Of Sheep and Wolves, Serpents and Doves

by Richelle Wright on November 27, 2015

It happened in the car while bringing the kids home from school sometime this year… nothing extraordinary or life changing, but I can’t stop thinking about it.


As missionaries on support learning a new ministry in a new place (that is just about as polar opposite as possible from where we were), we are still figuring out how to make everything work: daily schedules, doctor appointments, health insurance, where to go for car repairs, credits for graduation, future college plans, the budget… Recently, we ran into that not uncommon problem of “more month than money” requiring, for one, creativity in the kitchen – the idea being to use up what was there without running to the store for more.

A frequent after school car ride occurrence is a kids’ critique of the lunches I packed and sent. That day, most of what I’d heard was that lunch was “Yummy!” but there weren’t enough crackers to go with the soup. So I looked over at my girl who’d only received a handful of broken cracker pieces and crumbs from the bottom of the bag and asked her if she was upset. She smiled and said, “No, Mama. I really just thought it was sweet of you to crumble up the crackers for me to put in my soup.”

Wow! My eyes filled with tears. I was both speechless… and immediately convicted!

She knows I love her. She trusts me. She assumed the best possible motivation for what she found in her lunch that day.

Do you ever wonder what our world would be like if we all chose to act and believe like my teenage daughter did that afternoon?

First? What if those of us who follow Christ as Savior and King rested in His sovereignty? What if we believed that whatever He allowed/allows, somehow He works so that it is for good. What if we then acted correspondingly, instead of allowing fear or anger or jealousy to dictate thoughts, words, actions and reactions?

Secondly? What if we chose to first assume good intentions, especially by those who’ve demonstrated time and again that they love and/or care about us? What if we chose to trust proven confidence, even when we don’t exactly see why we should.

Thirdly? What if we recognized that the image of God stamped upon and within each human means that sometimes (by God’s grace and mercy), men and women are capable of amazing sacrifice, generosity, wisdom, creativeness and perseverance? And I don’t just mean the Christians of the world. What if our initial response was to look for that image of God in others, regardless of faith profession, because God’s Word teaches it is there?

Perhaps that is a “utopic” view of the world.

I was taught through years of Sunday school truths like:

  • “The heart is deceitful, above all things, and desperately wicked. Who can know it?” (Jer 17.9)
  • “For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts… [and so on]” (Mark 7.21)
  • “There is none righteous, no, not one: there is none that understands; there is none that seeks after God.” (Rom 3.10-11)

I still believe those truths. I know I find it harder to respond to life in a way that reflects God’s image… than I do to respond in a way that reflects my own sinfulness, even after 40 years of walking with Him.

But does that mean we give up on looking for the glimpses of His image in others? That we don’t encourage ourselves and others to become what God created them to be?

When Jesus commissioned and sent out the disciples (Matthew 10), He foretold danger. This business we are about is a risky business. The possibility of hurt or worse is high. I love how Matthew Henry puts it: “Christ foretold troubles, not only that the troubles might not be a surprise, but that they might confirm their faith….” Jesus was downright blunt:  He was sending them as sheep among the wolves. Yet, at the same time, He gave rather specific instructions about how to approach such a daunting task: Be “wise [intelligent, prudent, sensible] as serpents and [at the same time, be] innocent [simple, unsophisticated, sincere, blameless] as doves.”


Human nature seems to swing towards reactive extremes where Jesus advocates balance: sensibility combined WITH simple sincerity… intelligence coupled WITH innocence. Innocence must temper wisdom – otherwise we are nothing more than crafty manipulators. Innocence must be solidified by wisdom – otherwise we become ineffective, disregarded do-gooders.   Innocence just may keep us from harming others; wisdom just may protect us from needless harm. In the words of Thomas Watson, “…innocence without wisdom is too weak to be [productive]. Wisdom without innocence is too subtle to be good.”  One extreme tempers the other – and what a beautiful analogy! Blacksmiths have long known that both the hardness and the elasticity of metals are improved by reheating and then cooling. This process makes the metal both stronger and more resilient. Metals are, effectively, improved when elasticity counterbalances with strength. And this knowledge about metallurgy has been around since before the time of Jesus! The oldest known example of tempered metal is a pick axe discovered found in Galilee, and that dates from around 1200 to 1100 BCE [1].

So yeah… I’ve been thinking about this in light of current world events… while remembering that there’s “nothing new under the sun…” and also knowing that we are sent as sheep sent among wolves… without forgetting that all humans have God’s indelible image stamped within…

I recently saw an example of His image stamped on many. Again, it was something little, yet?

After I drop my gang off for school each morning, they gather with other students and wait for a crossing guard to stop the frenetic traffic and escort them safely into the school yard. Just as they started to cross the path of traffic, my daughter’s bag of marbles (which is “the” game during elementary recess) fell open and marbles went all over, rolling in literally every direction. Immediately, every single student and parent crossing in that group began helping her chase down those marbles, the crossing guard kept the traffic stopped and lines of cars in the immediate vicinity waited patiently.  No one had to help. Under these circumstances, innocence alone might have caused the crossing guard to drop her sign and begin scurrying around after marbles… followed by flustered driver prompted by honking far behind to stop waiting… On the other hand, wisdom alone might have said, “Oh, it’s only a dollar store bag of marbles… or “It’s too risky to try and save the marbles at this time on this busy street… it’s not my problem.”


