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.

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.

A Thirst for God


As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God.

My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?

My tears have been my food day and night, while men say to me all day long, “Where is your God?”

These things I remember as I pour out my soul: how I used to go with the multitude, leading the procession to the house of God, with shouts of joy and thanksgiving among the festive throng.

Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me?

Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God. – Psalm 42:1-5 (NIV)

I wonder sometimes if I am doing enough as a father to instill a thirst for God in my children.  Do I set an example of dependence on God day after day?  Have I planted the idea in them that sometimes the only way to appreciate a cool drink is to know what it is like to be really thirsty?  I have to admit that I don’t know.  While I am certainly working on moving closer to Christ, I can’t give you a measurement of how far I have to go.  I am stilling learning what it is to thirst for God.

That isn’t such a bad place to be, I guess.  Maybe it is okay for my girls to see that I’m not perfect and that I am still working on what it is to follow Jesus.  Or maybe it is okay for me to be okay with them seeing my imperfection.  That is one of the most notable characteristics of the Psalms; their transparent honesty.  Yet that honesty is always tempered with truth.  It is why the downcast soul can put its hope in God.

So I will live imperfectly with my children, transparent and honest about my life with God, but always rooted in the truth.  That sounds like a good way to instill a thirst for God in all of us.

Lord, help us to live honestly together as a family.  Give us a thirst for You above all other things.  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.

Waiting for the Lord


I am still confident of this: I will see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living. Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD. – Psalms 27:13-14 (NIV)

Heaven is going to be beyond anything we can hope or comprehend.  To be perfectly at peace with God in His presence, joining together with all the saints in praising His name is amazing to think about.  However, heaven is someplace we end up and there is a long road between now and then.  The Psalmist has confidence that life in this broken world is not something we muddle through without hope or happiness.

I don’t want to be one of those people who are just waiting for heaven.  I have seen the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living and I have faith that I will see it again.  My arrival in heaven doesn’t really require anything more from me than the step I made at 9 years of age to surrender my life to Christ.  However, the life of Christ in this world requires intention on my part.  It is possible to get to heaven and miss the times that heaven touches down on earth.

The prescription laid forth in the psalm has three parts: be strong, take heart and wait for the Lord.  If we want to see the goodness of the Lord in the here and now, we need to grab a hold of these three disciplines.  To be strong is to be unshakeable and unbending.  It is strength in our beliefs and standards that take us through the wilderness to the land of promise.  But strength only comes with exercise, with increasing weight to bear.  To be strong one must bearing the weight of waiting for God’s goodness to break through.

Taking heart is what keeps our attitude in a place so we can be strong.  If we lose heart we lose our motivation for gaining and keeping the strength we need in this world.  Taking heart is about gaining courage from the truth of who God is and knowing how that changes everything in our lives.

If we can be strong and take heart it will help us to wait for the Lord.  We do not know God’s timing, but we do know His timing is right.  Strength, courage and patient trust in God’s timing – these are the disciplines that give us eyes to see His goodness and be His instruments of goodness in a broken world.

As a parent, there is comfort in the reality of a heaven to come.  The joy and wholeness we will experience in the place and time are beyond words, but I want my children to have those heavenly moments today. I am confident of this:  they can know the strength that comes from knowing the truth, take heart from experiencing the mercy and grace of a loving God and learn patient expectation for the goodness of God in this world.

Lord, help me to be strong, take heart and wait for Your goodness.  Help me lead my children into these disciplines so that they can see heavenly moments in this world. Help us wait for You.  Amen.

The Desires of Our Hearts


May he give you the desire of your heart and make all your plans succeed.  We will shout for joy when you are victorious and will lift up our banners in the name of our God. May the LORD grant all your requests. – Psalms 20:4-5 (NIV)

The desire of any parent’s heart is to see their children realize the desires of their hearts.  We want to see them succeed and we want to see them live victorious lives.  However, none of these things are under our control.  We have no power to provide these things for our children.  Ours is a different responsibility.

We prepare our children’s hearts to be open to the leading of the Lord so their desires are in line with the things of heaven.  We teach them the meaning of success according to the Word instead of the world so they will pursue God’s purpose for their lives. We discipline our children’s wills to be humble before God so that they are empowered to contend for the truth.

Parents have the blessing and privilege to prepare their children to receive all that God has for them, but we have to be cautious and not try to do God’s job for Him.  He fulfills desires.  He empowers and equips us for success.  He is the motivation and means of victory.  He is the provider of all good things.  We are the tillers of soil and He makes the seed grow and bear fruit.

If I want my children to experience the blessing from God in the Psalmist’s prayer, I have to be leading them to the depths of God.  I need to be educating them in the Word.  I need to be discussing the life of God with them each day so that, as much as it is in my power, my children are His to bless.

Lord, help me to set my children up for success with God.  Show me the ways I can till the soil of their hearts so You can grow the truth in their hearts.  May they be Yours wholly and happily to bless and to keep all the days of their lives. Amen.

Uncommon Wisdom


The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul. The statutes of the LORD are trustworthy, making wise the simple. – Psalms 19:7 (NIV)

Most of us have heard the euphemism “Common sense isn’t so common.”  We laugh or snicker, but the truth of the saying pricks just a bit.  As a culture, we share the same sensibilities with our neighbors less and less.  We have become diverse not just in the characteristics closer to the surface of who we are, but deep down in the core.

Cultures go through these eras of tumult and transition and they are rarely without difficulty.  In theUSAwe have gone through our share – the Revolution, the Civil War, the Civil Rights movement – where combating groups held their sensibilities to those which were common.  Christians took their stance on both sides of all these issues, so even we did not hold things in common all the time.

There is something common for all of us.  We can take our opinions or feelings and use them to define reality, to determine what is true.  Maturity is no longer allowing our weaknesses to define the world around us, but to allow the truth of God’s word to define the way we see ourselves and the world.  His law is perfect and allows us to see things perfectly, but we must see the world through that lens.

We need to begin this with our children before they are increasingly exposed to the worldliness around them.  We need to expose them to the truths of God well before they are inundated with the lies of the world.  This means that we and our children will be at odds with our culture, even at odds with our family and neighbors.  The hope is that standing our ground will turn others to look at that perfect law.

Lord, help us to live according to Your word and not according to our will.  Help me to increase in wisdom and knowledge of Your statutes.  May my children be prepared to meet the foolishness of the world with Your wisdom.  Amen.