Sunday, May 13, 2012

Why Fathers Need Mothers

Instead of going with the obligatory title or content for any blog written on Mother's Day, I decided to try a little shock value and talk a bit about fathers - why fathers need mothers.  I am writing this for fathers and guys who are first and foremost problem solvers and logic thinkers and who are attempting to lead their families well.  I am writing this for guys who have been told that they are to be the "leader of the home" and who find themselves attempting to lead a family the way they think it should be lead and are finding it messy and a mess.  I am writing this for men who have children who they don't understand and are finding that there is more and more conflict in the home instead of peace.  I am writing this for every male that does not fully appreciate what your mother and the mother of your children brings to the table.

I have to confess that it took me a few years of marriage and child rearing to begin to move toward admitting that I did not have all the answers and admitting that leadership of the home was not totally centered on me and my way of doing things.  It took friction between my wife and I and a few sleepless nights for me to BEGIN the journey of understanding why God created man AND woman and brought them together to form a family.

Let me start by stating the conclusion: I needed my mother.  I need my wife. 

I needed my mother to model to me nurturing; to show me what grace was.  I needed her to show me love when my heart was broken and my plans were messed up - I needed that model to understand that I need to do that for others when they are broken and messed up.  I needed my mother to be faithful to me when I broke windows, when I hid my boots (long story...), when I broke dishes instead of drying them, when I was depressed after a basketball game; when the stuff of life hit me.  I needed her to be there, not just with me, but for me.  I needed her to model that for me so that I can pass that onto my children.  I was blessed to have a mother who did just that for me.  My job was, and is, to note that faithfulness, that tenderness, that nurture, so that I can move it from what was done for me to what I do for my children.

I need the mother of my children to continue to teach me how to be a better father and person.  I need her to challenge me, to raise and eyebrow every once and a while, to talk to me about my short comings so that I can grow and change.  I need her to balance my personality with hers so that TOGETHER, we can raise children that get the best of both of us and not the worse.  I need to listen to her, watch her, appreciate her and try and emulate her nurturing and loving nature as I seek to fulfill the calling of dad.

Say thanks to your mom and mother of your children today.  Do more than just say thanks - tell God thank you for bring them into your life and really seek to learn from them how to be a better man and a better person!

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Weeds #2

It was a while ago, but I think that I wrote about weeds.  I mean, I like my lawn to be weed free and I especially like my garden weed free.  As I stated before, there are some funny tings about weeds.  You never plant them - they just show up.  Some of them are very hardy and don't need a ton of water to live (when your yard is brown in August, there are still nice green spots of weeds!).  They tend to grow faster than what you are trying to grow.  They spread.

My daughter is having a graduation open house this summer so the I have a project list to accomplish around the house.  One of the projects is to clean up some of the landscape beds - in particular one that is really weed infested.  As I examined the area a couple of weeks ago, I sighed - TONS of weeds have overtaken the ornamental grasses that I had planted there a few years ago - in particular quack grass.  The problem with quack grass is that the roots go every where.  When I tried to weed it, I found the roots of the quack grass had wrapped itself around the roots of the ornamental grasses so I could not remove the weed without damaging the plant.  I finally decided that the only option I had was to spray Round Up on the whole area, kill everything and then start over.

Life lesson - don't let the weeds grow.  Get rid of the root of bitterness EARLY (Heb. 12:15) before it consumes you.  Get rid of the weeds in your life that are keeping you from experiencing the fullness of God - the weeds of disobedience, the weeds of a bad habit, the weeds of anger, the weeds of - pick your favorite sin. 

I am afraid if we don't get rid of the weeds in our lives, they will consume us - even Christians!  They will continue to grow until we find the fruitfulness of our lives overcome by the weeds of sin.  The lesson of this year was that if I don't take care of the weeds, there might be whole areas of my life that needs to be killed so that something good can grow.  Frankly, it seems a whole lot easier to pluck a few weeds in the short term then it is for God to have to wreak havoc in an area of my life because I allow the weeds to grow and consume me. (Did you hear who's responsibility it is to remove the weed?  Mine.  Yes I have the Spirit of God to help.  Yes the power of change comes from God, but I have to take the step to WANT to get rid of it.)

