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Personal Reflections

May 06, 2006

I’ve heard it said that when a person loses a loved one who is particularly close to him—a wife or a child perhaps—he struggles with the fact that, while his life has been thrown into disarray, the world around him just keeps on moving. His world has been rocked and he may feel like his life is over, yet everyone else he knows continues to go to work and school and baseball practice. There is a sense in which having a baby is almost like that. For one family, it is a monumentous event. For direct family members it is an occasion to rejoice, but is not often earth shattering. For close friends it is a time to congratulate and perhaps prepare a meal to help the family out. But for most people, it is no different than any other day. I’m sure any family who has had a child can relate. It is an odd time.

Of course it is also a rewarding time. Looking at my tiny little daughter I am surprised by just how much I’ve missed having a baby around. I hadn’t realized how much I love having a baby in the family. She is a whole lot of work, of course. She has already generated far more than her fair share of laundry, kept us awake far into the night and has woken us up long before we were ready. She has a well-developed set of lungs though she doesn’t often feel the need to throttle them up to full volume. It requires a tremendous amount of time and energy to keep her content, but it is time and effort we wouldn’t trade for the world. She melts my heart every time her face crumples in sadness as she begins to protest her empty little stomach.

Over the past couple of days, my wife and I have received countless expressions of support and congratulation. We have been blessed by the prayers of friends, family members, and no doubt many people who do not even know. We have been touched that you have been willing and eager to rejoice with us.

Aileen and I would like to take the opportunity to thank all of you who congratulated us, sent us e-cards and prayed for us. We have been greatly blessed and touched by these expressions of support. It is a profound blessing and honor to have the privilege of being so blessed. So thank you. We are exceedingly grateful.

May 04, 2006

I’m in love.

Last night, on her thirtieth birthday, my wife gave herself (and me!) quite a gift: our daughter, Michaela (in case you don’t know, the name is pronounced “mih-KAY-lah”) Joy Challies. I’m crazy about her already. Actually, I’m crazy about both of them.

Michaela was an unexpected gift, actually. In her two previous pregnancies, Aileen has given birth ten days and seven days past her due date, so we were not anticipating Michaela’s arrival for another couple of weeks. However, during a routine thirty-eight week appointment yesterday afternoon, the midwife decided that, based on a few factors (higher protein levels, possible decreased fetal movement and slightly increasing blood pressure), she would send Aileen to the hospital for a consult with the obstetrician. The doctor noted a strange little temporary decrease in the baby’s heartbeat and, while she was not overly concerned, recommended that it would be best to get the baby out sooner rather than later—or that was her gut feeling, anyways. Her attitude, based on Aileen’s past history of elevated blood pressure in the final days of pregnancy, was that “at this point all we’d be waiting for is for something to go wrong.”

So they induced Aileen at around 8:30 PM (by breaking her water and by giving her oxytocin) while I ran home to get her bags (which she had only packed that day!). After a couple of hours, just as things were getting really difficult for her and as she was about four centimeters dilated, they gave her an epidural. Only a couple of contractions after the epidural she said she needed to push. The midwife didn’t believe her so Aileen raised the volume a little and sure enough, the baby was well on her way. After four or five minutes of pushing, Michaela was born. She had a little bit of trouble breathing initially, perhaps related to the cord being around her neck, though thankfully only loosely, but after a couple of minutes the midwife and nurses had her wailing at the top of her lungs. They found also that she had tied a knot in her cord so were glad that they had induced her when they did as it made for a short labor and delivery.

I left the hospital a few hours later. Aileen was doing great—she needed only a couple of stitches and should be back on her feet shortly. Knowing her, I’m sure she’ll be itching to get home today. Michaela was still having a bit of trouble with fluid in her lungs, but the nurses checked her out and thought she would manage to get through it on her own. So I came home to grab a couple hours of sleep and will take the children to meet their sister in just a little while.

Needless to say I am profoundly grateful to God for the gift of another child. He certainly has been good to us in blessing us with this little family. May He continue to bless us in His kind providence, and may He be the Lord of our home.

