Skipping Rocks: Reading the Ripples


I will be taking some time off for vacation next week and would like time to prepare the posts for the time I am gone.  In that vein, I am reposting some blog entries from my other blog for this week.  I hope that they are a blessing.

Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. – Hebrews 12:10-11 NIV

It had been a not so great day. For the past couple of months I had been looking for work without any nibbles. I had reached that tired point where continuing on was an obligation without much dedication. The mail had arrived with another, “While we appreciate all of your skill and experience…” letter and frustration had me in its despairing grip. It was time for skipping rocks.

I walked to the creek, kicked a few weeds with satisfaction and sat on the beach once again. Any goodness or rightness associated with that place was lost on me that day. With robotic movements I began to pick up rocks and attempt to skip them on the small pond. The key word her is “attempt.” Frustration came over me again. The wind had picked up that afternoon and the steady ripples made an uneven surface, unfriendly to skipping stones. But I had met God in this place before, so I waited and listened and watched.

In time the wind would subside for a few moments, allowing the water to calm enough for skipping. Timing became critical due to the small window of opportunity allowed by the temporary stillness. Listening for the rustle of leaves upwind; watching the reeds upstream for movement; noticing the upper pond become still a brief moment before the lower one. These all became indicators of the coming opportunity for a treasured event. I let loose each stone with much more care and concentration, not wanting to waste the carefully anticipated moment.

The rewards were immediate and satisfying as I watched stone after stone make the series of arcs from point of contact to the next across liquid glass. God had met me again and humbled me with each stone’s tap against the water. I had been so obsessed with finding work that I had lost sight of His will. Instead of becoming more and more in tune with His movements and motions, I was intent on skipping rocks in my own time and way. I needed to sit quietly at His feet and wait for His window of opportunity.

It was no more than a week later that I received a call from a church needing an interim preacher. They were looking for someone willing to make the trek into the mountains to speak on Sundays until they could find a full-time pastor. This allowed me to continue seeking work on God’s timetable and still be used by Him in the body. It is such a blessing to be in on what God is doing in my life rather than cluelessly barging ahead, trying desperately to fulfill my responsibilities as a provider.

I hope that I will not have to learn this lesson again. I hope that I will listen for the breath of God rustling through the events of life. I hope that I will watch for the movement of the Holy Spirit in the world around me and participate with His ministry. I hope I will see what is coming with wisdom and knowledge.  In His time, in His way, in His will.

Overcoming Doubt


Moses answered, “What if they do not believe me or listen to me and say, ‘The LORD did not appear to you’?”

Then the LORD said to him, “What is that in your hand?”

“A staff,” he replied.

The LORD said, “Throw it on the ground.” Moses threw it on the ground and it became a snake, and he ran from it. Then the LORD said to him, “Reach out your hand and take it by the tail.” So Moses reached out and took hold of the snake and it turned back into a staff in his hand.  “This,” said the LORD, “is so that they may believe that the LORD, the God of their fathers–the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob–has appeared to you.” – Exodus 4:1-5 (NIV)

There are several moments I can recall from my childhood when a word of encouragement or wisdom or truth overcame my doubts.  Whether it was trying a new thing or overcoming a challenge in school, my mother or father would help me move beyond myself to what I could be.  I was able to experience so many things and learn more about myself, the world and the God who created us both.  They were doubt dispellers and truth tellers and I am eternally grateful.

Moses needed the great doubt dispeller and truth teller.  His experience in leaving Egypt had left him with several doubts: Would the Egyptians remember him with wrath or mercy?  Would the Israelites accept anyone from the royal family as their leader?  Would anyone listen to his message?  These doubts were so pervasive that they overcame the awe he had been filled with when he first encountered the burning bush.  In the face of God’s obvious presence, Moses needed a background check and a performance guarantee.

Our children are going to experience these moments of doubt and they will need a staff in their hands to help them overcome it.  Whether it is a memory verse, a meaningful saying, a picture, a physical object that represents something to them or just your presence, they will need something to remind themselves and others that they can be exactly who God created them to be.

But the enemy loves doubt.  He relishes the opportunity to plant weeds in our children’s hearts to crush dreams and choke their potential.  It is good to remember that the Aaron’s staff turned into a snake and consumed the snakes of the Egyptian priests.  In our children’s lives, we need to teach them that through Christ they are over-comers.

Lord, help me to be a doubt dispeller and a truth teller for my children.  Give me the words and tools I need to put a staff of confidence and boldness in their hands that is rooted in Your word and filled with Your presence.  Help me be an over-comer in my own life so that my children can see your victory at work.  Amen.

