Below are a few “snippets” (i.e., thoughts, quotes, and stats) in no particular order, and arranged around no particular theme. Of course, there are also a few recent snaps of SamJam, along with a video clip of him sitting up for the first time unassisted. What a milestone—from spitting up to sitting up in five short months. Have I mentioned lately how much I love this little guy? 💙
“When you realize how much you’re worth, you’ll stop giving people discounts.” – Karen Salmansohn
“I love to go to Washington—if only to be near my money.” – Bob Hope
“Orwell’s 1984 was a warning, not a ‘how to’ manual.” – David Shafer
There are probably some good and compelling reasons for this trend of parents taking their children out of government-run schools:
1970s – 13,000 homeschoolers
1980s – 200,000 homeschoolers
1990s – 850,000 homeschoolers
2000s – 1,500,000 homeschoolers
2010s – 1,700,000 homeschoolers
2020s – 5,000,000 homeschoolers
A recent Babylon Bee headline: “Parents baffled that 1 hour of youth group a week not effectively combating teen’s 30 hours on TikTok.”
“When the power of love overcomes the love of power, the world will know peace.” – Jimi Hendrix
“Success is how high you bounce when you hit bottom.” – George S. Patton
“My pain may be the reason for somebody’s laugh. But my laugh must never be the reason for somebody’s pain.” – Charlie Chaplin
“The more sand that has escaped from the hourglass of our life, the clearer we should see through it.” – Jean-Paul Sartre
“My heart is both my greatest weakness and my superpower.” – J. Iron Word
“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” – Maya Angelou
“Write hard and clear about what hurts.” – Ernest Hemingway
“It’s the possibility of having a dream come true that makes life interesting.” – Paulo Coelho
“God has infinite attention to spare for each one of us. You are as much alone with him as if you were the only being he had ever created.” – C. S. Lewis
In addition to which…
This year we’re trying red and white geraniums and yellow marigolds in the front flower beds. The petunias were a bust last year. The red, white, and yellow zinnias were great, but the nursery didn’t have any left. Ugh! Maybe next year.
The garden has also been launched. So far we’ve planted squash, zucchini, cucumbers, lettuce, peppers, and tomatoes. Food prices being what they are these days, this can only help.
Metaphorically, the headline could refer to me on quite a few occasions. Literally, it could refer to Samuel on some recent occasions. (I missed him so much while I was away this past week!) Enjoy a few brief clips and pics of this precious little boy that I just can’t get enough of.
Samuel’s daddy drives a Jeep SUV, so it’s only natural that he should have his own Jeep, too. In fact, somewhere in his wardrobe is probably a onesie that says, “Crawl. Walk. Jeep.” Like father, like son.
That’s why we were thrilled to find a baby book called, Jesus Is with Me, the words of which can be sung to the tune of “Jingle Bells.” One of the lines in it says, “In a jeep! Beep! Beep! Beep! Jesus is with me!” That one reference made it a must-purchase. It reinforces the simple truth that Jesus loves and cares for children, and he is always with us.
But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. (2 Timothy 3:14-15)
Below are a few recent snaps of this little cuddle bug I adore so much. I may be brave and post a video someday of this silly “cheek thing” I do that he gets a kick out of. He’s on the verge of giggling every time I do it, especially when I combine it with bare belly zerbits. (His bare belly, not mine.)
Thanks for your continued prayers for his one kidney. About once every two weeks he has a really painful pee because of the calcium debris. It’s heart-wrenching when that happens, and we all just cry along with him. His appointment with the nephrologist is scheduled for mid-April, and we’re hoping to get some answers at that time.
My apologies for being so delinquent in posting pictures and videos of Samuel lately. Alas, the pile has been exceedingly high this year.
It wasn’t entirely unexpected, but I had to push the pause button on dissertation number two for a couple months to take care of another writing project requiring my attention. Thankfully, it’s almost finished, and I should be getting back to the Second Temple veil soon enough—a subject I find endlessly fascinating.
Anyway, the doctor tells us SamJam will be giggling soon. I don’t doubt it. He makes the most delightful sounds on a regular basis. My favorite is the gurgling riff followed by a high-pitched, “Ahhh goooo.” I think he’s trying to tell us something. 🙂
I am supremely blessed to be able to see him for several hours at a time, five or more times a week. And I’m loving every minute of it! Having him in my life these past (nearly) three months has virtually tripled my joy! Thank you, Lord, for this precious, precious child, and his wonderful parents.