Start pulling those weeds today!!!

Sunday, April 08, 2012

Been thinking more about complacency and how it impacts my spiritual life.  It is amazing to me how easily I slide into not doing the work that I know I need to do to maintain a relationship.  This is true not only with my relationship with God, but also in my other key relationships. I find this is true with my wife, my kids, etc.  I forget that relationships take work - time, thought focus, prayer, action, communication - relationships, good ones, long lasting ones - don't just "happen". 

From a spiritual sense, the work is on my end - God never moves away from a relationship with me; I move away from my relationship with Him.  One problem I is that I have an enemy that is relentless; who is, along with his forces, constantly working on moving me away from God (see Ephesians 6:12).  He is bent on ruining my relationship with God.  The other problem I have is me.  The human tendency, my tendency, is toward complacency, toward "resting on my laurels", toward moving away from God instead of toward Him, toward wanting something (a relationship) for nothing (no work), toward self centeredness and feeding my flesh, instead of being centered on God.  For sure the Spirit is working to maintain that relationship, but MYwork is to follow the Spirit and DO the things that I know I need to do.

I have to make conscious decisions, I have to consciously work,to maintain or I will slide.  If I let my guard down, if I coast, if I become complacent, if I rest on my laurels - my relationship with slide.

I guess that is why I wrote this.  I have to remind myself that I have to be diligent.

Sunday, April 01, 2012

Complacent Grace

What is the third thing you do when you are driving in the winter and you start sliding around on a slippery road?  (The first thing you do is correct the problem.  The second thing you do is take a couple of deep breaths and let your heart settle down.)  You slow down.  You pay more attention to the road conditions and to the cars around you. You begin to believe that YOU can have an accident.  You are shaken from your complacency; shaken from thinking that nothing will happen to you because nothing has.

Complacency seems to be a human characteristic.  There are so many areas of our lives that we just settle into and become complacent.  Parenting - until one day we wake up and our child is suspended from school.  Marriage - until one day we are told by our spouse that she doesn't really love us any more.  Work - until we find our selves on the receiving end of a pink slip.

Spiritually.....  Our relationship with God.  When we do receive a wake up call?  When are we shaken from complacency?  I think there are three times when we can be shaken.  First, at funerals - when we are faced with the fact that we are going to die one day.  Secondly, when we die and stand before our creator and the events of our lives are reviewed.  Thirdly, when we look at scripture and allow the Holy Spirit to work within our soul.

The first, funerals, typically are few an far between when we are young and really have the energy to change.  The second, death - well, then it is too late to do anything.  The last is something that we can control.  We can pick up the scriptures and be challenged.  We have the ability to read.  We have the ability to allow the Holy Spirit to speak to us.

So why don't we choose to shake ourselves out of complacency?  Why don't we pick up the scriptures?  Because we are complacent.  Vicious circle isn't it.

I find myself too often content, complacent.  I have been saved from sin and from eternal damnation, isn't that enough?  I mean, why is it important for me not to be complacent.  I will write more about this in my next post.  Stay tuned.....

Monday, March 26, 2012

I have read a two books and watched a management series by Henry Cloud. I have been impressed with his action orientated teaching.  When I received an email about a series of Webinars from Dr Cloud and Dr Townsend, I thought I would sign up.  I got a little more than I bargained for. 

The first webinar was about the barriers to change.  Nothing earth shattering or convicting here.  It was good information, but I didn't see any of "afraid to change" factors present in me.  (I will come back to this - maybe not the best conclusion on my part.)