Here are the inevitable and expected early photos. I’ll try to get some better ones later today.



May 03, 2006

Aileen had a midwife appointment this afternoon and after much humming and hawing, the midwife decided to send Aileen to the hospital for a consult with the O.B. The O.B., after much similar humming and hawing, thought it would be best to induce Aileen tonight and get that baby out. There are no serious medical concerns, but they just thought this was the best course of action since, at 38.5 weeks, the baby is considered full term and, in the words of the doctor, “at this point all we’d be waiting for is for something to go wrong.” So, they are going to get the I.V.’s running in just a few minutes and hopefully we’ll have a baby soon.

I have just scooted home to call family members, to make sure the kids are taken care of, and to grab Aileen’s suitcase. I’ll be heading back momentarily. So your prayers are appreciated tonight and I look forward to bringing you good news sometime tomorrow!

April 25, 2006

Thanks to all of you who have been praying for Aileen. She went to the midwife today and received a clean bill of health. Her blood pressure, which had been trending up through the past three or four visits, suddenly fell precipitously back down to where it was a couple of months ago. It is now at a near-perfect level, actually. So I guess the combination of lots of prayer and lots of rest did the trick. I am very grateful. She should now be able to be less worried as she faces the last three or four weeks of pregnancy. God is good.

Of course this also means that I am free and clear to go to Kentucky from tomorrow until Friday for the Together for the Gospel Conference.

Once again, thank you for your prayers.

April 19, 2006

Catechisms were an important part of my life when I was a child. I grew up in a Reformed tradition that placed great value in the Catechisms. Some would argue they placed too great an emphasis on catechetical instruction. From a young age I was able to recite large portions of the Heidelberg Catechism and eventually learned every one of the questions and answers. Many of them are still fresh in my mind while others reside in the deeper recesses, able to be drawn out with just a little bit of coaxing. Every Tuesday evening, from the time I was in sixth or seventh grade to the time I was ready to make a public profession of my faith, I sat in the church and received instruction from a pastor or elder. We went through the Catechism several times in that span, learning the framework of Reformed, biblical theology. Sunday evening sermons at church were also usually dedicated to the exposition of Scripture drawn from a particular question and answer. On many Sunday afternoons my father would gather us around him in the living room and we would be taught from the Shorter Catechism, memorizing many of those questions and answers. Truly as a child I was soaked in Scripture and sound Reformation theology.

I despised Catechism classes and almost always dreaded Sunday afternoon instruction with my father. Tuesdays became an occasion to see which of us in the class could memorize the least, so that when it came time to recite our answers, we would either read them from a hidden crib sheet or have them whispered to us from a friend while avoiding the glare of the instructor. Many Sunday afternoons my parents lamented how little we cared about what was so precious to them. But despite my best efforts I did learn the Catechisms and I did learn a great deal of theology. When I reflect on all that I might have learned in those occasions I am sorry and ashamed that I did not learn more. But when I reflect on all that I did learn, I am profoundly grateful that my parents, pastors and elders were far wiser than I was and persisted in this instruction. I am convinced that this instruction has played a very important role in my life and formed a theological foundation that is still firm today.

There is no substitute for investing in children when they are still young. The catechisms that have survived to this day and have stood the test of time are worth knowing. They are worth teaching to our children. They are worth teaching to ourselves.

Later in I began to examine Christianity outside of the Reformed fold. I was faced with terms and theology that were foreign to me. I had never heard of this thing called the rapture and burst out laughing the first time someone explained it to me, convinced that he was pulling my leg! One of my greatest surprises, and one I found most disconcerting, was the constant discussion in mainstream Protestantism about knowing God’s will and receiving guidance from Him. Before leaving Reformed circles I had never heard anyone claim to hear from God nor had I really seen people wrestle with issues of God’s guidance. These were foreign concepts to me.

