Showing posts with label perspective. Show all posts
Showing posts with label perspective. Show all posts

Thursday

Whose Answer to Prayer?

For some time, I’ve been praying some pretty significant prayers about somebody close to me.

There were some changes that I thought would be healthy for him to make in his life, but I very much did not feel the freedom to talk to him about them.

So I went over his head, and talked to his Father.

(It’s probably appropriate to point out that part of my prayers were for healthy changes in his life, but the larger portion were about getting my will out of the way. I sometimes find it a challenge to pray for people’s choices in a way that still respects their free will for their lives ahead of my own will for their lives. And the more I care for them, the bigger that obstacle is for me. Sigh.)

Last week, my friend asked me to go for a walk with him, and as we started, he said he had something to talk about, and he did not want my advice or counsel. (I interpreted that as, “This is pretty serious for him!”)

Then he explained how he had come to some conclusions and abruptly made several of the changes that I’d been praying for. I barely kept from jumping and dancing around him, so happy I was about him. 

We walked for several miles while he vented and I listened. I asked a couple of questions, but otherwise didn’t hardly say anything: this wasn’t about me; it’s about him. Toward the last mile, we discussed some of his goals for how to walk out these changes, and how I could support him and his changes.

I spent several days rejoicing.

A few days later, as I was talking with Jesus about my friend, supporting his changes in prayer. 

And then I recognized something kind of dangerous in my thinking. I was praying for my friend’s success in the area of these changes, when God quietly uncovered some things in my heart. I was seeing this as about me: these were my prayers that were answered, and I felt a responsibility to reinforce the answers in continued prayer.

I became aware that yes, my prayers had some not-insignificant effect here (He never tells me how much), but this isn’t my victory. This is God’s victory that He s sharing (and working through) with His son, my friend. This is not about me.

I’m still invited to pray for my friend’s victory, but I’m not invited to take ownership of the change, to take responsibility for his continued success.


Lessons on Leadership from the Flock

I learned an interesting lesson from my chickens some time ago, from their pecking order. And then I realized something new about them just this week. 🤔

The chicken app the top of the pecking order is concerned about maintaining her position, her dominance over the rest. She has no interest in discovery or exploration, because she’s busy maintaining her power.

The chickens at the bottom of the pecking order have no power to maintain. Therefore they have the time and the energy to discover new things. (Unfortunately, they regularly discover new ways to escape from their chicken yard. But it's always the hens at the bottom of the pecking order who discover this.)

I realized that this works for humans, also. People who are concerned about their position, people who need to keep consolidating or defending their position, are never the people who discover new things.

There is a key for leadership here, I think. Maybe several.

× If I am a leader, then I can either work to keep my position of leadership, or I can work to encourage and environment of exploration, of discovery. I probably can't do both.

× If I am not a leader, I can either work to become a leader, or I can work to defend my current position, whatever it is, or I can discover and explore. Pick one.

× If I am a discoverer, or an explorer, then I probably am not involved in jockeying for a leadership position. I am probably also not as ambitious for promotion as others around me either, if my goals are about discovery. (And my life may actually be more enjoyable, if possibly less “successful.”)

× If I am somebody who stretches to discover new things, new experiences, new ideas, then the people whose goals are about position, about power, probably don't understand me. They probably don’t value what I value, either. I probably should not look to them for encouragement in this area.

I was reflecting on this whole process here, when I realized something else. These principles were more true with my previous flocks of chickens. The current flock, well I raised these girls all by hand, feeding them by hand, cuddling them every day as they grew up. (Did you know that baby chicks are terribly cute and cuddly? 🐥 )

As a (surprising) result, this flock isn’t nearly as focused on position. There’s much less fighting over the pecking order, because they consider ME to be the one on the top of the pecking order.

So unlike previous flocks, these days when I walk into their chicken yard, they gather around me for petting and skritching and snacks and such; they don’t run away.

So there’s no “top of the pecking order” for them to fight over, because they know thats me, it’s my job. They trust that Ill do my job.

And they don’t spend as much of their days either maintaining power or looking for ways to escape their community.

I’m thinking there might be some lessons in this about being secure in our Father’s affection for us. 🤔 What say you?


God Takes the Blame

I have run into hundreds of Christians who maintain the view that if something happens in their life, it must be God’s will. They completely misquote Romans 8:28 as some sort of karma verse: if something happens, it must be God’s will for them; if an event occurs in their life, it must be God’s plan for them.

The verse says that God will cause the events in my life to work together for the ultimate goal of good, provided I love God and “are called according to His purpose.” It does not say that every single event is good (He seems to never comment on that), and the promise is completely void for those who don’t love God or aren’t walking in His calling. I’m bothered by the fact that the people most often abusing this verse are not God’s people. “Bad things happened in my life; it must be God’s fault, therefore I won’t love God.”

Grrrr.

This is such a blatant abuse of scripture that I find myself fairly angry when I hear people misrepresenting God’s word this way: exchanging what He said for what they think He should have said. And it bothers me when people assume that just because something happened (typically, something icky), it must have been God’s plan for them. Deliberately misrepresenting God’s heart is one of the best ways I know of to make a mess out of life. It’s one of hell’s favorite pastimes, accusing God.

Another thing that makes a mess out of people’s lives is their own poor choices. It seems that God was very serious when He gave us free will, though we often confuse the consequences of our free will – our choices – with God’s will. I know a man who committed several crimes and then blamed God that he was caught and put in jail, and a teenage mother that attributes her toddler to God’s will for her life rather than her night of passion with an eager classmate.

The funny thing is, God seems to take it all in stride. He accepts the blame for crud that happens. I have two primary examples.

1) The example of the life of Job.

The Book of Job is a long story about how Satan hit Job, but Job didn’t know it, and how Job responded. Job’s “friends” kept saying, “You must have sinned; this must be God!”, while Job, who was a righteous man, kept saying two things: a) to his friends: “No, I haven’t sinned; I’d know it!” and be) to God: “So God, why is this happening?”

Eventually (some 30 freaking chapters later!) God answers Job, and instead of saying, “Relax, Job. The devil did this, not me,” which would have been true, according to the first few chapters, God takes responsibility Himself for Job’s disasters, only answering Job with, “Look, son, I’m God and you’re not,” though He does restore Job’s fortunes. He also enters the record in the Bible for you and me to learn from. (Job appeared to learn his lesson: “I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear, But now my eye sees You.”)

2) Bible verses where He claims responsibility for troubles.

