Wednesday, June 17, 2015

The Woodshed

This morning as I tried to get some extra sleep, my mind began to drift into worries large and small.  I prayed, but still mind kept returning to the little foxes stealing from my peace.  As I slipped into that half awake and half asleep place where fairies dwell, my dad came to visit me....Uh, oh!

My father was always a great and powerful force with which to be reckoned.  He never minced words when it came to those he loved because he knew that too much was at stake for wasted time, and he always seemed to go immediately to the heart of our sin rather than dance around the edges.  For that I miss him and wish I had not hid from him so much, because he loved each of us passionately....we just didn't always see it. 

In my dream state, my father saw me there wallowing in despair, trying to fix the problems of the world and my family in Christ.  He said to me,
"What difference does it make?! I'm talking about YOU and your walk before God.  Get up off your butt and walk with God."   
 My father was always reminding me that it doesn't matter what other people said or thought, my concern was to be my walk with God and to keep my eyes on Him. He had his eyes fixed on eternity and not the here and now.  Our problems and trials seem huge, but they pale in comparison to God and His power.  Are you weighed down with worry?  Keep your eyes heavenward, imagine how small these problems are in light of all eternity.  Get off your duff and walk with God.  Do what is right and what He has called you to do.

Monday, June 08, 2015

The Church in Ruins

The walls of Jerusalem are in ruins.  Who will be strong and with me rebuild?

The state of the Church in America is quickly crumbling.  It is true that it has been morally declining for generations, but today I feel that its very foundations have been shaken because many of  those who are called to shepherd the sheep have themselves become as lost sheep.  In the church today, we are statistically no different from those outside the fold.  We are living as practical atheists, naming the name of Christ and yet serving our base desires.  We have taken on a form of godliness but denied its power.  It is truly a disheartening, frightening, and lonely time for the Christian who desires to serve God, particularly if our eyes are not on Him.  I realize these statements seem vague, but that is intentional as I believe this to a nearly universal situation.  I believe some of the solutions to be somewhat universal as well.

The first thing we need is compassion.  See past your fellow parishioner or pastor's sin and see the pain they must certainly be feeling.  I can tell you honestly, that if a person is a child of God and sinning, they are at war with themselves and with God and are in spiritual and perhaps emotional pain, sometimes to the point of physical pain no matter how hard they try to conceal it.  We must realize as well that it is ONLY the grace of God that keeps us from that self inflicted pain; apart from Christ we are dead.  We must be very careful to not sit in judgment; instead, we need to seek to rebuild.

We must also have courage.  If you  are seeing the state of the Church in America as crumbling, no doubt you feel isolated and have self doubts that plague you.  It is during these times that we need to take our eyes off our situation or fellow Christians and fix them on Christ, listening to His voice.  We are called to follow Christ, not other Christians. These feelings are not new to this age; many prophets and men/women of God felt completely alone in their pursuit of God.  That is one reason I love the Old Testament narratives, because I am encouraged by how God worked through those situations and saw the faithful safely through to the other side.  Know you are not alone; stand with me and rebuild.

We need continuity.  We must remain faithful in a faithless generation.  There must be someone who will stand and point the way so that others might live as well.  It will not be easy though.  Realize you will fall at various times and fall often.  If you find that you have fallen or strayed, no matter how far, fix your eyes on Jesus and run home, run hard.  If we confess our sins, He is faithful to forgive us our sins.  We must, however, press on in our faith. The only way we can do this is to take our eyes off of ourselves and our circumstances and fix them on the author and finisher of our faith.  He is always faithful.  He never changes.  He is able to do all things.  It is time to rebuild.  Who will stand with me?

Sunday, June 07, 2015

Wrestling with God

And Jacob was left alone. And a man wrestled with him until the breaking of day. ~Gen. 32:24

Jacob had truly wrestled with God all of his life up until this point, trying force God to give him the life of his own choosing.  It was only when Jacob, physically exhausted and alone in the desert, surrendered to Him that God blessed him and changed his life forever. 

Each of us wrestles with God.  Each of us goes through desert times.  It is my prayer that I be yielded to God and never attempt to squeeze Him into my own neat little box of how things should be.  Watch and pray....

Friday, June 05, 2015

Taking Flight in New Directions

January 18, 1993....
Two nights ago Erin found an old pacifier and was truly heart broken because we didn't let her keep it.  I had to hold her the rest of the evening, but she went to sleep fine.  You could see on her face that she knew she wasn't supposed to have it.  There was a real inner struggle going on for her.  She wants to grow up but occasionally looks back.

