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.

Patience


Waiting for berries.

I waited patiently for the LORD; he turned to me and heard my cry.  He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear and put their trust in the LORD. – Psalms 40:1-3 (NIV)

Patience.  It sounds like such a nice word.  It has a calm cadence to it and they even named a flower after it, but as most of us know, patience is hard.  Patience can be torturous and even painful, especially in a slimy pit.  However, it is always rewarded when it is rooted in God.

When we wait for the Lord, He turns His attention to us like a parent waiting for their child to sit still before they can get up from the table.  God could give us everything we wanted, when we wanted it and how we wanted, but He wants us to have our attention on Him not on what we want.

We have a garden with tomatoes, squash, onions, sunflowers, cantaloupe and berries.  Some were just planted and some have been there for a year or so.  Every day we look for signs of growth and health.  We tend each plant, watching for signs of bugs, lack of nutrients, water and anything else that will help us grow a good harvest.  And we wait.  We do a lot of waiting.  Gardening takes patience.

The garden has been a good way for my daughters to learn patience.  They are beginning to understand that not everything they want comes without time and effort.  They are learning that anticipation has to be married to preparation.  By learning about patience in the garden now they are preparing to be patient in their relationship with God.  Berries do not ripen at our whim and God does not answer our wants and desires at our whim either.

So tend the garden of your fellowship with the Father with patience.  It is a blessing for all of us.

Lord, help me to be patient.  Amen.

A Father’s Resume


LORD, who may dwell in your sanctuary? Who may live on your holy hill?  He whose walk is blameless and who does what is righteous, who speaks the truth from his heart and has no slander on his tongue, who does his neighbor no wrong and casts no slur on his fellowman, who despises a vile man but honors those who fear the LORD, who keeps his oath even when it hurts, who lends his money without usury and does not accept a bribe against the innocent. He who does these things will never be shaken. – Psalms 15:1-5 (NIV)

I have turned in my resume for different jobs several times over the last two decades.  It has changed because my experiences, skills and technical knowledge have changed.  The resume reflected what I had already lived up to and it was my hope that those hiring would have like what they read.  Father’s have a different kind of resume.

Our children are the living resumes for the world to see. The way they live their lives will reflect how well we are living up to God’s commands.  The psalm above is a description of who we are to be as men, and therefore, fathers.  I have to ask myself if my children’s lives are beginning to reflect the characteristics listed.  Am I striving daily to live up to that kind of standard, or am I satisfied with just getting by?  Do I live a life that cannot be shaken?

My children need a father who seeks God above all else; a father who abides in the sanctuary of His love and righteousness.  They don’t need a best friend or a cool dad. They need someone who will lead them to that sanctuary of God’s love and righteousness.  I have to have more than me in mind in the choices I make, the actions I take and the words that I speak.  They need a Godly man.

Lord, help me be more and more like you every day.  May I be an example of integrity to my children.  Let me lead them to the sanctuary of Your love, grace and righteousness. Amen.

Temper, Temper


In your anger do not sin; when you are on your beds, search your hearts and be silent. Selah – Psalms 4:4 (NIV)

There can be a lot to be angry about in this life – injustice, greed, hate, bigotry and other symptoms of that hideous disease called sin.  There really isn’t a problem with the anger itself, but where it comes from and where it leads us.  This is what the psalmist is warning us about.  He is not asking us to guard against anger, but to have the right relationship with it.

I have a temper.  If I had been irradiated with gamma rays instead of Dr. Bruce Banner, the Hulk would have been around a lot more often.  That being said, God is patient and works on this with me with gentleness and persistence.  He has worked on this most effectively through my children.

It isn’t so much that they give me all sorts of opportunities to get mad; they are wonderful girls and have blessed me more than I can say.  But they do have their fallen moments.  My love for them has created a new lens for me to see my anger through.  When I feel that heat rising from my neck to my ears and my jaw clenches, I have to ask, “Is this really worth getting angry about?”

God knows exactly what to get angry about.  His anger is always righteous and always deserved.  I cannot say the same for mine.  I have questionable motives.  I have pet peeves which reveal more about my flaws than the object of my peeving.  I would like my anger to reflect God’s anger, but unfortunately anger tends to be a door to stupid and not saintliness.  So comes the warning from the psalmist.  We have to be leery of our anger.

I have heard plenty of teachings on anger and too often they will look at God’s anger, or Jesus casting the moneychangers out of the temple and use that as a rationalization for angry Christianity.  I even bought that for a while, but it doesn’t getting you anywhere good.  This passage warns us to be wary when anger begins to rise in us and I think that is excellent advice.  I don’t want to get angry at my children just because God got angry with His.  I want my anger to be like God’s anger so that means I have to question it every time.

I know that I will get angry at my children again in the future (probably sooner than I’d like), and I want to be ready for that moment.  I want to make sure that my anger does not lead me hurtful words, or misplaced blame.  My children deserve the same patience, grace and compassion that God has given me, so anger has to be watched for and controlled.  My kids don’t need the Hulk, they need Jesus, and that means anger has to get out of His way in my life.

