The Justice Side

I spent the summer working at a day camp for elementary aged children. People who know I work with preschoolers assume this must have been easy for me. It wasn’t. There’s a big difference between a four-year-old and a nine-year-old, and while the former can solve just about any conflict with a hug, the latter can hold a petty grudge for a week. Or a month. Or a summer.

Sometimes that building felt like a war zone, grenades of hateful words being thrown back and forth. Girl to boy, boy to girl. Then the division would start in their own camps. Sometimes the ultimate bomb went off and left just about everyone in tears. And this whole time I was trying to keep the peace, often working to interfere before any major catastrophes could happen. It was exhausting.

One day I was standing on the sidelines of a kickball game, offering my services as referee. As I declared one of the boys “safe,” his competition turned on me and spewed, “It’s no fair. You’re on the boys side!”

My co-worker (who, by the way, was on the boy’s side) rushed to my defense with the dramatic exclamation, “She’s on the side of justice!”

I laughed at his antics then, but six months later, that’s a phrase that sticks with me.

“She’s on the side of justice.”

I don’t know about you, but the word “justice” often turns my mind to things like sex-trafficking and child slavery and all number of other atrocities taking place in the world. People who are “on the side of justice” are people who fight for the end of these horrors. But while I certainly don’t agree with any of those things, I don’t take an active role in vanquishing them either. So am I really on the side of justice?

Yes, I am. Because justice is so much more than abolishing slavery and taking a wrecking ball to the red light districts of the world.

Justice is, quite simply, the quality of being just, impartial, or fair.

Justice is admitting that the little guy did make it to first base when an entire team of girls is saying he’s out.

Justice is saying you can’t lock a kid out of the girl’s room for the sole crime of being younger than you.

Justice is evenly distributing the beanbags when the older girls want to sit on a mountain of them.

Justice is the little things.

And justice is hard.

Because it’s so much easier not to argue. It’s so much easier to let the masses rule and to find a new niche for the child who is bullied. But it’s not right. It’s not just.

So I hope it can always be said of me that I’m on the side of justice. I hope I’ll always be the one raising my voice and righting the wrongs.

Because the world needs a few more people on the Justice Side. And we’ve got to burst into it Red-Rover style. We’ve got to hold firm and catch people in the net of it until they get all wrapped up in Justice’s arms.

Won’t you come over? Won’t you come over and join the Side of Justice today?

You Can’t Touch Her

I watched a handful of preschoolers chase one of their little friends around a playground when, suddenly, the little girl who was being chased made a beeline for my arms. I held her to my chest and shooed the other kids away with my free arm while explaining, “I’m base. You can’t touch her as long as I’ve got her.”

So the kids backed up and waited until Charleigh gained the courage to run again. She jumped up, knowing she didn’t have to outrun the others for long—just long enough. Once around the playground, back into my arms, and repeat.

Except one time, Charleigh didn’t make it back into my arms. One time, she didn’t quite run fast enough. One time, I watched her get tackled by one of her little friends. She was taking a beating, and even though they were all laughing and enjoying themselves, I knew it was only a matter of time before things got out of control and someone got injured.

It was time to change the rules.

I stood to my feet, cleared a few preschoolers out of my path, and pulled Charleigh into my arms. “Ah, ah,” I warned when the other kids rushed at us. “You can’t touch her; I’m base, remember?”

I’ve been replaying that scene in my mind for weeks because, sometimes, I feel a lot like Charleigh. When life swells up all around me and I’m starting to feel overwhelmed, I just know that I’ve got to make it back to God’s arms and it will all be okay. He holds me close as I catch my breath and my heart rate returns to normal. He soothes me and comforts me, stroking my hair, sheltering me from all those things that threaten to consume me.

Because He’s base, remember? And nothing can touch me as long as I’m in His arms.

Then I’m off again to repeat the same pattern. Only sometimes, like Charleigh, I don’t quite make it back in time. Sometimes I find that life overwhelms me and I’m lying facedown in the dirt. And just when I think I’ll never get back up, the rules change. The base moves.

And God is there, picking me up, brushing me off, and saying to my struggles, “Ah, ah. You can’t touch her; I’m base, remember?”

Sometimes God lets us run to Him. He stands there with open arms, waiting to be the shelter we so desperately need because He wants for us to seek Him. He wants for us to declare our need for Him. And we’re the ones who have to come crawling back to fall at His feet and say, “God, I need You right now. I need You so bad.”

But sometimes… Sometimes we’re in too deep. Sometimes it hurts too much to crawl. Sometimes we can’t quite make it back on our own.

And that’s when the rules change.

That’s when God stands to His feet and pushes our struggles out of the way until there’s nothing left but Him and us. That’s when we’re safe again.

