Thursday, June 14, 2018

What My Father Taught Me

One of my favorite commercials shows a boy riding in back seat of the car with his dad. The boy’s looking out the window while he’s on a work call, until his dad says, “No, I’m sorry, I just can’t do that. I may lose the account, but it wouldn’t be honest and I can’t do business that way.” The son listens. A lesson has been taught.

The next scene shows the son at school. There’s a pop quiz in class and he’s not ready. Another boy offers to let him copy his answers. He thinks about it, then replies, “No I just can’t do that. I probably won’t do very well, but it wouldn’t be honest.”

Dads are teaching, even when they don’t realize it. I’m thankful for all you dads out there who actively, purposefully teach your children right and wrong, and even more, for you who live it out day by day. I applaud your diligence and integrity.

My dad did both and I’m grateful for his influence in my life. Here are a few things I’ve learned from him:

How to laugh
My dad has a great sense of humor, but he doesn’t laugh at the expense of others. He laughs at himself, and the funny and ridiculous turns of life. I love to hear his laughter.

The joy of music
Music was Dad’s work, but it’s also his delight. There was always music in our home—from the stereo, or someone practicing piano, flute, saxophone, clarinet, or voice. He and Mom played piano and trombone for years, then tried their hands at piano duets. They sang in the choir and we sang as a family. Our two “Halleluia” rounds are my all time favorites, but so are the silly songs we sang on camping and road trips, “Bill Grogan’s Goat; I’ve a Pair of Fishes; Tumba, Tumba; and Senor Don Gato Was a Cat.

How to take care of your body
Dad has always worked out. When I was a child he would change out of his suit and tie into a white t-shirt and sweats to do his military calisthenics after work. He loved hiking and playing tennis. He’s still going to the gym and playing tennis several times a week in his 80’s. And even though we all share a great love for food, Dad eats a healthy diet to keep his weight down.

That humility is strength
My dad is human and he has made mistakes. But I think I’ve admired him most when he humbled himself to apologize for a wrong or overly harsh response. He willingly asks for advice and learns from others.

The value of work
Work is a positive thing in my family. Mom and Dad praised our efforts, even when they were less than perfect, and they encouraged us girls to get jobs as soon as we were old enough.Working and practicing good stewardship taught us how to handle money, and we took pride in doing our best even when no one was watching.

How to balance work and family
But it wasn’t all work. Some Saturdays we took off for the beach or a hike. We traveled, played games together, and watched movies. When we were together Dad was fully present in our conversations and set work aside to be with us.

The importance of putting God first
My dad says he’s not much of a reader, but he’s been studying God’s Word as long as I remember. A born teacher, he likes to discuss whatever he and Mom are teaching in Sunday school. Dad doesn’t attend church, read the Bible, or do the right thing just when he feels like it, but because he’s committed to living every moment for Jesus.

About spiritual leadership
Mom and Dad led us in family devotions—not every day and it was not always fun. But now that we’re adults, my sisters and I all love talking with them about God whenever we’re together. Dad was the spiritual leader of our home, not because he demanded it, but because he accepted his God-given role and rose to the challenge.

I’m so thankful for my Dad and all he’s taught me. I could say much more, but I want to give you the chance to share what your fathers have taught you. Click on the Comment button and share a favorite memory, or what your dad is currently teaching you. And be sure to share with your dad how thankful you are for his words and example.

Happy Father’s Day!

#Father’sDay #teachingbyexample #actionsspeaklouderthanwords #bettercaughtthantaught #godlydads #loveyoudad

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

What Does That Mean?

Most of the Bible, especially the New Testament, is pretty straight forward. I love the narratives of people’s lives throughout the Old and New Testament. I learn from both their good and bad examples. But sometimes it seems like the authors of the Bible disguise their message in mystic symbolism instead of saying what they mean.
Western readers miss a lot, especially in the books of wisdom, poetry, and prophesy, because we think differently than those in the eastern culture. Living centuries later makes a difference too. It’s all still relevant, we just don’t have the same customs, clich├ęs, or live the same way they did at the time it was written. The more we learn about the original audience, the easier it is to understand the Bible. But we don’t have to do this alone.

