Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Give It Back!!

Bedtime rituals can be trying for all parents. Children are tired, parents are tired, and there are still important rituals to be performed such as brushing teeth and saying prayers. It’s a wonderful time to interact, teach and learn with our children; reading bedtime stories , sharing about the day, and praying together. One night our oldest boy, at the time a sweet little 3 year old, was in a terrible rush to get his pajamas on and was having so much trouble putting on his footed jammies because the top half was inside out, while the bottom half was not. (Not entirely un-comical to watch)

I was explaining to him that they needed to be fixed and taking them off of him when he began crying “hey, give it back, give it back”. He was in such a hurry, that it took some time to get him calmed down, and he still didn’t quite understand why I had taken them until I showed him that I was turning them inside out. Finally he realized what was going on and calmed down. Catastrophe averted, he trundled off to bed.

Such a simple transaction; but I’ve done the same thing with my heavenly Father. “Give it back!” it would cry when I thought something that I was entitled to was being taken. Getting over the feeling of entitlement and replacing it with humble contentment could be the subject of volumes, but the nuance of this particular scenario was that I wasn’t taking away the pajamas for good, I was taking away something I wanted my son to have so that I could give it to him in the “right” way.

God has plans to prosper us. In the eternal sense of the word, but he blesses us here on Earth as well to further that goal. There may be many blessings that we have received or long for that he has planned for us and intends to give us, when and how it is right. I think a great example of this truth is my wife. We met in graduate school and have been together since. We have discovered over the years that we had numerous friends in common, and had come very close to running into each other almost five years earlier than we had. Some in jest and mostly in earnest we realized that, God definitely knew what he was doing. We were not ready for each other five years earlier. We were not the people he planned to make us before giving us the blessing of each other. We would have overlooked, misunderstood, or even dismissed this gift.

What blessings are in our life that we don’t understand HOW God is choosing to give us. Looking at his Earthly gifts with Eternal eyes can shed some light on this. Marrying someone who shares your faith has far lasting impact on you, your children, and your family, than seeking out some Earthly ideal of perfection or following impulsive infatuation. What is going on in your life that you might be feeling “Give it back!”?

This episode gives me a moment of thought when I feel like something is being taken away, or withheld. Then I go back and read Jeremiah 29:11 – “For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

He gives what is right, when it is right and it is always with hands of love and with a heart for your eternity. After all, when it’s all said and done, there’s nothing like the feeling of being zipped up in a pair of fuzzy footed pajamas and tucked into bed by strong hands you know love you.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Lights Out

Our daughter had just begun the preschool bible class at our church and was overjoyed to be Sunday school. Shortly after she had started, she brought home a craft that sparked a thought provoking exchange. The craft was a black square of cardboard with a glow-in-the dark cross painted on it. This cross had been decorated with all sorts of feathers an other trinkets that had tied in with their lesson for the day. She was fascinated by the glowing cross and would test it out by going into her closet and turning off the lights.

Like many little 3 year olds, she was afraid of the dark and insisted on keeping a room light on when she was tucked into bed for the night. A night light would just not cut it for this little one. In an attempt to be somewhat energy conscious, I installed a dimmer in her room so I could turn down the light for her and not leave 200 Watts burning all night long. One particular night, after she was tucked in and the light was dimmed, she asked me to prop the cross craft up on top of her dresser where she could see it from her bed.

“Daddy, I can’t see it glow” she complained as I was about to close the door. “I want to see the cross glowing”.

“Honey,” I said without pause, “you have to turn the other lights all the way off in order to see the light from the cross.”

And then I paused, incriminated, as I realized there was something much deeper about this than just her glow in the dark craft.

Do I have too many other kinds of lights in my life to see the light from the cross? Does God need to turn out these other lights sometimes to get me to see the real light? There is nothing inherently wrong with the worldly blessings that God gives me in this life. He blesses his people for many reasons. He overflows our lives with blessings so that we can share with and serve others. But when I get confused or attached to these blessings rather than the bless-ER, they can interfere with what he is trying to get done my our life. In that case he may just need to let these other lights burn out for a bit for my eternal good.