I’ve recently become amazed at the number of places where God takes responsibility for bad stuff happening. Here are a few:

Ezekiel 20:25: Therefore I also gave them up to statutes that were not good, and judgments by which they could not live;
Psalm 81:12: So I gave them over to their own stubborn heart, To walk in their own counsels.
Romans 1:28: …God gave them over to a debased mind,….

In all of these verse, God is taking responsibility. He’s saying, “I did this,” but if you look at the context, each example was where people were making stupid choices and were experiencing consequences of those actions. I’m not saying God did not intervene; I’m saying that whether He intervened or not, the motivating force was the people’s unwise exercise of their free will.

In Ezekiel, for example, a dozen verses before God gave the people judgments “by which they could not live,” He described those same judgments as “if a man does them, he shall live by them.” So it wasn’t God’s judgments that were out of the reach of man; it was not following His judgments that kept them separated from life.

But God took the blame.

In the Psalms illustration, God gave the people over to their own stubborn heart after He laments, “My people would not heed My voice,” and then He immediately cries that this was not His plan. “Oh, that My people would listen to Me, That Israel would walk in My ways!”

And Romans 1 is famous as a downward spiral because “although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were they thankful.”

In every case, people made lousy choices and then bad things happened. I don’t know if they blamed God for the consequences of their actions, but God was certainly willing to accept the blame.

So while it irritates me that people blame God for foul things in their lives that come from the devil (in Job’s case) or from their (our) own stupid choices, God doesn’t seem to be too offended by it.

The first step to solving a problem, so the psychologists say, is to acknowledge we have a problem; the second step, apparently, is to identify it. If that’s the case, then I’m more likely to resolve trouble in my life accurately by correctly identifying the source of that trouble, particularly if the trouble comes from my choices.

If I’m failing at my job because I’m texting when I should be working, then blaming God may not help solve the problem; putting away the phone and doing the work may be a wiser course. Taking responsibility for our actions will be good for our well-being.

Some problems – like Job’s – aren’t from our poor choices, but from a demonic agenda, and these we may never understand.

I think we need to come to the same conclusion that Job did: He’s God and I’m not. There will be bad things that happen, and many of those I’ll never understand. But if I can know God, if I avoid building a wall of blame between Him and me, then whether I understand or not, I can – like Job – walk in the best available blessing.

Fall Harvest begins in Spring

Last fall, I had a revelation about my garden, and its impacting how I prepare for this springs planting.

I was wandering through my garden last fall, cleaning out some of the plants that had finished: the tomatoes were winding down, the broccoli, cauliflower & cabbages were composting, the first crop of lettuce has gone and the second crop is winding down. The zucchini (there’s always too much zucchini) was feeding the chickens.

And I was inspecting the peppers and winter squashes and such that were still working on completing the produce that they’re working on. They were ripening nicely, getting ready for their own harvest shortly.

But there’s something of a problem, and this requires a bit of confession, and something of a backstory.

In the spring, I plant starts into my garden, but nearly all of the young plant starts come from my own greenhouse. In fact, I plant the pepper seeds around Christmas every year, and I plant the tomatoes and squashes later in the winter. I label them and nurture them as the seedlings grow into strong plants so they’re ready for a running start in my garden when the weather warms up enough for them.

End of backstory.

As I was wandering through my garden last fall, inspecting the results of my spring starts, and that’s where I discovered a couple of problems. I'm trying to learn from that lesson this spring.

One of the problems was pretty evident, and had been for a while: I hadn’t labeled the starts all that well. (And actually, the seed company that provided me with seeds also failed in this.)

I had a number of pepper plants that were labeled “bell peppers” that were producing a variety of other kinds of strange peppers. (That one is at least partly on the seed packager.) And I had a large number of tomato plants labeled as slicing tomatoes (my favorites are Brandywine and Cherokee Purple) that were producing thousands, perhaps tens of thousands, of cherry tomatoes.

The other problem is where the real confession happens. We put pepper and tomato and squash plants out into the garden in May (we're getting close to planting season now!), but I'd been tending these little plants for many months, sometimes five or six months! These were my babies!

Here’s a secret I learned: some varieties of peppers apparently germinate at a higher rate than others. So I had a modest number of the bell peppers, particularly the baby-bell peppers that I value more highly (and many of those, thanks to mislabeling, weren’t actually bell peppers, but I’ve already groused about that one). Ghost peppers were particularly difficult to germinate (I use dried super-hot peppers as a pesticide: it keeps the squirrels off the bird-feeders pretty well!).

It turned out that fairly hot varieties, Lemon Drop peppers, Scotch Bonnet peppers and especially Sugar Rush peppers germinate really well. They also survive the first several weeks in a greenhouse at a better rate than baby bell peppers or ghost peppers.

So when it came to be time to transplant young peppers into the garden in the spring, I had a few bell pepper plants (far fewer than I thought I did, thanks to mislabeling), fewer baby bell plants, and only one ghost pepper plant (that turned out to be something else entirely). But I had dozens and dozens of the varieties that I only wanted one or two plants.

I had the same problem with tomato starts and squash starts: too many starts, and not the starts I really wanted.

But they were my babies. I’d already given away as many as I could find homes for. I couldn’t just toss my babies, whom I’d been caring for for so long into the compost. They’re like my children.

So I planted them in my garden, of course.

That was last spring. In the fall, I saw the error of my ways. It turns out that those fairly hot varieties (that I only wanted one or two plants of) are incredibly prolific. So I have dozens of huge plants bearing hundreds of fruits I’m not all that interested in that are crowding out the fewer (and smaller) plants whose fruit I really value.

And I realized that my choices to be “merciful” to those plants last spring had doomed my pepper harvest (and my tomato harvest, and my winter squash harvest).

And as I grumbled to myself, I heard Father clear his throat. “Ahem…..”

And suddenly I realized this is a life lesson. 

Somebody – and it wasn’t a gardener – once said, “Don’t plant seeds that you don’t want to harvest,” and a famous guy once said. “If you don’t like your harvest, change the seeds you’re planting.”

I need to change the seeds I’ve been planting.

But I can’t do that. Not now, anyway. That’s a change I need to make before I start planting my starts in the dead of winter. That’s a change I need to make when I’m getting ready to plant seeds in the dead of winter.

Fortunately, with the wrong peppers and wrong tomatoes and wrong squashes bearing fruit in my garden, that’s not a complete disaster. I can harvest them when they’re ripe and feed them to the chickens (chickens eat all sorts of things!) and then the chickens will give me good eggs all this year and great compost next spring.

But choices in my life, that’s a bigger issue. I’m still limping through the harvest of poor choices in previous seasons. I can’t change those choices back then, but I can learn the lessons and make better choices today and through this transition season that’s upon us.

