Captain, May I?

January 12, 2009 | 16 comments

We played a game of “Captain May I?” on Saturday afternoon at the farm.

The game is simple. With the captain’s permission, you take giant leaps or baby steps toward the finish line. The first one to reach the “captain” is the winner.

The means of reaching the end vary. The captain may call on you to bunny-hop, frog-leap, crab-walk or princess-step your way to the finish line. (At least, that’s how we play it in the Lee Family.) But you may only move forward — and this is the most important rule — if you first ask: “Captain May I?”

Sounds simple enough.

But children, over-eager in anticipation of victory when they are close to the captain, invariably leap without asking the critical question. This happens especially when the finish line is cruelly within reach. Without permission, the player is not only forbidden to move forward, but she is sent back to the starting line.

That’s how the game went this weekend with my two daughters, ages 7 and 4, and my 4-year-old nephew. They lined up at the starting line: the round table in the corner of the living room. By the time any of them were within a step of the captain, they would make the final leap without asking permission.

This would usually result in a child returning to the living-room table in tears — to the point where we figured we ought to find something new to play.

It was just too hard to stick to the rules — even when the rules were so simple.

This went on for a good 10 minutes, with frequent teary returns to the table — until at last a winner was declared.


There’s a saying that goes, “All rules were meant to be broken.”

I don’t think that’s true. I don’t think all rules were meant to be broken. In life, rules were meant to be kept. But I also believe that the keeping of the rules isn’t what gets us past the finish line.

A day before the game of “Captain May I,” the Lee family sat around the starting line: the living room table.

Around that table, on a Friday morning, our family took tiny wafers and little communion cups. We were a rag-tag bunch of rule-breakers, taking the blood and body of Christ on a common Friday while wearing pajama pants and old T-shirts. Our hair was uncombed; at least half of us hadn’t showered.

We were tear-eyed children at the starting line.

Not one of us has come to the table of grace by “doing our very best,” or by following all the rules. None of us was capable to reach the finish line on our own — no not one.

It was grace.

Just … grace.


It has been a tender time on the farm. Any of you who’ve spent some time here at GDWJ lately know that.

And if you’ve spent some time here, you know this, too: At least one of us around that Table of Grace is probably a little closer to the finish line than the rest of us. He’s done fighting the physical battle of cancer, and he came back to the farm for a while before he makes his next Big Trip.

Have I told you that he’s a captain, too? Did you know that? Is it boasting to tell you he was an Army Captain? He’s a guy used to giving orders, being a stickler for the rules. He’s a guy who was used to hearing the question: “Captain, May I?”

But on a snowy morning, communion cups in hand, the captain and the rest of us knew that this moment wasn’t about rules. It was about grace.

Whether we princess-walk, army-crawl, or stumble our way to the finish line, we who believe can leap into the arms of the Captain without having gotten it “just so.”

It’s grace.

Sola gratia.


Photo: The Lee Family farm house. Taken sometime before 1960.

by | January 12, 2009 | 16 comments


  1. Rick D.

    Hi Jennifer!

    No, it isn’t boasting – it is stating a fact that Paul was a Captain. That having been said, I wish I could have been there for the Lord’s Banquet with y’all – we’ve gotten way too formalized in church, and forget this is a family affair.

  2. Carol

    Beautiful post. Prayers for all of you. Love you, Carol

  3. Chris Godfredsen

    A moving post, great testimony and explanation of grace! Better still, an incredible time for you, yours and our God!

    Many, many more moments like those for you and yours…

  4. Chris Godfredsen

    A moving post, great testimony and explanation of grace! Better still, an incredible time for you, yours and our God!

    Many, many more moments like those for you and yours…

  5. Billy Coffey

    Such warmth and truth in these words…

    Those are the moments that will carry you through. Enjoy them, and make more.

  6. girlforgod

    Love your writting! I related it to how sometimes we get so anxious for the things of God, sometimes we forget that He is the one we have to ask, instead, sometimes, we just Go ON, forgetting He’s the one in the drivers seat. Jesus may I? and if He says no, wait….
    I will obey and walk by faith. Be blessed my friend, Be Blessed!

  7. jlmoss

    A true holy moment.

  8. Pam at beyondjustmom

    What a perfect analogy of our continual attempts–and failure–to win approval by works. And what a lovely communion with your family. You bless.

  9. Carey

    Today as I’m stumbling and bumbling towards the finish line…I’m really glad it doesn’t have to be “just so.”

    Thanks for the reminde!

  10. janelle

    Probably will be one of those moments engrained in your memory forever; praying for more!

  11. sheshe

    I’m glad you got to savor that moment and store it up in your heart. It was beautiful and I’m so thankful you shared it in your incredible way. Just the perspective I needed today.

  12. Steph

    Thanks for letting us share your moment!

  13. hope42day

    Prayers for all of you…thank you for the beautiful post.

  14. Sam Van Eman

    thanks for the blog visit, jennifer. and sorry to hear about your father-in-law.

    as for “captain, may i?” we also have a four and a seven year old, and i’m pretty sure that game would have turned out exactly the same.

    a great lesson there, though, and you said it well.

  15. valerie lynn

    Beautiful post Jennifer. I know I was saved by GRACE! It certainly was not anything that I did but only through the Grace and Mercy of God! I thank Him daily for saving a messed up woman such as myself through HIS GRACE AND HIS MERCY! AMEN!


  16. Chrissy

    What a great moment for you and the family. Always praying for you guys.


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