Category Archives: Fathers

May the Lord bless you and keep you

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child-praying

If you have gone to church for any services during your life (weddings, funerals, baptisms, etc.) there is a good chance you have heard words like these before:

 

May the Lord bless you and keep you.

May the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you.

May the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.

 

It’s a blessing.  It is given from one person to another.  But it is also a prayer prayed by someone for the benefit of another.

 

It’s taken from the book of Numbers in the Bible, which reads like this:

 

The Lord bless you and keep you;

the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you;

the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace. (ESV)

 

You can see that the wording is similar – but not exactly the same.  And that is what I want to explore in this post… praying scripture personally for one another for their good and for God’s glory.

“I’ll pray for you,” is something we might say often enough – or think we should say – but my experience is that, in general, we are very weak in this area.  And brothers and sisters –  we need to be better at it.  That’s just the simple truth.

 

I first read about blessing others in a little booklet called A Father’s Guide to Blessing His Children, by David Michael (you can find it here).  In it the author not only tells why father’s should seek to bless their children, but how.  I highly, HIGHLY recommend the book – and the practice.  (I know others have written on this as well, but this little resource was powerful, easy to read and understand, as well as inexpensive.)

 

Michael shows how we can take scripture that is full of instruction and warning and encouragement and all manner of teaching – and pray it for our kids.  His emphasis is on blessing them personally, in Christ’s name and for His name’s sake.

 

It’s not hard at all to motivate people to want to ask God to bless their children (who doesn’t want the blessings of God to be showered upon their offspring?).  But I have found that using this same concept of taking passages and praying to God on someone else’s behalf is a powerful tool in the believer’s hands.

 

Saying things like, “Lord, I want to lift up my friend Tim as he goes for his new job interview, I know he really needs a better job,” is OK, and the Holy Spirit knows your heart so if that’s all you’ve got, by all means pray it!  But it’s weak, and it’s not OK to just stay there.

 

How about praying like this instead, “Lord, please bless my friend Tim as he goes for his new job interview.  You know that his heart is anxious – calm him and grant him peace.  Help him Lord to remember that whatever circumstances he finds himself in to be content – for he can do all things through You who gives him strength.  Lord, fill him as only the God of hope can.  Fill him with all joy and peace as he trusts in You, so that he may abound in hope through the power of the Holy Spirit.  Help him to remember Lord, to cast all of his cares upon You, for You care for him.  Help him to remember that you have promised to supply all his needs according to all Your riches and glory in Christ Jesus, and that we serve You, Lord, our God who is able to do infinitely more than we can ask for or imagine.  Grant Tim peace today in You.”

 

If you were praying these words with Tim which one do you think would fill him with courage and confidence in the Lord?  Which one would remind him who has his future and his good in His hands?  And probably most importantly, which of these two prayers would bless Tim – and also, at the very same time – honor God the most?

 

These aren’t my words – I’m no better at praying than you or anyone else – these words are all from scripture: Philippians 4:11-13, 19; Romans 15:13; 1 Peter 5:7; and Ephesians 3:20.

 

I learned a long time ago that the Bible expresses my deepest needs and longings far better than I can.  If it’s true for me as I’m trying to figure my own life out, it’s got to be true for all the people I care about, too!  

 

If we believe that God himself breathed his very words into Scripture, and that they are life-giving truth sufficient to save, I’m guessing it’s a pretty good source to get our prayer-language from, eh?

 

Here are a few more so you can start to get the hang of this:

 

A prayer of blessing from Psalm 23 could be like this:

 

“Lord, show ______________ that you are her Shepherd.  Help her to see that because of that, she will never be in want.  Show her Lord, that in the greenest of pastures she can be content and lie down in rest.  Show her that you will provide still waters for her thirsty soul.  Lead her Lord, in the paths of righteousness, for Your name’s sake.  Remind her Lord, that even when she walks through the darkness and in the shadow of death, she has nothing to fear, for You are with her.  Teach her Lord the goodness and comfort of your rod and staff.  Give her abundance in the face of her enemies.  Anoint her and cause the cup of your goodness to overflow in her hands.  Help her to know that Your goodness and mercy will follow her all the days of her life.  And remind her, Lord, that in the end, she will live with you, in your house, under your protection and provision forever and ever. Amen.”

 

Do you think that if your daughter or friend or sister heard you praying for her like this it would speak to her inner-most being?