If I don’t like my harvest, I need to change the seeds I’m planting.

Pray For Them, Not Against Them

I was at a big Christian worship-and-prayer festival at my state’s capitol campus. It was actually pretty good.

I should mention that my state politicians who work in that capitol building have demonstrated that they value politically-correct social whims over the well-being of the state. It’s pretty messed up. Yeah, they need prayer.

In fact, I really appreciated the corporate prayer for my state! If we’re going to change for the better, the change will be built on a foundation of prayer. I treasure that.

So I was surprised when I realized I was uncomfortable with the prayers that afternoon. They weren’t bad prayers; they were about “Stop abortion,” stop this bad thing or that bad thing. And those are things that need to stop.

But something wasn’t settling right in my spirit for the moment. I couldn’t have told you why.

Across the lawn, there was a counter-protest going on in reaction against this good gathering. A small group of satanists showed up in protest of the Christian event, offering to “un-baptize” people while they occasionally shouted “Hail satan!” at the worshipping crowd. They caught my attention.

There was a park bench near the counter-protest. The state had put up a pretty big barrier between the two groups, so I had to walk the long way around to get there. And I sat on that bench and visited with Father, just to watch what was going on, mostly.

The satanists were sure angry. Well, some of them were. Some appeared to be high, and they looked like they might be there just for the party. It seemed that there was a deep sadness among them. In particular, the angry ones caught my attention. So I watched and listened.

Thousands of Christians, just beyond that fence, were ignoring the satanists, were worshipping their God, praying against some of the things that these people valued. I could see why they were angry, why they were protesting.

I reflected that a lot of times when I visit with atheists, the god they don’t believe in is also a god I don’t believe in: capricious, judgmental, distant, self-centered. I figure that this might be part of why the satanists are angry at the Christian gathering (and the Christian God): because they see them the same way: capricious, judgmental, distant, self-centered.

That isn’t who I know God to be, and it isn’t what these people were like when I walked among them earlier, but I can understand the concern. I’ve been around enough to get an idea of where they got those untrue ideas. I could see why they might be angry.

Yeah, if I saw things that way, I might not want to celebrate those values either. As I began to understand a little bit of what might be their concerns, I began to feel compassion for them. So I talked with Father about them (in more religious vocabulary, I began to pray for them). And I learned some things.

As Father & I talked, I became aware that I was praying for them in much different ways than the prayer & worship gathering was. While the gathering was praying much for our state and our politicians and our people, the thought that came to my mind was that these people had had enough people praying against them. What they really needed was somebody to pray for them!

So I tried to turn that corner. I’ll be honest, it was a difficult turn. I’ve had decades of experience seeing “the enemies of God” as issues, as values, not as people, certainly not as individuals. I needed help to see these people as individuals, and if I was able to, to see them as individuals that Jesus died for, that Father weeps for, that Holy Spirit is drawing to himself.

Gradually, I began to see them less as “angry satanists,” and more as lost sheep, whom the shepherd was searching for.

That changed my prayers, I can tell you.

I prayed for individuals, that big angry guy with the demonic imagery on his black vest, that servant-hearted woman who needed more clothes on, that bouncy woman (?) with pink hair down to her knees.

I began to pray for peace, specific peace: that they would ind what they were looking for, even if they didn’t know they were looking. I prayed for success in their jobs, in their schooling, in their relationships.

I could go on. Actually, I did. For kind of a while.

I understand that hell is busy these days, and the political realm is one of his favorite places to wreak “stealing, killing, destroying,” and he’s having a measure of success. I understand that Father is still seeking saints who will “stand in the gap before me for the land;” I know a number of good people paying the price for that important work. I’m thankful for them.

At the end of it all, I am feeling a need to pray for people more than praying against them. At least, that’s what I’m feeling this week.


His Word as a Talisman?

I’m convicted this morning that sometimes we – that sometimes I – have used the promises of God as an incantation, his Word as a talisman.

There have been times that I have quoted the promises written in the Book at my problems as if quoting the promises written in the book would change my circumstances. While those recitations have occasionally worked change in my attitude, I cannot recall that those words alone have ever changed my circumstances.

On the other hand, there have been times that I have used those promises in discussion with my King, times that he and I have wielded those same promises on the problems that were facing me, and the problems have bowed their knee.

I am reminded this morning that it is not the words on the paper that carry power. It is not the noises that come from my mouth that are imbued with his authority, no more than noises from any other part of my anatomy.

It is he himself that is the word of God, and while he inhabits me, while he lives in me and with me, if I use his words apart from him, if I unintentionally leave him as a bystander or cheerleader during my fight, well then he can stand by, he can cheer me on, I suppose.

But if I intend to move in the power of God, I need to move with God, in God. And that’s not a challenge, it’s not difficult. I’m not convinced that it’s automatic either.

I’m not above chewing out an oblivious driver who endangers my life and my vehicle. I’m not sure those words are imbued with the power of God; in fact in hindsight, I hope not!

I’m not perfect in my relationships, and I’ve said hurtful or insensitive things, more than I care to remember, actually. If those words carried the power to move mountains, we’d be in real trouble, I can tell you.

There have been times I’ve declared, “I forgive you” with no more power than my mutterings at the oblivious driver. And there have been times when those words carried power and presence enough to change a life. Apparently it takes more than just the noises from my mouth.

But there are times where my words have been in harmony with his words, words like, “Come out,” “Be filled,” “Be healed,” “Be blessed,” and what I spoke changed reality, became reality. When I spoke with him.

The alternative is to be with him. To be with him when we speak.

There is a New Year Before Us

It has been said that “Those who fail to learn history are doomed to repeat it.” If we apply this personally, we could say, “Those who fail to learn from their history will find themselves making the same mistakes all over again.”

I don’t know about you, but I’d like to not make those particular mistakes again. It’s not that I’m afraid of mistakes, but I’d sure like to learn from new ones, instead of repeating the old ones.

And so I try to reflect on the year behind me, and I try to learn from the year I’ve just finished, with the hope that I’ll actually be more mature, not just older, next year. If you’d like to join me, here are some questions you might reflect on.

Hint: this is a great time to get out your journal and write:

  • What was your biggest triumph in the past year? What does God say about it? (Go ahead! Ask him!)

  • What was your most costly mistake in the past year? What do you learn from it?

  • What was the smartest decision you made during the year?

  • What was the greatest lesson you learned during the year?

  • If you could repeat one day of the last year, what day would that be, and why?

  • If you could forever forget one day from last year, what day, and why?

  • What one bit of Scripture best describes last year?

