Blog

Who is Your Father?

 

The Lord is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love.

At least that’s what the Bible says. But…how often, or how much, do we truly believe that?

A couple of weeks ago, I shared a post about how we can’t let anyone label us with the wrong name, because God calls us “Beloved.” And this week, as we look ahead to Father’s Day, I am thinking the same thing holds true for God. No matter what our concept of “father” might be, we can’t saddle our Heavenly Father with any names that don’t fit.

God labels himself. And thankfully (incredibly, actually), he tells us exactly who he is, so we can know him. And so we don’t get it wrong.

He is faithful (even when we aren’t). He is patient (even when we are super slow). He is loving (even when we are the worst kind of un-lovable).

And the list goes on.

If you really want to dig into who God is (and what that means for our lives), grab a copy of Ruth Myer’s book, Thirty-One Days of Praise (which you can find featured on my bookshelf right now). It’s a resource I turn to, again and again.

Why? Because it is just so darn easy to get things mixed up! Instead of taking God at his word–believing he is who he SAYS that he is–we sometimes put him in a box. We negate his nature. We put limits on his love.

We might not say it out loud, but deep inside we might wonder…

How could he love me, after all that I’ve done?

How could he possibly care about my little problems, when there is so much that is wrong with the world?

How could he ever forgive me for ______ ? (Fill in the blank with whatever it is that you think separates you, or disqualifies you, from God’s love.)

All of which is a bunch of…  I was going to say a word I don’t let my kids say, but I’ll just go with “baloney.” And not only is it baloney, but it is also (buckle up, cuz this part is not pretty) jaw-droppingly arrogant. I mean, who are WE to say what God can or can’t do? He says he loves us. He says he’ll provide. He says he’s got everything under control.

We don’t have to understand all this stuff for it to be true.

(We really don’t.)

So this Father’s Day, as we think about the One who named himself Father, let’s not get things mixed up. Let’s take our cue from the One he named Son, and talk to God the way Jesus did, when he invited us to call him “our” Father. Old-fashioned gal that I am, I kind of love the “hallowed be thy name” lingo that King James trotted out, but I have to say that I’m also pretty pumped about the last few lines of the Lord’s Prayer in the Message. Let’s pray it together:

Our Father in heaven,
Reveal who you are.
Set the world right;
Do what’s best—
    as above, so below.
Keep us alive with three square meals.
Keep us forgiven with you and forgiving others.
Keep us safe from ourselves and the Devil.
You’re in charge!
You can do anything you want!
You’re ablaze in beauty!
    Yes. Yes. Yes.

(Matthew 6:9-13, MSG)

P.S. If the idea of a Father who does “what’s best” and who is “ablaze in beauty” feels foreign to you–either because you don’t really know God that way, or maybe because your earthly dad colored your world with a not-great perspective–you’re not alone. For years, I’ve loved getting weekly encouragement via email from Sylvia Gunther, and this week she shared her own painful journey being physically and emotionally abandoned by her father. To read her story–and discover who you really are, as God’s child–click here.

Leave a Reply


A Blue Marble, a Beach Book, and Abundance

“Can you take our picture?”

Virginia and I were walking on a nearly deserted stretch of beach when a young couple ran up and asked for our help. They were friendly and cute (fresh out of Tulane), and we gladly obliged. And afterwards, they had one more question:

“Can we give you something?”

Virginia and I exchanged a look. “Sure…”

We walked up to their beach camp and the fellow got out a little jar full of marbles. Blue ones. Like this:

“This is part of movement,” he explained, popping the lid and giving us each one of his stash. “There was a professor who had cancer and resolved to live life to the full, even during his chemo. And every day that he did it–every day he felt like he’d experienced abundance–he put a blue marble into a jar. So now we are doing the same thing. And I hope you will, too.”

I’m a little hazy on the details (like, I’m not sure if the professor is still alive, or if the beach couple even knew him), but anytime anybody talks up abundance, I’m in. Especially when it’s paired with words like “life to the full,” which (if you’ve been around this blog for awhile) you KNOW takes me straight to this verse:

The thief comes only to steal, kill and destroy. I came that they might have life and have it abundantly. (John 10:10, ESV)

That’s Jesus, outlining the whole reason he came. The whole reason he died. The whole reason why we can live free.

So…is the “blue marble movement” a Jesus-y thing? I don’t know. I looked it up on Instagram (@bluemarbleday) and the organizers cite the Bible as one of their texts (along with a few other not-Bible books), and the three tenets that undergird what they are doing–encouraging gratitude, promoting hope, and kindling love–are three things I’m pretty sure Jesus would like. I do too.