This is where the Church comes in. When we get together with other believers and grapple with a passage or concept, it suddenly comes alive. Those who’ve read and studied can share their insights, others’ personal experiences can shed light on the topic. Both those who’ve read the Bible all their lives and brand new believers still finding their way around, have valuable input and questions—we’re better together.

That’s what happened in our small group Sunday morning. In the middle of our study on Revelation, we paused to discuss Psalm 131:2, “I have stilled and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother.” What does that mean anyway?

 “How does a weaned child behave differently with its mother than a nursing baby?” There were so many different answers!

“They’re more defiant?” 

“They learn the word, ‘No.’” We all laughed.

But that didn’t fit the tone of the psalm, because David was describing a positive action on his part. This verse stumped me for years. My commentaries didn’t say much about it, but after I nursed two babies, I saw the difference in our relationship after they were weaned.

Babies howl at all times of the day and night. Every hunger pang, wet diaper, emerging tooth—any discomfort—is the end of the world and needs to be fixed RIGHT NOW. But months of nursing nurture an intimate bond between mother and child. As they mature and begin to eat solid food, children become more independent, but still look to Mom (and Dad) to meet their needs.

The more they see how faithfully she cares for them, the more they love and trust her. A weaned child still looks to Mom for sustenance, but understands she will provide what’s necessary when the time is right. 

A weaned child comes to Mom just to be near her, even when there’s no particular need. Because of love. She’s the one who comforts when their out of sorts and don’t know what to do; she’s the one who wipes their tears and snuggles them when they skin their knee. With Mom, they laugh, explore, and express wonder.

Someone else shared a very important insight. Weaned children choose intimacy. The more independent they become, the less they need to rely on Mom. They can choose whether they eat the plate of healthy food she provides, or snack on dirt in the yard, crumbs off the floor, or hold out for junk food when it’s available. They can go to Mom when there’s a need, or hide their hurt and questions inside. They can trust Mom’s instruction, or believe their friend’s five-year-old wisdom instead. 

Which child are you? Do you howl for God to fix your problems and expect Him to do it RIGHT NOW? Are you still drinking milk? Or have you learned to trust Him and wait for His timing because you’ve experienced His love and faithfulness? Are you eating the meat of the Word? Do you come to Him, not just when you need something, but to snuggle and laugh, marvel at His creation, learn from Him, and tell Him how much you love Him?

I know which child I want to be. It’s not easy to grow up, but what a beautiful picture of the kind of relationship we can have with God—if we will still and quiet our soul.

#poetryanalysis #analyzingscripture #donenursing #motherchildbond #psalm131:2 #intimacywithGod

Thursday, May 31, 2018

While You’re Waiting

I hate waiting. Most of us do. It seems like a waste of time. It’s like sitting at the side of a trail instead of hiking. Your body aches to get moving, but you don’t want to waste time and energy traveling the wrong direction. So when God says to wait, you wait. And maybe pace and sigh a little.

But there’s one verse in the Bible I love, because it tells me I don’t have to just sit by the trail getting cold, my legs cramping from inactivity. It says: “Yes, LORD, walking in the way of your laws, we wait for you; your name and renown are the desire of our hearts” (Isa. 26:8). In other words—while walking, we wait. Sound like a paradox? 

When we’re waiting on the Lord to give us directions about a financial decision, relationship quandary, work situation, or health choice, we don’t want to move ahead of His will, but we can be productive. There are a lot of things we can act on, and that feels really good since our feet are made for walking. We walk in the way of His laws—His decrees or commands. 

That means, while we’re waiting, we can:

Be Truthful
With God, others, and ourselves. We can align ourselves with God’s truths stated in scripture. We can move forward in truth, even while we wait for Him to guide us with specifics.

Be Pure
Other words that come to mind are virtuous, moral, righteous, ethical. These may sound too churchy for your taste, but this is what gets us where we need to go. What is right according to God? That leaves out immoral thoughts and behavior. Selfish ambition and greed are also rabbit trails that lead to dead ends, as well as questionable partnerships.

When the forest is dark and quiet and we’re anxious about getting to our destination, it can be hard to trust God to show up in time. That’s when knowing His character helps us hang in there. He is trust-worthy. He has proven himself in the past and He is never late. He knows what needs to happen when, before we do. So we slow our pace, take a few deep breaths, and enjoy the scenery. Relax in His arms.