  • What are you most happy about completing during the last year?

  • Who are the three people that had the biggest impact on your life? Have you thanked them?

  • Who are three people whose lives you impacted for good? Have you thanked God for them?

  • What area of your life have you best taken responsibility for?

  • What area of your life did you leave to someone else to be responsible for, and why?

  • What was the most loving service you performed? What effect did you see from it?

  • What was the biggest risk you took? How did that turn out? How could it have gone even better?

  • What important relationship improved the most? What made the improvement?

  • What important relationship took a hit last year? What can you learn from that?

  • What compliment would you have liked to have received?

  • What compliment would you like to have given last year? Can you give it now?

  • What else do you need to say or do to be completely finished with the year?

  • What would you like to say to your Father about last year or your last season? 


Father's Heart on Christmas Morning

I have to say that this year’s Christmas was something special.

I was sitting in my “Papa Chair” with generations of my family scattered around the house Christmas morning.

Over the past few decades, my family has grown up, moved out, married well and “gone forth and multiplied,” both by marriage and by birthing more of us. It had been a fair number of years since we’d all been able to celebrate Christmas together, and we were enjoying it immensely.

That morning would be an excellent illustration of the phrase, “tumultuous cacophony!” There was noise and energy everywhere, and it was beautiful! There was an immense quantity of laughter, from children and parents alike, with wrestling, story-telling, coffee-making, snack-sharing and eventually, distributing of gifts from under the tree to the locations where everyone might eventually settle down. If they ever would sit down.

For half a century and more, our tradition has been to begin with the youngest among us and then to take turns opening a gift apiece. If it is clothing, it must be worn. If it is food, it should be shared. There was no need to remind any one to give thanks, as thankfulness and laughter and joy flowed freely. Gifts were not particularly extravagant, but they were heart-felt, personal and loudly celebrated. They never did settle down, and it was good.

During the gift-opening, the tumultuous cacophony didn’t stop, didn’t slow down; it simply drifted vaguely in the direction of the living room and of the presents. Coffee cups were refilled continuously, glasses were regularly topped off, more snacks were shared, more photos were taken and shared, more stories told, more laughter, more rejoicing, more fun….

And suddenly it seemed like everything froze for a mere eternity-long instant, and my eyes were opened briefly. Suddenly I saw so much better.

In a moment, I saw that all the images and vain imaginations of what I had assumed about Heaven were oh-so-terribly inadequate. For a brief moment I saw through Father’s eyes, and I saw that this was at least part of what he’s been looking forward to about heaven: the family gathered around, loving being together, filled with love and joy and celebration for the family, including the head of the family.

And I realized that Father has a bigger family than I do, a much bigger family. But being omniscient, being omnipresent, he can completely rejoice with every single individual of his billions of sons and daughters as I was with the dozen or so rejoicing together in my noisy living room.

I got a quick peek of the Father’s family, full of joy and generosity and celebration, his own mighty heart rejoicing with them all, and for the first time perhaps, I think I might have begun to understand the Heavenly worship swirling around the throne that John tried so hard to describe in his Book of Revelation.

I think I might have caught a glance of “the joy that was before him” that carried the Son of God through the torment of the Cross and the grave. I think I might have glimpsed just a little bit of what God was looking forward to when he said to himself, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.”

This was a celebration he was anticipating. My living room was the tiniest foretaste of what the psalmist described as, “You will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.”

There were other insights, too; the experience was a little overwhelming. I glimpsed even tinier views of Father’s heart for those who were not in the house that morning, but that was not the lesson of the day. The morning’s lesson was about joy that the Father’s family brings his Almighty heart.

I saw from Father’s eyes for just a fraction of a second, a tiny stretch of eternity, and then reality crashed again on my shores and I was swept away by the joy of my own family, and of their joy of being together, of giving and receiving gifts, of celebration and laughter. The joy continued for a long, long time.

And it was good. It was very good.

Israel has Sinned. That’s Why They Cannot Stand

In my reading today, this stood out to me. I suspect that there’s a principle for me here. Maybe for your too.

Joshua 7: 11 “Israel has sinned; they have violated my covenant, which I commanded them to keep. They have taken some of the devoted things; they have stolen, they have lied, they have put them with their own possessions. 12 That is why the Israelites cannot stand against their enemies; they turn their backs and run because they have been made liable to destruction. I will not be with you anymore unless you destroy whatever among you is devoted to destruction.”

I don’t know about you, but I was taught that sin is bad because it scares God off from me. “God cannot look upon sin,” they said, completely ignoring the fact that “While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”

As my attention was grabbed by Joshua 7, I realized (yet again) that the big deal is the effect that sin has on me, NOT the silly idea that sin has an effect on God.

To summarize: “Israel has sinned; That is why the Israelites cannot stand against their enemies.” In other words, sin let failure into their lives, sin let their enemy beat them up, sin opened them up to what the enemy was doing, sin made them victims, not victors. 

God doesn’t like sin primarily because of the mess that it makes in our lives: it separates us from (in this example) victory, from our destiny as overcomers.

So when God says, “Be holy,” he’s not laying down the law. That’s largely about, “Position yourselves in the cross-hairs of my blessing!”

Led by Scripture?

This story has been bugging me:

Then he brought Him to Jerusalem, set Him on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to Him, "If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down from here. "For it is written: 'He shall give His angels charge over you, To keep you,' "and, 'In their hands they shall bear you up, Lest you dash your foot against a stone.' " And Jesus answered and said to him, "It has been said, 'You shall not tempt the LORD your God.' " - Luke 4:9-12

I’ve been taught, and I’ll bet you have too, to base my choices and my requests on Scripture. If I can support it from the pages of the Bible, I’m safe.

This passage puts the lie to that. In this story, Luci asks Jesus to do something, AND HE SUPPORTS IT WITH SCRIPTURE! This is the secret code we’ve been taught to trust blindly, and the devil is using it to tempt Jesus! 😲

In this story, it’s pretty clear that obeying this scriptural request was very much not God’s will:

Luci (the debbil) was the one making the request.
JC had a better understanding of the whole counsel of Scripture, and recognized that this use (with scripture!) violated the bigger issues.
Jesus only did what he saw Father doing (John 5:19), and apparently Father wasn’t showing off by skydiving from a clifftop, waiting for God to rescue him from the law of gravity and from the consequences of his own choice.
We could add that the quote (from Deuteronomy 8) was out of context, but the worst out-of-context quoter of Scripture that I know is Scripture itself. (But that’s another conversation).

I realize that I’ve done this. I’ve done this: I’ve taken verses as approval for my wishes and choices, and expected God to jump through my hoops. And then I’ve gotten angry or disappointed when he didn’t.