When I do find myself going through a dark time in my life or facing challenges that strain my own human strength, I am forced start looking around for the real light. I am reminded that I cannot do this on my own. Inevitably I’ve taken my eyes off of the cross and was distracted by some other kind of glittering light.

The lesson I took away from this talk was that sometimes, you have to turn off the other lights all the way to see the light from the cross. But keep your eyes on it, and it will be outshine anything else.

“Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path.”
Psalm 119:105

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Running In the Light

When our daughter, our first child, was only 18 months old, her Godmother lent us their beach house in North Carolina for a week at the end of summer. What a wonderful regenerating gift to a family that had just come through the amazing and beautiful trauma of adjusting to their first child. My parents joined us on this vacation and it was a wonderful time for all of us to rest and relax and for our little girl to roll in the sand and water. During one particular evening we were walking down the beach at night, the entire family. Our girl had been in and out of wet, sandy swimsuits and clothes all day and at this point was simply toddling along in the warm evening in nothing but her plain white diaper. We had a flashlight with us, which we were using to spot ghost crabs and other beach night life. We soon discovered that our little girl's favorite place to run was right in the middle of that spot of light cast by the flashlight. We would aim the beam back and forth across the beach just ahead and beside us and she would run with all abandon in the middle of the light. She would laugh and giggle as it would change directions, stop, and start again and even reverse. Little feet kicking sand up and blond little curls bouncing enjoying nothing more this race in the light.

What a wonderful image of how we should walk with our father! She wasn’t concerned about where the light was pointing, or if the light would go out, or how fast or slow she had to go to stay in the light, she simply stayed in the light, wherever it was pointed. Somehow for us, it seems so much more complicated to stay in the light. We have all the trappings of life on our shoulders; families, jobs, cars, houses, and everything that distracts us from seeing and staying in the middle of that light. Maybe one of the things that struck me about the image of our little girl running on the beach was the simplicity of the image. It was just her with nothing but her pants, and not another distraction. She wasn’t carrying the arm loads of floaties, life vests, or seashells that many of us lug with us on our beaches. And most importantly, there was only one thing on her mind, staying in that light.

What this reminds me, when I think back on this moment, is that we need to look at the clutter that we are carrying through our life, strip down to the bare essentials of what it takes to stay in the light and focus on that one thing. And what is in the light is so much greater than all that other stuff that we leave behind us in the dark.

After writing these thoughts down, I realized that Paul summed it up with such inspiration in his letter. Hebrews 12:1 states:

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.”

Run in that spot Light!

Thursday, October 1, 2009


When our first child was born, God revealed to me, like all parents, some of the most amazing blessings he has for us, his creations. The birth of my daughter Ella changed my life in ways that you understand if you are a parent, and will understand when you become one. There is so much literature and expert advice on parenting, and for certain, I am in no way and expert on the topic, so this is not about child rearing. What this is about, is the hundreds of little lessons God has taught me everyday about my relationship to him, through my relationship with my children.

We are God’s children and he relates so many aspects of his love to this parenting relationship. There are depths of His love that I am certain I had not begun to glimpse until having children of my own, and feeling for myself that complete self sacrificing love for a helpless child. I’ve known the love of a child for a father and that was how I related to my Heavenly Father, but I had no glimpse whatsoever onto what the omniscient mind of God might be like until I felt the love he created for me to feel for my children.

He’s used this love of a father to demonstrate, sometimes comically and other times tragically, lessons that have enriched my soul and brought me closer to Him. There have been numerous moments when I have been interacting with my children when I feel almost a tingle or an “aha” moment when God has used the very words coming out of our mouths to teach me. I’ve tried to capture many of these moments to go back on and ponder, to not forget the lessons he’s trying to teach me. I’m writing them down so maybe in some way they might help others as well.