Archive for June, 2018

The Song

The world loves young love. You know…the innocence, endless glances, constant touches, mushy words, and how they can’t stand to be apart.

Not long ago my fourteen year old granddaughter caught Cheryl and me holding hands and, with an extended sweet voice, said “Ah.” I think she knew something was right about what she saw.

This is the season for weddings. Those of us who have been married for centuries like to sit back and snicker, “And they think they know something about love—wait until they’ve been married as long as we have.” In a strange bundle of cynicism, wisdom, and maybe envy we watch young love unfold and sometimes secretly wish we could start again. Start again and keep the passion; start again and avoid the mistakes; start again and keep love vigorous and glowing.

Our seniority has helped us weather the storms, we note. Maybe. If we’re honest, we still feel the battering against the rocks. Or, forgetting the troubled waters, we have difficulty admitting young lovers may have something we need to cling to again.

Time in service doesn’t guarantee wisdom. Avoiding the storms doesn’t ensure a safe passage. It’s not how long we’ve sailed the ocean that helps us find the shore. It’s the map that guides us.

Young lovers have a PR problem. They are like young Pastor Timothy in the New Testament. Churches then and now don’t easily accept a leader who is young; we look askance at young love. Do we rate experience too highly? “What could they know,” we say. The Apostle Paul had to encourage Timothy, “Let no one look down on your youthfulness, but rather in speech, conduct, love, faith and purity, show yourself an example of those who believe”(1 Timothy 4:12, NAS).

Here is the map: the Scripture and its most well-known love story. It paints an inspired portrait of irrepressible young love in mushy, gushy words underscored by foundational colors—principles—that provide encouragement and guidance for love to continually flourish. I recommend frequent immersion in the Song of Songs. Young people, start here; those seasoned in love, discover its riches.

Some see The Song as an allegory about Christ and His love for the Church, blushing at the explicit imagery. Scripture does affirm the relationship followers of Christ have with Him in the language of marriage (Ephesians 5:32; Revelation 21:9). The Bridegroom’s (Christ’s) love for His bride (Church/believers) is an indescribable treasure chest filled to overflowing. Here there is the reward for those unattached to someone. I think, though, that the natural way a reader would receive the words of The Song is as a love story—love that is unstoppable, ardent, exhilarating, and overwhelming.

Why should our marriages drift from such an inspired beginning?

Young and old lovers, I invite you to take the plunge into The Song. Wade into its jewels and refresh your love through the words of compliment and principles of surrender, joy, respect, friendship, adoration, and pursuit.

And remember, my granddaughter is watching.

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Abba

What has struck you about Father’s Day this year? May I share a few thoughts of mine?

First, we have the unending love of our heavenly Father. May I gently urge you to not let our culture or your pain define or limit the infinite, amazing “steadfast love” of God toward you—nor the call to imitate Him in our relationships? “Therefore, be imitators of God, as beloved children” (Ephesians 5:1).

Second, not everyone knows their earthly, biological father. I’m in that camp. Some know but deeply resent their father. When I was a prison chaplain I once delivered a message to a prisoner that his father had died. The inmate laughed and walked out. At the prison, we gave away hundreds of donated Mother’s Day cards each year but very few Father’s Day cards. Doesn’t the difference tell a story?

Third, we must have both wisdom and compassion, leaving room in our hearts for fathers who regret the past, have repented of their sins, and would give anything to have a relationship with their children again. The loss of a father can be nearly insurmountable for children. Revenge, bitterness, and anger only hurt the children and us. Allow me to say some more about the challenge of compassion.

Cheryl and I attended a Father’s Day program at the prison where I volunteer. A prisoner I spend one-on-one time with signed up to go. He usually doesn’t go because it is painful. He has demonstrated himself to be a changed man because of Jesus Christ, demonstrating no one is outside the power of the gospel to make a person into a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17). Yet his grief is real. A quiet man, he cried softly during much of the program.

Fourth, it isn’t always biology that provides the emotional, practical, and disciple-making heart of a father for us. I thank God for several Dad-like figures in my youth through church and school. One met me at the altar, knelt with me, and led me to the Savior—and helped me to get my first bike and car. A high school teacher came alongside me, made me his under-study, and taught me skills to lead an award winning orchestra. As a teen, a pastor took me on visits to homes, hospitals, and funeral homes so that for over forty years of ministry I have been at ease with these opportunities for service.

The ultimate “Dad” for me is my father-in-law. Dad is ninety now, and has been a great Dad from nearly day one. Well…after those early days of dating his beautiful firstborn daughter…

Five, there is always a young person that needs a parent/father-like influence. Who is this for you?

Back to where we started. There is a wonderful New Testament term of endearment to describe the connection we can have with our heavenly Father—“Abba.” To His children, our heavenly Father is always Daddy—strong, tender, available.

May the Father be immeasurably Abba to you, His child, all your days!

Just Get Home

It was a casual remark, but it loudly illustrates a biblical perspective on earth life. This column is dedicated to my brother-in-law, Barry, who is out there, somewhere.