So if life is beating you down, just turn around and see that He’s standing there, arms outstretched, waiting for you to fall into the warmth of His embrace. Waiting for you to let Him set things right.

Because He’s base, remember? And nothing can touch you as long as you’re in His arms.

Life. Is. Messy.

The past few months, God has been teaching me to appreciate things a little more deeply. In the midst of this little life lesson, a few other things have come up. Things like love and trust and daring to take chances in places where I’ve failed in the past. And the more I dwell on these things, the more I come to realize that…

Life. Is. Messy.

You won’t make it to the other side without a few bruises and scars. And if you do, you have not experienced the fullest extent of what life was intended to be.

The other day, I busted out the finger paints at the preschool where I work, and you should have seen those kids’ faces. They know how to live. They know how to dive in with both hands and make the most of the messes. They understand what it means to create beauty from chaos.

You would think that children so young are only just learning to live, but I’ve discovered that life and wonder are something you have from birth and are only in danger of forgetting as the years go by. These kids—three and four years old—know the secret to changing the world. Or perhaps they are merely the only ones who are unafraid to try.

I’ve met a lot of admirable people, and I’ve been inspired by the stories of those who have chased their dreams and caught them. But if you were to ask me right now who I want to be like when I grow up, I would probably name one of those bright-eyed children who left their perfect, messy hand prints on my heart. Because, yes, there have been days when my heart was touched by a motivational story, but these children inspire me. Every. Single. Day.

Because of them, I can find beauty in the hundredth rainbow I draw. Because of them, I clap my hands when their constant excavating of the playground uncovers an earthworm.

“You should paint your nails,” they say, and I do. “You should braid your hair,” they encourage, and I will. Because the simplest things delight them and, somehow, their wide-eyed wonder sinks into my heart and makes me delight in the little things, too.

And if I must grow up, I want to do so with at least a hint of the wonder that dances in the eyes of a three-year-old boy when you let him experience the world upside-down for the umpteenth time. I want to live with his trusting heart that is not the least bit concerned that I may drop him on his head. I want to know what it’s like to live with such abandon. But mostly, I want to dive into life headfirst with both hands, unafraid of the messes. Because as a handful of preschoolers recently made abundantly clear to me…

Dream Like a Child

“That big, big shadow in my dreams… Why can’t I find it when I’m awake?” “Why do I call it the Keeper?” “How come other children dream of the keeper too?” And “Why don’t grownups dream of the Keeper?”

These questions, asked by the young heroine in Jeffrey Overstreet’s Auralia’s Colors, won’t stop turning in my mind. No, I’ve never dreamed of a creature called “the Keeper”, but I wonder why it’s so much easier for a child to believe in the unbelievable.

“How can I see something in my sleep I’ve never seen awake?” Auralia questions. “And how come others have seen it there too?”

That’s where children live – somewhere in the dream world, even as they walk along the shores of reality. We “grownups” laugh at their antics as if they are the foolish ones, but I’m willing to bet that children are often closer to the heart of God than even the most spiritual adults.

The fairytales and magical lands we dreamed of as children aren’t foolishness as we’ve come to believe; they are a wonderous picture of a greater reality that we have ceased to believe in. Yet there are other worlds out there. If you claim to believe in the Bible, you can’t deny the existence of angels and demons and heavenly cities. This is the realm of which children dream.

It’s time we return to the dream world and allow our hearts to be captivated by the impossible. Sometimes, when we let down our guards, we get a little glimpse of Neverland. Sometimes we dream of “the Keeper”. And if the only place I’ll ever see Him is in my sleep, I’ll be content to remain in the dream world forever. Because that’s where He beckons me with words all too similar to the ones Tinkerbell spoke to Peter Pan in Hook:

“You know that place between asleep and awake? The place you can still remember dreaming? That’s where I’ll always love you… That’s where I’ll be waiting.”


The three children bounced on the trampoline, shouting at the ground beneath them. “You can’t hurt us, Satan! God is going to beat you up!”

The youngest of them chimed in. “He would right now, but He’s busy.”

“No, He’s not busy,” her older counterpart corrected. “He’s just waiting.”

Waiting. God is waiting. I wonder what it is He’s waiting for. Why doesn’t He intervene when evil triumphs in our world? Why doesn’t He put an end to the suffering in our midst? Why doesn’t He hurry to vanquish Satan forever? Why does He wait? And why does He insist on making me wait with Him?

I think that’s our biggest problem with God’s periods of waiting. We’re so anxious to rush into things that it bothers us to wait with God. We start to think that if God called us to something, things should start happening now. But still, God waits.

Do you ever think that perhaps God is waiting for you? Do you ever wonder if the reason nothing is happening might be because you haven’t taken the steps to make it happen? I could say that whatever God waits for is really none of my concern… unless He is waiting for me.