It took me some time to figure out why this was not a struggle for me. I did not wrestle with issues of God’s guidance because I had been taught firm principles from my years of catechetical instruction. Read these words by Sinclair Ferguson (taken from his book Faithful God):

Christians in an earlier generation rarely thought of writing books on guidance. There is a reason for that (just as there is a reason why so many of us today are drawn to books that will tell us how to find God’s will). Our forefathers in the faith were catechised, and they taught catechisms to their children. Often as much as half of the catechism would be devoted to an exposition of the answers to questions like the following: Question: Where do we find God’s will? Answer: In the Scriptures. Question: Where in particular in the Scriptures? Answer: In the Commandments that God has given to us.

Why were these questions and answers so important? Because these Christians understood that God’s law provides basic guidelines that cover the whole of life. Indeed, in the vast majority of instances, the answer to the question ‘What does God want me to do?’ will be found by answering the question: ‘How does the law of God apply to this situation? What does the Lord require of me here in his word?’

I think Ferguson is exactly right. I have seen Christians wrestle and fight almost to the death with issues of guidance. More often than not, they finally take refuge in some type of circumstance or irrelevant detail that provides only brief comfort or assurance. I know of a person who made a major, critical decision in life based upon tossing a Bible in the air three times and randomly placing his finger upon a verse on the page which the Bible had fallen open to. I know of people who have made decisions based on hearing a particular person on the radio at a particular time or based on stirrings, feelings and emotions.

The catechisms, based as they are on firm Scriptural principles, do not allow for any of this. They are firm: we find God’s will in the Scriptures, particularly in the commandments. We listen and obey. God gives us great freedom to know and do His will within the situations in which He has placed us and by using the gifts and talents with which He has blessed us. Making decisions should not be difficult. Hearing the voice of God and receiving guidance from Him is as simple as opening the Scriptures.

This is just one of many examples in which I know that years of catechetical instruction have been a blessing to me and have helped me avoid the trappings of poor theology. I am grateful, now and always, that my father and theological forefathers were faithful in teaching and applying Scripture through the catechisms. I hope and pray that I will so bless my children.

April 17, 2006

I am a routine-based person. This has really only become clear to me over the past few weeks. I operate best when I am a routine. I have patterns and habits in life and, within these, I function quite well. When these patterns are disrupted, I tend to struggle. I would not have believed this about myself had it not been made obvious to me in the last few days and weeks.

Case in point: my side of the bed. With our daughter set to be born in only a few weeks, Aileen and I have begun planning how we will restructure certain parts of our lives to accomodate an entirely helpless infant. As we did with our first two children, and to the great chagrin of all the Ezzo followers out there, we intend to have the baby sleeping in our room for the first few weeks (or months, depending on how soon we get tired of having a baby in such close proximity). Because the master bedroom in our new house is oriented differently than in our old house, we realized that, for sake of convenience, it might be easiest if Aileen and I change sides of the bed. That way, when she needs to nurse the baby at night, she will not have to climb over or around me. So on Friday night we changed sides. I didn’t sleep. On Saturday night we tried again. I didn’t sleep. Finally, in the middle of the night, when my tossing and turning had woken her up, we switched back. I slept like a baby.

Today is one of those days where my routine has been utterly destroyed. I woke up at the usual time, but my son woke up soon afterwards and intruded upon my quiet time with protestations that he was hungry and badly needed a breakfast of Special K and french toast, followed by a generous serving of chocolate easter eggs. My wife’s midwife showed up for a home visit just after 9 o’clock and I sat down in the living room to watch Aileen get poked, prodded and measured. My laptop, which suffered a catastrophic hard drive meltdown over the weekend had to be taken to a nearby service department so it can (hopefully!) be fixed with sufficient time for me to take it to Louisville next week for the Together for the Gospel Conference. So I bundled my daughter into the car with me and we set off. I took her along for two reasons: the first was just to spend some time with her, and, as I expected, she talked non-stop from the time we left the house until the time we returned. We talked a lot about God (her favorite subject at the moment) and whether or not she will be able to visit us once she grows up and moves out of the house. She also talked a lot about donuts, especially donuts with “sparkles” on top. The second reason was to be able to take advantage of the carpool lanes, the importance of which any Toronto driver will appreciate. When it comes to carpool lanes, I subscribe to the letter of the law, not the spirit! The laptop has been dropped off and the kind and helpful technician says he thinks I will be able to get it back later this week. That is a relief.