Nature vs. Nurture


Now Moses was tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian, and he led the flock to the far side of the desert and came to Horeb, the mountain of God.  There the angel of the LORD appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush. Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up.  So Moses thought, “I will go over and see this strange sight–why the bush does not burn up.” – Exodus 3:1-3 (NIV)

It has been an ongoing argument in the study of man; which is more important – nature (what is inside of us) or nurture (what is outside of us).  The nature argument leans on genetics, physiology and some psychology.  The nurture argument comes from the philosophy, religion, sociology and some psychology.  There are some valid points from both perspectives and many experts say that both have varying influences throughout our lives.  Moses benefited from both.

Moses had lived a life of privilege and advantage, and showed a natural inclination toward justice and leadership, but God changed his location in order to change his heart and mind.  Nature and nurture can be the levers to move the other.  When God needed to grow something in Moses, He used a change in nurture to change his nature.  When God met Moses in the burning bush, He appeals to Moses’ nature to change his nurture.

This is an amazing characteristic of God, but it is also incredibly important for parenting.  We need to be experts at helping our children navigate the nature and the nurture in their lives.  Sometimes we may need to alter that nurture to help them see their nature.  Sometimes we will need to change their nurture to open their minds to their nature.  Have you ever seen your child’s demeanor completely transform just be being in a different location?   Have you ever helped your child overcome a fear so they could go places they never went to before?

When we push them to go into different circumstances, it helps them understand who they are in ways they never would if they stayed in the same location.  When we help them figure out a little more about who God created them to be, the world becomes a bigger place.  Sometimes they need to go into the wilderness to see who they are.  Sometimes seeing who they are will help them go into the wilderness.  As parents we need to ask for God’s help in knowing when we need to help with one or the other.

Lord, help us to lead our children to the right places at the right time.  Help us to see who you are creating them to be so we can help them get closer to your design every day.  Give us the wisdom and insight to know our children and help them make their journey closer to you. Amen.

Wrestling with God


That night Jacob got up and took his two wives, his two female servants and his eleven sons and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. After he had sent them across the stream, he sent over all his possessions.  So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak.  When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man.  Then the man said, “Let me go, for it is daybreak.”

But Jacob replied, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.”

The man asked him, “What is your name?”

“Jacob,” he answered.

Then the man said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome.” – Genesis 32:22-28

Disagreements, arguments and even fights can be a part of fatherhood. Our children are different from us, growing up in a different world than we did.  These encounters range from the common battles over eating vegetables to the more prolonged wars over who they hang out with and how they are doing in school.  It is easy, especially when these tussles are more frequent, to mistake contention for wrestling.

Children need to work things out about themselves, the world, their understanding of God and how it all fits together in their head and heart.  This is no easy task.  Jacob found himself in a struggle with God and pushed through to achieve something – a new self.  Jacob became Israel.  It wasn’t something he earned, but something he was rewarded with. Jacob probably discovered more about himself and his God in that encounter that much of what he had experienced to that point in his life. That is the blessing of the struggle.

We need to recognize the moments when our children are struggling.  We need eyes to see the difference between contention and grappling with life’s hard questions.   When our children are disrespectful, disobedient or hurtful, we need to answer with discipline, mercy and wisdom in appropriate measure, but when they are wrestling we need to wrestle with them.  In those moments we can lead our children into a new sense of self.  When they wrestle with us, it prepares them for wrestling with God.  When they wrestle with us they learn about themselves, building mental and emotional strength and self-control.

Lord, help us to see our children’s struggles clearly through your eyes.  Give us wisdom and insight into their needs so we can meet them in those moments prepared and equipped.  Let us struggle with them for their sake and Your glory. Amen.

Moving Our Children Toward Love


When the LORD saw that Leah was not loved, he enabled her to conceive, but Rachel remained childless. Leah became pregnant and gave birth to a son. She named him Reuben, for she said, “It is because the LORD has seen my misery. Surely my husband will love me now.” – Genesis 29:31-32

There is nothing quite so heartbreaking as watching your child’s heart break.  It doesn’t really matter how it happens, it is just so hard to watch.  The brokenness of this world breaks our sons and daughters and we can’t really do anything to stop it from happening.  But we can be the ones to point them back to love.

God is a mender of hearts, a healer of souls.  He watches His children with compassion and mercy and is moved to bring wholeness and health to their lives.  He desires the best for them and puts opportunity and hope within their reach.  He does not force His help on them or so sedate and anesthetize them that they cannot feel the hurt incurred in this life.  He opens doors and invites His children to come into His peace and blessing.  He is the perfect Father.

God does not expect us to be Him, but He does call us to be like Him.  We cannot make choices for our children and we certainly cannot protect them from the world, but we can be the ones that meet them with compassion and mercy in their wounded moments.  We can pray for healing and wholeness in their lives.  We can speak honestly with them about the hurt and pain of life in a broken world, always seasoned with words of hope and love.  We can offer them the safe place of a father’s love and hold them tightly against the storms life brings.