The second webinar started by a challenge to write down the goal that you have for your life; the reason that you started watching these webinars in the first place.  This is where the trouble started.  I was unable to come up with a goal.  I mean, I have goals, but they seem kind of trivial and really short term - get this project done, wrap up this project, etc.; not the kind of goal that requires life change or a more radical movement.  I really could not come up with anything that seemed like a worthwhile goal.  That was really disheartening to me - so disheartening I stopped watching the webinar. 

Then the questioning started.  Have I become so complacent and content in my life that I have no aspirations anymore?  Have I achieved everything that I am supposed to achieve?  Am I afraid to step out?  Have I closed my mind to the possibility of larger goals because I am comfortable?  Am I just too tired to aspire?  Positive answers to any of these questions is depressing. 

Here is the problem.  I am a mountain climber.  I love to dream and make those dreams reality.  I love to move forward.  I love to change.  I love to be a change agent. This is how I am wired and one of the contributions that I believe I bring to this world.  I think this is where the "depression" set in: the gap between were I am (no goals) and who I believe I am (action orientated).

OK, so I have to do some work.  I have to make sure that there are no personal barriers to me changing or moving - that I am not lying to myself when I thought that I got a passing grade on all the reasons why people don't change.  Secondly, I believe that I need to listen more to the Spirit.  I cannot believe that He is done with me - that I have no other mountains to climb.  I just need to listen, clearly listen to what He would have me do.

One of my driving passions has been to spend/invest my life - not to waste it.  Being sedentary is wasting it......

I guess the reason I wrote this is so that you do not become complacent either.  Do not waste your life.  Keep moving and don't be content with the status quo.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

I say this every time I have a gap in my blog - it has been a while and I have not taken the time to write.  In reality, I guess that I have had nothing to say of any value.  (Of course one could argue that I never have any thing valuable to say!)

I have had a fascination with war - not the carnage and killing - that would be morbid - but the fact that humans can be so evil and so inhumane.  And frankly, human stupidity.

For example, in World War II the conquer of France by Germany was not by direct frontal attack through the fortified Siegfried line which was along the France-German border, but through Belgium; around the Siegfried line.  Guess what plan had been proposed by a German general in World War I?  Guess what strategy the Germans used in World War I to avoid the French forts along the France-German border?  You guessed it - they attacked through Belgium.

I look at this and ask myself - how can people be so incredibly stupid?  How can the brightest military minds spend millions and millions of dollars to establish fortifications along a line that 30 years before had simply been bypassed?  Seriously?  Did they not see this coming?  Did they not understand the strategic deficiency of not protecting the France-Belgium border? 

What is it about the human condition that causes our minds to bypass things like this?  It is arrogance?  Is it complacency or laziness of mind?  It is simple ignorance?  It is a failure to believe that the past can and will repeat itself?

Whatever it is, it is dangerous human trait.  The Bible speaks of our enemy being smart.  He is seeking to devour us and he will use whatever means he deems necessary to gain victory.  It is our charge to be wise to his schemes.  It is necessary that we not become complacent or routine in our lives so as to give the enemy an opening.  If he has used a scheme in the past and found success - guess what - he will probably use it again.  Be diligent, but wise, be looking for subtle attacks of the evil one.  Don't let him repeat his old attacks on you!

Sunday, February 05, 2012

This week in our couple's group we were looking a bit into the writings of the prophet Isaiah who spoke during the last days of the kingdom of the northern part of Israel and a resurgence of the spiritual life of the southern part.  The open scene in the book of Isaiah is King Uzziah dying.  Uzziah was a good king, a king that followed God and led the nation toward God.  His son, who reigned for 16 years after him was also good.  Then the wheels feel.  Ahaz moved the nation to idol worship and made alliances with the Assyrians for protection - bad decision that led them down the path of worshiping idols with him in the lead.  This was the beginning of the end for the southern tribes.

Isaiah was a prophet of hope though.  I the last part of his writings, he spoke of the coming Messiah, the suffering Savior how was to be the salvation of the world.  He also spoke of the restoration of Israel in the future.  After recounting the re-establishment of that nation in chapter 49, he makes this statement:

23....Then you will know that I am the LORD; those who hope in me will not be disappointed.