Lord, help me to control and understand my anger.  Help me to know where my anger is coming from and how to handle it when it rises.  Give me a peaceable spirit, especially in disciplining my children. Amen.

A Righteous Man


Blessed is the man
who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked
or stand in the way of sinners
or sit in the seat of mockers.
But his delight is in the law of the LORD,
and on his law he meditates day and night.
He is like a tree planted by streams of water,
which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither.
Whatever he does prospers. – Psalm 1:1-3

It occurred to me the other day that the old saying, “The road to hell is paved with good intentions,” is not entirely accurate.  It should really be, “The road to hell is paved with man’s good intentions.”  The path to heaven is paved with God’s intentions, and His intentions are always good.  The life of the righteous man can then be defined as one that fulfills God’s intentions.

The Psalmist paints a beautiful picture of a life that is perfectly in step with God’s intentions for His children.  He has good relationships.  His happiness comes from God’s truth.  He is firmly planted where he can be sustained.  He is spiritually productive and he brings prosperity to the world around him.  This is the kind of man my family deserves, but does not yet have.

I need to be more concerned about God’s intentions. For the sake of my family, I need to be a man who guards his relationships.  I need to be a lover of the Word and a tree with deep roots.  I need to abide with God so that He can provide for the needs of others through me.

Lord, help me be a man of Your good intentions.  Let me live a life that enriches the lives of those around me.  Make me a blessing. Amen.

The Challenge of Pain


At this, Job got up and tore his robe and shaved his head. Then he fell to the ground in worship and said:

“Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised.”

 In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing. – Job 1:20-22 (NIV)

Loss is a part of life, but for some the loss is greater.  I have never had a Job moment.  The losses I have experienced were painful, but the extreme nature of Job’s misery has never visited my doorstep.  However, I cannot live with the misguided notion that misery will never darken my door.  There may come a time where grief could overwhelm me and pain makes its home in my heart.   I hope not, but that day may come.  Am I prepared for loss? Am I ready for the pain?

The true but uncomfortable answer to both those reasons is no.  It is not as if I can manufacture loss and pain to practice, nor do I want to.  I can read of other’s experiences, but they are different personalities with different strengths and weaknesses.  What is to come is unknown to everyone except God and therein lays the hope for us.  God knows.  He knows what we will face, what we will need to face it and what will bring us through.

This is somewhat of a relief and a challenge.  It is a relief because we do not have to spend our lives preparing for our best guess of what might happen.  We do not have to live with the anxiety that question marks induce.  As a father, this is a great comfort, but also a challenge.  We must work diligently to be in step with God.  We have the advantage of the Holy Spirit that was not available to Job.  Through Him we have everything we need, but that does not mean we utilize all that has been given.  The challenge is to pursue a walk with God that leads through every step of every circumstance as He desires.

I don’t know if I will ever have a Job-like experience, but I am beginning to not worry about it.  I am more and more becoming concerned with God shaping me into the husband and father I need to be to face the challenges that lie ahead.

Lord, help me to be the man You desire me to be and the husband and father I need to be for my family.  Help me refuse the anxiety and worry that so easily plague my mind and heart.  Give me a faith that is strengthened every day by Your presence in my life.  Amen.

Courageous for the Truth


Then Queen Esther answered, “If I have found favor with you, O king, and if it pleases your majesty, grant me my life–this is my petition. And spare my people–this is my request.  For I and my people have been sold for destruction and slaughter and annihilation. If we had merely been sold as male and female slaves, I would have kept quiet, because no such distress would justify disturbing the king.” – Esther 7:3-4 (NIV)

Sometimes telling the truth is easy.  When you are asked if the meal is good and it is good, that is easy.  When you are trying to uncover a conspiracy to eliminate a race of people – a race to which you belong – that is not easy.  There are times that truth telling requires courage because the telling may cost more.  Esther did not know how the king would react to the truth she had to tell.  She needed to be courageous.

But courage is not a skill that is developed; it is a character trait built on the foundation of our beliefs.  We are courageous because of what we believe in and what we love.  If what we believe in is transitory or false, then our bravery will be just as transitory and false.  If we want our children to be brave for the sake of the truth – God’s truth – then they need to believe firmly in God.

Courage doesn’t exist in a vacuum and it doesn’t just pop up like a magic genie.  I need to help my daughters be courageous by encouraging them; encouraging their faith, encouraging their service to God, encouraging their public witness of the Gospel.  The questions rise in my heart, “Do I exhibit courage?  Is my foundation firm enough to help me overcome fear?  Am I standing for the truth despite the possible cost?”  The only answer I can give with confidence is that I am trying.

And that is what I will keep asking my daughters to do; try.  Try to speak up when fear clenches at your words.  Try to live for Christ when others live for themselves.  Try to live according to His word and not according to your fears.  This is what I will try to do in my life and what I will try to instill in my children.

Lord, help me to be courageous. Amen.