Principle: just because I can find somebody doing it in the Bible doesn’t mean it’s God’s will for my life. Or that it’s safe.

Principle: Yes, look for what Scripture says on the topic, but don’t stop there. Engage Holy Spirit, involve mature brothers & sisters.

Most importantly, know your Father’s heart, so when somebody tries to use Scripture to pull you away from his heart, you’ll know better and not follow that slimy trail.




Prophets of Doom or Comfort Porn Prophets

Somebody asked me recently about whether if a prophet speaks of a trouble, are they a prophet of God or a prophet of doom? “It worries me,” she said, “that some people spend so much time promoting these ‘words’ that they become self-fulfilling.”

Fair enough.

From my viewpoint, this really is a legitimate concern. 

Having said that, to completely avoid any mention of trials, to become only a “warm and fuzzy prophet” (prophesying “comfort porn”) is equally errant. Both ditches are problems. And there are other “ditches” I suppose. 

Yeah, there are a *whole lot* of publicized “words” that seem to me to be motivated by marketing, by a need to be “relevant” or “cutting edge,” or are merely coming from what appears to be a wounded soul.
Fake news among the prophetic community?

Yeah, that’s why God gave us the gift of discernment. It’s probably more needful now than ever before.

I observe, however, that many Biblical revelations did, in fact, acknowledge coming trials. It’s easy to find this in the Old Covenant, and it’s easy (and often appropriate) to write many of those warnings off as ministering under an inferior covenant.

At the same time, most of the prophetic words to Paul during the latter part of the book of Acts fit that category as well; Agabus is never even hinted as being a false prophet. Even Jesus prophesied warnings; have you read Matthew 24 recently?

If a “prophet of God” is legitimately speaking about troubles, I’d argue that there are some ways to discuss that topic that are more appropriate than others. “The spirits of prophets are subject to prophets,” after all.

It seems that prophets need to speak what God is actually saying, not from other (lesser) voices/motivations. But those who hear the words have no less need to hear God as we discern those words.

The Pendulum Swings to Mercy

It seems that the history of mankind can be described as a rush from one extreme position to another, like a pendulum gone. We’re doing it again.

For the past several decades, we’ve lost track of the promise at the end of James 2:13: “…Mercy triumphs over judgment.” For the past several decades, the church has earned a reputation as a house of judgment and intolerance, of narrow-mindedness and bigotry. Frankly, we’ve earned the reputation.

You’ve may have noticed, however, that the pendulum is swinging back, as is its wont. There are several changes that are happening in the church that reflect the pendulum’s return: one that I have observed over the past several years today is a rise, an increase, in the expression of mercy gifts among individuals in the church. It’s one reflection of the change in direction of the church: we’re becoming less judgmental, and more merciful. 

We certainly need that change. The bad news is that the world has judged the church for being judgmental and out of touch, and that judgment has been appropriate. The good news is that the church is changing her heading, but it seems that we’re headed for increased turbulence with the corrections we’re making, not toward calmer waters.

The increase of the gift of mercy within the church, has not been well documented, and indeed it’s difficult to document and to analyze. You may or may not have seen what I have been observing for the past year; it is indeed subtle. Allow me to state my point fairly directly, and you can make your own observations.

Our text, then, is Romans 12:6-8:

“Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, let us prophesy in proportion to our faith; or ministry, let us use it in our ministering; he who teaches, in teaching; he who exhorts, in exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness.”

First, let’s agree that mercy really is a gift, and by divine command, it is to be exercised with “cheerfulness” (literally hílarós, a root word that has become “hilarity” in English).

It’s my observation as one who has been a part of the church for a bunch of decades, that there are more people in the church now than there were a decade ago who are gifted with mercy, and the gift is more respected than it has been before. The church is more aware now than perhaps ever of the need to respond to sinners with understanding and empathy rather than a good clubbing with Old Testament Law. Our services often focus on meeting the needs of “pre Christians” rather than discussing sin and its consequences for “sinners.”

We have softened our approach to people-different-than-ourselves, and even many of our street evangelists are asking questions or meeting needs more than proclaiming judgment on street-corners.

That much is good.

The context for this growth in mercy, however, has been neither cheerfulness nor hilarity. The mercy that is growing in the church is growing without having been disciplined, it is mercy out of control, and it is becoming a destructive force in the church.

Pastors and other leaders are finding themselves confronted by their congregations for being too stern, too strict when confronting sloth or sin. Church discipline – ever the touchy subject – has become anathema: we’re afraid to go there.

Often, the confrontation is motivated at least in part by mercy: let’s not be too harsh. But it’s mercy out of control, mercy without discipline behind it, mercy without maturity. The resulting of the conversation – a pastor afraid to speak the truth – is not normally considered a step toward maturity. This is mercy guided by ignorance or (worse) rebellion.

For example, a friend of mine leads a worship band, and her drummer was getting lazy. He’d use the same riffs for nearly every song, and his playing had gotten boring: he was stagnant and worse than that, he was content with being stagnant. As the leader, she had spoken to him a couple of times privately, and they’d agreed on certain goals, and on the means to achieve those goals.

Once during rehearsal, he drifted back into his old, stagnant patterns, and she needed to remind him of the standards they had agreed to. But when she did, she was surprised to find several other members of the band getting in her face about how she had “judged” him. The other members thought they were being “merciful” (and indeed, they are known to be merciful people), but because their mercy was un-tempered by self-control, it brought division, not unity to their band. This was mercy guided by self-indulgence.

In 1 Samuel 15, God sent king Saul to destroy the Amelekites, with specific instruction to kill everything:

• “But kill both man and woman, infant and nursing child, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.”

Saul musters the army and conquers the enemy, but instead of obeying God, he shows mercy:

• “But Saul and the people spared Agag and the best of the sheep, the oxen, the fatlings, the lambs, and all that was good, and were unwilling to utterly destroy them.”

Sure, there were other motivations; greed come to mind, but the act was merciful, whether it was mixed with lesser values or not.

The story concludes with God judging Saul, not because he was merciful (who is more merciful than God?), but because Saul’s mercy was undisciplined, and the fruit was disobedience. Saul feared the people more than he feared God; God could no longer trust him as king, and He fired him and began preparing David to replace him.

In our school district, very few students are “flunked” or “held back” because it’s considered bad for the student’s self-esteem. I’m all for being careful with kids’ tender hearts, but if a teacher feels pity for a capable-but-undisciplined student, and passes a failing student for whatever reason, that teacher is not doing the student any favors. If the kid can’t read his own high-school diploma because of well-meaning, but ultimately short-sighted policies, that student will still be illiterate and functionally unemployable, all because of his educators’ misguided mercy. This is mercy guided by shortsightedness, by fear of confrontation, or perhaps mercy without guidance at all.

