Thursday, June 30, 2011

Orienting your life

When I teach Scouts about how to use a map and compass, it always tickles me to hear them say things like, “I wouldn’t be lost if I had a compass or a map.”  So I say, “Without discussing it, point to North.”  Did you know that 6 Scouts can point in up to 6 directions? at the same time?  However, there will usually be 1 or 2 who change their mind to agree with a friend, so that leaves roughly 4 directions.

Now they each begin to have an uneasy feeling in the pit of their stomach which is trying to tell them that they don’t know what they’re talking about.  If I am feeling particularly mischievous, I hand them a map and repeat the order, “Without discussing it, point to North.”  The map doesn’t do much to clear up the confusion, but it does appear to do so for a moment.  When the Scouts see the compass rose on the map, they think it must be telling them which way North is in the real world.  Wrong.  That compass rose tells them which way North is on the map.  What they need is someone or something to tell them which way North is in the real world, so they can orient their map to the real world.  What they need is a compass.

We often do the same thing.  We often go through life thinking that we have it figured out.  We run from one distraction to the next until we find we’ve lost our bearings.  We’re lost.  We all have some sort of map by which we strive to navigate our way through life.  But maps don’t do much good unless they agree with truth.  Even if my map has all the correct information on it, and identifies where I am, I am still in trouble if my map says North is in the wrong direction.

The Bible is God’s Word, it is truth.  Whenever there is a discrepancy between my life and the Bible, it is my life which is wrong.  Where my life disagrees with the Bible, it is my life which must adjust.  I must change my life to line up with the Bible.  I must orient my life to agree with God’s Word.  Furthermore, the Bible is not only our compass, but also our map to guide us through life.

When I find myself in counseling situations of open, willful, defiant sin, I will use an example like this to try to help them see that we don’t get to tell the compass which way is North.  The compass tells us, and we must decide whether to submit.  If we choose to submit, then it will guide us.  If we choose to defy, then we do so at our own peril.

We don’t get to tell God what is right and what is wrong.  He tells us, and we decide whether to submit.  If we choose to submit to God, surrendering our lives to be lived in obedience to Him, then we have the benefit of His guidance, the comfort of His presence, and many other blessings besides.  However, if we choose to defy Him, then we do so at our own peril.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

#1 Tool for Parenting

The best wisdom I have to offer regarding parenting has come from 1 source, but has been reinforced through my own experiences, as well.  Permit me to introduce it this way:  if God is our heavenly Father, and He is, then I should be able to learn how to be a father by observing, and learning from, Him.  It just makes sense.  The best way I can do this is to spend some time with the Bible, specifically observing how God handled situations as a Father.  For example:

Genesis 2-3

The Father:
-          Set up boundaries for the children
-        Met all of the children's needs
-          Gave clear instructions with consequences
-          Assigned clear responsibilities to the children

The children:     disobey the Father’s clear instructions, choosing the consequences determined by the Father

The Father:  confronted disobedience and chased it to its source – “Have you done what I commanded you not to do?”

Adam:           blamed someone else - “Yes, but it’s her fault.”

The Father:  “Is this true?”

Eve:               blamed someone else - “Yes, but it’s his fault.”

The Father:  handed out punishments to each individual involved, starting from the source and moving down the line.
-          “Serpent, here are the consequences you’ve chosen.”
-          “Eve, here are the consequences you’ve chosen”
-          “Adam, here are the consequences you’ve chosen.”
The Father:        
-          Followed through on what He said He would do.  He honored His own words.
-          Set up new boundaries to protect against new threats.

Observations:  _________________________________________________

-          The Father did not yell or scream.
-          The Father did not get upset.
-          The Father did not negotiate.
-          The Father did not repeat Himself.
-          The Father did not compromise His initial positions.

-          Knowing what the consequences would be, the children chose to disobey.
-          The children hid from the Father – guilt often leads to avoidance.
-          The children blamed someone else.
-          Finally, the children submitted, so no further punishment was necessary.

Applications I can make to my own life:  _____________________________
·         I need to set up boundaries for my children.
·         I must meet all of my childrens' needs, and clear communication is one of their needs.
·         I must give clear instructions with consequences.  
 “If you choose to obey, then you choose this set of consequences.
If you choose to disobey, then you choose this other set of consequences.”

·         I must assign clear responsibilities to my children.  If I am to assign responsibilities to them, then I must also give clear instruction and make certain that they are capable of meeting those responsibilities.  This sets them up both for success, and my praise for a job well done to reinforce these behaviors.

Now, when I follow God’s example, I am training my children to obey me, respect authority, and ultimately, I am preparing my children to obey God, too.  Further, I am disciplining myself to be a godly parent.

Thank you, Lord, for Your example.  Please help me to live that example for my children.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Here is a poem I use frequently at funerals as a closer.

I also use it with my patients when they are willing to discuss dying.  There is much hope to be found in its few lines.  Death may be undesirable, but it is also both natural and unavoidable.  You will die.  Everyone will die.  But death is not the end...

Gone From My Sight 
by Henry Van Dyke

I am standing upon the seashore. A ship, at my side, spreads her white sails to the moving breeze and starts for the blue ocean. She is an object of beauty and strength.  I stand and watch her until, at length, she hangs like a speck of white cloud just where the sea and sky come to mingle with each other.

Then, someone at my side says, "There, she is gone."

Gone where?

Gone from my sight.  That is all.  She is just as large in mast, hull and spar as she was when she left my side.  And, she is just as able to bear her load of living freight to her destined port.

