Tag Archives: family life

Shepherds gather, wolves scatter.

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wolves-and-sheep

The Bible doesn’t have a lot of nice things to say about wolves – or more precisely, people who are described as wolves.

 

Zephaniah and Ezekiel both describe Israel in her stubborn, defiant rebellion as being like wolves who devour and leave nothing behind.

 

Isaiah describes them as inhabiting the desolate places with jackals and hyenas.

 

Jesus told his disciples to be on guard because he was sending his disciples out like lambs among wolves – and we all know what happens to little lambs in the clenching jaws of wolves.

 

The people who are wolves in our lives have voracious appetites to destroy.  They don’t just want to take us out of commission.  Their desire is not to make us simply limp, or waver, or even just to shut us up.  They want to take us out completely.

 

And the first thing that happens with every wolf attack is that he (or she) bounds into and scatters the flock seeking out the target and going for blood.

 

Such a lovely picture, eh?

 

So why would I be thinking about wolves on New Year’s Day?

 

Because they’re everywhere, and if Jesus thought it was important to warn his disciples against them, then it must be important to remind every generation about them, too.

 

Most of us are pretty naturally on the lookout for the wolves “out there.”  We are on guard against the atheist aunty to loves to come to family gatherings and openly mock our faith.  We pray for wisdom and discernment in dealing with the militant co-worker who wants to goad us into a religious argument just to try to make us look like the racist-homophobic-intolerant-judgmental-bigot he’s already declared all believers to be.  We are even on guard against the Hollywood machine that wants to pound your faith into the ground with production after production of buffoonish portrayals of weak-minded “Christians” who are idiotic in their approach to…everything.

 

Those things are real, and we need to guard against them, but I don’t really think they are the wolves in our lives.  Those are the things meant to embarrass, insult, and maybe even injure – but they don’t destroy.  If anything, they (hopefully!) sharpen our defense of the hope that is within us and motivate us to live above the fray in a manner worthy of our callings – worthy of the Name by whic we are called.  “Christians” mean we belong to Jesus the Christ after all.

 

But wolves are much more dangerous than any of these things.  Wolves are malicious, calculating, and cruel.

 

Wolves destroy marriages, friendships, mother-child bonds. Wolves split churches and denominations. Wolves tear down and never build up.  Wolves target godly reputations, fruitful ministries, and long records of good works to twist and distort them by making them appear prideful or weak or wanton.  Wolves target the good and want to rip it to shreds.  

 

We’ve all seen it happen and so we might be duped into thinking that we would quickly recognize when a wolf has crept into our sheepfold, but we don’t.

 

There is another passage that is chilling when you know how brutal wolves can be.

 

Matthew 7:15 states, “Beware the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves.”

 

They’re in the sheep pen folks.  They look like sheep and sound like sheep.  They quote Scripture and tell testimonies and teach your Sunday School classes.  They are not the cartoonish wolf with a sheepskin badly slung over it’s back with wolf claws and jaws sticking out so you can immediately sound the alarm bells and put everyone on high alert.  They’re good at looking like sheep.

 

In fact, they’re so good at it that Jesus then gives us instruction for how to recognize them – he says, “you will recognize them by their fruits.”  Thorn bushes don’t grow grapes and thistles don’t grow figs.  And ultimately, though they might fake it for a good long while, wolves don’t grow love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, or self-control.  Only the Holy Spirit can produce that kind of fruit.  Wolves seek to destroy all that.

 

The remainder of Matthew 7 describes other ways that we will be able to recognize those wolves who pretend to be sheep – they will produce diseased fruit, they will do many things, “in Jesus’ name,” and they will be fools who build on shifting foundations.

 

It is often very, very difficult to recognize a wolf.  It is especially difficult because each and every one of us can have wolf-like fangs of sinfulness that we bear if we feel threatened or claws that take swipes at our fellow sheep.  Knowing the difference between a sheep behaving badly and a true wolf is exceedingly difficult, but Jesus told us to beware of them so it must also be true that he will give us the wise discernment we need to learn to do tell the difference.

 

In recent years I’ve had my spiritual eyes opened a bit to this and have begun to learn what it means to “beware the wolves among you.”  A few patterns have emerged, and in my observations, it has been particularly helpful to note the stark contrast between wolves and shepherds.  Jesus, our ultimate Good Shepherd, is also our ultimate standard.  Of course, no earthly shepherd is as all-Good as Jesus, but in general terms, the shepherds among us demonstrate some characteristics that are in notable opposition to those of wolves.  Comparing the truly good with the truly evil makes the differences easier to see and recognize.