For the past twenty years, the church has been getting used to the rebirth of prophetic gifts. We’ve seen Prophetic Schools and Prophetic Training Classes and Prophetic Conferences by the hundreds. All of this has been an attempt to teach the prophetic people how to minister their prophetic gifts: ultimately, it’s been aimed at producing mature prophets and prophetesses, who use their gifts responsibly: in other words, we’ve been breeding self-control into the prophetic movement, and I for one, am thankful for it. (Who wants to return to the prophetic poo-flinging and free-for-alls of the late ’80’s? Not I, thank you very much!)

So consider this a call (perhaps even a prophetic call?) to arms on behalf of the restoration of the gift of mercy. It’s time for mercy to come to the forefront in the church.

And it’s time that we begin to expect, even plan for, maturity in the gift of mercy.

Mercy triumphs over judgment.

Mature mercy triumphs better.

I’ve been thinking about something.

Sometimes when I need to think (“meditate”) on a topic or a verse, it helps me to do it “out loud.”

Some days, I go for a walk in the woods, and I teach on that topic to the trees and bushes. But it’s raining enough that the squirrels are marching two by two, so I’m using my other favorite method of “thinking out loud”: writing. 

Hold still. Thinking might happen here. This might get messy.

Part 1: Our words carry power. We’re made in the image of the Creator God, who used his words to do all his creating. We carry some of that.

Part 2: God is in the business of blessing, not in the business of cursing. We’re in the family business (see above), so there’s a reason he has commanded us to “bless and curse not.”

Part 3: If we’re honest, there’s a lot of stuff around us, a lot of people around us, that maybe have earned their fair share of cursing. Some bad people doing bad things.

Observation 1: Take #1 above with #3 above. I suspect that the reason some cities (and increasingly, states) in America are so messed up is because Christians are cursing them so much. Think about the times you’ve heard Christians talking about Washington DC or Chicago or San Francisco. What is usually the topic of those conversations. When was the last time you heard Christians actually blessing Joe Biden or Donald Trump or Nancy Pelosi?

And as a result of Christians (and others, but it’s the Christians’ words that are the big danger) declaring curses, these cities, these people are targeted by hell. And you can see it. Just look at them: they’re not actually doing well, are they? Hell is having a heyday with them.

Observation #2: Personal experience: whenever I have asked for prayer for an ill-favored person or place, the curses (“Oh, they’re a bad person!” or “They sure need to repent!”) outnumber the prayers by about two to one. (I suspect that this illustrates our need to grow in the Spirit’s fruit of self control.)

Hmmm #1: If we hear about “God is going to judge this city” (or state, or whatever), we often think of running away from that place. I’m thankful there have been fewer of these awful curses recently, but they make me think of Abe’s conversation with God in Genesis 18, where Abe argues for both mercy and justice. “Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?”

Hmmm #2: I wonder if it might be a healthier response, when we hear a credible declaration of impending doom, for Christians to rush to that city or state. And maybe echo Abe’s conversation in the process. “Far be it from you to do such a thing—to kill the righteous with the wicked, treating the righteous and the wicked alike. Far be it from you!”

Hmmm #3: If that’s a reasonable thought (and so far it seems to make sense), would the same apply to individuals? If we see someone whose actions make them a target for hell (or “judgment” or whatever), is it more Christ-like to get ourselves far away from them, or to get close to them, to bring God’s mercy to them?

Hmmm #4: What would that look like?

Hmmm #5: How would God look on that? How would the world look on that?

As I write these thoughts, a verse comes to mind. “The light shines in the darkness and the darkness does not comprehend it.” I love the thought of confusing the darkness, but I like the idea of shining light into the lives caught in the darkness even better.



The Power of Listening

One of the more challenging skills in the age of social media is listening.

Listening is more than reading or hearing their words. It’s not a tool for finding fault with their statements or for winning arguments. In fact, listening reduces the need for actual arguments.

I was in a situation where someone and I saw things differently.

Well, that’s hypocritical,” I muttered under my breath.

Well, that’s one option,” Father whispered back. “What are some other options?” 


 
(I hold that when God speaks, power is released in his words. So, among other things, when he asks me a question, I now have more power to answer the question than I did before he spoke.)

So we discussed other possibilities for why people do things I don’t understand.

Yeah, hypocrisy is an option, though it’s probably less frequent than I imagine.

• Lack of knowledge. They may not know the things I know, so they are unequipped to come to my conclusions.

Lack of awareness. This is a big one. Sometimes people have access to the data I have, but their attention is on other things. I confess I had to fight back the response of “How dare they!” but I quickly realized that their focus is almost certainly different than my focus.

Different personal issues. The things going on in them, through which they consider the issue, are likely different than my issues. I know some folks who are tough to reason with before coffee. Or when they’re hungry. Or when their emotions are high.

Different core beliefs. I believe (very intentionally) that God is good, that the best explanation of what he’s like is Jesus. Other people don’t know this yet, and so they’ll interpret “acts of God” much differently than I will.

The lesson is: listen and you might learn something. You might understand someone. You might end up wiser than you were before you listened.



Balaam’s Presumption

I’ve been reflecting on Baalam son of Beor recently (Numbers 22 – 24, I believe).
Balaam was known as a prophet whose words carried power (“...For I know that whoever you bless is blessed, and whoever you curse is cursed.”).

A local king (Balak, king of Moab) saw the horde of people on their way from Egypt, heading to the Promised Land, and he was afraid for his life. He had reason to be. This mob of former slaves had just wiped out the neighboring kingdom (21:25).

So he decides to hire the local prophet, and here is where things get interesting. This is what stuck out to me this morning:

Balak tries to hire Balaam to curse the invading army (22:6). Balaam answers, “I’ll check with God.” (22:8)

God tells Balaam “Do not go with them.” Balaam tells the recruiters, “Go back to your own country, for the LORD has refused to let me go with you.” (22:13)

So far so good.

But Balak is determined. He offers more cash, more status. Balaam knows God has already said no. That should have been the end of it. But he goes back to check with God again.

It occurs to me that an awful lot of prophets I know (NOT all of them!) have some measure of insecurity in them, and with reason. People who speak for God are not often welcome into polite society: prophets encounter rejection more than some folks. This seems to be a tender spot for Balaam.

And this is where things go haywire. God defers to Balaam’s free will, lets him go with them, but says, “...but do only what I tell you.”

