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Tim Challies

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Personal Reflections

May 10, 2009

It is amazing to me, but it was almost eighteen months ago that Crossway published my book The Discipline of Spiritual Discernment. I finished writing the book nearly a year before that. It all seems so much more recent. The reality is, though, that it has been a long, long time since I’ve actually been involved in writing a book. I did not intend to wait so long between books but, to be honest, I just did not have a topic that I thought was worth a year of my life. I read a lot, considered a lot, but honestly, I could not find just the right topic.

Well, over the past couple of months I think that problem as resolved itself and I am currently in the midst of crafting a proposal for a new book. I have a soft deadline of the end of May to finish up this proposal and get it submitted. One difference between this project and the last one is that I now have an agent working for/with me. So I will hand the proposal to him, he will work his magic by making it look all pretty and professional, and will then share it with a few different publishers. If all goes well, one or more of those publishers will be interested in it, leading to a contract. At that point I will get writing in earnest. I’ll tell you a bit further into the process why I decided to pursue representation by an agent.

Why am I telling you all of this? I am hoping you will be willing to pray for me as I begin creating this proposal and as I begin turning my attention to a new book. This new topic, which I hope to tell you about soon, is one that is important to all of us, but one to which I think Christians have not given enough time and attention. I expect my research to first help me think rightly about the topic so I can then help others think rightly about it. It is a huge topic—my initial reading left me with forty or fifty books in a big stack beside my desk. And it is a critical one.

And so I am asking if you’d consider praying for me over the next few weeks. Though I am excited about the topic and though I’m convinced that it is a topic I can (and should) write about, I have had a good bit of trouble formulating my thoughts on it and actually getting them committed to paper (or pixels, as the case may be). In particular, I need the Lord’s help in finding my “angle” into the topic, in coming up with an outline that can best lead readers into the subject, and with wisdom to know whether this really is the subject I can best write about right now.

I really felt that prayer was the lifeblood of my last book. Many readers of this blog prayed for the book and I still remember the most encouraging comment I’ve received at a conference: a woman introduced herself to me and said, “I pray for you and your book every week.” It was such an encouragement to me, I hardly knew what to say. As the book progresses, I will be sure to give updates to let you know what it is about and how it is coming together. But for the time being I am asking if you could just spare the time to pray for it as it comes to mind. Please accept my thanks in advance.

April 22, 2009

A long time ago I added to this web site a little counter. It is way down at the bottom right of each page and it increments by one number each day. It simply tracks the number of days since I made a commitment to blog every day. That was back on October 1, 2003. I first put it there as a challenge and as a reminder to write something every day. I had found writing an important part of my walk with the Lord and wanted to be sure that I kept it up. And so that number reminded me to keep going. Through all of the years and all of the site changes, it has just kept faithfully incrementing, one number every 24 hours. After a while blogging each day became habitual but, for sake of tradition, I left the counter in place. Of course I don’t notice it often—it is just there as it has been since 2003.

Today that silly little counter ticked over to 2000.

I’m not quite sure what to do with this data. I’m pretty sure that such a thing (could it even be termed an accomplishment) is not commendable. I kind of think of Ashton Kutcher who recently became the first person with one million Twitter followers. Like, who cares, really, that a million people get to “hear” him tweet “I love that ppl feel obligated 2 let thier community know they R unfollowing me lol”? Or like those people who scarf down 98 hot dogs in five minutes. Are we impressed at their freakish capacities to do stupid things?

I don’t think blogging for 2000 consecutive days is something that anyone in the world would deem cool (and I say that on a day that I’m going to speak in front of over 100 fellow bloggers). It should probably be met with counseling or with medication more than it should be met with applause. But since so many of you have been along through at least a part of that journey (and just a few have been along throughout the entire journey) I thought it might be worth mentioning. I lay in bed this morning (I’m in Central Standard Time but my brain is still firmly fixed at home in Eastern Standard Time) thinking about all I’ve learned over the years and thinking of how the blogosphere has changed. And I tell you, it has been a long and interesting journey (and perhaps I should try to write down a few of those thoughts over the coming days). And I guess it’s one that is going to continue tomorrow when that little counter increments to 2001.


