Today is God’s Day


In attempting to make sure my daughters understand truths about themselves, I wrote this and say it with them on the way to school each day.  This summer we will say it on the days they are actually out of bed before I go to work or at dinner.  There are too many voices in this world telling them untruths to not give them the words to rebuke the lies. For Father’s Day, tell your children all the amazing things that are true about them because of who God is and who He says they are because of His love, mercy and grace.  Happy Father’s Day!

TodayIsGodsDay

Sorrow That Heals


Sorrow is not a bad thing, but it is evidence that we live in a broken world with broken people. Sorrow can lead to a better world when God is allowed to do His work in our hearts and minds. With sorrow, God can stretch the heart so that it has a higher capacity for love, mercy, compassion and kindness. He can clear out the thoughts and ways of thinking that get in the way of seeing the world and our fellow broken people the way He sees us. Sorrow heals.
However, sorrow can also lead to darker horizons. When sorrow takes us off course and leads us to self-pity or anger or apathy, it loses its power to heal and strengthen. Sorrow can break us further and deeper.
The first way opens the door for Christ to do His work while the other asks Him to wait outside while we wallow and fester alone. In watching the aftermath of the tragedy in Orlando, I wondered if people consider which path sorrow will lead to.  As a father, it breaks my heart to know that grieving parents have to hear the horrible and false narratives that are coming from all sides as they walk with sorrow through a world they are not prepared to live in.  A world where their child is gone, their legacy reduced, their hope for the future dimmed, they have to find the will to move on.  In sorrow.
What is truly infuriating is that some of the most vile, disgusting and hateful comments and public rants are from my brothers and sisters in the faith.  While I would like to argue that the things they have said prove that they don’t truly understand Christ, the truth is I don’t decide whether they are my brothers and sisters in the faith.  Jesus will decide whether they belong to Him or not one day.  Right now I have to claim them as my family as much as it pains me.
And so I apologize.  I am truly sorry for the hateful, insensitive and untruthful statements that have come from my “family” these past few days.  I am sorry that what they have said and done has made the survivor’s walk through sorrow that much more painful and difficult. I am sorry that we don’t have a way to erase the stupidity of their ideology or the consequences of their actions. But I pray that the rest of my family can do better. I pray that we lead with love and finish with grace.  I pray that we offer comfort and compassion and kindness and mercy day after day after day after day, because this walk with sorrow will be long for many.
There are many walking through sorrow today.  Will we live and speak and act in such a way that it leads to the place where Christ can do His healing work, or will we knock broken people off course into a life filled with anger, frustration and even hate.  May we mourn with those who mourn in a way that leads to healing and wholeness.

Passing on the Story of God


He established a decree in Jacob, and appointed a law in Israel, which he commanded our ancestors to teach to their children;  that the next generation might know them, the children yet unborn, and rise up and tell them to their children, so that they should set their hope in God, and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments; and that they should not be like their ancestors, a stubborn and rebellious generation, a generation whose heart was not steadfast, whose spirit was not faithful to God. – Psalms 78:5-8 (NRSV)

Information is almost too available to us.  Stories are made, ingested and forgotten like cheap candy.  TV shows come and go and few stand the test of time.  Books are written with a movie in mind and movies are made with product sales in mind and somewhere in there a good story died.  We are slowly losing the rich and powerful gift of storytelling.

Asaph was concerned about this same issue in his own day.  He saw a weakness in mankind that we are quick to forget what we do not hear repeated again and again.  His exhortation to tell the story of God and His people is the cure for hereditary disobedience.  If we are tied to the rich heritage of all that God has done through history, we are more likely to remember His promises walking through a broken world.

Today we have a lot of distractions to take our eyes and minds of the story we are living with God.  Our children are growing up in an instant information world with technology specifically designed to occupy their time with crushing candy or flinging birds at pigs.  It is easy to live life on short term memory and forget the heritage that ties us all together from Adam’s first breath to the return of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

We need to tell our children the story of God; stories of His love and grace and mercy and power and compassion.  Stories of his people overcoming the brokenness of the world with the wholeness of His Spirit within us. Stories of His unending patience with our unending stubbornness.  Stories of His everlasting love for a world gone astray.  These are stories to tell again and again and again so they will recognize when they are living the story themselves.

Lord, help me to share your story with my children so that they might follow you all the days of their lives. Amen.

The In Between


Hear my cry, O God; listen to my prayer.

From the ends of the earth I call to you, I call as my heart grows faint; lead me to the rock that is higher than I.

For you have been my refuge, a strong tower against the foe.

I long to dwell in your tent forever and take refuge in the shelter of your wings. Selah – Psalms 61:1-4 (NIV)

It is hard to be in between.  Feeling unsettled, un-rooted, unfamiliar.  Being in that place that fills in the space from where you’ve been and where you are going.  Between now and then, here and there and what is and what shall be we find ourselves realizing how much we need God.  David was a man who understood the time and place in between.

