Posts Tagged ‘God’

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.

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Coming up for air…

           I’ve never been scuba diving.  Snorkeling one time as a child in the Dry Tortugas, which was incredible, but never scuba diving.  I do know that if you dive really deep and then come to the surface too quickly, you can end up with decompression sickness.  I saw on it TV and read about it on the internet, so it must be true.  Seriously, decompression sickness can lead to some serious physical and neurological effects  (you can google it if you want to know more). Thankfully, the sickness can be treated with oxygen and time in a hyperbaric chamber, usually resulting in no long term effects of decompression sickness.  

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        I’ve never been scuba diving, but I’m quite sure that I spent most of last year diving in the abyss of cancer.  The depths of suffering and pain that we have explored are overwhelming at times.  Sometimes the deep was so deep that no light could be seen.  Thankfully, the abyss did not swallow us and we have returned to the surface.  But I realize that my return to the surface has been quick in many ways. It has much to do with my desire to return to ministry in a full-time ministry.  And normal life.  Whatever that means.  

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         So, I’m in a strange place.  Maybe there is some decompression sickness.  It’s really nice to be on the surface.  Life is really good, but there are still many challenges that I face on a day to day basis.  On the positive side:  my strength, energy, and endurance are returning in a great way.  I would say that I am back to working full-time – which means some long days and weeks.  That’s not a complaint – the water’s nice.  I am so glad I can make hospital visits, focus on serving my family and our church family, seek God’s wisdom for the future, and continue to preach and teach week to week.  But I also feel overwhelmed, frustrated, and discouraged.  Out of place or out of step.  Disappointed by my mistakes and my need to make frequent apologies for my foibles.  The waters can still be troubled at times.  So, I have to try to remind myself regularly that I am first and forever a child of God.  That I am forgiven.  That, though I am weak, He is strong.   I need the oxygen of God’s grace.  And the  hyperbaric chamber of His steadfast love.  And day by day I find new mercies – which is more than I deserve.  I’ve come up for air and I am so glad – even of my ascent was too fast in some ways.  I have to trust God with that too.

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Fighting for the Greater Reality

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The longer I live, the more and more I am convinced that a large part of the Christian life is a fighting for the greater reality of God at work in our lives.  A fighting for perspective that see beyond the moment we live in at the present, for the reality that is both our present and our future.  We are a myopic bunch – we can only see what is right in front of us.  Meanwhile, God is ordering our days and nights, is present with us in real ways – especially through His Spirit, and is keeping His promises.

This fighting has been much of what my last week has been about – at least in my mind and in the quiet moments when I consider “what in the world are you doing, God?!”  As you may have read in my last blog post, I didn’t fair well during, but especially after the last chemotherapy cycle.  I was emotionally, physically, and spiritually spent – and not in a good way.

One of the reasons this was true, I have come to believe, is that I lost the mental/emotional/spiritual fight for perspective before I ever started.  This time, two weeks ago, I began to feel a sense of dread and foreboding.  I knew what was coming and I hated it.  I was defeated going in and I came out defeated coming out.  I did not fight for the greater reality of God’s goodness and His faithfulness.  It wasn’t that I was actively doubting those, but I wasn’t fighting to see them either.  If your honest, you do the same thing in your life and in the struggles you face.  And don’t diminish those struggles, just because you are not struggling like I am.  This is a common Christian experience – I think.  We forget that “God has not given us a spirit of timidity (or fear), but of power and love and discipline.” (1 Timothy 1:7).

Another verse that has been much on my mind, is 2 Corinthians 5:7:  “we walk by faith, not by sight.”  I am learning in new ways what that means.  For me, right now, it means that I have to trust that God will be faithful to the promises He has made in His Word (to comfort the afflicted, to come near to those who are low, to hear & even answer prayers, etc).  And to trust especially when I cannot see where His answer are coming from.  That is the faith that sees, despite not seeing.  That is the way the Christian fights for perspective and for the greater reality, even when what is seen out of my two eyeballs seems to scream that God has left me, doesn’t care, or isn’t there.  Those of the lies of the evil one, who does not give me a pass on his evil attack on me or God’s reputation, just because I’m going through chemotherapy.  No, that’s actually makes me ripe.  All the more reason to engage in this battle.

And how do we engage in this fight?  It’s both simple and profound.  Pray, read Scripture, seek encouragement from the Body, worship & rejoice in the goodness and faithfulness that can be seen (if we open our eyes there is much), reflect on how God has come near in past circumstances, journal/write/blog your thoughts, have coffee with a friend who will speak truth into your life.  To name a few.  Thank you for joining me in this fight where you can ad for learning to fight your own battles.   This moment is real, but it is not the only reality.  Fight for the greater reality.