My wife’s mother had surgery last week and Barry, her son, flew in from Denver, Colorado, via Florida after moving his son from New York to Orlando. Whew! His daughter works for an airline and he gets to fly on passes.

While passes sound wonderful, there are numerous expenses and hazards that come with it and it isn’t a piece of cake sometimes. For instance, on this trip he spent over ten hours in Knoxville trying to get to Chicago so he could get home to Denver. He never was able to get on a flight. So, we picked him up in Knoxville and brought him to our home. The next day he seemed assured he could fly out of Chattanooga to a connecting flight in a major hub. He was able to board the plane and then was pulled off for a paying passenger. He finally bought a ticket to Atlanta and, as I write, is currently playing Russian Roulette with schedules, passenger statistics, weather, and airports. In his calculations he is even considering renting a car and driving to Colorado—which he has had to do before.

He is a pro at traveling but it gets wearisome and he misses his wife. He said late last night, “You get to the point where you’ll do anything to just get home.”

Home is the place for rest and, often, relationships that encourage, protect, and love on us. I think God has placed in us the desire for our eternal home in His presence while we travel for a while on earth. We are desperate for home. The Apostle Paul said,

“For we know that when this tent we live in now is taken down—when we die and leave these
bodies—we will have wonderful new bodies in heaven, homes that will be ours forevermore,
made for us by God himself, and not by human hands. How weary we grow of our present
bodies. That is why we look forward eagerly to the day when we shall have heavenly bodies
which we shall put on like new clothes” (2 Corinthians 5:1-3, The Living Bible).

The Bible describes us as sojourners—pilgrims on our way to somewhere else, strangers, and aliens. Follower of Christ: Have you ever wondered if we become too satisfied with our corner of the world and lose sight of our ultimate destiny?

Psalm 16:11 is a universal favorite and sings our song, “You make known to me the path of life;
in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”

In the movie “Airport,” Tom Hanks wanders around in an airport for weeks, waiting to be released into the city and ultimately, after accomplishing his mission, go home. He is ingenious and adapts wonderfully. But it is still just an airport.

Somedays, don’t you just want to “get home” to Jesus?

Bullseye

I have two Godly, wonderful daughters and seven indescribably amazing grandkids (with fathers that are pretty terrific, too). One family lives nearby and the other resides in the flat lands of south Georgia. At one point last week, the whole gang was at my small house. We had thirteen for dinner that night, and my house is still leaning sideways. Five of the thirteen stayed at our house for a week.

My wife has recovered but I am still in process.

My nearby daughter and I work at spending time together. Our ongoing talks, like the recent day centered around going for strawberries at the strawberry farm for her world-wide heralded jam, are energetic and delightful. Talks with my daughter from the peach state with four kids are a little more difficult to come by. So, we went to breakfast one morning last week before all the kids woke up. We talked about the kids, her husband, and circles—concentric circles to be more accurate.

Parents of adult children: Do whatever you have to do to still encourage your “kids” in their walk with Christ.

Joy mentioned she had been reading a book which urged her to make Jesus the center-piece of life—the bullseye. Everything else belongs in the circles that run outside and around that center. They are important, but secondary. From the center flows life and instruction and riches and joy. Chapter one of Philippians came up. In context, the Apostle Paul acknowledges there are competing teachers in the church of Philippi. Some were self-motivated, yet the higher value/purpose/priority of proclaiming Christ overrides their personal agendas. Listen in:

   Yes, and I will rejoice, for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of
   Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance, as it is my eager expectation and hope
   that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be
   honored in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is
   gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I
   cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with
   Christ, for that is far better. But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account.
(Philippians 1:18b-24)

“Life is Christ,” testifies the Apostle. Even more, “to die is gain.” Ouch. Do I think that way?

This passage cocks the rifle and fires the bullets of our longings, pursuits, life investments, and heart. It brings into focus our time, treasures, and talents given to us by Christ. Later, Paul will describe the prized center—bullseye—as “knowing Christ Jesus my Lord” (3:8). Such all-consuming, all-pursuing intimacy centers him so that he lives with the tension of “ready to go but willing to stay.”

So, how are you improving your shot toward the bullseye?

what do I have?

A favorite passage in Scripture accompanied by a warm heart. Thanks Rachael.

Rachael Restrick

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My son has no idea how to look for things.

I used to wonder if this was just a “kid” thing – and then Olivia happened. If I tell her to find her cup, she’s got it in 15 seconds. I think all kids can be a little spacey when it comes to locking their eyes on whatever they’re supposed to be looking for – but Brady takes it to a whole new level. I’ve basically given up on asking him to go get me anything. It can literally be at his feet and he’s looking up on the ceiling for it. Sometimes it’s funny, and sometimes I want to pull my hair out. IT’S RIGHT THERE, MAN.

I have heard the love of God related to how we love our kids here on earth. I totally get that this is our closest representation of love. My children grew in…

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