Posts Tagged ‘grace’

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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Quick Quote: Look, Love, Lean

“The gospel message…first calls on us all to be realistic in facing and admitting our sinfulness, our weaknesses, our actual transgressions, and our consequent guilt before God; and then it addresses us, in God’s name, substantially as follows:

Look to Christ your loving Sin-Bearer and living Lord. Embrace him as your Savior and Master. And then in his presence resolve to leave behind the old life of conscious self-service, marred as it was by bitterness, self-pity, envy of others, and feelings of failure, in order that you may become his faithful – that is, faith-full – disciple, living henceforth, by his rules under your care.

Love Christ, in unending gratitude for his unending love to you. Labor to please him in everything you do. Let his love constrain, compel, command, comfort, and control you constantly, and, like Paul, stop regarding human approval as in any way important to you…

Lean on Christ and rely on him to supply through the Holy Spirit all the strength you need for his service, no matter how weak unhappy circumstances and unfriendly people may be making you feel at present…lean on Christ, the lover of your soul…”

~ J.I. Packer, Weakness is the Way

It’s Been A While

It’s been a while.
To feel the blood coursing through my veins.
To feel alive. 
It’s been a while.
To think clearly.
To think confidently.
It’s been a while.
To see through the fog.
To see beyond the veil of tears.
It’s been a while for cancer decimates,
Body,
Mind,
Soul. 
But,
It is not greater than the Spirit inside me.
It is not greater than the Grace given to me.
It is not greater than the Love that saves me. 
Yes, it’s been a while. But only a while.
“Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning.”

Clean Up on Aisle Life

Life is messy.

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I wish it not were not so.  In fact, I’ve gotten pretty good at avoiding messes.  Which is foolish, because you can attempt to avoid or plan your way around them, but things have a way of getting spilt all over the table of your life.  This is what happens when we sin and others sin and we live in a world full of fellow sinners.  And it is what happens in a world wrecked by sin.  We get tornadoes and cancer and death.    

 

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 And I hate tornados and cancer and death (among other things).  They leave messes behind.  Messes that can’t be quickly mopped up with the “quicker picker upper” or whatever the best brand of paper towels happens to be right now.  It takes time and help and hope to deal with such things.

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But in the mess we also find Jesus.  Right there in the middle of it all.  Picking up debris and sitting in an infusion center or holding your very heart when you feel it might break into a thousand little pieces.  Jesus is there.  In the mess. With you.  

And He promises that one day there will be no mess (Revelation 21).  For now, cast all your “messes” or anxieties upon Him, because He cares for you (1 Peter 5:7, also Philippians 4:4-7).  Messes, yes. But Jesus too.
 

Alabama Snow Day(s)

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I wrote this for my congregation on Tuesday when the snow came& went quickly.  More snow last night and the thought remains…

It’s an Alabama Snow Day.  The snow is here today and gone…today.  Within hours. At least, that was the case up in our neck of the woods at our house and at the church. But while it lasts, it is fun to see the delighted smiles of children that I have been seeing on Facebook today.  To see there snowmen and snowballs.  It reminded me that joy is, and should be, a hallmark of the Christian life.  Why?  I’m glad you asked.  Here’s just one reason:  we are forgiven.  We are forgiven by the work of Jesus Christ on the Cross. His blood shed. His life given.  So that we might be washed whiter than snow.  
 

“Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord:

though your sins are like scarlet,

they shall be as white as snow;

though they are red like crimson,

they shall become like wool. (Isaiah 1:18, ESV)

Oh! rejoice in the richness of our salvation! When the Lord pardoned our sins, he did not pardon half of them, and leave some of them on the book—but with one stroke of the pen he gave a full receipt for all our debts.  When we went down into the fountain filled with blood, and washed, we did not come up half-clean, but there was no spot nor wrinkle upon us—we were white as snow.”  ~Charles Spurgeon

So, whatever your concerns, worries, fears, or uncertainties right this very moment, be reminded of this one thing:

You are forgiven.

I hope that will give ample reason to join us for worship on Sunday so that we can rejoice together.

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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Overwhelmed by God’s Grace…

There have been many tears shed over the past month.  Times when we have been brought low, full of fear and anxiety.  Tears because of pain and frustration.  Tears of uncertainty.  But there have also been tears because we have been overwhelmed by God’s grace to us through the love and generosity of others.  It is more than we deserve – which is why we call it grace.  And so, I just had one of those moments yesterday.

A little background:  Shortly after I was diagnosed with colon cancer at the very end of February and it was known that I was going to need surgery and treatment, the church I am privileged to serve, sprung quickly  into action in several ways.  One of the ways was the establishment of a “Pastor Care Fund” (more on that below) – which has freed us from worry about the financial ramifications of our particular predicament.  I can honestly say, in part due to this fund but also due to trusting the Lord who is our provider, that I have been largely free from worry about money.  I can only speak for myself, but I am thankful that that fear or worry has largely been absent.  And that, in itself, is a gift.  Considering how often I have had to pull out my credit card to pay a $60 copay here or a $350 copay here.  I also got a different kind of letter yesterday – the bill for my 5-6 day hospital stay.  Thankfully, what we have to pay is much, much, much, much less than what the initial hospital charge was – it is one of those unfathomable type numbers.   We are glad for good insurance, but still there are those pesky deductibles and copays and “out of pocket” (have you looked in my pocket?!) expenses.  I know you know what I mean.  So, this is grace in itself.

Here’s an update on the Pastor Care Fund from the Chairman of our Deacons and I hope will give you a sense of why I have been overwhelmed at times.

North Hills Church is thankful for the expression of love, prayer, and support for Pastor Adam & Lydia Tisdale. As of March 31st the Pastor Care Fund has received over $11,000 in donations from over 30 individuals and 5 churches. Many have offered further assistance if there are unmet needs. We are so thankful for such an overwhelming expression of love and support and we continue to pray for additional contributions.

The Pastor Care Fund started with the goal of providing financial assistance for out-of-pocket medical expenses of $6,000 and anticipated additional expenses for continuing treatment. We do not know what the expenses will be but God has already provided abundantly. North Hills Church, as stewards of the Pastor Care Fund, will continue to provide updates concerning our support of the Tisdale’s financial needs.

 Thank you again for sharing your testimony of God’s love for his children.

“Out of my distress I called on the Lord; the Lord answered me and set me free” – Psalm 119:5

In Christian Love.

Deacon Dave

On behalf of the Deacons of North Hills Church

treasurer@northhillschurch.net

Contributions to the Pastor Care Fund can be made payable to:

North Hills Church / Pastor Care Fund /PO Box 320 / Meridianville, AL 35759

It is impossible to describe in words how it felt to read that yesterday.  Overwhelmed.  And still there may be other gifts on the way.  Overwhelmed.

And to be clear, this is just one bit of God’s grace to us.  I have said it before and I will keep saying, even if you tire of it:  Every prayer (how many are praying and by those I have never met?!), every thought, every encouraging word, every hug, every card, every email, every message, every Facebook comment, every gift (we have received other gifts outside of those made to the Pastor Care Fund, as well), every meal, every sacrifice.   All of it God’s grace.   All of it overwhelming.  Thank you for being used by Him – whether you realize it or not.  And that is good, as we at times have felt threatened to be overwhelmed by the flood water’s of cancer, of fear, of uncertainty.  But God is good (“all the time”) and we are blessed.