 

A prayer from Matthew 5:3-11 could go like this:

 

“Lord, grant __________________ the kind of poverty of spirit that leads him to the Kingdom of Heaven.  Comfort him as he grapples with are mourns over his own sin, and also over the injustices he sees around him.  Help him to be meek – seeking your will and not his own.  Cause his soul to hunger and thirst for righteousness as he hungers and thirst for food and water today.  Satisfy him with only Yourself.  Give him wisdom and power to be merciful, and do as You’ve promised Lord and show him mercy.  Help him to see the state of his own heart as You see it Lord, and purify it so that he can see you clearly.  Remind him of his calling to bring peace – your peace – to those around him and give him courage to speak boldly to those he interacts with today.  Cause his speech to be so clear that everyone around him identifies him quickly as your son.  And Lord, if he is persecuted because of it, remind him that nothing can take away his citizenship which is with You in heaven.  If others speak ill of him, or lie about him, or scorn him because he is Your faithful servant speaking the truth in love, remind him of the great cloud of witnesses that has gone before him, who were faithful in the face of persecution and death because loving You and being faithful to You was worth far more than even their own lives.  Grant him strength to follow hard after You today and every day Lord, for his good and for Your glory.  Amen.”

 

Do you think your husband or your son or brother would go into their day differently being prayed for like this?

 

I think I would.

 

Listen – I need this, too.  I pray this way often by myself, but I don’t do it often enough in the hearing of others.  What a precious gift I withhold from those I love and care about when I don’t.

 

Will you join me today in looking for ways to bless others AND honor God in this way today?
Share your stories with me.  Help us, Lord, to encourage one another and spur one another on to love and good deeds…. That’s my prayer for YOU.

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I met Darth Vader in a bar…

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I know – you’re shocked that I might like Star Wars.  I don’t go to conventions or anything, if that’s what you’re thinking.  But the stories are fun.

I know – you’re shocked that I was in a bar.  Don’t be.  I wasn’t there to get drunk.

But in 1982 I really did meet Darth Vader in a bar.

Here’s what happened:

When I was tiny – I mean a really little kid – my father stormed out of the house and never returned.  My memories of that night are vivid, but they are, after all, from a 4-year-old’s perspective.  I was little, so he was really, really big.

He was scary, too.  He was broad and strong and dark and loud – he sounded ominous.  In addition to his threatening image, he had come to represent everything evil in this world.  He was, for me, Darth Vader.

While the years went by, my thoughts of him were consistent in this perspective.  I was, more than anything, afraid of this hulking figure and malevolent nature that made me tremble.  There was nothing about my childhood experiences that made me change my mind.

But in 1982, I got engaged to be married, and somehow he heard about it.  He sent me a message that he wanted to meet with me and get reacquainted.  Though I had feared him all those years, I had also longed to know him.  So I agreed to go to meet him (with my older brother for protection).

I was all grown up then – no need to be afraid.  But I was.  I was terrified!

With all the maturity I could muster, I made myself look as adult as possible (I did not want him to see me as that scared little girl anymore!)  My brother and I walked in to the appointed, public, meeting place.

And that’s when I met Darth Vader…  He was sitting at the bar.  Waiting for me.

In an instant, I took in the scene before me.  His cape was tattered and faded.  His helmet was battered and dented from many miles of bad road.  He wore thick glasses and he had let himself go terribly.  No longer strong and formidable – he was overweight and flabby – and had teeth missing.  He certainly wasn’t as tall as I had remembered.

And I could tell immediately that he was even more nervous to meet me than I was to meet him.

So why would I put something like this on my blog?

Because God came down in that moment standing at the bar and taught me something I have never forgotten.  That meeting that day changed everything for me.  I had allowed fear and dread to rule in my heart.  It had shaped not just my thinking about my father, but about all fathers – most men even.  My fear paralyzed me from doing the things I’d wanted to do – from being the person I knew God wanted me to be.  I feared Darth Vader more than I feared God, but He was about to show me how ridiculous that was.

Sitting there on that bar stool was a man.  My father.  No longer Darth Vader.  Simply a human man.  In fact, a man I now pitied and had compassion for.   I had no reason to fear him.  I had no reason to be intimidated by his image or my memories.  He had lost everything and I had been blessed with so much.

God gave that meeting to me, there in the bar, as a sweet gift.  It was as if he was telling me personally, in such a profound way, that I had nothing to fear.  God was with me – what could man (including Darth Vader Dad) do to me?