He’s even more fascinating than the Second Temple veil.
Micah and Bethany are such good parents. They’re diligent about Samuel’s feeding time, tummy time, play time, reading time, and so much more. It’s fun to watch them grow into their new role as parents. They’re killing it, even though it’s a big adjustment and a lot of hard work! I’m so proud of them!
In this clip, I think SamJam is trying to talk to me. 🙂
* EDIT *
Some bonus shots for SamJam’s 1-month anniversary:
I’m not sure how Santa got this thing down the chimney, but I’m glad he did. I’ve never had a power recliner before, but this is a high-end Bassett that’s super sturdy and comfy.
This wonderful piece of furniture was for yours truly. “Hers truly” got a silver Bach Stradivarius trumpet. This top-tier instrument is stunning and is supposed to be played only with gloves or a hand cloth.
Both are kingdom tools. One is for reading and writing. The other is for praising and worshiping.
As nice as these things are, the best Christmas present this year (besides Jesus) was the new addition to the family. Samuel didn’t make a peep during the entire Christmas Eve service—even with our brass team belting it out during the opening carols. And, yes, he slept through the sermon! 🙂
Today I got to babysit him for a couple hours while Bethany went to a doctor’s appointment. What a blessing that he lives less than 15 minutes away. I’m utterly smitten with this little munchkin and have to share a few snaps from the past few days.
1. It’s cookie making time chez nous. On the menu this year are decorated sugar cookies, peanut butter blossoms, and chocolate chip cookies. We may even try a batch of pizzelles on our new iron. We’re a bit behind in decorating and baking this year because of the recent new addition to our family, so we’re trying to keep it simple. Fortunately, we’re catching up fast, and we’re almost back on schedule. Alas, red and green sugar sprinkled on round sugar cookies may have to suffice this time around in lieu of the shapes and the icing.
2. Speaking of the new addition, I had to add a stocking to the mantle over the fireplace this year. The occasion was just another opportunity to shed a few more tears of joy in the process. (Yes, we INTJs can extrovert our F; we just tend to do it privately. But it’s no less deep than folks with other MBTI combinations.) Samuel could probably fit into his stocking at this point! Talk about a great gift!
3. With the dissertation, the end-of-semester grading, caring for a relative with Alzheimer’s, and helping a new mother adjust to the new normal, it can feel a bit overwhelming at times. But I’m choosing to keep the jolly in the holly at all times. What’s the alternative? Besides, the gift of new life has provided great joy this year and a certain re-orientation to priorities, so some deadlines will just have to wait—especially those I impose on myself. I’ll get stuff done when I get it done.
4. Sadly, I won’t be able to write and post a bunch of Christmas devotionals this year like I did last year, so I’ll probably just write a single new one and post it next week, perhaps Wednesday. I may also re-post the one that got all the hits last year (“Have Yourself a Snarky Little Christmas”). We’ll see. If the cookies turn out o.k., I may post a few pictures of those as well. Other than that, I’ll just look at all the wonderful posts you supply this year!
5. The Christmas Eve sermon this year is called, “The Mirror in the Manger” from Luke 2:35. What a night it’s going to be. My family always joins me at the front for the closing hymns in the candlelit darkness, and this year we’ll have a new singer. (We should probably teach SamJam that line about Jesus—“no crying he makes”!) The beauty of the Christmas Eve service is rivaled only by the majesty of the Easter morning service. Both convey the earth-shattering love of God to a world that has lost its way.
6. Speaking of love, it really does make the world go round, doesn’t it? It can manifest differently in different seasons of life, and it and can certainly deepen over time, but it never goes away (1 Cor 13:8a; 13). Thank God for that. 💙
Be well, everyone. And have yourself a merry little Christmas.
I have permission to share that Bethany is at the hospital right now (as of Tuesday, November 30 at 9:45 a.m.). It looks like Samuel James (“SamJam”) is on the way. Prayers for mother and child (and daddy, too) are much appreciated.
You can send up a quick prayer for me, too, as I’m melting into a puddle of tears right now.