People often ask me if I actually blog each day or if I write a week’s worth of posts on Monday and just queue them up. To be honest, I do at least some writing on 99% of the days. There are occasional times (vacations and such) when I do write in advance and then schedule the articles to post a day or two later. But mostly I wake up in the morning with a thought or a sentence or a topic in my head, I sit at my keyboard, and I just see what happens. It has been a very important discipline for me as a Christian and as a writer. I recently read Jerry Seinfeld’s response to how he got to be such a good comedian. He basically said that he has a calendar and he commits to writing every day, crossing off that day once he has written at least something. He’s found that brute force and commitment go a long way. And I guess I’ve found the same. I think I’ve become a better writer simply by writing so much and I think I’ve learned a lot about faith simply by spending so much time thinking and then writing about it.

Sometimes people also wonder if I am obsessed or if I could just walk away for a day or for a week. And yes, I’m convinced that I could—I just don’t see any reason to try it just to make a point. I would guess that the day will come sooner rather than later. I would also guess I won’t much care (though friends and family will since they assume that if there is nothing on my blog by mid-afternoon that I have died and they start calling to make sure everything is okay). It has been a fun challenge to try to say something at least halfway valuable every day, but I am not married to it.

And there are people who wonder if I have some brilliant long-term strategy for this blog. The answer, not surprisingly, is no. That’s just not the way my brain works. I rarely think more than a day or two in advance and have really never done so. I try to keep the content here reasonably new, reasonably fresh and a reasonable reflection of what’s going on in my life as I try to live for Christ. There are times when I am tempted to think of strategy and the “could-be’s.” I know that I break the majority of the rules for good blogging—write short posts, use lots of subheadings, add some graphics, make your posts skimmable, be controversial, etc, etc. In fact, probably only 20% of the people who started reading this post have gotten this far simply because, once again, I’ve broken all the rules. But in the end I just can’t get away from the thought that I’ve been enjoying the site pretty much as it is and that I don’t fancy making any great changes. Que sera.

March 23, 2009

Last weekend I enjoyed participating in the Ligonier Ministries National Conference, both as a blogger and an observer. It was a joy to gather with almost 5,000 other Christians so we could spend three days focusing on the holiness of God. This marked my third time going to this conference and each one has proven valuable to my knowledge of God and my love for him. This one may well have been my favorite, at least when I think back to the speakers and their messages. I would encourage you to find and purchase the conference audio as I know you will be blessed.

There is one feature of this conference that always jumps out at me—interpretation services for the deaf. Of course this is not the only conference that offers this service and if you have been to a major conference you may well have seen Chuck and Nancy Snyder or another set of interpreters doing their work at the front of the auditorium. It is one of my pleasures, a guilty pleasure perhaps, to occasionally pause during singing to watch the deaf believers sing (sign) their praises to God. For some reason I always find it tremendously moving.

I don’t know exactly why it is that I am so moved and sometimes even brought to tears by watching these believers praise God in their own way. I want to be careful not to romanticize deafness, realizing, of course, that deafness, as with any physical condition or affliction, is a result of man’s Fall into sin and the kind of condition that Jesus healed while he was on this earth. It is a condition that will be fully and finally cured when we go to be in his presence.

The chapter 35 of Isaiah, the prophet writes of just such a day:

Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened,
and the ears of the deaf unstopped;
then shall the lame man leap like a deer,
and the tongue of the mute sing for joy.

What a day that will be.

I wonder, though, if their praise so moves me because I see them using their whole bodies to offer praise to God. And in so doing they seem to have found a kind of freedom that few of us feel. We are all accustomed to singing praises to God with our lips but as I looked around during one of the occasions that we worshiped God with music, I saw a lot of people singing joyfully, but doing so while standing stock still. But up at the front were two rows of Christians singing for joy with their hands, their lips, their whole bodies. Perhaps no sound came from their lips, but praise came from their hearts and expressed itself through their bodies. Time after time, when I’ve gone to conferences and paused to watch these brothers and sisters worshiping, I’ve seen this unique expression of praise. Every time it has been a tremendous encouragement to me.

While I was watching them praise God I began to think how much they must anticipate that great day where their ears will be unstopped and they will at last be able to enjoy the music they have been worshiping to, when they will be able to hear the voices of the ones they love, and when they will be able to hear the words of their Savior as he says, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” But then I realized that I was standing still as I brought my gift of praise to God, worshiping with my mouth but giving little other outward evidence of my joy for all that God has done and for all that God is. And I wondered, in heaven, will they be more like us or will we be more like them? My guess is that we will probably meet somewhere in the middle.

