Archive for the 'Marriage and Family' Category

Happy Birthday Haley

“We… receive adoption as sons” Galatians 4:5

It’s happened again. We have a new child.

All the family was supposed to be at our house for Christmas. God had a different idea. He sent our oldest daughter, Joy, and her family to Florida to adopt Haley. This is our second adopted grandchild and I’ve about decided adoption is my favorite doctrine from the Bible.

In this adoption God has reminded us He has a sense of humor. Her name is Haley Jane, she is six years old, and she is in first grade. Our youngest daughter, Robin, has a firstborn daughter…named Haley Jane, who is six years old, and who is in first grade. Yes, we are soliciting ideas on how to distinguish the girls apart when their families get together.

I’ve been thrust—again—into Scripture to consider the glorious doctrine of adoption. Though only mentioned in five New Testament passages, it is incredibly rich in implications. The main meal is salvation in Christ. Here are a few scrumptious adoption hors d’oeuvres (appetizers).

Galatians 4 notes several wonderful thoughts in context. Initially, adoption requires the perfect timing of God, “But when the fullness had come, God sent forth his Son…” (v.4). Ephesians 1:4-5 digs deeper to say, “…he chose us in him before the foundation of the world…in love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will.” Long before her earthly sequence of events Haley was on God’s mind for adoption. The innumerable, seemingly chaotic events in time did not surprise the Father. In fact, He orchestrated them toward December 21st when her new family took custody of her. May I urge you to a quiet place and time to pray through these astounding Scriptural realities about Haley and your salvation?

Second, our adoption and Haley’s was costly. Galatians 4:5 describes it as redemption. To redeem someone is to purchase them out of the marketplace of slavery. I have seen horrible pictures of slaves, shackled and naked, being auctioned to the highest bidder. Yes, it took significant amounts of emotional, spiritual, and legal struggle and commitment—and many actual dollars—before the joy of receiving Haley. Imagine what our rebellion and sin cost the Father when He released His only Son to die for us.

Third, the idea of sonship and inheritance in adoption passages intrigues me (ex. Galatians 4:7). Here we see Haley has all the rights and privileges of a biologically born child, including an inheritance equal to everyone in the family. And so it is for all in Christ!

Last, this caught my ear when we visited last weekend: Haley was already addressing her new parents affectionately and respectfully. No longer “Joy” and “Chad,” they were “Mom” and “Dad.” Galatians 4:6 notes we get to address the Father as “Abba, Father.” This term of endearment toward God was unimaginable in Paul’s day and no less so for Haley December 21st. Sweet.

Oh…it’s Haley’s birthday today. Happy Birthday Haley and welcome to your new family. Love, Popi

Another Merry Christmas

Christmas Mercy

“The tender mercy of our God, whereby the sunrise shall visit us from on high to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.” Luke 1:78-79

I have some questions for Gabriel about the first Christmas season in Luke 1. For instance, what was the look on Mary’s face when God sent him to recruit her? I wonder: Was he startled when God took away Zechariah’s voice when fear replaced his faith? Gabriel witnessed so many supernatural things that first Christmas.

Written over the season was “miracle.” Consider: In God’s timing, He aligned the solar system to provide the Christmas star; Kings worshipped a baby; travelers brought gifts to a feeding trough they didn’t know existed; Elizabeth, barren and beyond child-bearing years, became pregnant and became directly involved in God’s Christmas plan; and poor Zechariah, a whole lot like us, miraculously lost his voice when he didn’t believe angel Gabriel—and then had his voice revived by God when he saw baby Jesus. Father, don’t let these miracles be commonplace.

Of course, the ultimate miracle of Christmas was salvation’s offer: God became a man to offer Himself as the perfect sacrifice for our every sin. Those who trust only Jesus Christ His Son to rescue them are thus removed from God’s wrath, and transferred from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of light. Have I heard this so many times it seems ordinary and the power of the gospel is not changing me this Christmas (Romans 1:16; 2:4)?

One other unnatural thing happened that particularly strikes me this Christmas: The socially awkward situation then of a miraculously pregnant teenager and her fiancé is incredibly used by God to bring salvation’s greatest gift. Note how Elizabeth took great interest in Mary; some even believe Joseph was adopted by Dr. Luke. God takes in some needy people, doesn’t He? He makes them not just guests. He adopts them—us—as His family. Adoption has again invaded our family.