This is an amazing statement about the character of God.  It reminds me about God's challenge about tithing in Malachi 3 - test me on this and see if I am not faithful.  Test me.  Try me out.  See if what I say is not true.  See if I am truthful to my word.

As I thought about this, I wondered about what I put my hope in and why.  There are times when my hope is displaced - I hope in other things.  I put my hope in things or people or position or money - I want them to deliver me happiness, contentment, joy, peace - they never do (at least not for long enough duration).  They disappoint.  I try them and they disappoint.  I try them over and over again and am disappointed over and over again - that's the problem.

My challenge to the group and to myself was - root out those things in my life that I put my hope in (another word for this would be "idol") and put my trust totally in the Lord.  Then, and only then, I will not be disappointed.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Growing Up and Out

We traveled to Iowa last weekend to visit my daughter who is working for a consulting company out there.  She has been living in an apartment, come home of holidays, etc. - emotionally it felt like she was still in college.

One of the purposes of this visit was to look at a house she is buying.  Emotionally that DIDN'T feel like she was in college.  This had and has a feeling of permanence, of "OK, I am staying out here".  It didn't hit me too hard during the weekend because we were running around and trying to get a bunch of things done. However, as I settled in last night to my weekly routine, I began to emotionally understand that my daughter has not only moved out, she has grown up. 

This did not come as a surprise for me, but it sure sneaked up on me.  Part of why this is challenging is that you always wonder if you have done enough as a parent to prepare them to live in the world; to live successfully in the world.  Did you show them love enough, did you teach them enough, did you spend enough time with them, did you release them appropriately, did they know that you loved them, did you mess them up too bad, etc.

This is the hard thing about parenting.  There is no coasting.  Coasting means slowing down and coming to a stop.  You never speed up when you are coasting.  You never get to your destination if you just coast.  You have to drive; intentionally set a direction and put energy toward it.

I hope that I did that enough; I hope that I am doing that enough (I still have three more to go through this phase).

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Does God ever give up?  Does He ever just throw up His hands and say "I'm done".  At first glance, when I ask myself this question, if feels wrong.  Isn't God patient?  Doesn't He model the perfection of forbearance?  It doesn't feel very loving for God to give up on us.

In one sense, God never gives up.  He pursues us, attempts to bring us to Him, invites us, and desires us.  His love for us drives Him to pursue us.

Having said that, I do believe that there is a time when God gives up - a better way of saying that would be "lets us go our own way".

In my study of Judges, this section popped up in chapter 2:

20 Therefore the LORD was very angry with Israel and said, “Because this nation has violated the covenant that I laid down for their forefathers and has not listened to me, 21 I will no longer drive out before them any of the nations Joshua left when he died. 22 I will use them to test Israel and see whether they will keep the way of the LORD and walk in it as their forefathers did.” 23 The LORD had allowed those nations to remain; he did not drive them out at once by giving them into the hands of Joshua.

He had promised to drive out the nations that lived in Canaan.  He promised that the Israelites would have victory over their enemies.  What changed?  

These statements were given right after the summary of how the Israelites moved into the Canaanite culture and, instead of conquering it, adopted it.  They settled into the towns that they had conquered - they set up house, arranged their furniture in the rooms, put the rugs down, hung curtains and settled in.  They didn't move toward removing the nations from among them.  They settled in.

The problem of settling instead of conquering was that they adopted the worship practices of the idols of these nations.  Judges 2 records that they abandoned God and worshiped the idols.  From a 3500 years later perspective, it is hard for me to believe that this only took one generation to happen.  They knew the stories of God; how He brought them from Egypt, how He carried them for 40 years in the dessert, how He subdued the enemies in Canaan, but they chose to abandon God.