Nancy Snyder
Nancy Snyder Interpreting for the Deaf

March 11, 2009

Every now and again I give myself a writing assignment. Typically I write about whatever is on my mind, but occasionally, as a way of attempting to not always take the easy way out, I give myself an assignment. Yesterday I took my car to the mechanic and knew I had a couple of hours to kill while sitting in the waiting room. So I decided I’d just start writing and see what happened. A rather silly assignment, I’m sure, but one I enjoyed. Here are the less-than-stellar results.


I took my van to the mechanic today. He’s a long-time member of my church and a guy I actually trust (rather a rarity with mechanics). With a couple thousand miles of driving facing me in the coming weeks, with the van needing an oil change and with an engine light that has been lit up for several months now, I thought it would be a good idea. The plan was to get the oil changed and to replace the EGR valve. I don’t know what an EGR is or does, but the mechanic assured me that replacing it would make the engine light go away. Seems fair to me. I do know that a faulty EGR valve (and the associated engine light) won’t make the van explode or burst into flame or otherwise self-destruct, but it does mean that if something else goes wrong, I may not know since the engine light is already booked solid. So it was time to get that valve fixed. Simple, right? An oil change and a valve swap and I’m out of here!

But you know the way these things go. My mechanic, like most, is not content to let me go until he has pocketed all of my money. After a few minutes he popped his head into the waiting room and told me that my (new!) tires (that I bought elsewhere) are showing uneven wear. I don’t need to do anything right away, but I’ll need to deal with it soon. “Dunslop” tires he called them, to go along with my “Scaryvan.” A couple of minutes later he called me into the bay and showed where my power steering fluid is leaking which, I suppose, will explain the whirring or whining sound I often hear at low speeds. I don’t know much about cars, but I was able to verify that it was, indeed, leaking. The suggested fix is around $700 (and involves replacing a rack or something; the luggage rack maybe?) but he’s going to try a cheaper alternative for me that involves some kind of additive and regular monitoring of the reservoir. Then I found out that replacing the EGR valve requires removing the alternator; though the alternator is fine (I know you were concerned), removing it would take a few extra minutes. And, as you know, time is money when the van is up on the hoist. Oh, and the brakes are down to about 30% with the rotors showing some pretty bad wear. Have I been feeling any pulling as I’ve used the brakes? They don’t need to be replaced immediately, but another few months and they’ll be done; don’t be surprised if you start to feeling the pulling soon. It will be around $300 to get those done. I am still waiting for him to walk in here and say, “I’ve got some great news! We were going to charge you $300 for a new EGR valve but it turns out we found a spare one in your glove compartment. How about that!” But I’m not holding my breath.

I’m looking at the car sitting up on the hoist and kind of hoping it just falls off. Wouldn’t that be grand? Then insurance could deal with it and I wouldn’t have to get all this stuff fixed. Suddenly I find myself hoping for a fortuitous hydraulics malfunction. Come on, just tip to the right a little bit…

I think a car may be one of the great suburban evil necessities. When you’ve got three children, you have to upgrade that car to a minivan (or if you’ve got three children and little common sense, a giant SUV may serve as a replacement). I hate cars (and vans and SUVs). There is nothing else that costs so much and yet, every time you use it, it decreases in value (except your house, potentially, if you live in California or Arizona). Every time the sun sets, that car is worth less than it was when the sun rose. Every time you take it for a drive, you take a chunk out of its value. The payments stay the same month after month, the maintenance costs rise, the value falls. This is particularly true when you own a Chrysler Grand Caravan as I’m discovering just a little bit too late.

I just found out that the rear wiper is torn. At least that one is cheap and easy to replace. I’m no mechanic, but I do know how to do that, anyway. Then again, while they’ve got the car in the bay, I may as well just get them to do it.

March 02, 2009

Mom always shovels the driveway. It’s a phenomenon I’ve noticed time and again. We live in a neighborhood that has a lot of single moms. I suppose the statistics dictate that most neighborhoods have more than their fair share of single moms. But ours seems to have an unusual amount. I think it is related to the housing prices here. We live in (quite literally) the most affordable housing in town. It is one of the very few neighborhoods in the area where a single income can support a mortgage. It is one of the few neighborhoods that is nice, that is safe and where the homes are small enough to be affordable. And so we have many young couples, many elderly couples, and many single parents. The single moms may have one child, they may have two or three. In most cases the children are teenagers, in their twenties or even in their early thirties. In almost every case there is at least one boy thirteen or older who is able-bodied. Yet in almost every case, mom is the one who shovels the driveway.

