“Why can’t we all just get along?” That is my heart’s cry when I hear about things like the differences between the Gospel Coalition and Tullian Tchividjian. I’ve grown in knowledge and understanding of the gospel through the writings of Tim Keller, D.A. Carson, and Tullian Tchividjian. When I hear of the former two asking the latter to move his blog elsewhere, it just makes me very, very sad.

Not to celebrate my failure, but I have to say my heart is tempted toward several unsavory responses:

  • The ostrich response: I want to bury my head in the sand. I don’t like conflict among people I love and respect, and I just want everyone to get along.
  • The mosh pit response: I want to jump in the melee of all the tweets by favoriting witticisms that defend one party or the other.
  • The in-the-know response: I want to learn all I can about the conflict so I can share my vast knowledge and profound opinion. After all, there are poor souls who know little about justification or sanctification, antinomianism or nomianism (sounds better than legalism, and nomos means “law”). They really do believe Jesus is their Savior and sincerely want to grow in grace. (Please don’t hear what I’m not saying — theology is important — let’s just not lose the “little children” Jesus called us to love).

Thanks to the Holy Spirit, who is daily sanctifying me, and some wise gospel-breathing souls who are scenting the mediadic air with godly counsel, I’ve for the most part rejected or repented of these responses. 

Instead, again — not in my own strength, but by the grace of my Lord Jesus Christ, I’ve moved in the direction of several more hopeful responses. Perhaps they would be helpful to some of you:

  • Repent of my idolatry of Christian leaders and writers. Remember that they are redeemed sinners, just as I am. I am prone to place unrealistic expectations on such leaders.
  • Be a good Berean. Find and review Scripture passages that tell about the law and grace, obedience and good works, justification and sanctification. Find out what the text says, and pray for the Spirit to enlighten your mind with greater understanding.
  • Read good theologians widely. Yesterday I reopened The Gospel Mystery of Sanctification, written by Walter Marshall in the 1600’s and translated into modern English by Dr. Bruce Mcrae (thanks be to God for his decision to make this gospel gem readable!). This book overflows with profound and practical help on living the Christian life.
  • Pray for all parties concerned. Rather than taking sides or favoriting witty remarks or writing witty remarks, humble yourself and pray. Thank God for these ministers of the gospel. Pray that they will work through their division. Pray for their personal gospel growth — do you ever stop to think how many temptations must face “big-name” Christian leaders? I realized I don’t — not often enough.


I love Memorial Day, celebrating and remembering those who have served to defend our nation’s freedom. I noticed though that I have a tendency to want to nostalgize stories that, while romantic at times, left legacies of sorrow for many. Fraught with suffering, our heroes’ lives are yet plentiful with redemption.

A few years ago, my Dad delivered two old liquor store boxes full of history. Memories spilled out of them, black and white photos of my granddaddy’s years as a sailor. My granddaddy died when I was 7, my Dad hasn’t previously wanted to tell the stories, and I haven’t worked hard enough to ask them. I don’t know enough; I want to know more. Here are glimpses into one sailor’s story, a complex tale of adventure and ambiguity.

My granddaddy grew up in Abbeville, Alabama on an old homestead whose porch was mainly occupied by a man, his father, who made his money in timber but has been remembered to me for sitting on the porch and drinking liquid fire. My granddaddy, whose given name was “Charley Jack Reynolds,” decided at 17 to run away and see the world. He was good with his hands, so he became a machinist.

The photo albums are filled with postcards he presumably purchased in places almost as far away from Alabama as he could be — the Pacific. “Natives in Samoa” reads the caption on one; “Pre-Luau” and “Post-Luau” reads another. The Melbourne Art Museum; vast, prickly pineapple fields in Hawaii; and locks, bridges, houses surrounding the Panama Canal tell of a boy who took in culture and keenly observed history as he made it.

My granddaddy's military service took him far beyond the boundaries of his known world.

My granddaddy’s military service took him far beyond the boundaries of his known world.

At home on leave, he saw my gorgeous grandmother acting in a play and famously said, “I’m going to marry that girl.”  A smart and perky young woman from a family that had lost everything, she worked her way through school and graduated valedictorian from Newton Normal School. She went on to Howard College (now Samford University — she would be thrilled to know her great-grandson matriculated!), where she trained to be a teacher.

Lala and Charley Jack had one son, my Dad, who was named Robert, after the man, his grandfather, who sat on the porch, and Charles — after my granddaddy, whose name my grandmother had apparently converted from “Charley Jack” to “Charles Jackson,” a more educated sounding name, a name that might suit a sailor rising in the naval ranks. (I still remember addressing letters to them as “Mr. and Mrs. Charles Jackson Reynolds,” until one day my Dad suggested that “C.J.” would be more accurate).