Nothing happens on its own. God usually doesn’t drop things into our laps unless we are actively pursuing His will. Once you start moving in the right direction, God no longer has to wait. But if He waits for you and you wait for Him, your dreams will wait along with you.

For this reason, I choose to move Beyond Waiting. I choose to step out into the unknown, believing that God will clear a path before me.

He’s just waiting… But not for long.

Hugging Baby Jesus

Last night, my two-year-old neighbor came over to visit. Tessa has always inspired me with her childlike wonder, but last night, her innocence was sweeter than ever. She found herself captivated by the nativity’s Baby Jesus and asked if she could hold it. After playing with the naked baby for a moment, she decided that the baby must be cold and asked for a blanket to cover him. We dug through my sewing box and pulled out a scrap of old fabric Tessa could use as a blanket.

When she finally tired of playing with the figurine, she insisted that he couldn’t be laid to rest until everyone in the room hugged and kissed him goodnight. This seemingly silly gesture struck my heart. How long had it been since I had consciously hugged Jesus? I know one can’t literally wrap her arms around a God who is bigger than the universe, but I believe that some of our actions are carried to heaven in the form of a hug. Remember that verse that says, “Whatever you do for the least of these…”? I think hugs are included in the “whatever” category.

Lately I’ve been so caught up in everything I have to get done, that I’ve forgotten the reason I exist – to glorify my Savior. To do everything I do in a way that is so full of love for Him that it would seem like I’m literally hugging the King of kings. I haven’t been hugging Him like I should, but today I’m resolving to change that. Today, I am going to intentionally try to put a smile on God’s face.

So. . .

Have you hugged Jesus today?


In the words of one of my favorite authors: “I love how irreverent Jesus is in His stories. He compared Himself to a chicken, the coming of God’s Kingdom to a robber breaking into your house, God’s message of hope to an uncorked bottle of wine, and prayer to a nagging neighbor hungry for a sandwich at midnight. According to Jesus, we can learn about God’s Kingdom from eccentric landowners, dishonest managers, idiots who built condos on quicksand, demon-possessed do-gooders, a warm loaf of bread, a field full of weeds, and a little kid tugging at your pants leg asking you to come outside and play. The Kingdom of Heaven unfurled from His lips in story after story after story.”

On that note, let me tell you a story…

Her name was Lily and she was absolutely adorable. I sat, watching her play happily in the nursery. At one point, she leaned into a toy box to get something. As she leaned farther and farther in, it became apparent to me that she was going to crack her head on the table when she stood back up. I jumped to my feet, hoping to slide my hand into a position that would cushion the impact. “Lily, wait. Don’t stand up or you’ll get…”


“Hurt,” I winced, wishing I had moved more quickly. “Owie,” I said, placing my hand on her head. “Lily, honey, are you alright?”

At first I thought she would fall into my arms or maybe run to her mother for comfort. For a moment I even thought that she would brush it off like nothing had even happened. What I wasn’t expecting was the look of betrayal that crossed her face as she glared at me accusingly. One second of looking into those angry blue eyes was enough to tell me that she thought I was the source of her pain. Her nineteen-month-old brain couldn’t comprehend that her pain had been caused by her own mistake.

She screamed and ran to her grandma, and I briefly explained what had happened. At that moment, her father walked up, egging her on. “Aw,” he cooed. “What did that mean girl do to you? Did she hurt you? Rebekah’s so bad. Poor Lily.”

As she buried her face in her father’s shoulder, I stood in the nursery, hoping she would eventually forgive me for the pain I had tried to prevent.

I think it is somewhat humorous (albeit ironic) that we so often ignore God’s voice as He warns us to stop and then we blame Him for our pain. “Why did you let this happen?” we cry as if He had not tried to prevent it. And when we remember His words of warning, we act as though we never heard them as we cry to our friends, “I don’t know why this happened.”

Don’t you? Didn’t you hear His voice as He gently called, “My child, don’t do that. You’ll only get… Hurt.” But we bury ourselves in our pain and leave Him hoping we will turn back into His arms. We’re mad at Him for our own refusal to listen. ”Wait just a moment,” He warned. Had we obeyed, He would have softened the blow. But we didn’t listen. And now it hurts.

But maybe, for once, we should stop trying so hard to blame God and turn into His comforting embrace instead. Maybe it is time to fall into His loving arms and let Him chase away the tears as He whispers, “It is okay now, beloved. I’m here.” Maybe, just maybe, He should be the One we run to rather than the One from which we run. Maybe this time, we should give Him a chance to soothe away the pain we have inflicted upon ourselves.

Don’t run away. Fall into His arms today.