It seems that my routine will suffer further disruption in the days to come. Aileen’s blood pressure, the bane of all three of her pregnancies to this point, has begun to creep up. The midwife thinks it will be okay for another week or ten days, but after that it may get to the point that she needs to consult an obstetrician. In the meantime, Aileen needs to try to stay off her feet, clearly something that is easier said than done with young children in the house. And, of course, it means that I will have to assume a few more responsibilities than I am accustomed to. Needless to say, this is something I am glad to do and in no way resent, but it is something that will continue to disrupt the routine.

Provided that the blood pressure concerns continue to be minimal (there is a certain threshold, above which the midwives begin to reclassify the situation) I will go to the conference next week. It is, after all, only two nights and is only a few hours away. My sister will be coming to stay with us, both to visit the family and to look after Aileen as much as is necessary. Should the blood pressure increase too much, I’ll cancel my plans and stay right here with my wife!

Surpisingly, I think this would be harder on Aileen than it would be on me. She has been looking forward to this conference on my behalf and truly wants me to attend. She’ll feel very guilty if she is a direct or indirect cause of keeping me from going to it.

So I guess this is a long and somewhat convoluted prayer request. I would be honored if you would consider praying for us over the coming days and weeks. While blood pressure concerns certainly can be harmful, in the past two pregnancies they have been really just an annoyance. Still, when blood pressure rises, certain proceeses are put into place by the doctors and midwives and these can cause a great deal of stress. High blood pressure can almost become a self-fulfilling prophecy in that stress about high blood pressure causes blood pressure to rise higher still! So please pray that Aileen will be calm over the coming days and weeks and that she won’t worry unneccesarily (and she does love to worry!). Pray that her blood pressure will stabilize as she rests. Above all, pray that God will keep mom and baby safe and that we will have peace and joy as a family even in a time of stress.

March 26, 2006

Well here it is, my first post from the new house. The move yesterday went very smoothly - it took three trips in a 14’ U-Haul with about eleven people helping (most of whom, strangely enough, were pastors). We were amazed with the amount of “stuff” we own, but I suppose there is nothing like seeing all of one’s possessions in boxes to understand just how blessed one is! Our friends were most gracious with their time, muscle-power and, occasionally, their bodies as they hefted heavy items up and down staircases and into the truck.

I am almost six years old now than I was the last time I moved, and it seems that there is a significant physical difference between the early-twenties and the almost-thirties. It was only willpower that allowed me to make it through the day yesterday, and only a dog barking desperately to be allowed out that convinced me to get up from my bed this morning. Even so, it tooks lots of hot water and massaging to get me to be able to stand upright. I’m old before my time!

I seem to have under-estimated my book collection and had to make a quick trip to Ikea to purchase another bookshelf. Even then I am not sure that my shelving will last beyond another year or two. I am greatly enjoying my new office and look forward to many long, product hours spent in here. There seems to be a disctinct lean to the floor on the wall I have setup my desk, so anything that is round in shape quickly rolls from the back to the front and lands on the floor. It is quite annoying, but I’m sure I will get used to it. I am exceedingly glad to have all my books back, as it has been several months since they have all been available to me. My books are among the best friends I’ve got (though they were more of a burden than a help when the call went out to my friends to help me move).

Anyways, there is no rest for the weary. I still have lots to do around here, and the family across the way is moving today and I’ll go and see if I can pitch in somehow. I’m a glutton for punishment. Have a blessed Sunday. I look forward to life getting back to normal tomorrow.