Early Afternoon Update:
Contractions every two minutes. Now discussing pain management. (3:53 p.m.)
Hospital COVID protocols have forced me to wait at home, so I’m just praying, texting, and “brutzing.” I’m told Bethany is still calm and has had no tears yet. Thank you, Lord.
She’s still able to smile and laugh periodically, but it’s about to get real. (4:42 p.m.)
Late Afternoon Update
Samuel’s head is in a good position. No cord issues. (4:42 p.m.) 🙌
Oh my word. Bethany just FaceTimed me to make sure I was o.k. How selfless is that? (She knows no father wants to see his little girl in pain.) She looks terrific and is in great spirits. (5:23 p.m.)
Pain meds slowed her down for a while, but she’s back to steady contractions and excellent vitals. I guess the little guy will come when he’s good and ready! (8:36 p.m.)
Breaking her water now. (10:09 p.m.)
And it just got real. Praying, dear one. (10:27 p.m.)
Epidural. (11:25 p.m.)
In the meantime…
Early Morning Update
The epidural is now done, and the small crew at the hospital is getting a nap. This adventure is a lot like my son’s birth. It’ll be a while before we get to pushing. (12:05 a.m.)
Translating a Latin text (Pseudo-Cyrpian) as I await the news. LOL. (12:53 a.m.)
9.5 cm. (1:27 a.m.)
Crowning. (4:05 a.m.)
Still pushing. She would like to be done. But she’s having all sorts of conversation between pushes. (6:14 a.m.)
This guy really wanted to be a December baby.
Welcome, dear child!
Just got the call of a lifetime!
Samuel arrived at around 7:41 a.m. (official time TBD).
I could hear him crying in the background. Loveliest thing I’ve ever heard.
I’m told he has hair, and Daddy cut the cord.
Physically and emotionally drained right now, but waves of joy are rolling in.
Now that was a baby shower! What a great turnout. And we all had a wonderful time. (Alas, I had to slip out to teach a class for a couple hours, but I got my share of celebrating in.) Everyone was so kind and thoughtful. Bethany’s network of support really came through to bless her with practical items needed by a first-time mom. It was the power of love and community in action, and I was touched. It was also great to see so many old friends and out-of-town family members.
My favorite game was Diaper Pong. Bounce a ping pong ball into an open diaper hanging on a board and win a prize. I tried to persuade my daughter that first prize should be a bowl of chocolate pudding with a glass of lemonade, but she vetoed the idea. (Yes, 7th grade humor is my specialty.) The Make-a-Onesie station was also a hit. My favorite design was the one that said, “I’m always getting picked up by the ladies.” Ha! I’ll remind him of that when he’s 16 or 17. It was a self-catered event, and everyone pulled together to pull it off. We couldn’t have asked for a better team or a lovelier day.
So, now it’s getting real. Samuel is on his way, and we’re doing our best to get ready for him. What Peter said of Jesus could be said of SamJam, too: “Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you…are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy” (1 Peter 1:8). Amen.
Along with the joy is a prayer request. Bethany’s placenta needs to move about 1.8 cm in the next seven weeks to be able to deliver naturally. Otherwise, it will be a C-section. She’s not opposed to that since her platelets are low, which would prevent her from getting an epidural. That does not sound appealing to her at all! So, the general prayer is for the safety of both mother and child, and the wisdom to make good decisions when the time comes. Thanks for remembering her to the Lord.
Oddly enough, my son and I got into a fun conversation today about the Styx song “Come Sail Away.” Stranger things have happened, I suppose, but that was kind of random. We talked about surface meanings and hidden meanings, and the universal quest to journey toward love. Since “sailing away” fits with the nautical theme of the shower, I’ll include it below.
1. We have beautiful chaos chez Valentino this weekend. SamJam’s baby shower is this Saturday, so there’s been a flurry of activity lately getting everything ready and set up. Fortunately, we’ve had a couple of productive days, and all we need to do yet is put the food out and finish up a few displays and activity centers. We’re holding the event in the seminary fellowship hall, which is the perfect size for a group of 70-80 people. The nautical theme my daughter chose is adorable. I wonder if it portends another swimmer in the family. Below are a few snaps of the room in its current state. Hopefully, more will be coming when it’s all complete.