That is the operative word - they chose to abandon God.  God pursued them by allowing nations to conquer them and by giving them judges, but they still chose to abandon him.  Pursuit after pursuit after pursuit failed - they chose to move away from God instead of move toward Him.  After many attempts to pursue, God allowed them to continue in their path and removed the barriers that were in front of them.  He didn't give up, He just allowed them to move in the direction that they wanted to move in: in spite of the consequences.  (Also see  Romans1.)

Obvious question - when will this happen to us?  When will God stop putting up guard rails and let us go our own way (which will never result in a life giving result.....)?  You never know.  You never know when your rebellion will result in God saying "OK, I will let you go your own way; I will not stop you".  Read the rest of Judges and see what happens when He allows us to move in our own direction. (And yet He still was waiting to take them back!)

Sunday, January 08, 2012

Light of the World

Happy New Year!  The new year is already one week old - hard to believe.  Have been reading Judges in preparation for our Wednesday morning men's group.  Some pretty interesting history here.  The book of the Judges covers a period of history from about 1350 BC to 1000 BC when Saul was anointed the first king.

There are two things that jumped out to me as I began this study.  First, how fast the people forsook God.  Notice these words in the second chapter of the book of Judges:

 7The people served the LORD throughout the lifetime of Joshua and of the elders who outlived him and who had seen all the great things the LORD had done for Israel. ....10 After that whole generation had been gathered to their fathers, another generation grew up, who knew neither the LORD nor what he had done for Israel. 11 Then the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the LORD and served the Baals. 12 They forsook the LORD, the God of their fathers, who had brought them out of Egypt. They followed and worshiped various gods of the peoples around them. 

Although the stories of how God had defeated the Israelites was known, told, retold and told again; even though the nations around Israel trembled when they heard what God had done 400 YEARS BEFORE with Egypt, the generation after Joshua faded.  They forgot that it was God that delivered them.  They doubted the goodness, testimony and word of God and started worshiping the carved poles and sculpted idols of the nations around them.  Instead of being a light to the nations around them, they became like them.  Their light went out.

The obvious question that I must ask myself is about my light to the world.  Is my candle under a bushel?  Is the light within me hidden because I am too much like the world?  Am I about showing the world what a life obedient to God can look like or do I just look like everyone else - in every area of my life?  Do my finances show that priority?  Does the use of my time?  Do the things that I put into my mind?

Enough to think about.  Will go an to the second thing later.......

Sunday, January 01, 2012

The beginning of a new year - wow!  This is always the time of year when you take stock of life and see what changes need to happen.  It is funny how God brings things into your life to give you a push in that direction.  Had a opportunity to visit a man named Carl yesterday.  Carl found out 3 weeks ago that he had a brain tumor - the fastest growing brain tumor this is currently known to man.  I visited him in hospice yesterday and took this picture.  He is very close to death - the experts give him about a week or so.  This is a picture of Carl in his hospice bed.

Carl is a unique man.  The most unique thing is that Carl loves Jesus.  He has committed his life to pastoring, being a missionary and being a counselor.  I have been impressed with his relationship with Christ.  The testimony of his life and the words from his lips always speak of Jesus.  It seemed as if every other word out of his mouth was about Jesus.

The thing that simply amazed me in my conversation with Carl yesterday was his worship of God.  He statement to me was "God is so gracious to me.  I could have had this tumor and illness for years; God is being gracious to me by taking me soon."  I really was astonished at his statement.  Normally I hear complaint and groaning - not from Carl.  He gave glory to God and His abundant grace toward him.

I was reminded of the words of Paul in his last letter to his friend and protege Timothy:  I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.  Now there is in store for me a crown of righteousness (II Tim. 4:7-8).  Well done, good and faithful servant (Matt. 25:21).

How does this tie into new years?  I want to be like Carl.  I want to me a man of God like he is.  I want to finish my life well and grace filled.  I know what I need to do in order to accomplish this.  I know that this is not going to happen automatically; without work and focus on my part.  I know that there are things that I have to start doing and things that I have to stop doing.  I know that if I am ever going to be the kind of man I have to work at it.  That is my charge for this new year.