It all melted away in an instant.  Bars aren’t well-lit, but at that moment, I knew I was washed in the light of truth.  God wasn’t telling me to “buck up”.  He wasn’t telling me to find the strength somewhere deep down inside myself to face my fears head-on and be stronger than they are.

The lesson was simple:  “Know me.  Trust ME.  I got this.  You do not have to worry about it at all.”

I’ve mentally referred to that moment many times.  God was so kind to show me how BIG he is and how small my fears are.  It’s not that I don’t still have fears – of course I do.  But like David facing Goliath – I have learned to not focus on the giants before me.  I focus on the mighty God who is infinitely bigger than any giant I may face.

Even Darth Vader.

My hope is that you will learn to do the same.  There is great joy in realizing we risk nothing to follow God’s plan for us, and there is unmeasurable sorrow if we don’t.  My prayer for you is joy.

“This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.”  Joshua 1:8-9

The Collateral Damage of a Parent’s Sin…

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“The wisest of women builds her house, but a fool tears it down with her own hands.” Proverbs 14:1

I watched a movie once called Collateral Damage.  It told the story of the horrifyingly negative effects on a couple’s life of “intervention” into another country’s affairs.  I don’t remember a lot about the story – something to do with oil companies in South America I think –  but I do remember the callous response of those individuals responsible for the mess that had been made.  “Oh well,” they shrugged.  “One has to expect a little collateral damage.”

What?!

This wasn’t even a war zone.  One might possibly come to some kind of terms in the context of war, but this? This was so… ludicrous!

And so is the nature of the collateral damage that we create with our own hands and mouths.  As we look ahead to Mother’s Day in a few weeks, and then Father’s Day beyond that, do your families a favor and think with me on these things.

Yes – I know.  This isn’t one of those cute and happy kinds of Mother’s Day thoughts… But if we can get this right, it is worth far more than the cards or candies or even expensive items that will be exchanged on those days and the lingering effects will last for many years to come.

Recently my husband and I were challenged to come up with a list of at least fifty consequences that happen when we sin.  The parameters were to think of things that happen in our personal, marital, and family lives – but for this post, I’m focusing on the things that happen to our children when we sin against them or in front of them.

To be honest, it was difficult to start this list.  I kind of felt like it was a big dragon that I was trying to capture by the tail.  Where do I start?  How do I get a concept like this down on paper?

So, as I often do when I have a puzzle to solve or problem that seems too big, I brought it to the table and presented it to my kids so they could help me organize this list a little better.  They’re clever people and all adults now (or very close to it) so I figured it was a good discussion to have around the table.

They, too, had some trouble grappling with the largeness of the category at first, but after a little discussion our collective thoughts came up with a few ideas.  We started grouping sins into categories, which was certainly an organized approach, but didn’t turn out to be very helpful in actually answering the question, “What are the consequences when we sin?”  It was all good food for thought, and they were actively engaged in the process, but we still hadn’t come up with a good list of consequences when they had to start leaving for various reasons.

I was alone again with my thoughts.

I tried again, trying to think through the many things swirling around my head.  Then I started to remember some specific times that I had had to go to them and ask for their forgiveness.  Painfully I remembered too many times I had hurt them with my words or accusations or tone.  Ouch.

The list started to flow more easily when I thought of how they felt, and how hard it was after some of those times to rebuild what I had carelessly wrecked.  I realized that I wasn’t talking about consequences like paying a fine when I’m late with a library book.  I was looking square in the face of damage.  I was the one who sinned, but they had suffered because of it.

The list (below) is still growing as I realize more fully how damaging my sin is to them.  Whether I have sinned directly against them, or have sinned in their presence, I do damage.  I create casualties out of my own flesh and blood!

How many adults do you know who are still heavily burdened because of how their parents treated them?  How many adults do you know who find it exceedingly difficult to say, “I’m so sorry I hurt you,” because it was rarely (if ever) said to them?  (Maybe you count yourself among them!)  What restoration could there be if we think about the lasting, hurtful effects we have on our children’s whole lives and change how we interact with them?  What love could we bestow on our grandchildren if we teach our children to quickly seek forgiveness?

This year, as we think about Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, how about if we give the gift of humble repentance to our children?  I can tell you that the fruit is well worth it.  I couldn’t have had this discussion with my kids if I hadn’t first shown them that they could trust me with the brutal truth.  They have long felt the freedom to come to me and lovingly, call me out on my sin.  I usually don’t want to hear what they have to say – not because I don’t want them to tell me, but because I hate that it is true.  But I am so very grateful that they do come.  What a blessing to see them have the courageous love it takes to rebuke a brother – or, in my case, a mother – because they want the relationship restored and whole again.