2. We also have several relativesfrom out of town staying with us right now. It almost feels like Christmas. My sister-in-law is trying to learn French for an upcoming trip to Paris, so it’s fun to have a conversation partner. She’s doing well so far, and her vocabulary is increasing. French is harder to hear and comprehend than it is to read and understand because of all the silent letters it contains. Nevertheless, le français est la langue de l’amour, n’est-ce pas? Je pense que c’est très romantique. I’m very much looking forward to going back to Paris someday. England, too. The sights, sounds, tastes, and smells are magical. The theatres and museums are also amazing. Did I just write “theatre” instead of “theater”? 🙂
3. My students are killing it this semester. It’s a dream come true to teach at a theological seminary, and it’s way beyond a dream to be able to teach at the doctoral level, too. This crop of students is motivated, humble, curious, and wise. I love spending time with them. All told, I’ll be teaching, co-teaching, or assisting in 15 different courses this academic year. That’s kind of ridiculous, but I’m having a blast. Blessedly, there’s not a lot of academic snoot in our neck of the woods. The folks in my cohorts are eager to learn, not showcase what they already know for the sake of self-aggrandizement. As Paul said, “Knowledge puff us. Love builds up.”
4. I structured one of our sub-master courses around the simple question, “Who is God? Who’s asking? And why does it matter?” That’s enough to keep us busy for an entire semester! In another course, we’re drilling down on what it means to be made imago dei, in the image of God. What an eye opener! I can’t wait to post some of my research on that, but, alas, the dissertation comes first. We’re also doing a lot of self-awareness work, personality inventories, and family-of-origin analyses, including genograms. There’s been a lot of vulnerability among the students, and a whole lot of laughs, too. They inspire me to keep learning and growing myself. It’s been a while since I’ve taken the MBTI, so I’m eager to see if any of my PCIs have shifted in recent years.
5. On Sunday, we’ll be holding a service of remembrance for one of the two church buildings we’re in the process of selling. It’s important to acknowledge and celebrate what God has done in those special places before stepping into the future in a new place. (The congregational unity in this venture has been amazing.) My mind often goes back to similar places and spaces where God made himself known to me or blessed me abundantly through other people—whether through words, hugs, prayers, encouragement, conversation, or music. I have so many of those moments to look back on with delight–especially the hugs! As Michael W. Smith used to sing, “Friends are friends forever if the Lord’s the Lord of them.” Exactly right. So, what we’re really celebrating this Sunday is God and his people—as they intersected our lives at specific times and in specific locations along the journey. We’ll do a similar service of remembrance for the other church next month.
6. Finally, I’m coming to the end of my Madam Secretary binge. For the most part, I’ve really enjoyed it. Next up is a collection of short-series period dramas, like Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice, Emma, Jane Eyre—all those good BBC productions. (Can you tell I’m ready to go back to England?) Actually, I want to re-watch these highly regarded flicks because my brain can’t hold anything new for a while. It’s already on overdrive from the academic load and the dissertation. Besides, my PCIs may change, but my tastes do not. ❤️📚 💙 📺 💛💻💚
Have a great weekend, everyone, and enjoy the blessings of God this beautiful time of year.
Justin Taylor yesterday posted the video, “Meet Baby Olivia,” which he rightly dubbed “the world’s most realistic animation of the development of a baby within her mother’s womb.” It’s a beautiful and medically accurate portrayal of life within the womb, from fertilization to birth.
It moved me to worship, and maybe it will inspire you, too. I have a nephew whose wife is expecting any day now, and a daughter who is expecting in three months. We’re praying for them both, along with their sons on the way (James and Samuel, respectively).
The journey these children take before delivery is breathtaking So many things have to go right for it to end (and begin) well. The real miracle is that it ever does. The miracle is life itself.
For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.
Fertilization Olivia’s life begins and her gender, ethnicity, hair color, eye color, and other traits are determined.
Week 1 Olivia implants in the lining of her mother’s uterus, where she’ll live for the next 9 months.
Week 3 By week three, Olivia’s heartbeat can be detected, her brain and gastrointestinal tract have begun to form, and the cells for her nerves, blood, and kidney have appeared. Her mother may know of Olivia’s existence through a pregnancy test at this stage.