Where do you see a lack of balance between wisdom and innocence as our world (Christians in particular) responds to recent events?

Are you more likely to skew to the side of wisdom or innocence? In light of that tendency, how do you find a balance between the two extremes?

[1] Roberts, G. A., and George Krauss. Tool Steels. 5th ed. Materials Park, OH: ASM International, 1998. 2. Print.


The Song of The World

by Abby Alleman on November 24, 2015

world music

Imago Dei

God’s image

Every nation

Every tongue

Every tribe


And in each of us, a song. 

And that song is like the first song. The one C.S. Lewis and I imagine brought the world into existence. The Spirit hovers over the waters, and there was darkness over the surface of the deep.  And ever so slowly, deeply, richly from eternal Perfection comes the song. Living things come to be and join their voices to the music. A response as natural as they to fill the expanse of creation with the song of glory.

But it’s all gone wrecked. So very, very wrecked. We read the stories. We know the stories from the four corners of this aching world. We live the stories of a shattered song.

And yet, this is why we are here. To remember our Imago Dei. To recover the song. To reclaim its every note with our ears relentlessly attuned to redemption.

And we must not forget. We cannot shut out the clear strains of God. No matter how fierce the darkened, discordant noise. 

In the U.S., tomorrow is Thanksgiving Day. Far and wide families and friends will gather. There will be too much eating and way too much football and, I hope, the giving of thanks.

All over the world, many ex-pats will celebrate in small communities of surrogate families even while oceans away from home. They will establish new traditions and share the old with those from their host culture.

And too, too many will live this day homeless, hungry, in fear for their lives, in bondage, or simply, far from relationship with God.

Yet, this day of Thanksgiving is meant to revive the song. It is to help us unite in our Imago Dei as our lives write the music of Glory.

For in the true song unto Jesus and His redemption, we find the honest notes of our lives, in their heartfelt, aching and broken, reflect the honest notes of the world. And when they rise with gaze upon the unchanging love and goodness of God, they become the song of Thanksgiving.

And this is what God wants to hear tomorrow and always. He wants our grief and sorrow over the world, our world, even as we remember the song; his promised restoration. He wants the simplest places hallowed by thanks.

Thank you for breath.

Thank you for feet to walk.

Thank you for legs to run.

Thank you for smiles (and tears) on little faces.

Thank you for hope and promise.

Thank you for work yet to be done.

Thank you for today…

He also wants us to remember, live in light of, our brothers and sisters. To know that where Imago Dei and His Spirit are, there is a song.

And dear ones are lifting up that song as they work the earth sun up to sun down each day. They’re lifting it up, hands too small, stirring pots too big, face broken open in praise. They’re lifting it up, dungeons marked for horror all around. They’re lifting it up and the gates of Hell will not prevail . He wants us to be branded for this song; this victory too.

He wants our Thanksgiving full of song. 

He wants our lives full of song.

He wants this world full of song, His song, once again. 

Share a song of thanks in the comments below or share it wherever you go!


*photo credit olly via fotolia

(I have written a little e-book ‘In Every Story A Song’ which articulates more of these thoughts on ‘the song of the world’. It is free if you subscribe to my blog.)


When a country is etched into your soul

by Elizabeth Trotter

When I’m in Cambodia, I assume that I think like an American and that I act like one too — because in many ways I do. But then I return to America and discover I’ve forgotten some key facts about the way Americans live in America. Things like: Americans don’t throw their toilet paper in the […]

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“You can’t keep a bird from flying over your head, but you can keep it from building a nest in your hair.” You’ve probably heard a form of this saying, usually referring to some sort of temptation. I like the old Jamaican version: “You can’t keep crow from flyin’, but you can keep him from pitchin’ ‘pon you […]

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All weekend I have thought about what to write this morning. I think about world events and how they have filled up our newsfeeds, yet I also know that you live in your own world events. You live in places where bombs go off, where corruption runs rampant, where trash builds up because of anger […]

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To Ask or Not To Ask, That is the Question

by Amy Young
Financial needs

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Navigating the Night (3 things to do when you have no idea what to do)

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The Anchor and The Hurricane

by Anisha Hopkinson
anchor hurricane

I’m a dreamer. I know it’s not really possible for me to save the world, but I still dream about it all the time. I’m a great starter. Full of passion and can-do spirit, I dive right in. Don’t try to warn or reason with me, the risks don’t really mean much. My husband is […]

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Jumping Off the Pedestal

by Editor

I live in fear of disappointing people. Supporters, our church, our organization, family, friends. I know how messy my life is, I know the things I struggle with, I know where I stumble, I know how often I mess things up, and now I worry others will know too. I have always been a pretty […]

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Ask a Counselor: what about child abuse?

by Kay Bruner
be aware

  A couple of weeks ago, I got an email from a young teacher at a missionary-run school.  She was hearing from local children attending the school about abuse they were suffering by their parents at home.  One of the older children had written detailed reports of the abuse, and even had photographic evidence. When […]

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Same Same, Thankfully

by Editor

As I am in the middle of wading through culture shock,  I am so thankful for things that seem to transcend time zones and culture. Things that I know are the same no matter where I am or who I’m with or what language I’m (kind of) speaking. Like the normal, everyday things that make […]

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