God presented an opportunity to Leah to receive His love, but she still saw it as an opportunity to compete for the love of Jacob and the shame of Rachel.  Instead of offering songs of praise, she determines to pull Jacob away from her marital competition.  She missed the open door.  She remained in her brokenness.  This is the hard reality of fatherhood – we can do everything right, but our children can still make bad choices.  However, if we are to be fathers like our heavenly Father, we must persist in loving our children.

Lord, help us to be a safe place for our children.  Help us to find ways that lead them to You in times of trouble.  Make us more and more like you every day and give us all we need to minister to our children. Amen.

Let There Be No Favorites


After Isaac finished blessing him, and Jacob had scarcely left his father’s presence, his brother Esau came in from hunting. He too prepared some tasty food and brought it to his father. Then he said to him, “My father, please sit up and eat some of my game, so that you may give me your blessing.”

His father Isaac asked him, “Who are you?”

“I am your son,” he answered, “your firstborn, Esau.”

Isaac trembled violently and said, “Who was it, then, that hunted game and brought it to me? I ate it just before you came and I blessed him—and indeed he will be blessed!”

When Esau heard his father’s words, he burst out with a loud and bitter cry and said to his father, “Bless me—me too, my father!”

But he said, “Your brother came deceitfully and took your blessing.” – Genesis 27:30-35

There are some days that we would like to do over.  There are decisions and words we would like to erase.  We make mistakes.  It is a gift from God that we have scripture to learn from other’s mistakes.  Isaac had watched his sons grow through the years as their disdain for each other also grew.  Instead of making peace between his two sons, he helped it along by setting Esau above Jacob.  It is true that the firstborn son has a position of privilege, but that shouldn’t become a point of division.

Loving our children without favoritism will require discipline.  It is usually easy to love someone if they are like us, but different can be difficult.  To love the child we contend with, who has a personality that we have a hard time understanding, may require more vigilance.  My two daughters are wonderfully and beautifully different from one another.  I am learning every day how to love each of them the way that is best for their unique personalities.  It is not easy, but no one ever said parenting would be.

I have seen too many fathers and children torn apart by this treacherous weed.  Favoritism and family together make for bad blood, hurt feelings and burned bridges.  This becomes even more compounded with blended families, and believe me, there is plenty to learn from scripture on that topic.  God has called fathers to bless their children, to love them with wisdom and grace.  He calls us to love our children as He has created them, not to try and make them fit the way we want to love.

Pray today for wisdom and insight into how you can love your children.  Ask God to give you clear vision to see your children’s unique personalities and needs.  Lord help us to love our children as you love them, to cherish them as you cherish them and let there be no favorites. Amen.

Blessings,

Chris

Am I My Brother’s Keeper?


Cain said to his brother Abel, “Let us go out to the field.” And when they were in the field, Cain rose up against his brother Abel, and killed him. Then the LORD said to Cain, “Where is your brother Abel?” He said, “I do not know; am I my brother’s keeper?” – Genesis 4:8-9 (NRSV)

Sibling rivalry is one of the oldest plots in the story of man.  Cain and Abel, Abraham and Lot, Jacob and Esau, Joseph and his brothers and the list goes on.  Very often it hinges on one being favored over the other in some way.  Whether the favor comes from an earthly father or heavenly Father doesn’t seem to matter, jealousy rears its prideful head and problems ensue.  The real tragedy is that the jealous son rarely gets the message in these relationships:  “If I would keep my concerns on honoring God, maybe I wouldn’t be worried about my brother being better than me.”

Fortunately, we can redeem this kind of situation by orienting everyone in the situation to the same thing – the example of Christ.  There is nothing quite as humiliating as being told, “Why can’t you be more like (insert sibling’s name here)?”  It devalues our individuality and demeans the unique, creative power of God at work in our lives.  Instead of comparing siblings to one another or favoring one that may be more like you than the other, we can point them to Christ.

If our eyes are on Christ, then they aren’t on each other, at least not in a critical way.  When we see ourselves in light of who He is, what He did and how He did it, we can see the way forward.  If we say or do things that have our children looking at each other as competition or obstacles to our affection, they will never move forward because the forbidden fruit of supremacy will always distract them.  If Cain had kept his eyes on his heavenly Father instead of his brother, things might have gone differently.

Let’s pray today that we can be peacemakers in our families.  Lord, grant us the wisdom and words to point our children to Christ, who can set them free from the enmity and jealousy the world can bring.  May we raise our children to love and respect one another for your glory and honor.  Amen.

Blessings,

Chris