I remember being a rebellious, listless teenager. I remember how little I wanted to do much of anything for anyone else. I remember our elderly next-door neighbor had a heart attack and was unable to do any strenuous labor. We had a good snowfall one day and I was enjoying the day from the refuge of my bedroom in the basement, lying across my bed reading a book and listening to some music. My father came down and told me in no uncertain terms that I was to go upstairs, get my winter gear on and get outside to shovel the neighbor’s driveway. He gave me a figurative (and perhaps literal—my memory is a little hazy) kick in the rear-end and sent me on my way. I went outside and there was my neighbor’s wife, shoveling the drive. I pitched in and soon had it cleared. The lesson has stuck.

Dad had high expectations of me, but reasonable, biblical ones. He wanted me to be proactive in service to others; he wanted me to be looking for opportunities to serve and for opportunities to serve as a man serves; he wanted me to use my (growing) strength to serve other people.

I have a boy of my own now and I can see that some of what was in me is in him. He is a good kid, a kind soul. Yet he is sometimes as reluctant to serve as I was when I was young. I am seeking to teach him that he is to use his strength, his ability to serve others and especially to serve those who are weaker or less able than he is. It will not be long before my son is stronger than my wife. Already when they goof around together I can see that she does not have a whole lot on him. What becomes of a mom when she has children who are bigger than she is, stronger than she is, and yet with so little maturity, so little restraint? What happens when there is no one to mentor the boy, to teach him that his strength must be used to serve others?

This is a lesson a father needs to pass to his son. It’s a lesson that no one has taught to so many of the boys who live around me. A few weeks ago I saw a mother struggling with a load of groceries while her boys pushed past one another and past her to get into the house. I stopped them and told them to get back to the car to help their mother. They looked at me blankly and walked into their house, mumbling an excuse. Mom struggled down the walkway she had shoveled with the groceries she was forced to carry. Dad is long gone. There is no one to give these boys the good, swift kick to the posterior that would get them acting like men.

February 23, 2009

I’ve been to my share of conferences in the past few years and quite a few of these have been geared toward pastors. There’s a phenomenon I’ve noticed at the beginning of these events. In many cases these conferences are an opportunity for old friends to reconnect. Many times pastors have been attending the same conference year after year and have met new friends there or have reconnected with old friends from their college or seminary days. This is a once-per-year opportunity to spend a little bit of time together and to play catch-up.

I suppose there must have been a time when people carried printed photos in their wallets. Today, though, people carry photos on their cell phones or on their iPods. So often, when these men meet after the passing of yet another year, I see them embracing and then immediately digging out their phones or their iPods to show off the pictures of their children or grandchildren. And it is interesting to hear them talk; to hear them share proudly about the children they’ve already begun to miss even after only one day apart. As you listen to these pastors tell about their children, you notice that they dwell on the things that make them proud. “Brian’s nine. He loves basketball and leads his team in scoring. He’s getting so tall! His head comes up to my chest now and he eats like there’s no tomorrow. And here’s Rebecca. She’s fourteen. You can see she looks just like her mom. She loves cameras and says she wants to be a photographer…” Of course you know as you hear this that the last year has not been free of conflict. You know that mom and dad are probably working hard to maintain boundaries around Rebecca who is already acting out as a rebellious teen and that they are working hard to make Brian respect authority. It may well be that the night before he left, dad had to invoke some discipline and left the house only after making Rebecca promise that she would obey her mother. But when dad gets together with his friends, these things are not at the front of his mind. He loves his children, he is proud of his children, and he wants to tell others about them.

I thought about this a short time ago when I was considering how God feels about us, how he feels about me, how he feels about all of his children. I guess I often go through life thinking that God is generally displeased with me. I see my sin, I see my failings, I see my heart. At the same time I see from Scripture God’s majesty, his holiness, his perfection. And when I put these together I suppose that God must be looking at me with at least some level of disgust. He must regard me as I regard myself so much of the time; as a person who may try to do what’s right, but as a person who is just an abject failure when it comes to holiness. At the end of the day, I do love him, but I also love sin. At the end of it all, I pledge allegiance to him, but prove allegiance to myself seemingly just as often. So what could there be for him to love here?