 

So here are ten comparisons that have been particularly helpful to me:

 

  1. Wolves tend to themselves – Shepherds tend to the flock.  
  2. Wolves use people for their own purposes – Shepherds use themselves up for the good of others.
  3. Wolves make much of their willingness to stand against evil – Shepherds make much of God and how He enables them to stand against it, especially through their weakness.
  4. Wolves like to keep things secret and in the dark – Shepherds know that the light of truth clears away the darkness.
  5. Wolves call goodness, truth, and beauty into question – Shepherds praise these things.
  6. Wolves impugn motives without knowing enough – Shepherds are slow to judge motives, knowing that they usually don’t know enough.
  7. Wolves say harsh things to cut down and destroy – Shepherds say hard things in order to build up and restore.
  8. Wolves seek attention, praise, and status even at the cost of others – Shepherds deflect attention, praise, and status especially to bless others.
  9. Wolves skillfully gossip, malign, and covertly discuss the situations of others – Shepherds hold confidences even at great cost to themselves.
  10. Wolves drive people apart – Shepherds draw people together.

 

Again, any one of us can display wolf-like sinfulness.  But these wolf-characteristics cannot be generally true of a sheep.  The two cannot co-exist in one person.  In short, Shepherds gather, wolves scatter.

 

Near the end of Matthew 7 Jesus says that the wise man will be able to withstand the storms and the floods and the wind that seek to destroy because his foundation is Jesus – the rock.  It doesn’t take a theologian to figure out that the wolves he spoke of in the previous verses might be some of the storms and floods and wind.

 

As this new year emerges it presents us with untold billions of things to be talking to God about.  One major theme in all of these is the increased persecution of the church around the world.  Those persecutions could take the form of mass executions, imprisonments, or torture.  Or it could come walking into our fellowships – our sacred families of believers – and sit down among us and eat with us and pray with us and then seek to devour and utterly destroy everything good it can sink its greedy jaws into.
Beware the wolves among us, but don’t fear them.  Because the Good Shepherd continues to care for his sheep and has already laid down his life for them!  Ultimately, we can rest in the knowledge that He will deal justly with the wolves even as He gathers His sheep to Himself.

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!

Whatever you do…

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Man!  I wish they would just do the dishes without grumbling or complaining!!!

You would think that by now I’d have this down.  Thirty years I’ve been a parent and still my kids argue about cleaning up the kitchen.  “It’s not my turn.”  “You didn’t finish your job so now you have to do my job.”  “You didn’t finish on time so now you have extra duty.”  Over and over again I hear, in one form or another, “I’m not taking that responsibility – it’s yours!”

Argh!

“Guys!”  I say, “this is not how we do things here.  Who’s responsibility is it?”  (Lots of lowered eyes and finger-pointing at this point…)

To the apparent offender – “Did you really take care of your responsibility?”

And to the obvious finger-pointers – “Did you try to encourage him to fulfill his responsibility?  Are you walking along side?”

Of course the answer to all of the above is, “Um, no.”

I’ve told my kids (and myself!) this at least a thousand times, “Whatever you do, do it heartily, as unto the Lord…”

What I want them to do is in all things, give it their best efforts.  I want them to have a good work ethic – to think in terms of literally doing even the smallest of chores as if Jesus were coming to our home.  I want that ethic to carry over into their school work and jobs and families and parenting.  I want them to learn to be self-motivated in these things.  We feel better about ourselves when we do the right thing, right?

But it occurs to me that I have been missing an important message in that admonition from Scripture – the important message.  I’ve been focusing in the “heartily” part, but what does it mean to do things “as unto the Lord”?

And, now that I’m thinking about it… what is the broader context of that passage???

That verse is Colossians 3:23, but here’s some framework:  Paul is instructing the Colossian church that they are to live as new creatures – changed completely through the saving work of Jesus…for a reason.

– since you used to be dead in sin, but now are alive in Christ, seek the things that are above, not             below

– put to death all the wickedness that is within you, put on the righteousness of Christ

– don’t let sin rule in you anymore, Jesus is now your head – your authority – he is your ruler

And how  do we do these things?

