Archive for the ‘family’ Category

Reblog: You Were Meant For This (a reflection for parents)

Originally posted 7 years ago and written sometime before that…still a good reminder, to myself.  Although my children are much older now, I still need to be reminded of this greater reality…

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File under:  Things you were not told about parenting.  Children and privacy.  I never thought and was never told that children would completely change notions of privacy.  Essentially it becomes non-existent, especially during waking hours.  It is not an unusual occurrence to have our whole family, including the cat, in our tiny bathroom.  I suppose I should be encouraged that my children want to be in my presence, but everywhere, all the time?  No one told me…there actually are quite a few things that I was not prepared for when it comes to being a parent  (e.g. infants and toddlers do not observe daylight savings time; they wake up regardless of what the clock says).   Of course nothing prepares you for being a parent like being a parent.  Experience is a strong and unrelenting teacher.

All of this can be overwhelming, but I think it leads to a larger question.  Are our difficulties with our children rooted in a misunderstanding of who is for whom?  That is, are we meant for our children, or are our children meant for us.  Often times our behavior and our attitude would point to us thinking that children are really meant for us.  This may take several forms of course:  children may exist to fill an emotional need, to entertain us, to allow us a second chance at life or sports or school or whatever we lacked or failed at, or even just to stay quiet and out of the way.  Even in Hollywood, babies seem to be the new celebrity status symbol.  It is not wrong to want children, it is wrong to want them for the wrong reasons.  And it is wrong to treat them as objects or possessions when they are present.

Read the words of Walter Wangerin, Jr. in the introduction of his book Little Lamb who made thee? : A book about Children and Parents on this point:

Children do not exist to please us.  They are not for us at all.  Rather, we exist for them – to protect them now and to prepare them for the future.  Who is given unto whom?  Are we a gift to their elders?  No – not till children are grown and their elders are older indeed.  Then they are a gift of the fourth commandment, honoring hoary head which have begun to feel past honor.  But until then, it is we who are given, by God’s parental mercy, to the children!  And it is we who must give to the children – by lovely laughter, by laughter utterly free, and by the sheer joy from which such laughter springs – the lasting memory:  You are, you are, you are, my child, a marvelous work of God!

I am both surprised at times at the depth of my love for my children, but at other times I am surprised at the depth of desire for my own comfort.  I really shouldn’t be surprised at either I suppose, as one reflects the Father’s work in my life and the other that remaining sin and idolatry within my own heart.  At times I have my priorities straight, at others I have them reversed.  The prayer then has to be, that the Lord would help us to understand those times when we act as if our children should be doing something for us or even when may resent their presence and that He would change our hearts to reflect Wangerin’s statement above.

It seems to me that the blessing of being a grandparent is the ability to know without reservation, who is for who?  Most grandparents know, intrinsically, that they exist for their grandchildren and therefore delight in the opportunities to observe, include, be barged in on, etc…by their grandchildren.  The negative of this may lie in the tendency of grandparents to spoil their children – this goes to far to another other extreme.  That said, you have to love the unabashed love that most grandparents are willing show towards their grandchildren.

Another thing that changes when you become a parent is the way that you react to the sufferings of children, especially those who are of the same age as our children.  Our heartstrings can really be pulled when we see an infant or toddler suffering from ill health or from sins perpetrated upon them.  A newspaper article from the Raleigh based News & Observer does this to me with an article on May 9th, 2004 (“Mom grows with Grant”, written by Vicki Cheng).  Jamie Howard was living the life she always wanted to live, but that changed with the birth of her second child.  A few months into Grant’s life, it became clear that something wasn’t right.  It was later discovered that Grant suffered a stroke in utero, which has had a profound affect on his mental and physical development.  What struck me the most in the article, more than hardship of little Grant, were the words of his parents, maybe because I relate to their position as parents.  Matt Howard said:  “The purpose of his life could be to change us.  God chose us to be his parents.”  And Jamie wrote in a letter to Grant:  “You remind me to live for the day, and stop worrying about the future.  I wish that my love could heal you…There has never been a moment in your short life when I doubted your were meant to be my son.  Thank you for being patient with me, as I learn to be your mother.”   Those words bring tears to my eyes every time I read them.  I pray for you and for me that it would not take a tragedy or health difficulty for us to get our priorities straight – for us to recognize that we were meant for our children.