Last week, I wrote about our firstborn daughter who was born on Christmas day. This season, our family has another fresh Christmas miracle story to tell. Her name is Haley Jane. As you read this, my oldest daughter and her family are in Florida taking custody of her for the purpose of adoption. She bears the same name of our third-in-line grandchild and—hold your breath—is also six years old and in first grade. Family gatherings are about to be very confusing…

For Haley, her perceived greatest need is for a permanent family. Having lost so much and so many she longs for a home instead of, so to speak, another manger. In the “tender mercy of God” He is adopting her into our family. How breathless we are to praise God for His sweet, life-shaping, affectionate salvation displayed when adopted us into His family, too.

This Christmas, I am astounded by the adopting, tender mercy of God.

Rhea Herald-News, December 23, 2015

P.S. The legal work is completed and Haley is in Georgia tonight with her new family. Aren’t you so glad we are part of the family of God!

 

Hand Over My Heart

“Giving thanks to the Father.” Colossians 1:12

This column is dedicated to Jim, who insists I mention my grandkids in every column. I try, Jim.

This past week I continued my universe-wide, world-class celebrity tour of elementary school Grandparents Day appearances. Having been to southern Georgia the week before, I ventured to Bradley County—twice—where two of their finest students color their world happy and brilliant. Frankly, Georgia’s celebration was far more humane, providing a mid-day lunch instead of a seven o’clock breakfast…In their favor, I did come home with a brightly colored, laminated poster with one grandkid’s hand over a heart. Very cool.

This column is the last of three on the super-charged prayer of the Apostle Paul in Colossians 1:9-14. We’ve seen the encouraging, uplifting, and challenging reality we can know and walk in the will of God and live a life that is pleasing to God. As we do, God will use us in good works, we grow in intimacy with Christ, and we are empowered with God’s strength in the tests of faith. The last inevitable result of a walk pleasing to God in His will is a lifestyle of thanksgiving. This is in stark opposition to a regular problem: complaining (Cf. 1 Corinthians 10). Ouch.

The Apostle focuses on three piercing features of what happened when we turned from trusting ourselves—rejecting Jesus Christ—to trusting in Him alone to give us everlasting life: “…who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”

First, God has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints. There is so much to say. We did not earn our inheritance in the presence of Christ but we have graciously been qualified. And, I get to spend eternity with saints like Clarence Grosscup, King David, Paul, and…Jesus.

Second, we are no longer enslaved in a kingdom of darkness. By contrast, we are now citizens of the kingdom of God—the kingdom given by the Father to His specially loved Son, King Jesus Christ. Soon to be fully realized, it’s a place and time engulfed in His pure light, where there is no darkness at all. I can’t wait.

The last highlight of our salvation is truly rich—and great cause for continual thanksgiving: we have been redeemed—purchased out of the marketplace of slavery to sin and its consequences. Redemption’s crowning jewel is forgiveness of our sins. May this never become ordinary.

Thanksgiving isn’t just sixty-four days away. It is every day.

In the world, hands can symbolize many things including confidence and arrogance. Of course, in worship raised hands can picture volumes of spiritual expression. For our daily walk, I like the picture of our hand over our heart in devotion and thanksgiving for the immeasurable gift of salvation through God’s Son, Jesus Christ.

The Rhea Herald-News, September 23, 2015

Gazed Amazed

New Day, July 2, 2015

“Your steadfast love, O Lord, extends to the heavens, your faithfulness to the clouds.”

Psalm 36:5

I’m told the pink moon two nights ago was an atmospheric special delivery from Canada. No matter, it was stunning. Cheryl and I stood in our driveway and gazed amazed.

And then, the next morning the sun strained to push through thick clouds with a well-defined, piercing focus. Though it was a twenty-four hour block of time where I couldn’t write it down, I can’t forget it.

The endless, ever-fresh voice of God (Psalm 19) keeps humming of glory, beauty, variety, and Yahweh’s steadfast, faithful, loyal love (hesed).

