Posts Tagged ‘reflections’

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…


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.


Letters to My Sheep: Early thoughts on reading the Bible in 90 Days

I told you on Sunday, well some of you, that I started a new Bible reading plan – reading the Bible in 90 Days.  I’m only 6 days in, but I am finding this both challenging and a blessing.  I had to read the Bible in that amount of time for a class while in Seminary and it was one of the best things I did in Seminary.  I have long desired to do it again.  I wanted to share with you some of the things that are helping me in this venture, with the desire to encourage you in your own Bible reading.  Here is what is helping me currently:

  • First, I was encouraged to see a friend from high school post about his own use of this Bible Reading Plan.  Too often we approach spiritual disciplines as solitary activities.  And while we are not reading together (he’s a day or so ahead of me), knowing that he is doing this plan is a tremendous encouragement.  That’s really what got me started again.  And another friend saw a post from me yesterday and is thinking about doing this plan, as well.   I plan on asking him if he has gotten started.  Who encourages you?  Who can you encourage?
  • Another big help to me is leveraging the use of technology.  I have been reading using the YouVersion Bible App on my iPad (a Christmas gift).  Using this app, I can choose between multiple translations, set reminders, and easily keep track of where I am and what I have read.  Through this service or others you can have daily readings emailed to you.  And on and on.  We have the unprecedented access to God’s Word and yet we may be the most undernourished generation of Christians.    How are you using technology to help you?  
  •  Speaking of translations, because I am reading large chunks of Scripture each day, I have decided to read The Message.  The Message is Eugene Peterson’s paraphrase and after I switched over from the ESV (an essentially literal translation), I am finding this helps the flow of reading greatly.  Part of that has to do with the occupational hazard of trying to parse every verse.  I don’t recommend paraphrases for close study, but for big picture reading, I think it fits the bill.   The point being, find what works for you and be willing to try new translations depending on your purpose for reading.
  • I am reading for the “big picture”.  I am trying to get a feel for themes, rather than trying to remember every detail.  For example, after reading Genesis over the course of five days, I was struck by the magnitude of God’s electing grace – his choice of Abraham & the patriarchs.  Genesis is full of sordid tales and lots of foolishness, and yet this is how God choose to start the nation of Israel and bless the world.  It certainly wasn’t because they were good or deserved anything.  And the same is true of me.  
  • I am not trying to read all at once (each day is the range of 10-15 chapters), but I am trying to read in several big chunks. 
  • Plans really help.  Without a plan, I am prone to entropy.  
  • Finally, I am not beating myself up if I don’t get everything done in one day.  The first several days I was actually behind, but then caught back up over the weekend.  I expect that will happen many more times.  

That leads me to some reminders for you, whatever your Bible reading plan or lack thereof:

  • My doing this doesn’t make God love me more.  I might love him more, but He won’t love me more – how could He when He has already given us His Son?
  • My doing this doesn’t make me more spiritual or a better Christian than you.  It might make me a better pastor, but it won’t advance me to a higher rank of saint. 
  • My doing this shouldn’t become a task for merely checking off boxes (something I get to on the app and that appeals to the “doer” in me) or slavishly holding myself to this schedule.  I hope I will complete it, but even if I were to stop tomorrow, I have already benefitted from getting into God’s Word. 

What are you doing to get into God’s Word?  Did you start a new reading plan?  Are you continuing one you started sometime in the past?   How can I help encourage you?

Church Reductionism

I was very happily reading this article on the innovative church and their new “free group chat translation tool” called  From the article: staff members recently rolled out, a free group chat translation tool that allows participants to communicate in real-time using up to 45 languages. Developed in-house as a Web-based Google app, isn’t just for members, but can be used by any business, church, mission group or individuals hoping to expand its message globally—or simply to communicate more effectively in such languages as Chinese, Arabic, Hebrew, Hindi and Spanish.

That sound cool, though I can’t think of an immediate application for myself.  Then I got to the very end of the article to read this, which really has nothing to do with the above new tool, but with streaming services on iphone or ipod:

“We are always looking for ways that we can leverage technology to reach people where they are at,” said Peter Thourson, New Hope’s interactive developer. “[Now] users across the globe will be able to continue to attend church regardless of where they are.”

It’s not the first sentence that is troublesome, but the second.  This would seem to reduce what the church is and is about to attendance at a worship service (whether in person or online).    Now, I believe that this is enough of a problem without new technology, but this certainly doesn’t help.  When we reduce church to this level, then we will lose our ability to carry out our comission.  We will lose our ability to establish authentic community in a fragmented world.  We will lose our ability to call people to live for something much greater than themselves.  I can see some application for the homebound and the ill, but so much more needs to be said.  Without accountability, we will do what pleases us and what makes us comfortable.  Church, without reducing it to only worship service attendance, will not always please us and should make us uncomfortable.