Her diminished size is in me -- not in her.  And, just at the moment when someone says, "There, she is gone," there are other eyes watching her coming, and other voices ready to take up the glad shout, "Here she comes!"

And that is dying...

Praise the Lord.  That is life!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Carnival Adventure

Carnival Adventure  by Carl Schneider

I watched my children laugh today.
I watched them stand in line.
I smiled from within & I couldn’t contain it.
I watched them jump into many adventures, each one a piece of life – the ultimate adventure.
I laughed at my children today – not with arrogance or malice or spite, but simply because I was a part of their world… and children laugh.
I was a part of my children’s world today.  I made them take my by the hand so I could keep them safe… no, so I could lead them safely through my world.  In reality, they took me by the hand and led me safely into theirs.
I laughed with my children today.  I am Dad.  I am Husband.  I am Head-of-household.  I am Protector. I am Teacher.  I am a man of responsibility.  When I was a child, I lived as a child, but when I became a man I put childish things away… reluctantly?  No, begrudgingly… resentfully… almost with a promise of vengeance whispered within – silently mourning a wrongful death, and refusing to let go of it.
            But, my childhood is gone.

I have children now.  I am no longer a child.
Children are a gift.  God Almighty has given me 6 wonderful gifts –
      Because He loves me
      Because He trusts me
      I am Dad… a man of great responsibility.
      My childhood is gone now.
My children took me by the hand and led me safely into their world today.
      Because they love me
      Because they trust me
      They let me share their childhood.

I thank You, Lord, for the wonderful gifts.
      I love You, too
      I trust You

I thank you, children, for the wonderful gift.
      I love you, too
      I trust you

I laughed with my children today.  I am a man of tremendous responsibility…
      But, today…
            I became a child again.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Treasure vs. Trash

We were on the hunt.  Carefully stalking our prey, we were both armed and dangerous… and hungry.  Suddenly, we both spotted it.  I looked at Joe to see if he had seen it, and he was looking right back at me.  Then, we both emptied our hands and charged.  I got to it first - a locked metal box on the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico, it had to be Pirate treasure!

We sat on the bottom in about 85 feet of water, miles from shore, trying to pry the lid open and stirring up the mud, making the water very murky.  I grabbed Joe’s hand and patted his sheathed knife, so he unsheathed his blade.  I guided the blade to where the lid latched and gave a thumbs up.  Joe twisted, and his knife popped loose.  I quickly checked the tip and realized that it had slipped off of the box.  So, we tried again.  It popped again, but this time, the box was open!

We could see about as well as if we were in a sea of chocolate milk, so couldn’t tell what was inside of that valuable chest.  All we could think to do was sit still and wait.  We waited some more, and then more.  It seemed as if the water didn’t want to clear, but little by little we could see the box; then, shapes within the box.  They were cylindrical, like a stack of coins, perhaps.  When, at long last, we could tell what we were looking at, we both laughed – at ourselves and then at each other and then at ourselves again.  We laughed long and loud because we were holding a broken meter box which had been discarded or dropped from the drilling platform where we were diving.

Then, as if someone had turned on a light in a dark room, we both stopped and looked around frantically.  It had dawned on us both at the same moment that we had discarded our spearguns when we so eagerly charged the broken box.  We threw away something which had high value to us, to chase after someone else’s garbage, which had no value to anyone.

I deliberately choose to never forget that day.  It serves as a bare reminder of how easily I can become distracted from what matters most:  my Lord, my wife and family, truth and my integrity.  Sometimes, I discard something which has high value, to chase after someone else’s garbage, which has no value to anyone.

Too often in life, we forget what matters most.  Without giving it any real thought, we begin chasing after the wrong things - someone else’s garbage, which has no value to anyone.

We would be wise to deliberately remind ourselves of the most valuable things in life.

We would be wise to deliberately remind our family of the most valuable things in life.

We would be wise to deliberately remind others of the most valuable things in life.

We would be compassionate to call them back to the most valuable things in life.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Unhinderedly ~ Acts 28.31

The author of the book of Acts ends the text with an adverb:  "unhinderedly".  This adverb modifies the verbs, "preaching" and "teaching".  In this case, "preaching the kingdom of God and teaching concerning the Lord Jesus Christ " (Acts 28.31).  I believe that he is declaring that the Gospel is "unhindered" as it makes its way from Jerusalem, to Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest parts of the earth (Acts 1.8).  Therefore, his aim is to proclaim that the Gospel is not hindered and that the work begun by Jesus is enduring today. 

The heart of God is unhindered.  He loves you so much that He would rather die than live without you.  The heart of God was unhindered by death, even death on the cross.

So, how do we respond to a love like this?  We either run from Him... defiantly... proudly.  Or, we submit to Him - come back to Him like the broken, lone-prodigal we are.  And when we come to the end of ourselves, and discover that there is no cost too high... no obstacle too great... no distance too far... no distraction too enticing... we seek Him unhinderedly.

When we return to Him, we discover many things.  We discover that we come dirty, broken, messed up.  Jesus takes us up in His strong arms and cleans us... fixes what was broken... binds our wounds... forgives us... heals us... takes us by the hand and shows us how to walk rightly. 

I have all of this in mind as I write "hearts unhindered".  His heart has ever been unhindered.  He wants for me to learn to love in the same way... to love Him... to love my wife... to love my family... to love my church... to love the world... even to love myself... unhinderedly.