Silly me, I thought just Cheryl’s love was out of this world.

A New Song and an Old Love

“Oh sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord, all the earth! Sing to the Lord, bless his name; tell of his salvation from day to day.” Psalm 96:1-2

God is writing new chapters in our lives all the time.

There is a daily-ness to following Christ. This is especially true in each new season or circumstance of our lives with Him, but it is often, “day to day.”

Getting in tune with the daily-ness of God’s work (s) in our lives seems strange at first until we hear the Psalmist sing it with clear, fresh melodies: “Sing to him a new song; play skillfully on the strings, with loud shouts…”I will sing a new song to you, O God; upon a ten-stringed harp I will play to you… Oh sing to the Lord a new song, for he has done marvelous things!”

The idea of a new song intrigues me. The point in the Psalms is not a new composition (although surrounding verses do imply fresh, active worship with a variety of expressions). The idea is this: God’s involvement in our lives regularly, usually quietly, sometimes spectacularly, and always on a daily basis brings a “fresh outburst of praise to God.” For Israel this “salvation” was vivid in their compact world of enemies, wickedness, and attention-seeking false gods and idols. I wonder: Has anything changed?

While our circumstances may seem the same or boring or insurmountable, we sing “… it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13).

The hymn Day By Day expresses our hearts about our daily need and provision of God:

   Day by day, and with each passing moment,/Strength I find to meet my trials here;/

   Trusting in my Father’s wise bestowment,/I’ve no cause for worry or for fear./

   He, whose heart is kind beyond all measure,/Gives unto each day what He deems best,/

   Lovingly it’s part of pain and pleasure,/Mingling toil with peace and rest.

May I apply this “new song” to a special occasion? This weekend Cheryl and I will celebrate our forty-second wedding anniversary. Cheryl captured my heart in an unstoppable way (it was her smile), waved all common sense, and said, “I do,” Saint Patrick’s Day, 1973. As God has been gracious to offer a lifetime with Cheryl, so she has been generous to give and give as we grow together through the decades.

It is exhilarating to join God in writing new chapters in our marriage. New circumstances provide fresh opportunities to change and serve one another. Each day contributes to our building understanding of each other. Our delight in each other’s presence is increasingly simple and profound. I so enjoy watching young love develop, but—and Cheryl may cut my fingers off for saying this—old love is wonderfully different, creative, safer, and freer than young love.

Each day with Christ—and Cheryl—causes a new song to be written and sung. What double joy!

The Rhea Herald-News

March 11, 2015

Dear Kids

“Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb is a reward.” Psalm 127:3

My youngest daughter and family trusted us and loved us enough to make a major life transition and move in with us. Two toddlers greeted us every time we came into the house; a baby girl sang the lovely songs of a newborn the last two months. They just moved to their new home and I am thinking about some of the blessings and lessons from the last fifteen months. Robin and Samuel: Please read this to the girls when they can understand. Readers: Listen in.

Dear Hailie, Shawna, Avery,

I am both sad and glad you have moved. How glad I am you are now at “the farm;” how sad I am that you aren’t here to fill our house with laughter, songs, and dance. Here are some things I want to remember and say to you.

Your minds are amazing. I love watching you learn. You are practicing one of the most important ways we love God—with our minds. Please continue to fill your minds with good things, and never stop learning, creating things, coloring pictures, and reading books. The greatest book ever is the Bible, and it brings me joy that you love your Bibles and are memorizing it for AWANA each week.

I have been thinking: living here was often fun but it was temporary. Shawna, the story is already circulating that after a couple nights in your new place you asked when you were going home. God didn’t intend for us to permanently live together. Living on earth is like that, too. While we can and should really enjoy the life God gives us, our real and best home is where Jesus is.

Thank you for being patient with me because I wasn’t always patient with you. My excuse is I am not very good with toddlers. But Jesus loved children and was patient with them. He spoke strongly to those who were impatient with children. You taught me a lot about what matters to Jesus.

Hugs. Your affection was wonderful and you gave it freely. Families and friends do that, and Christians are known for their love for one another. Don’t stop being generous with hugs to those you love.