– be thankful (for Christ’s work in you)

– let the Word dwell in you (read it, memorize it, think deeply on it)

– teach and admonish one another in all wisdom (from that Word)

But the most important question to answer is not “how?” but, “Why?”

Why should we work heartily as unto the Lord?

Why should we put sin to death?

Why should we be thankful?

Why?

The answer is simple, but oh, so easy to miss.

Verse 17 mirrors verse 23:  Whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

“Giving thanks to God the Father through him” is glorifying God.  We do what we do to glorify God.

We have a good work ethic – because it upholds God’s reputation and reflects God’s character well.  It glorifies God.

We put on the righteous nature of Jesus and shake off our own wickedness – because it speaks loudly about the power of God to change lives – it reflects God’s character well.  It glorifies God.

We have a cheerful attitude – because it reveals how thoroughly our hearts have been transformed – it reflects God’s character well.  It shows that Christ is in charge of our otherwise wicked hearts – and it glorifies God.

Perhaps what I have actually been teaching my kids has been, “Do the dishes because it makes mom happy.”  Or, “put the food away because it makes mom less crabby.”

I never want my kids to think that making me happy is their highest calling, but I could at least make an argument that teaching them to please their parents is the first step in learning that obedience brings joy.  I could then teach them that learning to obey God in all things glorifies him and he’s kind enough to  make it so that the very same things that bring us the most joy are also the things that glorify him.

But God forbid that I teach my kids that achieving my goals or even their own goals – even admirable goals – is their highest calling.

Rod Dreher explains this eloquently when he writes, “… excellence and knowledge are fine things, but they do not justify themselves. The pursuit of excellence and knowledge must be bounded by moral and communal obligations that rein in the ego and hamstring hubris. Today we live in an age when science often refuses limits, claiming the pursuit of knowledge as a holy crusade. The world praises as daring and creative the transgression of nearly all boundaries—in art, in media, in social forms, and so forth—… these goals can be understood as good only if they are subordinated to right reason, to virtue, and, ultimately, to the will of God.”  (He’s talking about the lessons he learned from reading Dante – be sure to check out the full article!)

So.  What’s the point of all of this?

We need to be reminded (again) that we are utterly prone to wander away from what God wants the most.  Even in my instruction to my kids to learn to take care of their responsibilities (a good thing) I have erred in failing to point them to the best thing.  It is not about making them (or me) feel good about themselves by doing the right thing.  That is a perversion of what God has asked of us.  Great feelings are a beautiful reward that we enjoy from a loving God who wants us to love Him rightly.

But…Whatever you do…?  Remember that the ultimate goal is always, and only to glorify God.  All the other details will clearly fall into place when that is at the center of whatever we do.

Love in the laundry room…

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I spend a lot of time in our laundry room – I mean a LOT.  I learned a long time ago to use that time productively – well, by that I mean using it for more than just getting the laundry done.

Each of my kids has had his/her own laundry bin since they were born and I have a system where I do certain people’s laundry on certain days of the week.  It works for us.

One of the byproducts of my little system is that while I’ve spent week after week, year after year, doing laundry for my family this way, I have prayed for each person specifically, pointedly, fervently  while doing his/her laundry.  I don’t really mind doing the laundry – even though for a family of nine there has certainly been a lot of it.  There’s a lot of love that has happened in my laundry room.

And, because of the volume of laundry and the time that gets spent keeping the process going, the laundry room is one of the first places my kids look for me when they can’t find me.  It is not at all uncommon now for one of them to seek me out for some one-on-one mom time when I’m in there.   There is still a lot of love happening in my laundry room.

So it was no surprise to me when  one of my sons came in to “help”  me fold clothes.  He had been struggling through some weighty issues.

He’s a young man.  He’s reached the age where he is thinking seriously about his mission in life, and looking forward to the time when he can ask a young woman to follow him in it as his wife.   I’m glad he’s giving serious thought to these things.  However, one of his friendships had put a lot of restrictions on him – or at least he felt he should be restricted.  She’s a sweet girl from a great family – she’ll make a wonderful wife and mother some day.  But I didn’t believe that she would be a good fit for him.  He was different around her than he was around us – less prone to laugh at the things we normally laugh at, less willing to engage in activities that we normally enjoy, and a little more inclined to look at others with judgment when they didn’t behave the same way.  This was never her doing – it was his.  He was trying to do what he thought would please her and make her approve of him.  But that’s not how God intends things to be, is it?  He wants us to please Him and look to Him for approval.