In looking for a good photo for a Fathers' Day blog, I came across a journal we used to keep on your early years.  When I came across this entry, I must admit that it made me cry.  We saw your struggles and felt your pain then, just as we do now.  We know that you have difficult decisions ahead of you and that your desire is ultimately to please God and to grow in Him.  We also know that very often that growth comes with sacrifice and pain.  Just as we did throughout your childhood, we are praying for you, cheering you on, and are here whenever you just need an ear for listening or a shoulder for crying  It is a time for more growth and richer blessings than any of us can imagine. It's time for you to spread your wings and fly.  Don't worry about falling; God's got you.  Soar and see His beauty.  We love you and are so proud of you!

Thursday, June 04, 2015

Fathers Day

Honor your father and mother, that your days may be long in the land that the LORD your God is giving you. ~Exodus 20:12

Did you ever notice how there are no conditions tagged on to this, such as "if they deserve it."  Fathers' Day is difficult for a lot of people (as is Mothers' Day for some) because they feel their parent did not measure up in some way or abused them.  Bad parenting and abuse existed when the Israelites were roaming the desert and it still exists today.  It is sad, but it is true.  God was aware of it when he decided to making honoring our parents a commandment then, and He is aware of it today.  God is not asleep, nor is He on vacation. Honoring someone who has mistreated you or harmed you (or someone you love) is difficult at best, but harboring feelings of ill will towards a parent throughout your life is even harder.  God doesn't ask us to whitewash our problems or lie about our parents, acting as if everything is wonderful.  He wants us to bring the things that weigh heavily upon us to Him and seek His counsel in order to be free.

I loved my father, but I didn't always like him.  I hesitate to post anything about my dad because I do not wish to dishonor him, but I don't want my readers to think that my dad was perfect because he was not.  Below is an excerpt from a journal of mine as an adult:

Oct. 11, 2000....The main thing on my mind is my dad.  He has terminal liver cancer.  My feelings have been very confused.  At times I have even been angry with him for choices he has made that may have led to this (my father drank....a lot)  I have also had a great sense of loss of childhood almost.  I wish that my dad and I had been close.  I wish we had done fun things together.  I wish he hadn't yelled so much or called me names.  I wish he would have allowed me to be an individual with a mind of my own.  I wish he had been more godly - a strong, but gentle spiritual leader.  I wish he had been man enough to tell me that he loved me.  I wish he had treated me like a lady.  I wish he had respected my privacy.  I wish he had protected me from certain young men.  I wish he had practiced what he preached.  I wish I didn't feel like hiding from him.  I wish I weren't so much like him.... 

We all, from time to time, have at best very ambiguous feelings towards a parent, but our obedience to God is never contingent upon someone else's behavior.  We are responsible before God for our behavior and no one else's.  So how would honoring someone who doesn't deserve it look? 

First, realize that most parents really didn't want to make a mess of the live of their children.  We can only build with the tools we are given and some of us are better equipped than others.  My father, for example, was treated very cruelly as a child.  Those patterns, in small ways, were carried over into his own parenting style because those were the tools he had been given by his parents.  Did my father love & respect his parents?  You better believe it!  They were most likely doing the best they knew how as well.  While bad parenting that you received doesn't excuse the bad parenting you are now modeling, it does shed light on it so that you can know better where and how to correct it in your own life. 

Second, realize that God is not asking you to make that parent your new best pal or to blindly follow any advice or instruction that clearly goes against God's Word.  He asks us to respect their position and to honor them.  For some of us, honoring our parents will simply mean that we stop bashing him or her all over social matter how much we feel they deserve it.  That never solves anything.   Seek to understand and work through ill or ambiguous feelings towards your parent so that you both can move forward instead of stewing in your juices of anger or resentment.  As much as it lies within you, extend to them the same grace, mercy, and forgiveness that you desire.

Third, if you are able to only honor your parent in this one way, do this: pray for them!  Pray for their spiritual state and pray for your attitude toward them. Pray for healing.  We all need it. 

My dad was taken from us in 2006 and I miss him terribly at times.  Fortunately, I worked through my feelings before he died and I was able to let go.  For those who are still harboring resentment or ambiguity towards a parent, work through it before it's too late.  Carrying that baggage only weighs more heavily with the passing of time....