But the lack of any overt mention of Christ got me thinking. Not about the Blue Marble People (cuz I think what they are doing is great; who doesn’t need to be more intentional about things like gratitude?), but about my own self.

And about God.

And about whether my idea of abundance parallels his.

Like, if I were going to put a marble in my jar at the end of the day, it would probably be because I’d enjoyed some combo of coffee, exercise, time spent with people I like, and time spent with God. And if I had done something truly significant–something like, say, moving my winter clothes out of the closet so that the cute summer tops could come in (a task I have yet to accomplish in 2018)–I might even give myself two, and call it a Blue Blue Marble Day.

But is that what Jesus would say? Like, is checking projects off the to-do list part of his “abundant life” vision? Is treating myself to a venti-sized latte what he meant when he said I could live life “to the full”? Is it really all about getting…exercise?

I kinda doubt it.

(Okay, I seriously doubt it.)

But I wasn’t sure, exactly, what Jesus would say. And then, wouldn’t you know (and I am not making this up), I picked up the book I had brought to the beach and read this:

The root word for “abundantly” [in John 10:10] is perissos, meaning “exceedingly more, going past the expected limit.” The word for”life” is zoe, and it encompasses our physical presence and future eternal existence.

(Seriously? I picked a beach read with Greek words? Sheesh. I didn’t know. The cover is pink!)

The author went on, contrasting the world’s definition of abundance with God’s: If abundance is exceedingly more, going past the expected limit of life, we’ve got to check our hearts to be sure we’re not just expecting God to produce exceedingly more, going past the limit of stuff. It’s the age-old struggle: Do we want more of what God can give us, or do we want more of God?

(Ahhh. We’ve been there. Several times, in fact–including back in 2016, when I wrote a post called The Gifts or the Giver.)

Obviously, we have to want God more than stuff. But what happens when we don’t? What happens when we turn to things like Netflix or date nights (or, in my case, tidy sock drawers and lattes) to make us feel good? To fill in the gaps? To help us relax or re-charge?

Here’s what happens: “When we take our needs to the temporary, less-than-perfect comforts of this world, we are left feeling empty and wanting more.”

At least that’s what Jess Connolly says. She’s the gal who wrote my beach book, which is all about pursuing holiness (instead of just rule-keeping), embracing grace (the transformative kind, not the stuff that just winks at our sin), and stepping into abundance (as in, the for-real life God offers). The book is called Dance, Stand, Run: The God-Inspired Moves of a Woman on Holy Ground. And, for whatever freaky reason, it’s just $3.79 on Amazon right now, so if you want it, click here.

And…what if you also want some blue marbles? I know I do–I’m getting some for all of my kids. I’m gonna wrap ’em up in a bag and attach a John 10:10 tag, and tell them what I’m telling myself:

This summer, when you find yourself facing a need (whether it’s a desire for peace, or more energy, or just to feel better and more confident about what life looks like right now), press into Jesus. Trust him to supply what you lack. Take him at his word–that is, give him the chance to show you who he is, and what he can do.

Expect exceedingly more.

And then, at the end of the day, give yourself a blue marble to remind you how all-sufficient God is, and how incredibly much you are loved.

Heavenly Father,

Thank you that Jesus came so that we could have life, and have it abundantly. Help us take hold of that promise, knowing that as we draw near to you, you will draw near to us. Let us find our deepest satisfaction and joy not in your gifts, but in you. (John 10:10, James 4:8, Psalm 90:14).

Amen.

Leave a Reply


Unplug and Engage: Make the Most of Your Summer

I am not the biggest Podcast Gal. Alert readers will remember when I did my first one, with a hip young mom who podcasted (?) out of her family room. We’d been talking for 15 minutes when I asked when we’d start recording. “Oh we’ve been recording this whole time,” she said. “We love it when our shows feel organic and natural!”

Organic and natural. At my age, we don’t do much of that stuff. My crowd tends to go in for things like hair dye and Botox. I have one friend who can’t go out of town for more than two weeks, for fear of missing her scheduled maintenance. “It takes a lot of time and money,” she says, “to look this natural.”

Anyhow.

Relic that I am, I do actually tune in (if that’s the right word) to a few of my favs, one of which is a show called The God-Centered Mom. It’s hosted by Heather MacFadyen, who has four strapping young boys. (Which might explain why she barricades herself in a room once a week and interviews interesting guests about all sorts of fascinating topics. I think I would too. If I knew how.)

This week, Heather’s guest was an author I love, Andy Crouch.

Andy has written a slew of good books, including one called The Tech-Wise Family: Everyday Steps for Putting Technology in Its Proper Place. He talked about how to do that–how to live in a techno-based world, without letting devices control our thoughts, our time, or our relationships. To listen to the podcast, click here…and in the meantime, I’ll give you the Cliff Notes.

