“Before I Was Even Born?!?”


This is the very first book I bought for Arwen. I bought it for her at the Smithsonian while on a school trip, the week before she was born. I’ve never been nervous to travel. In fact, I have a dose of wanderlust in me that can be difficult to contain at times. But this particular week, I was terrified to travel. Terrified because my sister-in-law’s due date was quickly approaching and I did NOT want to be in Washington, DC, while my niece was coming into this world. I called every day to check on progress and effacing and dilation and had back up plans for flying home if needed.

But I made time to buy her a book. And not just any book. An Alphabet book of cool paintings and weird animals. A wicked expensive book because I bought it at the Smithsonian. Her first book.

Tonight I was hanging out with her at her house. She knows I love books as much as she does, and we straighten up her bookshelves and talk about her books and read a few of them every time I go over there. At the bottom of the shelf I found this, and it made me smile thinking about how long it took me to find the first book for the firstborn of the next generation of Masons.

I spent nearly a half hour looking through all the options they had. I read them and thought about which one I wanted to be a family heirloom. I pondered the quality of the books, thought about how it should really be gender neutral so it be enjoyed by all other future kids. It needed to be educational, not just entertaining, special and not hokey, and as theologically sound as a book can be when you’re buying it from the Museum of Natural Science at the Smithsonian. Thus the reason we ended up with a hardback Alphabet book.

As I held the book in my hands, Arwen came and sat in my lap and said, “That’s my animal alphabet book.” I told her, “I know! Did YOU know that it was your very first book?”

“My very first book?” she replied in complete amazement.

“Yes,” I said. “I bought it for you before you were even born.” And I then proceeded to tell her the whole story about being in DC, about taking SO much time to pick out the perfect book, just for her, about the snow storm that threatened to keep up snowed in up in DC, and about how nervous I was that I wasn’t going to get home in time to be there when she was born.

She sat perfectly still (a RARE feat these days) and listened to the whole story. When I finished, I fully expected her to, with all the depth and reflection and appreciation of a two year old, to just ask me to read it to her.

Instead, she looked at the book, looked back up at me and said, “You bought it before I was even born?”

She was absolutely dumbstruck that I thought about her before she was born. Not only that I thought about her, but that I took the time to pick out something just for her.

Before she was born. She was loved. Thought about, planned for. Dreams were dreamed for her. Lives were imagined. Books were bought. She was chosen and loved well before she was born. And she simply couldn’t believe it.

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you…”
~Jeremiah 1:5 ESV

She was loved before she was born. But so was I. And so were you. And not just by your family. Before you were born you were loved. You were set apart. You were created with a specific and unique calling. You were chosen. Thought about. Looked over. Anticipated. Before the foundation of the world, the God of the universe knew your name, numbered your days, considered your ways and set them before you. Before you were born.

I am dumbfounded and amazed by that, and sometimes, like Arwen, I simply can’t believe it. But as much as I poured all the love and affection I could muster into that present for that child I had never met and yet loved, God has loved me with an infinite, unending, unwavering love, from before time began.

She was amazed by the love shown to her through a book. I am amazed by the love shown to me through a Book, too.

Cooperation without Conformity


I’ve had a lot of people in the last couple of days ask me why I have such a problem with the Chick-Fil-A Appreciation Day. As an isolated, political event, I don’t really have a problem with it. Yesterday showed that an interestingly diverse group of people can rally around a common ideal (free speech) and draw attention to social ills in a peaceful manner.

But yesterday wasn’t a single, isolated event. In fact, there’s no such thing as a single, isolated event. All events have a cause and an effect, and my concern lies within the big picture of which the CFA Appreciation Day is a part.

Using our political freedoms to exercise our faith can be a tangled, complicated mess. It’s a mess worth making, but we must be careful not to confuse faith and politics. CFA Day was a political statement, and the support was shown, by Christians, for a brother in Christ. For many, it was both a political AND a faith statement. And that’s ok.

But here’s the thing to recognize: Organized boycotts and support events tend to accelerate and polarize. The cycle becomes a cold war of revenge, and that’s an attitude and action of the world, not of Christ.

Let’s just look at the CFA Day as an example:

1. Dan Cathy makes a statement about his support of biblical marriage.

A Christian using his American right of free speech.

2. Gay activists take offense and decide to boycott Chick-fil-a.

A political/social rights group using their American right of free speech.

3. A couple of politicians declare that Chick-Fil-A will not receive any more building permits in their cities.

Politicians abusing their political power in an attempt to legislate their personal opinions.

4. Even the most liberal of newspapers and political commentators denounce the decisions of politicians and lawsuits are filed claiming the blocks on permits are illegal.

The American systems of free speech and the courts work! Freedom and democracy survive to live another day.

It could have stopped there. But instead of decelerating the situation, backing away, watching and seeing how things worked out, an Appreciation Day was announced. The situation is instead accelerated. Here’s where the problem begins.
Yesterday could have been a great day of unity and support and fun, and from what I understand, that’s exactly what it was for most people.

But for some, that’s not enough, and their political idolatry bent has been exposed. Yesterday wasn’t just about supporting a brother in Christ; it was about one upping the “enemy.” This morning, Mike Huckabee didn’t post a “Thanks for Supporting Free Speech and Dan Cathy” post on his Facebook page.

He posted this:

Talk about loving support of a brother in Christ. Looks more like an arrogant “We win, you lose” baiting of an enemy on the playground. Might as well have stuck his tongue out at the political left.

This is political gamesmanship, not Christian humility and brotherly support. Do not confuse the two.

Before I go further, let me be clear that this is not a personal attack on Mike Huckabee, nor is it a political attack from a ticked off liberal. I’m a card-carrying Republican, supporter of small government and personal responsibility. And in this case, personal responsibility means engaging others in a responsible and Christ-honoring manner.

Back to the post:
Since a politician made a political move, no one should be surprised that the left has responded in kind.

There’s a Same Sex Kiss In planned at Chick-fil-a restaurants on Friday.

Where does it stop?

Apparently not here.

Because now, instead of Christians participating in a worldly system in a Christianly manner, some Christians are adopting worldly systems to express moral displeasure with businesses.

And when it comes to boycotts, we don’t fare well. In fact, it usually just brings mockery to the name of Christ. Remember the Disney boycott declared by the SBC? Million Moms against JC Penny’s when they named Ellen as their spokesperson? Some are now threatening to boycott AMAZON.

When we play the the world’s game, the world doesn’t back down, graciously accept defeat and walk away. The world reacts and further accelerates the situation. As believers, will we continue to play the game, further polarizing people, trying to only do business only with those who believe just like us?

As believers we should use the systems put in place by God for our benefit and for us to benefit others without falling into the ugly and broken portions of the system. Government is ordained by God for our good and can be used for the good of all. Political gamesmanship is a negative use of government and Christians should have no part of it.

When Israel was in captivity in a foreign land, God gave them strict instructions to be active participants in the culture in which they lived. He told them to build houses, plant gardens, do business.

“Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce. Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.” Jeremiah 29:4-7

And they were to do this, cooperate with the people of Babylon to build a mutually beneficial culture, without conforming to the behavior and beliefs of the Babylonians. They were to be in the world, but not of the world.

As believers in the political realm, we should do the same. We can cooperate without conforming.

Think that is an impossible goal?

There’s a tiny island off the coast of Tunisia that proves you wrong. I used to show this short video to my geography classes as a conversation starter to discuss the ways that government and culture enable us to peacefully cooperate with those who disagree with us without conforming to their religious or cultural beliefs.

We could all learn a lesson from Djerba Island.