Hailie and Shawna, the greatest thing about living with us was you both trusted Jesus to give you everlasting life. Others had the privilege to guide you in this, but we watched as you became Jesus-centered and practiced your faith. I will never forget the many times you both said you would pray for me when I was sick. Avery, you are too young to understand, but I regularly pray you will never reject Jesus Christ, who died for you and wants you to live with Him forever.

So, I thank God He sent you to live with us. Just like the Lord, you always have a home here.

Love, Popi

The Rhea Herald-News

February 11, 2015

Plan A or Plan B

Cheryl wrote this column to help me recently when I was sick for two weeks. Enjoy this wonderful side of my God-minded Bride. It was published in the Rhea County Herald-News, July 30, 2014

Plan A…everyone’s got one. Usually Plan A goes off without a hitch or maybe with a tweak. But there are those times when Plan A won’t work. It’s then that having a Plan B comes in handy—if you have one. It just so happens that there was a Plan A for this past Sunday.

Plan A: Awaken to a lovely Sunday morning, grab a cup of coffee, and watch the sunrise from the front porch. After a while eat breakfast, shower, and go to church to worship the Creator of the sunrise that was just enjoyed.

Reality: Awaken with a churning stomach…

A tweak: Crawl back into bed, pull the covers over the head, and let someone else enjoy the sunrise and freshly brewed cup of coffee.

We all know there are times in our day to day lives where what we have planned is not what is happening. My mom used to quote: “The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.” It is from the poem “To a Mouse” by Robert Burns. And so, this is the case for the usual writer of this column. He had his plans but they went awry. He was under the weather, really, really under the weather and it is now the eleventh hour. The deadline for this column is Monday. Is there a Plan B?

But isn’t life often like that? Plan A doesn’t happen and we start searching for Plan B. We are challenged to be flexible in our plans by choice or by circumstances. We often hear someone say, “I have a Plan B if Plan A doesn’t work.” Plan A is always the preferred plan. Somehow though Plan B might work just as well, it is not as good as Plan A.

Plan A, what makes it a guaranteed success? Is it even possible? Yes. Scripture says: For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. (Isaiah 55:8)
Hummm…This verse tells us Who has Plan A. It’s the Lord, not us. We might think we have Plan A but compared to the Lord, ours is only a human attempt and therefore only Plan B. How do we implement Plan A?

Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart. (Psalm 37:4) Think about this…If we delight ourselves in the Lord, then surely we will want to do things His way. Oh my, that must be Plan A. In doing things His way we have the desires of our heart—to be in His will.

A clever saying I heard recently is, “The best place to be is in God’s will.”

So, John being really, really under the weather must be God’s Plan A. And me writing this column is Plan B…or is it Plan A?

A Slow Gaze and A First Fish

Sunrise, July 9, 2014

“Great are the works of the LORD, studied by all who delight in him” (Psalm 111:2).

I studied a gray sunrise today. Yes, the sun peeked through a thin spot. But a slow gaze uncovered layers of gray clouds, some moving fast and some slow. It was a sweet time of delight and praise and praying through several Scriptures.

The delight is in the God of wonders. In context, His works are deliverances and provision and ultimately His salvation. We tend to zero in on the works not the Worker of wonders. Psalm 111:2 is a good reminder and focus.

Sunrise followers: We are returning two oldest grandkids to their rightful owners tomorrow and will be off-line for a few days. It has been a sweet time in many ways, but the highlight of this visit for me will always be the privilege to take Wilder fishing and watching his joy at catching his first two fish (25# new state record Bass who fought for 3 hours on 2 pound test line)…He’ll have a different fish tale to tell.

Miss me.

Oliver’s Yelp

“Give us this day our daily bread” Matthew 6:12

I am tired…all five of my grandkids have been visiting. Really, they are wonderful kids and I delight in their different personalities, gifts and ceaseless energy.

The kids range from nine months to ten years old. Depending on their maturity, they have different ways to express their needs and wants. Of course, Oliver, the baby, has only one way to let us know he is hungry. I bet you know what that is. His life is uncomplicated by the many unnecessary ideas and distractions we take on as we age. He is completely dependent on his parents to feed him—and he has the lungs to prove it.