We had talked about this inconsistency many times, but he didn’t really want to see it for what it was.  It was the topic of many of my laundry room prayers.

But one day he went with another family to an event that was pure delight to him.  The members of that family (including some young ladies) thoroughly enjoyed his company, and he theirs.  They laughed and took pictures of the day and had a blast together.   It was silly, frivolous, thoroughly enjoyable fun for all of them.

When he came into the laundry room, he was excited to show me the pictures they had taken together and tell me about the day.  He was beaming.

After he told me the stories he wanted to share I took a breath and said, “I have a question for you.  Would ______ have taken those kinds of fun pictures with you?  Would she have even gone to this event with you or would it have been viewed as too frivolous or silly?”  He said, “that’s more than one question.”

But he took my point.

After some reflection he answered truthfully that no,  _____________  would not have gone to the event or taken the silly pictures.  She would have, in fact, probably encouraged him not to waste his time on such silliness.

I asked him how it felt to be with people who just accepted him for him?  How was it to laugh and be yourself and not worry about what might be considered inappropriate to laugh at or want to do – when all of it was innocent fun that had no sinfulness attached to it?   I asked him, too, how it was to be with young ladies who truly appreciate his talents and personality the way they already are without implying that they might be better if….?

He was quiet.

Pressing further, I said, “Son, life can be sweet if you’re with someone who is building you up and encouraging you to be the man that God has intended for you to become.  But it can be really, really long if you’re with someone who always wants to mold you into the image of the man that she wants you to be.  When I see that happening to you, the mother bear comes out in me and I want to protect you from it.  But you need to be looking at these kinds of things in your relationships – especially as you think through the qualities you hope to find in a future wife.”

Still quiet, I asked him, “What do you think about what I’ve said?”

His answer was precious – and so typically him!  He said, after some reflection, “I think Mother Bear has much to share, and I have much to think about.”

OK. I can live with that.

Parents, a lot of discipleship – the vast majority of it – happens in moments like these.  I couldn’t have had that kind of conversation with my son if I didn’t have his heart.  He knows – beyond any shadow of any doubt ­- that I love him.  He knows he can trust me to always tell him the truth.  He knows I will listen to him when he comes to me – even when he has to tell me things I may not want to hear as well.  He knows that I only, and always, have his good in mind.  He’s heard lots and lots of words of affirmation and encouragement over the years, too.  And he has learned to listen, even when I have tell him things he doesn’t want to hear.   Don’t be afraid to press in and say the challenging things – but be sure you have your child’s heart first.

Our parenting roles and responsibilities change what they look like over  the years, but we are always responsible to speak the truth in love.  Speaking the truth isn’t usually the hard part for lots of parents. – having our kids’ hearts isn’t as easy.  But for our kids, knowing that there is first a foundation of love and acceptance in your home and in your relationship with them makes hearing the truth possible.

They know they need the truth, but first they’ll come looking for the heart-connection in your love.

Make sure you leave the laundry room door open.

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…

 

Who is Atlas?

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I just finished Atlas Shrugged… the unabridged version.  Actually, to be truthful, I listened to it because I could do so while working on mindless projects (like cleaning or painting, etc) and driving the car.  I can’t whole-heartedly recommend the book – it’s got some things in it unsuitable for young audiences, and I did find myself fast-forwarding in an embarrassed hurry a few times.  Get the abridged version if the length puts you off (perhaps it will skip the few – unnecessary – sexual portions as well).  If it wasn’t for these brief scenes I’d make all my kids read it.

I am inclined to think it should be required reading before one is allowed to drive a car – just because that is the age where pretty much everyone agrees that there needs to be a level of responsibility and cognitive engagement in how things work economically.  It was sobering to know that a book written in 1957 had so many “prophetic” words in it.

It made me think.  I certainly don’t agree with all that the books puts forward.  Unfettered selfishness is not God-honoring no matter how you slice it.  But unbridled entitlement is just as wicked – because it really is selfishness with the power of legislation and weaponry.

But, as I mentioned, it did make me think.