Week 4 At just four weeks, the buds of Olivia’s arms are and legs are visibly forming, and the right and left hemispheres of her brain are beginning to take shape.
Weeks 5–6 At weeks five and six, Olivia moves spontaneously and reflexively, her bones begin to develop, and her brain activity can be recorded.
Weeks 7–8 Olivia can bring her hands together, she can hiccup, she has had over one million heartbeats, and her ovaries and the cells needed for future generations of children are present.
Weeks 9–10 Olivia’s stage of human development now classifies her as a fetus. She can suck her thumb, swallow, grasp an object, touch her face, sigh, and stretch out in her mother’s womb.
Weeks 11–14 Olivia can play in the womb and her taste buds have matured to discrete tastebuds. By week 14, Olivia’s lips and nose are fully formed, she makes complex facial expressions, and her mother can finally feel her movements.
Weeks 15–16 The neuron multiplication of Olivia’s brain is mostly complete and she is sensitive to touch. At this stage of development, ultrasounds can detect speaking movements in her voice box and her teeth are beginning to grow.
Weeks 19–21 By 19 weeks old, her heart has beaten over 20 million times. At 21 weeks old, Olivia could survive outside of the womb with much medical assistance.
Week 27 Olivia can recognize her parents’ voices and will react to sudden loud noises. Her eyes respond to light, and she also has a functioning sense of smell.
Week 38 Olivia exhibits breathing movements, she can produce tears, her umbilical cord is typically twenty to twenty-four inches long, and she will weigh between six and eight pounds at birth.
What a glorious day it’s been. Mother’s Day usually gets more fanfare than Father’s Day, and rightly so. After all, as Jim Gaffigan says, “When you consider the male contribution to human life, it’s not very impressive.” God knew what he was doing when he gave women the travails of labor. We men never could have handled it. That’s why Mother’s Day gets top billing. Still, my kids made me feel like a million bucks this weekend. They even laughed at my dad jokes, which were especially bad this year.
First, my son came to our house Friday night for our usual movie and pizza night. He brought along gifts and treats that were deeply meaningful to me, and we started watching The Chosen together. Tissues may have been involved—not only because the production is fresh and alive with new angles and insights than most of the “screen Jesus” fare we’ve seen (hey, love the cinema, hate the sin), but also because Andrew is making a major life change this month. It’s a new journey for him, and it’s rooted in his desire to know Christ better and love him more.
He also called me today to wish me a happy Father’s Day, and we talked about his new adventure. He said, “I’ve never had this much confidence in the face of this much uncertainty.” I’m moved by his faith and dedication, and I couldn’t be prouder of him than I am right now. He’s the first blood relative I ever met, and I often remind him that he’s “my beloved son in whom I am well pleased.”
Then, this morning, we had a beautiful worship service focusing on our “good, good Father.” It was a thrill to meet some new people today and hear their stories. After the service we gathered at my favorite Italian restaurant in the area with my daughter and her husband. They, too, shared wonderful cards and gifts that got me choked up. I even got a card from my future grandchild, along with a special gift from him or her. (The in utero child is the size of an avocado right now, which explains one of the gift tags below.)
Micah, who is celebrating his first Father’s Day this year (because being pro-life means he’s a father now), turned my Puddles the Popsicle post into a children’s book so that I could read it to the munchkin when he or she finally arrives. (The due date is December 2.) Opening that gift was a heart-stopping moment. And it made it easier to forgive them for getting me the card that came with it—the one with “Puffy” on the front.
Years ago I had a beautiful Pomeranian. Beautiful on the outside, that is. Inside, the little terror was demon possessed, and, alas, I don’t have the gift of exorcism. Our failed experiment in having a dog actually began with Bethany batting her eyelashes at me when she was little and saying in the cutest way possible, “Daddy, can we have a puppy? I’ll take care of it.” Uh huh. Right. And now she owns a cat. Smart lady. Bethany and Micah are serving the Lord, too, using the gifts and graces God has given them for his glory.
I am beyond blessed to be a father to these three wonderful kids. And I can say with the Apostle John, “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth” (3 John 4).
“May his favor be upon you / And a thousand generations / And your family and your children / And their children, and their children….”
Note: Here’s a personal journal entry from November 1999, with a bit of family news at the end.
