Month: June 2014

Scraps

Luke 15: 20; 23-24

“So he got up and went to his father. But while he was still a long way off,
his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son,
threw his arms around him and kissed him.
Bring the fattened calf and kill it.
Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again;
he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.”

“Daddy, made a mess.” This phrase is forever etched in my memory. Over a decade ago, as a 20-something single, I heard a gifted speaker and teacher utter those words as part of a message aimed at an audience of teenagers. He was sharing an illustration about his daughter, and how she would sometimes be eating Fruit Loops in the back seat of the car when she would spill them (or dump them out, as the case may be), and then casually call to the front seat, “Daddy, made a mess.” He compared her nonchalant response to us, as children of God. He explained that, often, we are careless with our decisions and our actions; then we turn to God, expecting Him to drop everything and clean up our mess. When he shared this story, I had no children, and no intention of ever having any. And yet, the story resonated with me. Largely for this reason, I think, I tend to see my kids through a lens that allows me to relate their behavior to spiritual lessons. I say all of that to introduce today’s “lesson,” or illustration, if you will.

Enter Laredo. Her breakfast sat on the table: fresh strawberries, Cheerios, and raisins (a favorite of hers at that time). I left her at the table and turned away for a minute. When I looked back, I was surprised to find her squatting down beneath her high chair, eating dried-up food scraps that had admittedly not gotten cleaned up from the night before. Gross.

But, when you think about it, it’s not so much different from the rest of us. For example, consider the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32), eating pig slop in a barn when there was a feast waiting for him back home. We also are, very often, content to sit with our table scraps and garbage, instead of embracing all that God has for us. Remember that we are co-heirs with Christ (Romans 8:17), and that God longs to bless us in ways that we can’t even imagine. We need only let Him. 

The Wren Effect

Thrity-four. That’s how old Wren was when she passed away. She was younger than I am now, and had three young children, ranging in age from one to five years old. I can’t say I knew her well, but I could tell that she was a godly woman of great faith. And I’m sure that she thought often during her final months of how much she wanted to say to her kids and her husband—but there just wasn’t time to fit it all in. Between cancer treatments and the more mundane duties of motherhood—not to mention wanting to spend every spare minute enjoying the company of family—who wants to spend their last days holed up on an office, writing it all down? And how do you decide which of your insights are most important? Worse still, what if, when your time comes, you have no advance notice, no time to even say good-bye, let alone share any parting wisdom?

So, since Wren passed away, I’ve ramped up my efforts to record, well, everything: photos; quotes from the kids; my own thoughts, feelings, experiences—basically anything that will allow my kids to see into my heart; my heart for them and for Jesus. And even if I live to a ripe old age, I imagine these memories will be a valuable window into the soul of an old woman they know simply as “Mom.”

Memories with Daddy

Early this spring, Chris spent a weekend assembling a swing set for the kids. At times, he had Tijge join him and do little things to help—“hold this” or “hand me that.” For days afterward, Tijge would look out the kitchen window at the finished swing set and declare with pride and excitement, “I make the swings with Daddy!” It was just one of the many memories that Tijge has already made with his daddy. They watch train videos together, work in the garden together, clean up the workshop together, read the comics together, and so on. And I know that these are just a few of many more memories I know are still to come.

I think back on the kinds of memories I’ve shared with my own Dad over the years. There were the hikes along the highway when I was little enough to ride in a backpack on his back, while he sang “It’s a Happy Day.” There were the car rides when we would listen to cassette tapes of the Beatles and James Taylor and sing along as “Liberty Valance came to town.” Then there was one eventful car ride when the engine actually caught fire! That was exciting. There was the time when Dad taught me how to use a drill, screwdriver, and level, while installing storage shelves in our basement. There was a time when the pigs got loose on the farm where we lived, and we had to climb up to the top of our swing set and wait until Dad came to rescue us. There was even a time in college when Dad read The Twelve Caesars aloud to me because I couldn’t manage to stay focused on the book—it was incredibly boring, to say the least. Then he officiated and sang at my wedding. And the list could go on and on.