February 14, 2006

“I think the holiday is total crap,” says a newly married 27-year-old man from Greenwich, Connecticut. Leslie, 28, a single editor at Glamour magazine in New York agrees. “I really hate it. I think I always hated it, even when I had a boyfriend. I always felt that it was really hokey. I’m not a teddy bears and roses kind of person.” “It’s damned if you do and damned if you don’t,” says a 40-year-old married father of three from Nantucket. “There are a lot of things that run across your mind that you’d like to do, but with busy schedules, you don’t always have the time. But when you don’t do them, you feel guilty.”

A lot of people hate Valentine’s Day, as evidence from those snippets of an article published today at FoxNews. The man from Connecticut explains part of his disgust for the holiday. “All the responsibility for Valentine’s Day falls on the guy. If the guy and the girl both agree to do nothing, and the guy doesn’t come up with at least a flower and the girl doesn’t do anything, it doesn’t hold the same value. There’s no reciprocated holiday for the guy. Like how about a steak and porn night? Would that be so awful?” Little wonder that he requested to remain anonymous. He has vented to his wife about “one of those holidays exploited by the Hallmarks and De Beers” - but despite his best efforts he always gets sucked into the holiday. “Yeah, I rant to her, but I always wind up breaking down and getting her something. I’m a broken man. I don’t think I’ve ever done chocolates. I’ve done flowers and hotel rooms.” What does he get or hope to get from Valentine’s Day? “Nothing. Hopefully sex,” he said, laughing.

I don’t know that I like the chances of that marriage surviving for long. The selfishness of the man from Connecticut is startling. Shocking. He has made the day to be all about himself. He despises the day because he must give rather than receive.

But I can’t deny that I once felt much the same. I regarded Valentine’s Day as a corporate fabrication - a holiday created to bring relief to the late-winter retail blues. I thought it was a holiday created by Hallmark for the sole purpose of marketing and selling cards, gifts and chocolate. I did my duty as a husband, but did it with little passion and little motivation beyond doing what was expected of me. I don’t know that she was convinced.

But then I read my Bible.

What continues to surprise me about reactions towards Valentine’s Day, and the reactions of men in particular, is their hesitation to celebrate their wives. Valentine’s Day may be a fabricated holiday. There is nothing special about February 14 that dictates that we must lavish gifts and attention upon our wives. But when the opportunity presents itself, why would we hesitate?

If my Bible had a home page it would be somewhere in Proverbs. I love that book. I feel at home in that book. When I do not know what to read or when I have a few moments before church begins on Sunday, I turn to Proverbs. I try to spent a full month every year reading and studying Proverbs. I love and adore the book. That Solomon guy had some good things to say. What he said is as relevant to us today as it was to him three thousand years ago.

“Rejoice in the wife of your youth,” he said. “Be intoxicated always in her love.”

“An excellent wife is the crown of her husband.”

“House and wealth are inherited from fathers, but a prudent wife is from the Lord.”

King Lemuel, another contributor to Proverbs describes the infamous Proverbs 31 woman. He begins by saying, “An excellent wife who can find? She is far more precious than jewels.”

A wife is a precious gift. A wife makes her husband look better. A wife makes her husband act better. Her excellence, her prudence crowns a husband. She fulfills him. Completes him. Makes him what he is. Makes him more than he is.

But it is not easy to be a wife. It is not easy to be a mother. It is especially difficult to be a stay-at-home mother as my wife is (and wants to be). Dorothy Patterson says it like this:

Much of the world would agree that being a housekeeper is acceptable as long as you are not caring for your own home; treating men with attentive devotion would also be right as long as the man is the boss in the office and not your husband; caring for children would even be deemed heroic service for which presidential awards could be given as long as the children are someone else’s and not your own.

A damning indictment of our society. It may even be an indictment of the church. Or your heart. Or mine. Wives and mothers are desperately underappreciated in our society. But the Bible does not tell us that society should bring them honor and praise. That task, which ought to be done with great joy, great sincerity and great frequency, falls to the husband and children.