Andy is big on pulling the plug. He’s not anti-technology; he’s just into “active-engagement”–as in, things that captivate our kids (and us) in ways that go beyond screen time. When we look back on the “best moments” of our family’s life, nobody is going to say “It was when I got to Level 16” on Fortnite, or whatever. Instead, Andy says, it will be those times when we were really “present” for each other. When we were engaged.

Which, for a lot of us, might demand a willingness to burn through the boredom. As in, not immediately strapping on earbuds (airbuds? airpods?), or binging on Netflix to fill the space in our lives. “All creativity,” Andy maintains, “is on the other side of boredom.”

Andy and his family take a two week vacation every summer and completely unplug. For those who find that prospect daunting (hello, Berndt fam?), he gives the okay to start smaller. Even just one hour sans screens–no TV, phones, computers–can make a big difference. Chez Crouch, they even douse the lights during dinner and dine by candlelight.

(Which is a practice, BTW, that I am a huge fan of. Who needs Botox when a good power outage will do?)

But here’s the thing about ditching devices. The first third of any new endeavor, Andy says, is often the rough part. Get through that–get through the first 5 days of your two-week techno-vacation, or the first 20 minutes of your techno-free hour–and the lightbulb (or more aptly, the candle) ignites. Things get creative. Things get engaged. Things get fun.

I get that.

We didn’t even have screens when our kids were young (unless you count one big box TV), but when it came to any sort of “mandatory fun,” the burn-in time was still real. Most of the stuff I’d suggest was not greeted with cheers, but once we hit our stride, we were hooked. Or at least most of us were.

If you want to start small–with, say, just an hour or two of actually Being With People (!) this summer–here are a few active-engagement tactics we’ve tried:

  1. The Candlelight Dinner. It actually works. Don’t do it every night, but every once awhile light ’em up–and when your kid (or your man) wonders why, just say, “Because.”
  2. Star-Gazing. Invite another family, pull out the big blankets, and hit the backyard. Have a few convo-tips at the ready (What are three things you liked this school year? If you drove across the country, name two friends you’d want to have in the car. If you could learn to do one new thing this summer, what would it be?), and add ice cream sundaes, or maybe Bomb Pops, to the mix.
  3. The Original Audible. Turn the lights down low and pick a good book. Have mom or dad read it aloud, or invite older kids to jump in. The Narnia books are always a fav, but we discovered others by accident, just because they were on the school’s “Summer Reading” list. Both The Bronze Bow and The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle were winners with all of our kids.
  4. Game Time. We’ve never been all that big on board games (too many pieces look like kibble to dogs), but three years ago, Salad Bowl was a stay-cation hit with the college crew, and Would You Rather is still a staple on every car trip.

I’m sure you have other ideas; post a comment if you’ve got one to share. And P.S., Andy’s pointers are not just for kids. There’s a whole section in the podcast devoted to grown-ups, and how our technology obsession can negatively impact our world. Want to sleep better, fall more in love with your spouse, or wake up without being greeted by email, first thing?

Get the screens out of your bedroom.

(But not, of course, before you download The God-Centered Mom.)

 

 

Leave a Reply


Don’t Let Anyone Call You “Big Tina”

I’ll admit it. I laughed out loud when I opened the paper and saw Dilbert this week:

Big Tina. That’s funny.

At least it was at first. But then I got to thinking. Nobody (well, at least nobody I know—no girl, anyway) wants to be called “Big Tina.” No woman wants to be called Big anything.

Case in point: When I called my college pal, Annesley, to ask if I could borrow her name for our newborn daughter, she readily agreed–as long as I didn’t start calling her “Big Annesley.” Or even “Old Annesley.”

(We went with “Original Annesley,” which is perfect. On so many levels.)

I don’t, as a rule, find deep spiritual lessons in Dilbert. But when I considered Big Tina’s apparent reluctance to be saddled with that moniker, I thought: You go, Girl! Don’t let anybody call you something you don’t want to be called. Do not receive that!

Because we do that, don’t we? Whether it’s a label someone else gives us, or an accusation that comes from inside our own heads, all too often we accept the name and start wearing it–even if it’s a name we don’t want. A name like Unworthy. Or Ashamed.

Not good enough. Forgotten.

Unloved.

But…that’s not who God says we are. He knows us better than anyone–he knows exactly how we are formed–and he calls us his “masterpiece.”

He says we are precious and honored in his sight. And that, as we look to him, our faces are never covered with shame. And that he will never leave us.