But I’m starting to think that I’ve had this all wrong. I don’t know that there is a single Bible passage I would point to. But more and more, as I study God’s Word and as I learn about who he is, I see that he is a loving Father who is lavish with his love. Maybe it was my recent studies in the parable of the Prodigal Son. Maybe it was my reading through the prophets, seeing how God hates sin but loves his people. Maybe it was just talking to my mother who came to this realization, I think, long before I did. But somehow I am starting to see that God hates my sin but that he loves me. God despises the evil that lurks within me, but is extravagant in his grace. He actually, really loves me.

And maybe in that way God isn’t so different from the pastors I see at conferences. He loves us. He loves me. And more than that, he’s proud of me. He isn’t petty, filling his mind with all those things I’ve done wrong, but rather he is gracious, seeing all those evidences of his grace in my life. And, you know, I think this is one of the reasons that The Shack has done so well and has sold so many copies. It presents a God who not only loves people, but who also likes them and who is proud of them. Maybe we can be so careful in (rightly) understanding God’s hatred for sin and his desire for holiness that we forget about his great love for us despite the sin that still pollutes us. Maybe we forget that God truly does regard as children—children he not only loves but children he also genuinely likes. And there’s a difference between the two, isn’t there?

January 30, 2009

Some light-hearted fare for a Friday…

Among friends, family and perhaps even readers of this site, I have achieved the reputation of being something of an Apple-hater; that is, a hater of all things Mac. MacBooks, iMacs, Mac Pro’s—I have often spoken out against all of them. They are overpriced, underpowered, toys for yuppies or for people with thick-rimmed glasses and soul patches—people who just take themselves far too seriously. They’re computers for followers, not leaders.

And then I bought one.

I bought one of those nifty new MacBooks I had been hearing so much about. One of those unibody ones, carved from a block of aluminum. It was love at first sight. With my old Acer laptop on the fritz, I had to find a replacement of some kind before my spring travel schedule began. And as I looked at the vast number of laptops available today, something drew me to the Mac. I guess it’s probably that I’ve recently taken a “quality over quantity” approach to life (and technology in particular) and realized that this was not just a nice-looking little machine, but a very high quality one. And so I walked out of Best Buy with it tucked under my arm.

I guess my downfall began with my first iPod, a little Nano that I bought a couple of years earlier. It was a nice little piece of hardware, though one that was mostly without frills. This was, quite literally, my first Apple experience. I couldn’t help but notice how much care Apple took even in the packaging. It showed me that Apple wants to give its customers more than a product; they want to give them an experience. And the experience begins with the unboxing of the hardware. There is something kind of dumb about this. Who wants to pay extra for packaging that will soon be thrown out? Yet there is also something appealing about it.

A few months ago Aileen somehow got her hands on a very cheap iPod Touch and gave it to me for our anniversary. It is a gorgeous little gadget that does a lot of things very well. It is simple, elegant and very effective at what it does. This iPod was the next stage in my downfall.

Well, once I got the laptop, I found that I was committed. My desktop computer, the one that I rely on to make my living at web design, was failing fast. Even worse, the installation of Windows Vista was getting slower and slower. And so I jumped in with both feet, so to speak, and bought an iMac. At this point I think there’s no turning back. At this point, I don’t think I’ll want to.

What I’ve come to realize is that I don’t dislike Apple computers. No, I just dislike the people who use them! I’ll grant that there are some exceptions, some people who are humble Mac users. But far too often I’ve come across these Mac apologists, the kind who feel the need to disparage all things Microsoft and to boast in their own superiority. They are the ones who make you feel like you’re missing out, like you’d be so much better and more popular if you’d just become part of the in-crowd. I’ve never wanted to be part of that crowd. All along I’ve allowed the people to influence my perception of the product. Shame on me.

So I offer this brief article as my ipology to all of those humbly orthodox Mac users whom I’ve ever mocked or belittled or persecuted because of their choice in computers (you know who you are!). I admit it now: Apple really does do things well. I guess you were right all along. I was wrong. And I ipologize.

January 21, 2009

(Continued from yesterday)