What would the world look like if we were each free to perform his/her best at whatever we truly delighted in producing?  What would the world be like if, rather than being jealous of someone who is better than we are at something, we desired to learn from them?  What would life be like if we could teach our children to be people who were all-out, whole-hearted, productive people who worked hard and succeeded because of whatever talents and abilities they possessed?  And what if, rather than competition for the sake of grinding someone else to a pulp, it was to improve one’s production, talents, abilities, etc.?

Oh wait, maybe that’s what heaven will be like.  Where we will see things clearly and we will love (and be loved)  purely.  Where we’ll rejoice in what God gives to us, but  also rejoice in what God gives to others.  And most importantly, we’ll rejoice in God – period.  We’ll stop looking at ourselves exclusively and our gazes will remain lifted.

Isn’t it amazing that even from a thoroughly god-less perspective like that portrayed in Atlas Shrugged it is abundantly clear that we yearn for the perfection that God intends for us?  We were created in perfection – designed for it.  We cannot help but long for the day when right prevails and wrong is defeated.  We can’t stop ourselves from hoping that some future force will make things as they ought to be.

The trouble is, we think we can accomplish this.  We are so proud and haughty in our estimations of our own selves.  Even those who look at human history and realize that those same attempts have been made over and over again cling to a hope that “someday” we’ll get it right.

Only Jesus ever got it right – only Jesus ever will.  But praise God that he has and that he invites us to participate in that victory with him!

If you’ve ever longed for heaven on earth, you’re not alone.  The very fact that you’ve longed for it is proof that God has written the truth of that reality on your heart.  Come to him. Believe what the Bible says about the life and death and resurrection of Jesus.  You will see the world around you with new eyes and your thoughts of heaven will delight you.

Who is Atlas?  Who cares.  It’s Jesus you need to meet!

Do you have a plan?

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We were asked by our pastor Chris McGarvey this week if we have a plan.  A plan for reading?  A plan for praying?  A plan for purposeful growth.

He has a variety of Bible reading plans listed on his blog, they’re all good – any one of them will be profitable.

But I saw this plan for praying for our children today and wanted to link to it.

How encouraging to read of a man and his wife praying for their children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren in the same, faithful way – week in and week out, month in and month out, year in and year out.  So often I’m tempted to look to some new, creative way to talk to God, but He is not the one growing bored with our conversation – I am.  Ouch.

How refreshing to read that it is good and proper and right to simply and yet faithfully bring our little flock before the Good Shepherd.  He delights in the details of each of their lives – he does not grow tired or complacent because we pray, again, for our children to be faithful.  He is pleased with that prayer every single time.

Here is the list – again, any one of them will be profitable.  But can you imagine the godly legacy you will establish for generations to come if your children are covered with and exposed to this kind of consistent, faithful prayer?

(FYI… there is more to this list!!  Please click on the link above and visit Andy Naselli’s blog to read the rest – you won’t regret it!)

by J. D. and Kim Crowley

[The Crowleys have six children, and J. D. is a pioneer missionary-linguist in Cambodia.]

Faith

  1. Grant them a heart of repentance from sin.
  2. Give them faith in Christ from an early age.
  3. Fill them with your Holy Spirit, and may they bear the fruit of the Spirit.
  4. Lead them to be baptized into your church.
  5. Make them members of a strong church with godly elders.
  6. Give them spiritual gifts for use in the church, and help them faithfully use them.
  7. Lead them always to increase in holiness.
  8. Keep them within the orthodox faith of Christ and the apostles.
  9. Protect them from false teachers and false teaching.
  10. Make them fruitful proclaimers of the gospel, filled with love for all.
  11. Make them humbly committed to daily prayer.
  12. Give them hunger for daily Bible reading.
  13. Fill them with love and forbearance toward others.
  14. Help them endure trials with faith and joy.
  15. Help them guard their conscience.
  16. May their lives be like the sun that rises stronger and stronger until the full of day.

Wisdom

  1. Give them hearts that constantly overflow with thankfulness.
  2. Make them peacemakers.
  3. Give them a vocation/skill/work that provides for their family and is useful to society.
  4. Give them a sense of purpose and joy in their life work.
  5. Rescue them from the fear of man.
  6. Provide for them a good education.
  7. Help them apply themselves diligently to their studies and other work.
  8. Rescue them from laziness and dishonesty.

Influences and Relationships…