In recent weeks we have looked at the early words of the Lord’s Prayer, which are all about the Father—guarding His name, His reign as King from heaven, His rightful will on earth as it already is in heaven. In today’s verse Jesus teaches us how the Father touches our most basic needs.

For Oliver and us bread is a “daily” need. Daily was an unusual word, and no doubt Jesus had in mind the necessities of life, not just food. Praying this in the morning directs us to dependence and alertness for that day; praying it in the evening sets the stage for the day to come.

Jesus’ hearers must have been thinking the question we have, too—And what about tomorrow? The Master Teacher answered it later in Matthew 6:34, “Therefore, do not be anxious, saying ‘What may we eat?’ or ‘What may we drink?’ or ‘What may we put on?’ ” This is not an invitation to forget to harvest the fields or go to work or save like the wise ant for the winter (Proverbs 6). Since we have a choice, let us chose to be an ant and not a sluggard.

Jesus used everyday things to teach us and to point the way to greater things. The lesser things are the life-essential things that come from God’s hand. Later, in contrasting manna in the wilderness with Himself, Jesus would say “For the bread of God is the One coming down from heaven and giving life to the world” (John 6:33). Linger there for a year or two.

The Lord’s Prayer shows us—in the good sense—we never stop being a child. Joy comes as we are dependent instead of obsessive in creating security; trusting the Father instead of worrying; asking instead of assuming. Most of all, every slice of bread, every meal is a reminder of the everlasting life Jesus offers to those who trust in the Bread of Life for eternal life—our greatest need and joy.

Oliver’s yelp is a heavenly chorus.

Key Lime Grace

Key Lime Grace

 

“By grace you have been saved…” Ephesians 2:8

 

In the shadow of my terrific Father’s Day dessert please allow me some illustrative, metaphorical craziness when I say: The delightful key lime pie filling of life has many ingredients of the grace of God and the icing is the energizing vacation of our life that God just gave Cheryl and me.

 

The grace of God is the unmerited favor of God. We usually focus on God’s grace in offering salvation to us by grace through faith and not by human merit (Ephesians 2:8-9). Yet grace-gifts permeate the Scriptures and our daily lives. Our joy is to see God’s undeserved kindnesses already surrounding us, to appreciate them, and to be responsive to them. For us, God put on quite a display of grace through nine states and over 3700 miles. Here is a peak.

 

1. God personally holds together the universe, especially myriads of cars and trucks on the interstate system (Oh, the trucks…). His travel mercies kept thousands of sleepy, distracted, and lost drivers in their lane (we got lost in Missouri). Old cars, too—like ours. This is no small thing—and it happens every day. It was sustaining, Gorilla Glue grace.

 

2. God’s Creative genius is everywhere. We live in the loveliest of all states but when we go to new or wide-open places, and look and listen unimpeded we will find fresh beauty, variety, and life. For us, the snow-capped Rockies, prairie landscapes with buffalo, jagged Black Mountains, millions of acres of Kansas, South Dakota, Iowa, and Illinois farm lands, celestial displays above open, dark skies, the tiniest flowers in unexpected places, the endless variety of courageous trees, and the moonscape-like Badlands surrounded by flowing grasses were arresting to our eyes and hearts. It was the Divine Artist’s palette of breathless grace.

 

3. God is still patiently telling His miraculous story of love for the nations. You just must go to Mt. Rushmore just before sunset for the sheer grandeur of it and then stay for the evening program by the National Park Service. By film they told the story of the four presidents represented and of the reshaping of the mountain. Our flag and military veterans are honored, and then they light up the mountain. Wow! God has been exceptionally good to our nation and we dare not forget “The preservation of the sacred fire of liberty” (George Washington). The mountain and the touching reminders were sobering, thrilling grace gifts.

 

4. God loves love, especially deep-rooted, longstanding love. You’ve guessed it: I am thinking about Cheryl and me. She was my favorite thing. We loved holding hands in nine states and planning each day anew. We didn’t want to come back—darn those budgets. It was a gushy, romantic gift of grace.

 

Where have you been and experienced God’s infinite graces?

 

Father, your graces never cease and are always infiltrating our daily lives. Help us to see them from wake-up to our bedside lamp’s last flicker.



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