How could I explain the sacrificial death of Jesus to a child? Rather than slogging through the theories of well-meaning theologians, here’s a simple story I told my seven-year-old daughter Bethany a few weeks ago. Nearly every night when I tuck her in, she asks me to either cuddle with her or tell her a bedtime story. I always give her the option of reading a story or making one up. On this particular night, she asked me to make one up. I wasn’t really prepared for that, so I sent up a quick S.O.S. to the Lord in prayer and asked him to help me communicate something that would draw Bethany closer to him. Here’s the gist of what came out.
Once upon a time in a place called Candy Land, there lived a family of four M&Ms. There was a red one, a blue one, a green one, and a yellow one. Two of them were the kind with a little nut inside. The other two were plain, but still delicious. Their names were Slippy, Drippy, Tippy, and Pippy. The Candy Maker who made them, loved them, and wanted to protect them, so he told them to stay out of the sun. “You will melt if you stay out in the sun,” he said. “In fact, you will die.”
But sure enough, the four M&Ms didn’t obey the Candy Maker. “We want adventure,” they said. “It’s a beautiful day outside, and we want to experience the sun in all of its warmth and beauty.” At first, nothing happened. They just got a little softer inside, but the hard candy shell kept everything hidden. “We’re o.k.,” they said. “Nothing’s going to happen. Besides, this is kinda fun!”
But over time, the M&Ms started feeling sick. Eventually, they totally melted on the inside, and they were about ready to die. They were scared and started calling out to the Candy Maker for help. “Please, Mr. Candy Maker, please, we need your help!”
And even though the Candy Maker was saddened by their behavior—and a bit angry that the M&Ms had disobeyed him—he loved them so much, he decided to help. With a firm commitment to the safety of his M&Ms, he sent his favorite treat from the candy shop to go rescue them, Puddles the Popsicle.
Puddles was a frozen, squeezy kind of Popsicle, the kind that comes in a plastic tube. Puddles loved the M&Ms just as much as the Candy Maker. In fact, Puddles was just like the Candy Maker in every way. They seemed to think alike about everything.
So Puddles the Popsicle came to where the M&Ms were lying in the heat, melting and suffering—about ready to die. And Puddles, in love, lay down beside the M&Ms, wrapping his frozen body around them to shield them from the sun. It sure was a hot day, but Puddles was able to transfer all his chill from himself to the M&Ms so that they could become firm and hard and safe again, just like before.
Sadly, however, in the process of saving the M&Ms from melting, Puddles himself started to melt. In fact, he completely thawed out and became nothing but a lifeless tube of popsicle juice. There, beneath the blazing rays of the mean old sun, the benevolent Puddles died for his friends.
This made the M&Ms very sad. Certainly, they were glad to be alive themselves, but they were now terribly sorry for not listening to the Candy Maker in the first place. But the Candy Maker was so pleased at the beautiful thing Puddles the Popsicle did for his M&M friends, that he blew some fluffy white clouds in front of the sun. And then he caused the temperature in Candy Land to drop quickly, all the way down to below freezing.
When that happened, Puddles the Popsicle became frozen again. He came back to life! And everybody was overjoyed. In fact, they were all so happy that they decided to get together once a week and celebrate what Puddles had done for them. Twice a year they especially celebrated, remembering with food, fun, and music the day Puddles came, and the day he came back to life again.
In time, Puddles went back to the candy shop to be with the Candy Maker. (They were so much alike, you just couldn’t keep them apart.) But he promised to come back again one day. In fact, he was such a wonderful Popsicle, it was like he had never left in the first place. And everybody in Candy Land lived happily ever after.
Not the labors of my hands / Can fulfill Thy laws’ demands Could my zeal no respite know / Could my tears forever flow All for sin could not atone / Thou must save and Thou alone.
Bethany got the point of this little story. I know she got the point because I asked her to draw a picture of what it meant. And she drew for me the four M&Ms and Puddles the Popsicle, and the blazing sun. And there in the middle of the page she drew a diagonal line, on the other side of which was a portrait of Jesus. My seven-year-old got the point. Do you?
I suppose I need to start brushing up on my storytelling abilities for children. In about six and a half months, Lord willing, Bethany is going to deliver her first M&M. I’m eager to meet the child. I’m even more eager for the child to meet Puddles the Popsicle.