He calls us “Beloved.”

Why? It’s not because of anything we’ve done. It’s just because we are his.

Which, for me, can sometimes be hard to wrap my head around. Like, on the days when I blow it, does God still love me as much as on the days (well, the day) when I get things mostly right? Does he really want to be with me, even when I don’t want to be with myself? Is there something I could do, some gold-star behavior, that would make God love me more?

The answers, for those who don’t like rhetorical questions, are: Yes, yes, and no. There is nothing I could do–nothing any of us could do–to make God love us any more (or any less) than he already does.

I was reminded of God’s love–and how he feels about us–a month or so ago, when I visited a friend in Atlanta. Her eldest daughter is all grown up and married, so I got to sleep in her old room. And when I got up in the morning, I was greeted with this:

Pardon the PJs, but honestly? I can’t think of a better way to start the day than by heading into the bathroom and seeing these reminders of who we are in Christ! We don’t even have to brush our teeth before God says he’s “enthralled by our beauty.” And if we’re worried about something (like, say, we can already tell that it’s not a good hair day) we see evidence of his love: “Cast all your anxiety on him,” the card reads, “because he cares for you.” (That’s 2 Peter 5:7 if you can’t make it out in the pic.)

If you like this idea (of if you think your kids might), I’ve pulled nine “identity markers” out of the Bible and put them in printable form for you here. These cards aren’t fancy (you’ll have to cut ’em up by yourself, and add your own flower-power stickers, or whatever), but they offer a window into who we really are, in God’s eyes:

And please note. These verses are not like those faux-motivating things you put on your fridge–like the pic of the skinny girl in the bikini–to make you think “This could be you!” The words on these cards are already fulfilled. And they will always be true (even if you do eat that last piece of cheesecake).

So the next time the Father of Lies comes along and tries to call you Big Tina (or worse), set him straight.

Look him straight in the eye and tell him your name is Beloved.

Leave a Reply


Grad Tip for Parents: Let God Pick Your Kid’s Career

 

I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go.

It’s graduation season, and I can’t think of a more encouraging verse than Psalm 32:8. Whether our kids are headed to college, to new jobs, or into the great unknown, the whole “What’s next?” thing can be daunting! And as parents, our hearts can feel like a tangled mess of emotions:  pride of accomplishment, sadness over the chapter that’s closing, or even (particularly when we don’t know what the future holds) uncertainty, with maybe a little worry mixed in.

The pride and the sadness are both beautiful things; why else would 97% of all high school yearbooks and 29% of commencement speeches give the nod to Dr. Suess:  Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened?

The uncertainty thing, though, is not so much fun. And if that’s where you are (like, if your child needs a job), I’ve got three things that might help.

The first is something Virginia (who was a college senior at the time) told me, as we discussed her (still hazy) future. “Mom,” she said, “Research shows that 72% of college students don’t have a job lined up before graduation.”

I don’t know whether Virginia was right or not. A point in her favor is that she actually worked in U.Va.’s Career Services office, where she would have had access to numbers like that, but you have to stack that against the fact that she is her mother’s daughter, and statistics (like that bit about yearbooks and speeches) sometimes get made up on the spot. Either way, though, the data made me feel better. And if it helps you to repeat this 72% claim, you can say that you read it in a blog.

The second thing that can help is prayer. It’s not just that you get a “peaceful, easy feeling” when you pray for your child; it’s more that when we bring our sons and daughters before God, we really are making a difference. As Paul told the Corinthians“You also must help us by prayer, so that many will give thanks on our behalf for the blessing granted us through the prayers of many.” (Paul and his pals weren’t looking for work; they were more concerned with facing “deadly peril,” but the principle is the same. Our prayers matter.)

And finally, it can be good to remember the plan. We might not know what it is, but after praying (and yes, worrying) three kids through the job-hunting process, I’m finally coming to realize that God does. He knows exactly how our children are wired (Psalm 139:13-16); he’s already lined up good work for them to do (Ephesians 2:10); and he promises to instruct and counsel them in the way they should go (Psalm 32:8). Our job isn’t to worry or nag; our job–if we want to get on board with God’s plan–is simply to trust him.

So there you go: Repeat iffy statistics, pray for your kids, and trust God. And if you want help with tip #2, the folks at FaithGateway surprised me a few weeks ago when they sent word that they’d pulled a collection of prayers from the Adult Children book and created a beautiful “Praying for Your Graduate” resource for parents (click here to download):The guide includes 21 prayers, all neatly divided by seven so that you can pray one every day for three weeks.

Which, research shows, is about how long it takes for the average college grad to land his first job. 🙂

Leave a Reply


1 2 3 61