David learned the hard way that the only thing that could fill the in between was God.  It was God alone who made sense of the in between, revealing it as the connective tissue in a life of purpose and meaning.  Instead of the in between being a place of isolation and disorientation, God uses it to reconnect and reorient.  But it is easy for us to get lost in the in between.

If we are not ready for the in between, it can overwhelm us and leave us wandering, hovering in a holding pattern with no place to land in sight.  God uses everything to transform His children, even the in between.  I need to show my children how valuable the in between is before they become professionals at distraction busyness.

It is a common habit to keep children occupied, but I think the better discipline – and the harder to teach – is to teach our children to be content when they are not occupied.  Our society has made whole industries based on distraction for the in between.  We don’t enjoy the quiet of a drive on mountain roads; we pop in a CD or show a movie to keep the kids from tearing each other apart.  But maybe we are missing something.  Maybe our kids will benefit more from seeking what is profitable during their in betweens rather than finding ways to waste time.

Will our children run to the Wii or to the Word?  Do they seek comfort in the still small voice or the next track on the CD?  Are they following friends on Facebook or following Jesus?  Are they filling the empty space of in between with distractions or with the things of God?  What do my children see me do with the in between? (That one stings!)

I want the in between in my life and lives of my children to be rich and meaningful and time well spent.  I want to look back and see how the in between connected the crisis and celebrations and calms of our life together into a storyline of purpose and power and meaning.  I want to see what the time of longing for God’s refuge and being securely in the midst of His refuge looks like.

Lord, help me to live fully in the in between.   May I lead my children well in making use of the time instead of wasting it.  Show our family how You move in the in between and let us linger as long as You need us to. Amen.

Forgiveness and Humility


Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will turn back to you.  Save me from bloodguilt, O God, the God who saves me, and my tongue will sing of your righteousness.  O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise.  You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.  The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise. – Psalms 51:13-17 (NIV)

One of the plotlines repeated by Hollywood goes something like this: a young boy who is part of the uncool crew at school somehow breaks into the cool group and then forgets his uncool friends or that he was ever uncool in the first place.  Usually the main character has a critical moment of decision whether he will continue on the path of coolness or reject coolness to redeem broken relationships.  The movies and shows with this storyline vary from corny to heartwarming, but the storyline remains the same.

David went through this same story arc.  He was a lowly shepherd in a field, but he had his faith in God.  He was considered tiny by his brothers and the king, but he wanted to fight a giant.  He was banished to a life of running and fighting by a jealous king, but he still fought the enemies of that king.  He is finally ordained as king and takes his place on the throne of Israel, but somewhere along the way he forgot where he came from.  He never would have considered stealing another man’s sheep when he was a young shepherd, but that is the truth Nathan confronted him with.

David’s journey took him to a point of decision, a humiliating dressing down by a trusted prophet where he realized, in God’s eyes, he was still a simple shepherd boy.  His story is a reminder that no matter how much we grow, how mature we act, how knowledgeable we become, we are still little children in our Father’s eyes.  The appropriate response from us for the forgiveness and grace of God is a humble and obedient heart, and yet it is easy to be that Hollywood character that forgets where they started.  David reminds us that it is always easier to be humble than to be humbled.

Lord, help me to be humble.  Remind me every day who I am in light of who You are, so that my eyes will see everything with clearer vision.  Amen.

Karma and the Problem of Sin


Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.  Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones you have crushed rejoice. Hide your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquity.  Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.  Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me.  Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me. – Psalms 51:7-12 (NIV)

One of David’s most admirable traits was his ability to clearly state his need and God’s ability to meet that need.  Sometimes it took a hard road to get him there, but when he arrived at the place of understanding, he put it to words that connect and convict.  The passage above is a great example.

David lived under the Levitical law which demanded sacrifices and ritual cleanliness and adherence to moral codes.  Within this context David writes about a relationship with God where adherence to law is not mentioned.  The sinner does not reclaim his standing with God through sacrifice or service, but by being cleansed and purified by God.

A common pitfall in human behavior is the practice of karma in “paying” for dirty deeds.  If we do something wrong we better do something right to make up for it, and it doesn’t hurt to do something really nice to get the karma ledger on your side.  Despite the obvious flaws in this practice, we tend toward it if we are not paying attention.  This is easily seen in our children when they make the good behavior rush just before Christmas rolls around.

Getting children to understand that they are supposed to be good because it is the right thing, not because they can make up for bad or earn a free pass on their next transgression is difficult.  It is especially hard since we as parents can enforce the behavior when we manipulate good behavior by promising gifts from Santa.  God pays the price for sin and gives us the power to overcome sin and that is the only way it will ever work.

Lord, help me teach my children about grace and holiness, mercy and purity. Cleanse me and make me holy for Your name’s sake.   Amen.