“I prayed for this child, and the LORD has granted me what I asked of him. So now I give him [or her] to the Lord” (1 Samuel 1:27-28a).
Last night I sinned. Multiple times. My son and son-in-law were with me at the time. They sinned, too, and we all had a great time doing it. Let me explain. We were celebrating my son-in-law’s birthday, so we went to a shooting range before dinner, cake, and gift giving. It’s something Micah enjoys, though he doesn’t have a lot of opportunity to do it, so we surprised him with a round at Enck’s Gun Barn. My son Drew also has more experience than I do in this area, making me the rookie of the bunch.
I’ve shot pistols before, but only a few times in the distant past and only at Coke cans set up in the woods near my brother-in-law’s house in North Carolina. Last night we used a rifle—a Ruger AR-556, which is considerably louder than a pistol, though the kickback isn’t bad at all. Given my lack of experience, I was hoping to just get my shots on the paper target!
I didn’t get a bullseye this time, but all my shots were inside the 8 and 9 rings, and one even nicked the center circle. Not bad for a beginner. But all three of us kept missing the mark, which is one of the biblical metaphors for sin. There are many other images, too, but this one is prominent.
Judges 20:15-16 says, “At once the Benjamites mobilized twenty-six thousand swordsmen from their towns, in addition to seven hundred chosen men from those living in Gibeah. Among all these soldiers there were seven hundred chosen men who were left-handed, each of whom could sling a stone at a hair and not miss [ḥǎṭṭāʾṯ].”
The word ḥǎṭṭāʾṯ is a general word for sin, usually having the sense of missing the mark, going astray, offending, or ignoring something required by God’s law (e.g., Gen 40:1; Jdgs 20:16; Neh 13:26; etc.). It can also mean “sin offering” (e.g., Exod 29:4).
King David prays in Psalm 51:2, “Cleanse me [ṭāhēr] from my sin [ḥǎṭṭāʾṯ].” The word ṭāhēr means to “be clean,” “cleanse,” “purify,” or “pronounce clean,” as from a defiling condition. It can have a ritual context (e.g., Lev 11:32), or it can refer to the actual cleansing of impurities (e.g., Naaman’s leprosy in 2 Kgs 5:10).
It can also refer to the removal of impurities from metal (e.g., refined gold and silver in Mal 3:3). Therefore, the word does not necessarily have a sacramental connotation (contra Goldingay, etc.) or even a ceremonial connotation (contra Wilson, the ESV Study Bible, etc.). Indeed, David’s hope of forgiveness rests on nothing ceremonial (cf. vv. 16-17). The sense of his prayer in v. 2 is, “Purify me from my defiling sin.”
Because of his mercy, grace, and compassion (Ps 51:1), God can certainly do that. And because David came to him humbly, he did. “The Lord has taken away your sin,” said Nathan the prophet. You are not going to die” (2 Sam 12:13-14). David later wrote, “Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven” (Ps 32:1).
Interestingly enough, all three of us last night were landing our initial shots low and to the right of the bullseye. That would seem to suggest a sighting issue on the gun. Our Range Safety Officer (RSO) helped us make the necessary adjustments to shoot more accurately. He also helped me with my stance and positioning vis-à-vis the target. He was patient, kind, and supportive, not condescending at all toward this novice.
Probably my biggest challenge as a shooter is the fact that I’m left-eye dominant trying to shoot from a right hander’s position. My impulse, then, is to use my left eye to align the sights, but that doesn’t work when you’re pressing your right cheek to the gun stock. Here again, the RSO was perceptive and gave me some suggestions to help me “not sin.”
Our night at the range caused me to think about the fact that we’re in this spiritual journey together. “All have sinned and come short of the glory of God” (Rom 3:23), which is why judging and condescension are out of place in the Christian life. Smug self-righteousness is just a way to justify our anger at other people because they sin differently than we do.
Our natural misalignments and daily temptations to “miss the mark” don’t go away when others scold us, humiliate us, or impose their asceticisms on us (Col 2:21-23). They tend to dissipate when those with a little more experience help us learn how to aim higher.
We are pilgrims on a journey We are brothers on the road We are here to help each other Walk the mile and bear the load
The RSO actually showed me last night how to be a better pastor. Lord knows, I need ongoing training.