Balaam saddles up his donkey and heads to Moab with the royal recruiters.

And along the way, an angel tries to kill him three times. 
His talking donkey saved his life. (22:28)

Interpreting this Old Covenant story through the newer, more complete revelation (Hebrews 1:3), it’s clear that it’s not God trying to kill the rebellious prophet. I suspect that rather his rebellion against God’s clear instruction (22:13) gave fallen angels (or demons) the right to go after him. A digression.

That’s what sin does, of course: it gives hell permission to beat on us. God says, “Be holy” for a reason. (Leviticus 11:44,45; 19:2, & 1Peter 1:16) (Fortunately, his command to be holy also releases his power for us to choose holiness successfully.)

I come away from this thinking that free will really is a big deal. Our free will is so powerful, it will let us defy the will of God. Of course, there are some formidable consequences to that choice, but it is still a choice.

It’s not that hard to talk yourself into doing what God said not to do. And God will let us do it. There have been times that I’ve asked him not to, but free will seems to be a big deal to him: he generally insists that we make our own choices.

Note that in the end, Balaam did attempt to curse Israel, but God turned it into a blessing (Deuteronomy 23:5), but he ended badly (2Peter 2:15 & Revelation 2:14).

I don’t want to be like Balaam. His words carried power. His prophecies all came to pass. But he was damned fool about it: he disappointed God and nearly got killed by an angel. (But he got to hear a donkey talk! That’s kind of cool. An ass talking to an ass, I guess.)

Let There Be Light, and Other Divine Commands

Think with me for a minute.

It’s pretty clear that when God gave commands in Genesis 1, those things happened.

“Let there be light!” and Bam! There’s light.

And God said, “Let the water under the sky be gathered to one place, and let dry ground appear.” And it was so.

There’s a principle illustrated here: When God gives a command, power is released in that command to accomplish what is commanded.

For years, I misunderstood this. I heard (for I had been taught) “Be holy as I am holy” as instruction for how I needed to direct my own efforts.

God says to be holy, so you need to follow all these holy rules in order to accomplish holiness. The best you can.”

God says, ‘Go and sin no more,’ so you need to know all the Do’s and Don’ts and make sure you follow every one carefully for the rest of your life.”

I’ve since learned that this is complete hogwash. And it’s an insult to God.

God gives me a gift, “Be holy, son; and here is the ability (and the desire) to be holy!” But I had ignored his gift and tried to come up with the same “holy” result through my own legalistic efforts.

What a nightmare.

But once I quit focusing on the list of Do’s and Don’ts and just focused on my Father, once I gave my heart freedom (gasp!) to love him, my desire for sin left, and with it, my choice to sin.

I began to experience holiness. In my life. Mine! My own!

I’ve been reflecting on this process (with substantial thanksgiving!) recently, and then in this context, “Be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Romans 12:2) came to mind.

“Transformed” means changed, in structure, in appearance, even in genetics. Literally.

So how would I even recognize it when that transforming happens to me?

“Think about Easter, Son. Where was Jesus before dawn on that first Easter?”

Jesus was in the grave. He might have been preaching in hell, but he was between death and resurrection. (Around here, we call that “dead.” As in, “Jesus was dead.”)

But Jesus went into the grave as one kind of a man, one kind of flesh-and-blood, and came out another. If nothing else, he could walk through walls, afterwards. I’ll bet there were other changes, too.

He had been transformed, after. So right then, in the grave at that first Easter weekend, Jesus was being transformed.

At that point, my mind was spinning with religious thoughts like “dying to self,” and “being hidden away, cocooned,” and “renewing my mind,” in order to “be transformed.”

Father interrupted my thoughts. “What makes you think I’m not transforming you right now, right here as we talk? As we walk together every day? This isn’t something you do, Son. This is something I do.

“And if I can transform Jesus, even while he was dead, don’t you think I can transform you while you’re not even dead? “Trust me, Son.”

I’m a grateful son. I’m thankful.

And then it hit me: that’s the secret. The sentence continues: “Be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”

Choosing to be thankful, even excited, for who he is and what he’s done and well… maybe just living thankfully, that’s the key that he works through. Or at least one of them.

What If God Really IS Moved by Love?

I've been thinking about this recently. I’m reflecting on the reality that God is motivated by love. I mean if “God is love,” then he’s moved by love, right? 

That doesn’t mean he doesn’t experience emotions, or that those emotions don’t affect him. And of course, God experiences emotion differently than we do (because he’s different than you and I are). But it’s love that moves him.

It’s love that moves him.

That is certainly more consistent with the God whom Jesus revealed than it is with a god who wants to smite. That god is a lie; satan has been selling that one for millennia. That’s the caricature that he talks about, that God is mean. “Did God really say….?”

Satan told the Norse people that God’s name (and character) was Odin. Or Thor. He told the Romans about Zeus. If you’ve ever read those stories, you know some epic lies told about the God Who Is Love, about the God who KNEW the Cross was coming, who knew He would die on it (“the lamb slain before the foundation of the world”) and yet he still created us.

I’m thinking this morning that I’ll get a better understanding of why he does what he does. I’ll understand the declarations of the Old Testament prophets (I’m in Isaiah this morning) better if I keep it in mind that He is always motivated by love.

So here’s a question for reflection on today. If you read history through the lens that God is moved by love (correctly, I might add), does that re-interpret certain things in your history? Do you see some things differently if you reflect on it with the foundation of “God was moved by love when that happened”

It’s worth remembering, of course, that it may not have been God that did whatever that was that you’re remembering. The accuser is still accusing him, particularly in front of his own children.


Raising Children is an Act of War

One of our practices, while milady & I were raising our kids, was to have a “date night” every week, so we engaged a young lady from our church, named Bella. Bella knew that every Thursday, she had an appointment babysitting our three young kids, while Mrs P & I went out on a date together.

(Comment: the date night is not for business, household or otherwise; it’s for maintaining and strengthening the relationship. Sometimes we had dinner, sometimes it was just a walk in the park, but the business of bills or work or leading our church was off limits. However, “I love you!” was permitted, even encouraged!) (’Nother comment: Date night was an outstanding investment we made in our marriage; got us through some ugly seasons.)

Back to Bella. Bella was a great young lady. She was the oldest daughter of a couple who were “pillars” in our church, and she was amazing, and the whole church knew it. She was active in the youth group, earned good grades, and didn’t hang out with the scruffy kids at school. Her parents were real proud of her. She was at our house every Thursday evening for several years.