Savor Companionship
Though it may feel like we’re all alone on the trail, there are in fact many other hikers around. They may be waiting too and glad of the company. Share some trail mix—you’ll need the nourishment to sustain you. Laugh together, share stories, and do some stretches while you wait for instructions.

Too many times we hurtle through life at a ridiculous pace and miss the beauty of the moment. My dad used to hike so fast that I barely had time to look around and enjoy the view, and if I did I ended up tripping over roots and rocks. But God loves it when we take time to worship Him. Even when we’re not sure exactly where we’re going, He surrounds us with beauty worthy of our praise and adoration. He is good and His plans for us are good, even in times of pain and uncertainty.

This is not a comprehensive list—just a few ways we can keep moving forward on this journey of life, even while we’re waiting. I encourage you to ask the Lord what He wants you to do while you wait. And be ready to move out when He speaks.

Happy trails to you. I hope to see you at the end of the road.

#keepmoving #whattodowhenwaiting #walking #obeyingGod #wastedtime #happytrails

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Not So Random Acts

A few years ago we started hearing about Random Acts of Kindness. As if it was a new idea. Actually, God started this a long time ago. And even though it’s fun to bless someone on a whim, it’s even better when you plan ahead. It still feels random to the person on the receiving end, but when you plan ahead, you can “act” more often.

What if we practiced kindness—not just randomly—but all the time, in different ways—so people would know there’s a God who cares and loves to bless them? Imagine how wonderful it would be when there’s a special offering at church or you see someone who needs some hope, if you were ready to do something about it?

Throughout the Bible we’re encouraged to “set aside” both money and time. It talks about setting aside your tithe (10% of your earnings) to keep the church running and help people at home and around the world.  “When you have finished setting aside a tenth…you shall give it to the Levite [the pastors of the day], the foreigner, the fatherless and the widow, so that they may eat in your towns and be satisfied” (Deut. 26:12).  

 And Paul encouraged early believers to help others in need: “On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with your income, saving it up, so that when I come no collections will have to be made”( 1 Cor. 16:2).

Maybe “random acts of kindness” sound like more fun than saving up. But you have to have resources so you can be spontaneous. Think of the possibilities.

Not So Random Giving
We put money in an envelope every payday. It’s so fun to see how God shows us how to spend it! Here are some examples: 

Giveaway bags for beggars—Money has a way of getting spent on drugs or alcohol, so instead, fill a bag with things they might need—socks, hats, food, toothpaste, vitamins, or a blanket. Include encouraging literature or a lightweight Bible, and a note to say you care.

Anonymous Surprises—Leave a note and $20 with a grocery store cashier with instructions—Apply this $20 to the bill of the next tired mommy (elderly person, single dad, or someone who’s going through a tough time), and give them this note. In it tell them they’re important, loved, or offer hope, and keep your identity secret.

Not So Random Time
This one is a challenge; we’re all so busy. That’s why it’s important to set aside time, before it melts away. Plan an hour to sit at a coffee shop and engage strangers in encouraging conversation, or extra time at the gym so you can listen to someone who’s having a hard day. Weed your elderly neighbor’s yard or take Gatorade to a construction crew on a hot day. Spend an hour a week building, sorting, answering phones, or serving people who need a helping hand.

Not So Random Words
Words have power, even when the grammar or spelling is imperfect. My daughter wrote this note when she was about six. I use it as a bookmark and it always makes me smile. It says, “Your my secret angle.”

Who needs words of affirmation, encouragement, or validation? Who needs a laugh or sigh? Who needs to know they matter; that they’re not alone?  Write notes ahead of time to give a waitress, waiter, sign holder, or teacher who needs to hear what a good job they’re doing. Include a gift card or extra tip. 

Note cards and emails can be read over and over without having to be deleted. Sometimes a text is just perfect. And a phone call or personal compliment can warm someone for days.

So go ahead, let the world think you’re practicing random acts of kindness, but you and I know it takes a little planning to change the world.

#randomactsofkindness #planahead #creativegiving #encouragingwords #loveonpurpose