Thoughts?  Am I being too harsh or ungracious?

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.

Good to Great to Gone

This is a post I started to write, but got bogged down with life, so I am posting this in process…

A few years ago, Jim Collins book Good To Great (subtitle:  Why Some Companies Make the Leap…and Others Don’t) was a bestselling business book filled with many ideas that resonated with those in church leadership.  I loved this book and still think about many of the concepts that are presented therein as they relate to good leadership.  Some of the principles identified as making some companies great even resemble biblical characteristics (e.g. humility at the leadership level).

This book has been back on my mind the past few days with the closing of Circuit City.  Why?  Circuit City was identified in Good to Great as a great company.  But now it is good to great to gone (and for this I am very sad for another large round of people who have lost their jobs).  My point is not to criticize Collins, for indeed Circuit City was at one point a great company (especially by his rubric/litmus test to identify great companies).  We might even look further to see if they departed from the concepts that Collins identifies as indicative of a great company – something I won’t do here.

All of this takes me to  further questions.  What is greatness that lasts?  Can we be great in an enduring way?  And in keeping with content of this post – can our institutions be great?

December Books

These are the books that I completed reading in December.

  • In the Shadow of Memory by Floyd Skloot: This is one of those books that caught my attention while I was browsing through the library one day.  This book is a collection of essays telling Skloot’s story of living life after a virus had attacked his brain in 1988 and reads much like a memoir.  Skloot is a gifted writer, though he makes it clear that the work of the virus makes writing (and any number of routine tasks) anything but easy.  Skloot’s memory: of his history or the ability to remember what he was doing from one moment to the next – forms the backdrop for the questions that he asks of himself and about what it means to be human.  I really enjoyed reading this book and found it compelling, even if it stems from a very difficult past and present.  One thing really grabbed my attention:  “Chance is in charge.”  This conclusion of his life brought me great sadness, because it is not true.  Furthermore, Skloot does not really act like it is.  And yet, it is hard for some who have suffered greatly to not feel this way.
  • Whatever It TakesGeoffrey Canada’s Quest to Change Harlem and America by Paul Tough:  I was attracted to this book by an episode of This American Life.  Tough looks at Geoffrey Canada and the organization the Harlem Children’s Zone.  The book contains an interesting overview of various approaches to poverty that have been tried in the past and Canada’s approach to change Harlem.  Very good book.
  • Safe at Home by Richard Doster:  Richard Doster is the editor of ByFaith magazine (the official magazine of my denomination: Presbyterian Church in America).  This novel takes place in a generic southern town during the 1950’s and the plot centers around the integration of the local minor league baseball team.  Because it is hard for me to understand or imagine the kind of institutional racism (not to say it doesn’t still exist) that was present at this time, this was a very helpful book just from that point.  The story was also enjoyable, with characters that root for and empathize with.  My only complaint is that the story felt a little long and could have been brought to a conclusion sooner – though this may be in part due to my discomfort with the descriptions of racism and knowing that it wasn’t that long ago that “whites” were afraid to mix with “blacks”.
  • Meditating On the Word by Dietrich Bonhoeffer (-translated by David McI. Gracie):  The strength of this book is in Bonhoeffer’s encouragement to meditate upon God’s Word in the first portion of the book.  I had a harder time with the sermons which made up a large portion of the book – partially due to the style.  Still an encouragement me in my study and meditation of God’s Word.

Help My Unbelief – Year in Review

At  the 4 month mark of blogging, I posted my reflections on blogging (I started blogging in April)  At that time, I gave some stats on the blog and thought I would do the same here at the end of the year for the sake of  posterity (or something):

231 posts
4 pages
21 Categories
162 Tags
324 Approved Comments
480 Spam caught by Askimet
6321 total views/hits (coming from all over the world now)

And following the lead of Unashamed Workman (sort of), here are the top posts on this blog during the year (excluding the pages, which are actually receive the most visits):

  1. Movies As Sermon Illustrations? (88 views)  This is also the most commented upon post
  2. Quick Hitter:  College Football Helmet Quiz
  3. Don’t Eat the Raisin Cakes:  I think I get a lot of hits on this from people looking for the meaning of the Raisin Cakes in Hosea 3.  The ironic thing is that this post is more about studying Scripture than about the answer to that question.
  4. Reflections on the Dark Knight

Bonus:  Thou Shalt Text? has been getting a lot of traffic recently as it was linked on the Preaching Today Blog here (the last link on the page).