One Thursday, we came home after a quiet dinner, and a police car was in our driveway. It seems that Bella had left our kids alone in the house, and gone off to a quiet place to make out with her (hitherto unrevealed) boyfriend; someone had reported the trespassers, so the police showed up.

Bella had told the policeman who arrested them about our home and our kids, so a cop was parked in our driveway, making sure nothing happened to our kids until we got home.

We had some difficult conversations that evening. In a couple of months, we attended Bella’s hastily arranged wedding.

Then there was Bennie. Bennie was an Eagle Scout. He was squeaky clean: good looking, short hair, bright eyes, had memorized hundreds of Bible verses.

He was the oldest son of one of the church’s elders, and the whole community was proud of him. He led worship, taught Sunday school, and was making plans for Bible college when he snapped.

His parents were completely undone when he went missing. “He’s such a good boy! He’d never do something like this to us!” they wept.

Three weeks later, Bennie showed up, covered in poorly-drawn tattoos and addicted to methamphetamines. His parents wept some more, and tried to “fix him,” but he disappeared again, this time for the better part of a year.

I know more of these stories, but you probably know some, too: good kids, kids who seem to have everything going for them, and then one day, during that terrible transition between youth and adulthood, they snap, they go off the deep end. Most of them don’t really come back.

My kids were coming up on their adolescence, so I was intensely interested. I grieved for Bella and for Bennie, and for their parents, but I wanted to do what I could to keep my own kids from this sort of flaming crash-and-burn. I talked to God about it. A lot. Hours, weeks, months.

One night, I was sitting next to my campfire, praying for my kids, when he began to unveil some things. Now, the unveiling took a lot of time, weeks, probably months, and I don’t have time for that whole story, so let me cut to the chase.

It seemed, in at least these two cases, that these kids felt immense pressure. They carried the heavy weight of expectation of sainthood, of perfection, from their parents, from their extended families, from their friends, from their churches, from everybody they knew.

It was overwhelming, stifling, constraining them while they were young, and they grew more aware of these expectations as they grew, until the weight that nobody knew they carried crushed them.

I think there were three factors to this.

The first was that eventually, as they touched on adulthood, they realized that they didn’t have to choose to wear that weight any longer. But they didn’t know how to lay it down, didn’t know how to get help, so they just threw it off and ran screaming from anybody that they associated with that crushing burden.

The second factor was that they were heroes as children, showpieces as youth and adolescents, but now they were facing that great unknown: adulthood! They had no idea how to be heroes or showpieces as adults, in fact, adulthood in general was overwhelming, so they cut and ran, away from adulating, away from responsibility, away from perfection.

And third, he showed me that these particular kids were living on their parents’ faith, not their own. And when the pressure of looming adulthood got to them, they couldn’t live on their own faith. They were making the physical transition to an adult body, but not the transition from their parents’ relationship with God to their own relationship with God.

Father showed me that I was similarly proud of my amazing children, and I was setting them up – particularly my all-star firstborn, for the same sort of implosion.

He gave us a few strategies to protect our kids. Fair warning, these things did not make our church elders happy, nor did the kids’ grandparents always approve. But we have healthy adult kids, and we’re still friends, so something went right.

When they were younger, we built a great big treehouse in the back yard so they and their friends could do that thing that all kids need to do, but church kids don’t usually get to do: play. Be kids. And they could do it in our yard, under our oversight. We had water fights there (I bought the balloons, and loaded them, while milady chased screaming kids with a Super Soaker and maniacal laughter!)

For the same reason, we bought a bunch of video games (we chose which ones we spent our money on, but we sought their counsel). For birthday parties, we rented a projector, invited the friends, and had a 16’ wide videogame on the wall. We played some of the games, but never as well as they did.

We encouraged them to do things, to stretch their experiences, with their friends. Go camping with your teenage friends (here, use my sleeping bag, my tent; this is how you set it up), make a fancy dinner with friend (here, use our kitchen, we’ll go somewhere else that evening). We ignored it when they snuck out of the house at night, but we did ask the next morning how their midnight walk had gone. Sometimes, we walked together in the dark. Often, I bought chocolate milk for us at the 7-Eleven.

We made an under-the-rose deal with them. If ever they got an invitation to go somewhere or do something and they didn’t want to go, or didn’t feel safe, we would be the heavy: “No honey, you can’t go to that. We have a family event that evening,” even if the family event was just dinner and a movie at home. (And we’d always come and get them, any time, any place, if they called and said, “I want to come home.”)

Since “rule-keeping” was part of the heavy burden that had broken Bella and Bennie, we practiced breaking the rules together. We’d go off the trails when we went hiking (waaay off!), and I’d show them the edible plants, and we’d eat them! We learned how to start a fire rubbing sticks together, and then we put it out in a great big hurry because we were in the garage when we finally figured it out. We’d play hide and seek in the grocery store and in the mall. We took off our coats and hats in the spring rain and sang silly songs as we jumped in puddles. We played Frisbee golf on all the important government buildings.

When they were approaching age 18, the age of legality, some of them made plans to get tattoos. Since I had no authority to prohibit an 18-year-old from getting a tattoo, I contributed to the “tattoo fund,” and discussed designs and colors with him. (The final choice was an ancient family motto, in Latin, no less! It looks great!)

I have a handful of things in my mind as I come to the end of these very fond memories.

1) Please don’t make the mistake of thinking we got it all right. We surely did not. But we actively loved them. We stayed in our kids’ lives, we stayed in communication together, we stayed in prayer. In the end, they’re still our friends, they’re still excellent people, though they sure turned out to be different than the good little church kids we’d originally (and ignorantly) envisioned.

2) I’m offering some perspective here, some opinion: There’s a reason why some kids blow up when they approach their majority. A lot of it has to do with how the generation before them handles the expectations they lay on them, how they train youth to become adults, how they give hope for a mysterious transition. Maybe with some understanding, we can choose wiser paths to lead them down. Every kid needs understanding. Like adults do.

3) I offer these as testimonies. There are some people who are facing similar situations and they don’t know how to respond, and these stories will give some folks hope, give other folks ideas. Your kids are every bit as worth saving as mine are. Every family needs hope.

4) In these, I’m offering a worldview that you can borrow, a worldview that says “people are more important than their reputation,” or “not every rule is for obeying.” You see, there’s more life outside the lines that everybody is coloring inside of than there is inside them. Wherever you want to exercise your right to color, that’s an excellent choice! Everybody needs freedom. Decide for yourself. Teach your kids to do that too.

5) If nothing else, here are some excellent ideas for prayer, for your kids, for your grand-kids, for the kids of your co-workers.

Every last child you know – every one of em – needs prayer.