Their loving rebukes have helped to change me.  It hasn’t always been easy to change some bad habits.  But habits can be changed and rooting out bad habits is worth all the struggle and failure and repentance and trying again and again that it takes.  It’s hard work.  It can be frustrating and wearisome, but the sweetness in the relationships is so very, very worth it!

Part of discipling our kids is modeling being discipled in front of them.  When we show them that we are willing to be humble and go to them when we have wronged them, then our exhortation that they humble themselves before God holds a lot of weight.  If we never do it, they see straight through us as the hypocrites that we are.

Remembering frequently that we are shepherding souls that will live for eternity helps me to keep things like this in the right perspective.   Unfortunately, we don’t take our sin seriously enough in general, and therefore, we don’t consider all that happens when we sin.  Writing a list of the collateral damage of my sin has been very sobering.  But hopefully it will bear much fruit for a long time to come.

You can read my list – but writing your own, and referring to it regularly, will reap the most benefits for you.  Adding to it as you realize the power of your influence in your home will reap rewards for you  – just as it has for me.  Every parent messes up.  Every parent messes up regularly!  The key to preventing it from becoming irrevocable destruction is to quickly go to even the youngest of children and own it.  Get down on their level, look them in the eyes, and say, “I’m so sorry for doing this to you (be specific).  I’ve sinned against you and it was wrong!  I shouldn’t have done it and I wish I had controlled myself so I didn’t hurt you.  I’m really and truly sorry! Can you please forgive me?”

It’s pretty tough for a child to resist the sincerity of a parent as honest as that.

This year, as mothers and fathers, give the gifts to your children.  Give them the gift of adulthood with as little “parental baggage” as possible.  If you have grievances to address – go to them and seek their forgiveness, not expecting anything from them.  Some things are long-standing and messy.  It may take them a long time to trust that you are sincere in your humility.  But do it anyway.  Your gift will be a blessing for generations to come.

 

Collateral Damage of a Parent’s Sin

What happens when we sin against or in front of our children…

  • We are poor role models for how to be godly men or women
  • We teach them to disregard what God says about humbling ourselves and asking for forgiveness because we disregard it
  • We teach them to disregard what we say about the same thing
  • Our home is not a warm, loving place, but a battle ground
  • Our children are afraid, rather than secure
  • They feel alone, rather than protected
  • They feel rejected, rather than loved
  • They are confused because we’ve violated the standards we’ve set before them
  • They are sad
  • They are broken
  • They feel despair
  • We cut down those we love the most rather than build them up
  • We hurt them now and for years to come
  • We communicate that we don’t trust them
  • We communicate that they can’t trust us
  • We communicate clearly that we don’t love them the way Jesus loves us
  • We sow seeds of doubt in their hearts that God is not who he says he is
  • We communicate that we think we are worth more than they are
  • Our selfishness communicates that we value our own desires more than we value them
  • Our indignation communicates that we haven’t given them permission to call us out on our sin
  • We build walls between ourselves rather than relationships
  • We preach a false Gospel to our children – one that worships self rather than God
  • We create an environment of fear and anxiety rather than love and safety
  • We use our position and authority as tools to get what we want rather than as ways to lovingly serve
  • When we put our needs above their needs it teaches them to do the same
  • We teach them to rebel against us rather than submit to loving parents
  • We create dependence on our approval rather than on the approval of God
  • We teach them to doubt that God has their best interests at heart because we don’t
  • We create cripples rather than soldiers fit for spiritual battle
  • We fail to teach them how to humbly and sincerely repent and seek forgiveness
  • Our selfishness begets selfishness – both in ourselves and in our children
  • We teach them that they have to protect themselves because we haven’t
  • We teach them that they have to build walls up to avoid future hurt
  • When we don’t listen well to them, we communicate that we don’t value what they think or feel
  • We create disillusionment in relationships
  • We teach them to doubt everything we’ve ever said about love and forgiveness because we haven’t lived what we’ve preached.

*This is just the beginning of the list… there is more, so much more to be added.  But you can do that with your own children.  Mine are happily helping me add to this one.  Not so they can point out my faults, but because they know they are loved and want to love their own children well.  None of us wants this to be our legacy.  Getting rid of sin together is a joy!