Lemuel closes his reflection on the excellent wife in this way. “Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her. ‘Many women have done excellently, but you surpass them all.’” A wife, a mother desires and deserves praise from her husband and her children. Her great reward is not financial. It is something far deeper, far more meaningful. Her reward is the praise of those who love her most. It is the praise of those who see her at her best and at her worst. It is the praise of those who see her life of service. It is the praise of those for whom she has labored and sacrificed.

Valentine’s Day may be a contrived holiday. There is no objective reason that I should celebrate love in a special way today rather than yesterday or tomorrow. But if this is a day where people celebrate love, should not I, as a grateful husband, celebrate my wife? Should I not model to my children a love, a passion, a joy in my wife? Should I not reflect today on my intoxication with her love? Should I not praise, honor and bless her for being just who she is: a precious, beautiful, excellent gift from God?

Valentine’s Day provides me with a day to love and honor my wife. It provides me with a day to ensure I take the focus off myself and lavish it on my wife. Why would I want to refuse that opportunity?

February 02, 2006

As you may know, Aileen and I just bought our first house. While we found the house quite quickly (as these things go), we first toured several towns and walked through fifteen or twenty houses looking for just the right one. As we toured house after house it quickly became apparent which homeowners had invested some extra effort in making their homes attractive to prospective buyers. I’m sure you have experienced what we did. Some houses were immediately attractive to us, even if they did not meet our needs or appeal us as asthetically. The houses that had the greatest appeal were those that were truly homes.

There is a difference between a house and a home, isn’t there? A newly constructed neighborhood not far from me advertises “homes beginning in the low 300’s.” But they aren’t really selling homes, are they? They are selling houses. A house only becomes a home when a person lives in it and when it begins to take on the personality of the inhabitants. An empty house is just a shell. It is much like a dead human body. It is a body, but it is not a person.

There is a lot a person can do to increase the potential of selling his house. Interestingly, many of these revolve around making a house more like a home. A house that has furniture in it is likely to sell for a higher price than a house that is empty. Pictures on the wall, lights that are turned on and beds that are made make a house look like a home. The smell of fresh bread or cookies makes a house smell like a pleasant home. And that is what people are looking for when they buy a house. They are looking for a house in which they can make a home. There is an immediate attraction to a house that feels like a home!

As I was reflecting on the difference between a house and a home this morning I turned, as I often seem to, to the Bible. I found myself reading in the fourteenth chapter of John. We read there an incredible promise of Jesus. Preparing to face his last hours, Jesus spent an evening teaching his disciples and telling them that He would soon be taken from them. Yet in His goodness and compassion He promised not to leave His disciples alone. “I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth.” Jesus promised to ask the Father to send the Holy Spirit to be a helper to His people. But there is more. This Holy Spirit will not only dwell with us, but will make his abode in us. “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.” God Himself will make His home in us.

That little word, translated home, is used in this chapter of the Bible and nowhere else. The Bible Exposition Commentary says the following: “If we treasure His Word and obey it, then the Father and the Son will share Their love with us and make Their home in us. The word translated “abode” in John 14:23 means “make our home” and is related to “mansions” in John 14:2. When the sinner trusts Christ, he is born again and the Spirit immediately enters his body and bears witness that he is a child of God. The Spirit is resident and will not depart. But as the believer yields to the Father, loves the Word, prays, and obeys, there is a deeper relationship with the Father, Son, and Spirit. Salvation means we are going to heaven, but submission means that heaven comes to us!”

Is that not an incredible promise? When we are saved and regenerated by the power of God, God Himself dwells within us. He builds not just a house but a home. He takes up permanent residence within us, promising never to forget or forsake us. Once He takes up residence in our hearts He promises never to leave. Heaven truly comes to us! As I meditated upon this promise I was moved to praise God for living in and with me and for giving His word that He will remain there forever. Truly He is good to me.

February 01, 2006

We have had some fun the past couple of days discussing whether or not it is rude for a person to ask himself (or his family) to another person’s house. Opinion is divided but it seems that most people are siding with my wife and suggesting that I was rude to ask myself to a friend’s house. I continue to disagree.

But before I make this conversation serious, I wanted to point to a couple of comments that made me laugh. A commenter named Aaron posted some interesting biblical interpretation.