Pondering the Why/Why Me Question (Part 1)

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When you go through a trial, adversity, or some suffering, a perennial question that comes to our minds is “why?”  And often that questions turns into a plaintive “why me?”  It is a real question, but it is often without clear answer or at least one that is readily forthcoming.   And sometimes those unanswered questions become a noose around our necks or millstone on our shoulders.  We are weighed down by the seeming silence from God.   This can lead to despair, anger, or further distress.   And Satan can use this question against us and against God. 

It is a natural place to go in our hearts and minds.   We want to know who or what to blame.  We want to know what lessons God is trying to teach us, so that we can get the learning process completed and move on.  We want to know if there is some better way to learn altogether.  We want to know how keep this from happening again.  And yet, despite those desires, many times we are not called to know, but to trust.  To depend upon God in the storm, rather than looking for the first exit ramp. 

I have thought of the why question a good bit, since this whole thing with cancer started back in late February and early March.  And I have cried out the “why me” question at least a couple of very specific times that I can remember.  The first of those was on Sunday, March 10th (a few days after surgery), when for two hours I was in excruciating pain that the morphine barely touched.  The second time was when I vomited for the first time during the very first chemotherapy cycle.  You can understand why those experiences provoked the cry of lament, “why me?”

The more analytical pastor part of me has been thinking about the why question and I am pondering three answers.  In some ways, you might think the answers unsatisfying, but I find hope in them, particularly the second and third.  And these are not either/or answers.  They are not mutually exclusive.  In fact, I think it likely that all three are a part of the puzzle.  So, why did I get cancer?  Stay tuned…I’ll give you my answers, such as they are, next week. 

Reflections upon the Election

Here are a few random thoughts on the Election from the perspective of this Christian

  • First and foremost, Obama is our new president because the Lord has placed him in this position (Daniel 4:17,25,32; Proverbs 8:15; Romans 13:1-2 to name a few).  This does not mean that I  understand God’s purposes, but I do take comfort in Romans 8:28-30.
  • I voted for McCain, but I never placed my hopes in him.  I do not think the same can be said for scores of people who voted for Obama.  There will never be a Savior in the White House.  This is the danger of the change rhetoric and there has already been moves by Obama’s campaign to temper expectations.
  • Christians have a great opportunity to point others to the true Savior and King – this is always our calling and would be true still if McCain had been elected.  Mark Driscoll has a great blog post along these lines here.
  • I think we have a great system of government in general and I do think that it is a privilege to vote.  And as I write, I think of our military men and women who courageously guard our freedom and protect those rights (thank you!)
  • McCain’s concession speech was great – I thought he was incredibly gracious and struck the proper tone despite the obvious disappointment.  I do not think any Republican was going to win this election given the perfect storm of recent events.
  • I also found Obama’s speech to be powerful and eloquent.  This is certainly one of his strengths, but that doesn’t mean he will or won’t be a great president.
  • The “Yes We Can” refrain very clearly draws on the call & response that is typical of African-American churches.  It was part of the power of his speech.
  • It is interesting that Obama’s white heritage has been subsumed by the African heritage of his father.  I suppose he truly is an African-American.  On this note, I do think we can rejoice with those who rights have been trampled simply because of the color of their skin.  That said, this in no means ends racism and may make things worse in some corners.
  • If you didn’t catch my drift in the first point…I do not despair because of my strong belief and hope in the sovereignty of God.  This does not mean that I am not concerned, especially for the unborn.
  • We should pray for the Obama presidency (1 Timothy 2:1-3).
  • I am preaching on Romans 13:1-7, so a lot more of my thoughts on this topic are going to be honed through my preparation these next few day.

What are your thoughts the day after?

Adventues in Church Signs

You may have heard or seen this church sign tomfoolery featuring dueling church signs regarding perspecitves on the eternal salvation of animals.  While amusing, the signs were faked/photoshopped using Church Sign Generator.

Well, going to church this weekend we passed a Lutheran church that had this sign up:

Did you enjoy the warmer weather?  Just kidding! – God

That’s exactly how I want the Lord to be presented to our community.  You know, a capricious deity that messes with us for his entertainment or on a whim.  No, I don’t want people to know that the Lord is a good God who sovereignly ordains all that comes to pass for His glory and the ultimate blessing of those who turn to him in faith.  Yep, let’s go with a fickle, flaky, or arbitrary God – that’s what people believe in anyway.