My friend and I had taken hours out of our weekend to clean Barb’s squalid, rundown house. But then, when she got home, she was angry—very angry. Now there was one thing I neglected to say about Barb. Beside her couch/bed was one of those Rubbermaid containers, the kind with several drawers. Each of these drawers contained an assortment of silk Hermes scarves. Each of these scarves, we later learned, had been bought for several hundred dollars and Barb had assembled them as a kind of savings account. She was convinced that each one was going to increase in value and eventually bring her great wealth. She considered them an investment. Little wonder that she slept right beside them and checked on them carefully every time she returned to her house. That was exactly what she did when she returned home this time. As soon as she saw that we had been touching her stuff, her precious stuff, she began to grumble and to mutter about how we were being careless and harsh (even though she had invited us to help her clean up). After running inside to count her Hermes scarves and ensure that we had not stolen any of them (she washed her hands before touching them), she began sorting through the garbage bags, looking to make sure we hadn’t thrown away anything of value. She also rummaged through the boxes of clothes we had marked as “sell,” remarking that she simply couldn’t get rid of those things, even though they were far too small for her. Barb was quite a big woman but wanted to lose weight. To motivate her weight loss program she had purchased an entire designer wardrobe in her desired size. A long time had elapsed since she had purchased her size six wardrobe and, though she had made no progress, she just knew that she would need these clothes before long. Eventually she agreed to allow us to sell a very few pairs of shoes and boots on her behalf (though upon later inspection we found that many of these, though they had never been worn, had been chewed upon or lived in by mice and were, thus, valueless).

At the end of the day we were tired and dirty but felt that we had done something to help Barb’s plight. The house was still a disgusting disaster, but we had brought some order to the chaos, at least in one of the rooms, and felt that the house was just a bit more livable than when we had arrived. I guess Barb disagreed because she never allowed us to return. In fact, she thanked our friends by beginning to throw trash over her fence and into their yard. Using eBay, we eventually sold the items she had allowed us to sell and brought her the money. She was livid and threatened to call the police, saying we had ripped her off. She was insistent that the clothes were worth more now than when she had purchased them—that clothes appreciated in value. She decided she was going to hold on to the rest of her things. Perhaps her money problems had eased by then.

It’s a sad story this one. It affected me deeply. It was a few years ago since it all happened but since then I’ve thought about it often. To me, Barb is a picture of slavery to sin. Sure there may be some mental illness involved, but what is this kind of mental illness if not captivity to one or more of the devil’s lies? She had slowly removed herself from the real world to live in a world of her stuff—a world that she perpetuated by collecting and accruing ever more stuff. She needed her stuff—her clothes, her books, her scarves. She loved them and coddled them, treasuring them like they were the children she never had. Her life was miserable and she sought solace in her growing mountain of possessions. The piles accumulated and became a mountain—a filthy, dusty, smelly mountain—but it was hers and she loved it. To the rest of us her house was unlivable. To her it was home. She seemed to know every pile of trash and regarded each piece of junk as treasure.

I thought of Barb the other day when considering the mountains of sin in my own heart. I had one of those days where I marveled at the reality of sin in my life, that after so many years of being a Christian, after so many years of following Christ, such sin could still live within me. And like Barb’s valueless junk, there is sin I love. I hold onto it, treasuring it, coddling it, babying it, clinging to it. I take refuge in this sin; I take comfort in it. Others surely see it for what it is; the Bible tells me exactly what it is. Yet it’s mine and I’ve grown quite fond of it over the years. These mountains of junk are my secret treasure.

There is a difference, though. Barb was enslaved by her sin. Mental illness; spiritual illness; I don’t know what it was. But I do know that she was entrapped and enslaved by it. In moments of lucidity she could see what she needed to do but so quickly she would come crawling back to her stuff like a dog returns to its vomit. But by the grace of God I’ve been set free from enslavement to my sin. There may be part of me that continues to love my sin, but there is a greater part of me that hates it and that fights it. Through Christ I’ve been given freedom, freedom to fight against that sin and, better still, to overcome it. Sin lives within me, but it no longer enslaves me. But only because of God’s amazing, immeasurable grace. Ephesians 2 describes me well, “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.” Then comes the great conjunction of verse 4: “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved…” By God’s mercy, I can overcome those mountains of garbage within.

I don’t know how Barb’s story ends. A year after we tried to help her out, her house went on the market and quickly sold. We knew that a developer must have bought the property for the land as the house was far beyond saving. But Barb reneged on the deal. A few months later it was on the market again and quickly sold. Our friends left the neighborhood shortly after when a developer bought all of the surrounding properties, planning to build a series of retirement condos. Barb must have left around the same time.

I’ve often wondered how Barb moved. Did she take all of her stuff with her? Or did she leave it all behind and just walk away? What did she do with all of the money from her property which must have fetched at least half a million dollars? Did moving from her house help her break free of what was clearly a serious addiction and a serious mental and spiritual problem? Or is she, even right now, sleeping on a couch with her Hermes scarves and other treasures piled all around her? Somehow I’m inclined to think she is. God help her.