August 2, 2014 § Leave a comment
“The most vulnerable thing we could ever do, the thing that requires the most courage and faith, is the key to freedom. We bring our nothing – accepting who we are by accepting who God is, what he has done and what he promises to do.”
J.R. Briggs, Fail
It was a treat to be invited by one of our Elders to the Baltimore Ravens’ training facility in Owings Mills a few weeks ago, which is by invitation only (as opposed to the larger venue at M&T Bank Stadium). Through another friend who works with the team, we were also permitted to enter into the complex and view the team’s two Super Bowl trophies.
What a thrill to be at field level watching these athletes. They are stunningly fast and observably sleek. Their movement is precise and seemingly effortless. When they strike the blocking machines you can almost feel the force from the stands.
Following practice the team autographed footballs, jerseys, posters and hats for the children. But we adults were equally awed with the event. Having grown up a sports fan, any brush with professional athletes has always been the coolest thing. I still feel like a kid when watching them practice, even though I am twenty-five years older than the oldest player on the team!
Yet what reached me most deeply was in observing our Worship Director and his twin sons. The photo at the top of this post really says it all – a Dad and his boys. They were his joy and the stars of his photographs.
Amazingly we enjoy no less pleasure from the heavenly Father, even more.
What a sweet picture of God and His people – a Father and His children. We are unfinished, and His love for us is complete. We are weak and He is strong. We get lost and He finds us. We are immature, and He is eternally wise. We obey imperfectly and He delights over us with singing, His lens ever fixed on us because of Jesus.
I know the tyranny of unbelief, how it creeps into our hearts and thinking, wrecking joy and imposing it’s own version of a twisted righteousness that is neither righteous nor beautiful. More than anything, it obscures us from the Father – and this is sad.
However to our sometimes despairing spirits and fearful hearts the gospel freshly announces to us that we are not orphans! Nothing Jesus did – on the Cross and in His Resurrection – is wasted. In Christ, we are God’s daughters and sons (John 1:12).
What good news…
May 27, 2011 § 2 Comments
Today our youngest, daughter Erin, graduates from high school. Needless to say we are thankful, proud and overjoyed. Erin is an amazing girl. We have been blessed with three wonderful children and she is no exception. The picture in the post isn’t recent, but it has always been one of my favorites of her. It was taken about seven years ago aboard a boat headed for Alcatraz off the coast of California, on the first leg of a great family vacation.
The picture captures what I think of when, with tears of joy, I consider our baby girl. It is one of those many ‘snapshots’ that run through our minds and hearts as we consider her life at this special moment. For me it seems symbolic of the way Erin has always simultaneously maintained her roots and her potential. On the boat, as in life, she is firmly established, solidly at home, but also, because confident that she is loved, she is fearlessly extending and reaching – seeing the world she lives in – breathing in the moment – wondering what is out there – thrilled with the prospects – filled with love to share.
From the moment she entered into the world Erin has been a person of tenacity and fiery character. As a little girl she had a unique guttural growl that she freely expressed whenever she deemed it appropriate to register disapproval or frustration – to friends or strangers! However through the years, as she has matured we have come to realize that her tenacity and growling were all part of God’s work of sculpting a young woman of passion, who cares for the weak, fights for those she loves and stands on principle, even when it hurts. Along with her older sister, Erin reflects her mother’s beauty, inside and out. She loves Christ and enjoys a deep and reflective relationship with Him.
I can’t wait to see what will come of Erin’s life! It has been sweet watching her grow – the fun things – the hard moments – the fashions – the hair styles – you name it. She has been part of a tapestry of joy and loveliness that Katherine has woven into our daughters, and therefore our home and world. Our son left home for college, and then marriage years ago, so for me it has been life with three women for quite some time. I often joke that I’m ‘over-womened’ – but the truth is that I love my ‘girlies.’
That picture informs this dad’s heart that throughout her life Erin will settle for nothing less than something sweet and beautiful. Something she will discover, while extending out, reaching for the oceans, stars and landscapes, that God seems to have laid out for her to discover – something as breathless as she leaves me with when having enjoyed yet another encounter with our precious daughter.
At this moment I can’t even begin to think about how profoundly Katherine and I will miss Erin when she leaves for college in the fall along with her sister Emily. But on this day, while we have her, and as she officially becomes a high school grad, we celebrate her. We are so proud and we love her with every fiber of our beings. And once again, with the deepest of thankfulness to the Lord, along with John, the apostle, we find that ‘we have no greater joy than to know that our children walk in truth’ (3 John 1:4).
What sweet, good news.
January 6, 2011 § 6 Comments
After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. Revelation 7:9
This has been a surreal week in the story of our lives as a family. Though we have been ‘there’ before with our son, leaving Pensacola, Florida where our daughter Emily will finish college was yet another reminder that a time comes when a child-turned-adult, leaves home. For nearly our entire married life Katherine and I planned for that moment. We prayed regularly. We hoped for it. We instilled the rationale into our children. We have always seen it as our responsibility to release our children into ‘the rest of their lives.’
But that moment when we said goodbye – Wow – We spent all those years preparing our daughter (and all of our children), but nothing could prepare us! Nothing could really prepare us for that moment – to let go – of her – of our final embraces – of the idea of no longer living under one roof. What about what we didn’t say? What about that one final, crucial piece of advice, that one final, ‘I love you’ that was left unsaid? So much…
As I’ve reflected on that moment and reality this week, it seems that at the same time that it is all so natural and healthy, it is such, only insofar as letting go is also part and parcel of life in a broken world.
Abraham was willing to let go of Isaac, his son of promise. Moses let go of a 40-year passion for entering the Promised Land. Hannah let go of Samuel, the son she had for years hoped and pleaded and prayed to be able to have. David let go of a dream to build a Temple. Jesus let go of a Rich Young Ruler that seemed so on the verge of belief. Paul and the Ephesian Elders sobbed as they let go of him, their pastor. And of course, the supreme example of letting go lies in the heart of God, who released His only Son, Jesus into the hands of a world that would unjustly execute Him. And then, Jesus’ disciples had to let go of their Friend when He returned home to heaven.
So, at the same time that I know letting go is natural and part of our development in life and faith, deep within me, I have to believe that it is the most healthy and natural thing we do under the circumstances.
I mean, you never read about the new heavens and find that we will be segregated or kept from one another. No! What we discover is that the end of time is a time of reunion. Even the seas that divide the peoples of the earth into continents will be no more (Revelation 21:1)!
So I think I get it. It is true that we weep because we love – I am a profoundly blessed man with the family God has given to me. But we also weep because we long for a day where there will be no more ‘Goodbyes’ and no more separation and no more tears at the moment of departure.
And I think that this is what is most beautiful for me in John’s vision of the new heavens and the new earth (Revelation 7:9) – Every difference and everything that separates us will have disappeared – and we will be together again – all of us in Christ – those we don’t know – but also, those we know and love – those we weren’t ready to be without – those we lost before we finished saying everything we thought we should say – those we wanted more time with. Fortunately the list goes on.
The truth is that I don’t let go well. It’s right but it doesn’t feel right. It’s healthy but it makes me sick. I don’t let go well but I want to let go of all our children for all the right reasons. Because together and separately we have this until Jesus makes all things new: He will never let go of us.
Tears fill my eyes as I write, but they are sweet tears – tears that long and that believe that the Gospel must be true.
What Good News, friends…