Wedding Homily: Welcome One Another

This is a wedding homily I gave this past Saturday:

[Intro]
One of the joys of working outside the home is the gift of returning home.  Not just because it’s nice to be home or because I get to kick my feet up to relax, but because of the welcome that I receive.  My children are especially good at making me feel welcomed back home, whether it’s them running to greet before I have even gotten out of the car or the giant hugs that I get from them.  There is a particular joy that comes from their delight in my return home and that helps put the troubles of each day in perspective.  Also important to me are the words of welcome from my wife – each brings me into that place we all long for: home.  Paul speaks of welcome at the end of the passage from Romans 15 that we have already heard.

(ESV) Romans 15:7 – Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.

Paul addresses these words to the Christian community and it is appropriate to consider these words in light of the smallest, but very important community that exists in a marriage.  In this verse, there is a Command, a Connection, and a Consequence. I want to consider these briefly in light of this wonderful of occasion of your two lives being joined in marriage today.  First, the command…

[Command]
Paul says, “Welcome one another”.  It is a simple command.  At least it’s simple to understand, maybe less simple to apply. The word here that is translated as “welcome” is much deeper than a greeting or anything merely on the surface.  Paul is not describing a casual greeting, but the kind of reception or acceptance for someone else that is rooted in our hearts.  It refers to our opening our hearts to another person.  And in marriage, we are welcoming another person into the most vulnerable and sensitive place in our lives – our hearts.  C.S. Lewis recognizes the inherent danger in this, as he says: to love at all is to become vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safely in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket-safe, dark, motionless, airless space, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. But you are opening your hearts to one another today.  The challenge in marriage is to see this kind of opening of our hearts as something that is done not just today on the wedding day, but rather everyday.  Especially when we become frustrated or annoyed with our spouse.  Especially when we have hurt or been hurt.  Especially when the pressures of finances or work intrude into the peace of our home.  You fight to welcome one another, because to do so is to fight for your very marriage.  This might be through a welcoming word, a welcoming touch, or a welcoming sacrifice of service for the other.

Paul understands the difficulty in this command.  So, Paul offers not just a command, but also a connection to Jesus Christ.

[Connection]
This is the pattern of the New Testament Epistles, especially in Paul’s letters.  The commands of Christianity are always connected in some way to Jesus Christ because we are not able to keep them in our own strength.  So, the command to welcome one another is connected to Christ’s welcome of us:  “just as Christ has welcomed you.”
This leads to us naturally to a question:  How has Christ welcomed us?  Scripture does not pull any punches in describing our lives prior to faith in Christ.  We need only go back in the book of Romans to see this:  in Romans 5:6-10 we get a picture of who we were:  “weak and helpless, ungodly, sinners, enemies” – these are the words used to describe us.  The picture of our lives without Christ is not pretty, but the testimony of Romans is that we were not chosen for salvation because we deserved it or had earned it.  The weak, the ungodly, sinners, and enemies of God actually deserve something far different than the welcome that we receive in Christ.  It can be hard for us to see ourselves in this light.   What becomes clear from Scripture is that Christ does not welcome us because we deserve it, but rather because grace and mercy are at His very heart.  

Just as we have to keep the command to welcome one another alive in our marriages, it is also crucial to keep the connection with Christ alive in it as well.  Again, this is not easy and there will be a hundred other things (many of them good) that will challenge your connection with Christ.  The question then that we must ask is this:  to what or whom should I connect to help me grow in love and welcome for my spouse.  There is no greater help that I know of than a connection to Christ.

Both our keeping the command to welcome one another and our connection lead to a consequence.

[Consequence]
How might you describe the dating scene across America these days?  To me it seems that it is largely about figuring out how one person can present their most attractive qualities and minimize their flaws to another person who is doing the exact same thing.  Too often the flaws aren’t revealed until after the wedding.  Unfortunately, this is the poor foundation upon many marriages are built.  And the consequences are often severe.  But to welcome one another recognizing the welcome we have received from Christ leads to a far different consequence – the glory of God.   There is no greater thing for us to do than to give glory to God. And here we can see the purpose that our marriages may serve within the greater community that we live – giving glory to God.  I found in my own marriage that what galvanizes our relationship more than any other, is for us to both to be focused on something much greater than ourselves or our desires.  As a result, this consequence strengthens our marriages and helps us to grow deeper in the difficult work of an ongoing welcoming and drawing each other into our hearts.

[Conclusion]
A simple message:  welcome one another…But not always easy to apply.  So, we look at the little ways and build from there.

  • Words of welcome for one another.  The kinds of words that go beyond the surface and touch each other’s hearts.
  • A welcoming touch:   a hug, a kiss, or just remembering that physical proximity matters.
  • Being quick to listen, and slow to speak
  • Being quick to apologize and quick to forgive
  • Living in light of the welcome of Christ, so that you learn what the welcoming heart is and does

[Prayer] Pray with me….

