesus that was naked to the eye, a visible passion that ruled each day. I cried out for that…”

– Graham Cooke

Rise Up

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What if a child labeled herself according to her past experience?

“I’m a roller/creeper. I’m a hollerer roller/creeper. I sort of go backwards and when I get stuck under the furniture I holler and someone comes and picks me up and gives me a ride back to the center of the room. Works for me. My unique perspective allows me to be an expert on dust bunnies and potential choking hazards society leaves lying about (thoughtless of the needs of minorities like me.)

Yes, I know it’s hazardous to my health, but I am compelled to put everything in my mouth, you know. It’s in my DNA. Why fight it?

I tried walking. Several times. It was a humiliating experience. Not my gift. I’ll stick to what I’m good at, thank you. Besides, my peers here in the nursery approve.”


At what age do we cease to look to our Father for our true identity? How old are we when we cease to hear the you-can-do-it encouragements of the One who knows our potential is vastly greater than what we have so far realized? When did we start to allow our peers in the nursery to set the bar for what is possible? How many ways have we justified stifling the urge inside that tells us that there must be more than this?

To live is to grow and to change. The past does not define us. Our Creator defines us -and what He sees is beyond our greatest imaginations.

Rise up.



Deep Darkness

A light in the darkness
A light in the darkness

The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone. (Isaiah 9:2)

You must understand that God has not sent his Son into the world to pass sentence upon it, but to save it—through him. Any man who believes in him is not judged at all. It is the one who will not believe who stands already condemned, because he will not believe in the character of God’s only Son. This is the judgment—that light has entered the world and men have preferred darkness to light because their deeds are evil. (John 3 Phillips version)

If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land. (2 Chronicles 7:14)

Mourning today for the 20 children killed in the U.S. and the thousands of children killed in Syria and the millions of children killed in Iraq and Afghanistan.