A Letter From My Dad…

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A Letter From my Dad…

 

Some years back I got a letter from my dad.  It was the only letter I’d ever received from him – and it was the only letter I ever would.  He died shortly after writing it.

He wasn’t imparting some great bit of wisdom in it.  He wasn’t teaching me the important things in life.  He wasn’t trying to impart character or kindness or gentleness or an attitude of compassion or service.  He wasn’t instructing me to live a life that mattered or amounted to something.

It was short – about 3 or 4 sentences.  It wasn’t particularly well written.  It definitely wasn’t eloquent.

It was his best attempt at an apology, and I took it as such.  But if I’m honest, it wasn’t even a good apology.

When I was little – really little – my first vivid memory was seared into my psyche – that of a father, angered by something vague and confusing, storming around our house, slamming doors and yelling, and then getting in the car and driving away… for good.

It was a formative memory, as you might imagine.

Dads are important, but like so many other’s in our day, my dad left.

Father’s Day then, has always been a challenge.  I see cards with sentiments that I have never felt.  I hear testimonies to the “best dad ever” and I wonder what it must be like to think about someone that way.

But life goes on anyway, doesn’t it?  Time passes and children grow up whether their fathers help them grow up well or not, don’t they?

One year my kids were playing some music and the lyrics caught my attention.  Good Charlotte is one of those bands that can rock your ears right off, but this song (and several others) revealed an insight to this experience that made me listen again.  “Hey Dad” (lyrics here) verbalizes the pain that every child feels when they are abandoned by a parent.

And while the circumstances may be understood better as children grow into adulthood, the brokenness expressed in this song never goes away.  Read that again – it never goes away. The lesson that every child takes away from this kind if experience is this: he didn’t love me enough.  That’s a hard lesson to grapple with no matter how old you are.

What do we do?  How do we move forward?  How do we learn all of those important things that Dads should teach – no model – for their children?

It took me a long time, but I finally figured it out.

Not long after I received that one and only letter from my dad (which was many, many years after he had gone) it dawned on me that I do have an awesome letter from my DAD – my FATHER.

It’s long and wordy – full of wisdom and instruction.  It’s deep and thought-provoking.  It fills me with awe and wonder.  It challenges and convicts me.  It stretches me to think and respond and grow.  It’s the best letter any child could receive from any father!

It’s my Bible.

God’s Word is His letter to his children.  I read it now as a personal letter to me – from the One who tells me I can call him Daddy.  It tells me about His character.  It tells me how to live my life.  It tells me how to love him.  It tells me how to love others.  It teaches me to be kind and forgiving.  It teaches me to be helpful and serve others.  It’s got big lessons and small ones – lessons about how to view the world around me and what my history, my roots are; and it has lessons about how to handle money, how to deal with others in business, and yes, how to parent.  It has counsel for relationships and  it tells of His sacrificial love – that nothing would stop him from saving His own and nothing can steal them away – me away – from His tender care.  God’s Word makes it plain that He is not capricious, neither is he moody or selfish.  Everything He does is for my good.  Everything that He requires from me is for my good.  His word teaches me what true love is…

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude.  Love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; love does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.  Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. (from 1 Corinthians 13)

God is love.  God is all of this and so much more and He is my dad – my Father.  And he wrote me a letter – the best letter anyone could ever receive.

It’s not that it doesn’t matter that my biological father did a bad job – it does.  But I don’t have to stay there – you don’t have to stay there.  Learn from it.  Feel deeply about it.  Minister to others who know the same pain.  But look to the love of God in the midst of it.  Know that you are learning things about the Almighty Creator of the Universe that you could not have learned any other way.  Stop aching for something your earthly father can never give you and fly into the arms of a Heavenly one who can’t wait for you to know how deep and wide and vast and free is HIS love for you.

So, to those of you who have been challenged by Father’s Days in the past, weep no more.  Look to the One who loves you better than any human man can.

And, to those of you who have wonderful dads – praise God for them!  Love them and honor them and cherish them.  Bless them and tell them how much you appreciate their steadfast, enduring love towards you.  Remember that no dad is perfect, but if they’re there, and they’re willing to try and fail and try again – you have been given a precious gift that is worth more than gold.  Encourage them today and maybe share them with some of those around you who need to peek into your family’s life to know what that should look like.  You have been richly blessed.

Happy FATHER’S day…