I’m glad to know that my kids will one day be able to share similarly lengthy lists of memories with their dad. I know there are lots of dads out there who are busy making memories with their kids. And good on you for it—as they say Down Under. But I also know there are some fathers who—whether they know better or not—act as though their responsibility to their kids ends at bringing home a paycheck. It’s just not true. Your kids need you.

I recently heard a story told by a woman who had, for a long time, resented her absentee father. Ultimately, she overcame her resentment by identifying ONE good memory that she had shared with him—and it was very touching. But those good memories should be the rule, not the exception. So dads, if you haven’t yet, start making time for those memories. They matter way more than you know. Oh, and for all of the dads out there, Happy Father’s Day! Make it a good one.

Much Heaven

Okay, so if God has set eternity on the hearts of men, what does that mean for us? If you agree with my earlier proposition that, in some ways, Solomon got it wrong; what could he have done differently? How could he have “gotten it right?” And more importantly, what can WE do to get it right in the here and now?

Well, to me, it’s a matter of living out our earthly lives daily and fully; but with an eternal focus, purpose, and perspective. I once knew a woman who would often say that she was “just waiting around to die.” Bear in mind that she was 102 years old, and had a pretty poor quality of life for the last few of those years. I could see where she was coming from, and must confess that I’ve often felt the same way. I know that heaven is going to be so amazing that I get impatient with the waiting.

But I have work to do here yet. I know that because I woke up this morning, and I’m still breathing. When I get homesick or impatient, it helps me to think of the possibilities; to think of each day as an opportunity to find and fulfill God’s purposes for my life. And then I give thanks—for all I have, for all I have been able to see and do, for all of who God is, and for His promise of more.

It occurs to me just this moment that, in this world, we can find a little bit of heaven. And that reminds me of the parable of the talents (Matthew 25:14-30), in which the master replies to his faithful servants, “Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!” And so, I want more than anything to be faithful in this place, knowing that “much heaven” awaits.

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Solomon’s Folly

Ecclesiastes 1:2 (NIV)
“Meaningless! Meaningless!”
 says the Teacher.
“Utterly meaningless!
Everything is meaningless.”

 Ecclesiastes 8:15 (KJV)
“So I commended enjoyment, because a man has nothing better under the sun than
to eat, drink, and be merry; for this will remain with him in his labor
all the days of his life which God gives him under the sun.”

 No one knows for sure, but many scholars believe that Ecclesiastes was written by King Solomon—son of King David. I’m inclined to agree with them, for all it’s worth. And Solomon was the wisest person who ever lived (1 Kings 3:5-15). And yet, despite all of his wisdom, I would argue that he came to the wrong conclusions: first, that all is meaningless (Ecclesiastes 1:2); and second, that we should just eat, drink, and be merry (Ecclesiastes 8:15). I believe there are a couple of reasons why he arrived at these erroneous conclusions.

First, his perspective was off. On the one hand, he spoke of the eternity that God had set in the hearts of men, and man’s limited capacity to comprehend God’s completed and infinite works. On the other hand, though, he evaluated his own accomplishments through a finite lens—not seeing the eternal value of his own contributions. Think about it. He built an elaborate temple to God, and one that in many ways foreshadowed the relationship that God desires with His people. He wrote the Song of Solomon, which continues to inspire couples and strengthen marriages to this day. Who else’s wedding vows have so stood the test of time? Then, he wrote the book of Proverbs, which is chock full of practical wisdom for everyday living. Many a snare has likely been avoided through diligent application of his advice. These, and many other of Solomon’s achievements were far from meaningless. But they do point to another reason for his errant conclusions.

Solomon’s motives sometimes went awry. The examples above demonstrate that, when Solomon’s motives were focused on God, his efforts were NOT in vain. In contrast, when his motives were self-centered and pleasure-seeking, they resulted in heartache and disappointment. But because he couldn’t see past his present circumstances, he decided that the best course of action would be to continue on as he had been—pursuing the pleasures of the flesh. But, as Einstein said, “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results” is not the definition of wisdom—it is the definition of insanity. Instead, I propose that we work as unto the Lord (Colossians 3:23) and trust that He will bring to completion the good work that He has begun in us (Philippians 1:6). In short, all is NOT meaningless.Garner State Park 12