From this photo you can see that there were times that they were a happy family. There were times when both my Grandfather and my Dad smiled when their pictures were taken.Family Photo 1940

And there were the days of silence following Pearl Harbor. At least one of them was spent in darkness huddled by a gas stove, as the base at San Pedro went under blackout, fearing the Japanese would begin bombing bases. Naval officers came and went to neighbors’ homes, delivering dreaded news of dead husbands and fathers. After 11 days of waiting, the card arrived, carried by a mailman. The card was cryptic; the photo says it better than I could…

My grandfather had been on a supplier ship stationed in Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. As my Dad puts it, he had a “ringside seat.” Apparently, the ship sailed quickly after the attack. Eventually, my granddaddy made it home for a couple of days, bought a hunting knife, delivered a gift his buddies had purchased for his 7-year-old son — a Red Ryder BB Gun. That’s what my Dad remembers about Pearl Harbor. Apparently, my grandfather never spoke about it much. Apparently, he smiled less often after that.

Pearl Harbor Postcard

Pearl Harbor Postcard

A diabetic, my granddaddy retired in Pensacola, and my grandmother continued teaching. One day, as he was tending his rosebush, he was struck down quickly by a heart attack. In a small box I found his death certificate, a list of funeral attendees, the legal announcement in the paper regarding the estate of “Charley Jack Reynolds, a.k.a, Charley J. Reynolds,” and a formal business card with the name, Charles Jackson Reynolds, Lieutenant, United States Navy. Like so many others who served, his story bore many names.



COVER_Loving-In-Gods-Story-of-Grace_smallDid you know that the latest in the Living Story Bible study series features stories of real life people living in the power and hope of gospel love?

It would make a great summer study with friends and neighbors. Or, plan to use it to kick off in the fall!

Read the sample:

Loving in God’s Story of Grace

Order the book here.

Humans of New York offers up  fascinating photos with intriguing quotes from humans – of New York. Since I can’t top that, I decided to offer something new – Animals of New York. I’m not nearly the photographer those folks are, but I’m trying to learn. Enjoy these shots of Animals of New York – and please – offer your captions in the comments. I’ve suggested a few — but I know you can do better.


Even though I've already written a Mother's Day post, but I wanted to add some thoughts on calling. And a prayer!

I’m a stay-at-home part-time working mom — have been for over 25 years. To tell you the truth, this calling has not looked at all the way I thought it would. For many years, I argued with God, “Lord, you picked the wrong woman for this! I was planning to be a full-time working mom who taught English to eighth graders. I have a gift for that!”

After giving birth to our first child who was anything but what I expected when I was expecting (can you say “colic” — we couldn’t back then, nor were we allowed Mylicon drops:-), I quickly realized how much more competent I was as a schoolteacher than a mom. I didn’t like the fact that mothering seemed to spotlight my pervasive sin and reveal my gross insufficiency.

God did not, however, seem to think he had chosen the wrong woman for the job; in fact, he used my own deep doubts to grow a passion for other moms who struggle in this most complex of callings.

Pregnant with my third child, running on a treadmill (where I conceive some of my wildest ideas), I decided I wanted to start a Moms Group. Before you think how wonderful I was, please note that this group was originally designed for me. I wanted some older, wiser women who had three or more children to share their godly counsel. (Or, really, just tell me how to cope with the overwhelming demands.) I asked my pastor’s wife for help — by “help” I meant “you do it” — wise woman that she was and is, she kindly assisted in starting it but encouraged me to continue. I still think she and God were in on this setup together:-)!

Ultimately, this group became a place of “rest and refreshment in the gospel.” We invited the women we met at the playground or preschool, dance recitals or dentist’s offices. And here I was, the mom who struggled with my sin and failures, a coach and encourager to other moms.

In her new book, Running on Empty: The Gospel for Women in Ministry, Barbara Bancroft writes about why God might use us in areas where we feel so ill-equipped:
“Although God regularly uses people who are educated, trained, and experienced to move his kingdom forward, those whose confidence is in their abilities and experience can easily forget their need for Christ in the everyday of ministry. If we rarely question our abilities, it is tempting to rely on them to accomplish our goals instead of relying on the Spirit to work through us.” Loc. 144

She goes on to say, “we will not be ready to do the work God has prepared for us to do until we know how to rely on nothing but the finished work of Christ.”

With children aged 19-25, I am now a veteran mom. I’ve been “educated and trained” — through potty-training, middle school bullying, trophies and tardy slips, deep grief over friends lost to betrayal or death, young adult hopes and dreams crushed and lived….At times I have relied more on my own wits and determination to figure out what to do; others I have spent hours on my knees pleading with God to work powerfully.

Though I forget it every day, I now know that mothering hope is truly in Christ’s finished work. He has died for all mothering sins; he has raised us to new life. He has declared us good, and that is more than enough. Because of his labor of love, we are free from condemnation. Freed to live and love.

A prayer for mothers:

Lord, we pray for mothers everywhere. Whatever we have done or not done today, in our lives, as moms, let us know that you cannot love us more and you cannot love us less. Help us truly understand that it is all up to you. Thank you for your provision — for forgiveness from our sins, for the Holy Spirit who whispers wisdom and hope, for your unrelenting commitment to make us more like Christ. Draw us to rest in your truth; draw us to hope in your grace. In the name of your Precious Son, Jesus, we pray. Amen