Scenes from Bama-lam

“Bama-lam” is our affectionate name for our new state of residence.  Here are some pictures I’ve taken over the first six weeks or so our being here.

Pictures are the sole property of the author and are not intended for commercial use or any type of reproduction or distribution without the prior consent of the author.

Bad Blogger!

I’m a bad blogger…

If you know us, you know the past few months have been interesting to say the least as we work on transitioning down to Huntsville, Alabama so that I can begin a new position (sr. pastor) at North Hills Church (PCA) in Meridianville, Alabama.  Here are some of the highlights and lowlights of the past month:

  • A disappointing near sale of our house over Easter weekend
  • A house hunting trip to AL
  • An amazing, even better than we could have imagined, sale of our house the weekend after Easter (we closed on May 1)
  • Getting a contract finalized on a house in Meridianville and all of the related phone calls, emails, etc… that have gone along with that.
  • Packing up our house…still working on that…
  • Packing up my office (27 boxes of books and notebooks)
  • Replacing the a/c on both of our cars
  • Lydia’s work computer dying, mine on the fritz (they couldn’t figure out what was wrong when I took it in recently…and the problems continue!)
  • Taking our cat to the vet and not being certain of his health (it didn’t look good for a day or two, but he’s better now).
  • Saying goodbye to our church family here at Calvary in Norfolk, VA – we had a farewell on May 3rd.  I preached that Sunday as well and did my last youth group meeting.  It was an incredibly encouraging and exhausting day.
  • Contemplating leaving a place that has really been home (we weren’t just passing through)  to us for the past five years.

I have probably forgotten a few things and intentionally left out some more personal matters that have been a part of the fabric of our lives recently.

Next up:

  • packing our worldly belongings on a trailer (this coming monday, May 18)
  • leaving town on Thursday, May 21 and traveling to Atlanta
  • Saturday, May 23 attending a high school youth group reunion
  • spending time with family
  • traveling to Huntsville on Tuesday and closing on our new home on Wednesday
  • starting work on June 1, installation service on June 7th.

What’s been going on…(Feb 09)

Or why Adam hasn’t been blogging as much recently…

I have found that blogging is one of those things that I enjoy doing out of the margins of my life and my thoughts.  Sometimes those margins are razor thin, if present at all, and this winter has been one of those times.  Thankfully, the reasons surrounding this have been very good:

The command center for helpmyunbelief will be relocating to the Huntsville, Alabama area in the coming months.  The Lord is bringing my term of service here to a close and has given me a new calling:  to serve North Hills Church (PCA) as Senior Pastor.   I have been especially privileged to serve at Calvary Presbyterian Church in Norfolk, Virginia for the past five years after graduating from Covenant Theological Seminary at the end of 2003.  Calvary and her people will always hold a special place in my heart and in my memories.

Here are some of what has happened in the past few months.

  • Beginning of January:  Candidating trip to North Hills.  The church extended a “call” to me after that trip – a call we were excited to receive and felt let by the Lord to accept.
  • We then began working feverishly (mostly on the weekends) to prepare our house for sale.  There has been much painting, fixing, sprucing, cleaining, packing, staging, etc…  Our house went on the market on February 12th.
  • February 10th:  I was received by Providence Presbytery and thus approved to begin serving North Hills.  This required my traveling back down to Huntsville.
  • Much time has also been spent praying, thinking, discussing, re-discussing, etc.. all of these matters.  We seldom (if ever) enter into anything of this nature lightly.  In this regard, I am very thankful for the many prayers that have been made by a close group of friends who have been following this matter closely, as well as the members of both churches.

So, I am sure life will continue to be interesting and provide a good opportunity to continue to grow in faith in the Lord.  So much more could be said regarding theses circumstances, but I will leave it for another time.   Blogging will continue to happen in the margins as I have them. Prayers are always accepted.  The thanks is mine.

Fall Fun

Beautiful fall day today…a little pumpkin carving – including E being disturbed by the inside of the pumpkin (thus, some of his facial contortions).  K did several faces for me (excited, frustrated, angry, confused).

Vacation: the good, the bad, & the ugly

We got back into town late last night from our two week vacation time of visiting family and friends.  It felt great to get away from things here, but it also feels great to be home again.  I think that is one of the biggest blessings of the time that we get to take off…feeling very happy to be home (that goes beyond just being happy to be in your own bed or your stuff).  Here is a rundown of some of our time away.

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