What we need here is some sound biblical eisegesis on the doctrine of the invitation system. For our text, we shall turn to the book of Hebrews:

Hebrews 10:25 - “Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”

First, we note that we must take care not to give up meeting together. So it is apparent that meeting together is good and should be continued. And how should we meet? “all the more.” If the onus of invitational responsibility lies always on the hosting party it is unlikely that meetings will increase all the more. Tim is being faithful to this passage by increasing the “meetings together” twofold by both inviting others over and inviting himself over to the abodes of others. If we all followed such a practice, think how much we could increase our meetings together! And we must not forget to encourage one another. This could mean that we should encourage others to have us over to their place. So I think this system of inviting oneself is not only biblical, but inevitable as we see the day approaching!

I appreciate Aaron’s eisegesis and feel that he builds a strong case, though one that does brutal violence to sound, accepted hermeneutical standards. Of course in this day and age, such eisegesis is accepted and even encouraged. So kudos to Aaron for his eisegetical masterpiece.

Another poster, Andrew, provided the following challenge: “If you can write a valid deductive syllogism from Scriptural assertions/deductions that shows that inviting oneself to someone else’s house is never rude, then she’s [Aileen’s] wrong.” He then said, “There may be a case where Jesus invited himself to someone’s house, perhaps Matthew or Peter’s mother-in-law?” And, of course, Andrew is right. Let’s turn to the nineteenth chapter of Luke.

He entered Jericho and was passing through. And there was a man named Zacchaeus. He was a chief tax collector and was rich. And he was seeking to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was small of stature. So he ran on ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see him, for he was about to pass that way. And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, for I must stay at your house today.” So he hurried and came down and received him joyfully. And when they saw it, they all grumbled, “He has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.” And Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold.” And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”

There are two things that we must note in this passage. First, Zacchaeus did not extend an invitation to Jesus. Rather, Jesus simply stated that he would stay at Zacchaeus’ house that particular day. He apparently did so with no remorse and, in fact, suggested that he must stay. There was force behind his reverse invitation such that Zacchaeus felt compelled to obey. Second, note the reaction of this man. He received Jesus not with regret or reluctance, but with joy. Zacchaeus sets a pattern that we would do well to follow.

It is clear, then, that the Bible demands that we invite ourselves to other people’s houses. It also demands that, when asked, we receive other people with joy.

But in all seriousness, I thought the comment made by my mother was profound (and not just because she is my mother). She said, “I have found in life that most people are not interested in getting to know most people. When somebody does have a particular interest in me, I take that as being of the Lord. If they want to come and visit our home in order to get to know us, I feel I am doing God’s work in graciously serving them.” That is the example that was modelled to me when I was young. You may have noted that two of my sisters commented in the thread and both of them agreed with my perspective. Maryanne, who recently went door-to-door in her newly-built neighborhood canvassing for friends, said, “I think a self-extended invitation is a high compliment…and not rude at all, though perhaps unethical in our closed-door society…In suburbia, unless you force yourself kindly on people, they are going to be swallowed up by the garage every evening, and relationships will not happen. So, have at it.” Susanna offered the following advice: “I would say just make sure to offer to bring something if it is over a meal in order to relieve any pressure they may feel which would most likely be about having to make food.” I should have mentioned that my wife all brings a peacemaking salad whenever we go to someone else’s house. She may also bring her famous plagarized spinach dip with nachos.

So as my mother said, if people are interested in myself or my family enough that they ask if they can come over, I understand it to be an honor and privilege and will happily accept the invitation. After all, most people are not interested in getting to know most people. I love people and am always eager to get to know others. If that has to happen in my house and even at a moment’s notice, so be it!

And so I suppose the reverse is true. If I ask another person if he would like to have myself or my family into his house, I would hope the he would understand that I extend the invitation because of my admiration for him. I ask myself to his house because I am eager to get to know him. I would suggest that it is our culture that has taught us that it is an insult rather than a compliment to receive such an invitation.