Stronger Than This

I am not generally given to writing much poetry. I wrote a good deal of it in my early 20’s, most of driven by youthful angst. And I feel that poetry is for the young for that very reason. Time and age have worn away that youthful angst and replaced it with calm assurance. However, I do find moments in life when I am driven to write a bit of poetry yet. As it turns out, the following poem was written in response to the tragic loss of the person that drove much of that angst when I was young. But it is different now. I moved on to find not a perfect life but a very happy and peaceful one. He did not. This is for him and the for the daughter that my time with him left me. I can never be sad or sorry for that time for she is a very great gift.

Stronger Than This
Despair. It creeps into your soul slowly, taking it inch by inch.
In silence it stalks the farthest reaches of your mind, the places where
Hope tries to hide.
It lurks in shadow, waiting for long years, not deterred by time or
Human psychology
It watches lustily and remembers all your naked shame
It reaches out its bony hand and gently strokes your face, offering
“Come with me” it beckons the weary traveler, “I will give you rest.”
And violently it breaks the world.
Is anything stronger than this?
Indeed, for despair is not so strong as it is patient and deceitful.
Love is the Truth that can bring despair to its knees,
Send it scurrying back to the dark pit from whence it crawled
Trailing its lies behind
“But I loved,” you say, “and still he died.”
Would that you could understand
It is not mere human love, which perceives the need
To say it will be okay when it really won’t
That says
You deserve to be happy
You are worthy
Hollow platitudes
No, it is the love that knows the deepest recess of your
Broken heart
That reads your every thought,
Sees past your façade and knows your unrepentant
Pride, greed, jealousy, slander and glee
And every action done in the dark, caring only for the moment of pleasure
Though it wounded someone’s soul or body or both
Even, if only, your own
And understands completely your guilt and bore it
It is the love that says, though you are unworthy,
Yet still do I remove your shame
And is the lifter of your head
Look, look, oh, please look
Please look into the face of that love
That is the Love that is Truth.

Perfect Parenting in 7 Easy Steps (Okay, maybe not perfect but they got me through it)

A friend of mine is pregnant and asked a few friends to share some “words of wisdom” about parenting and I was privileged to be among that number. Since you asked and since I’m a writer you get a blog post! This is dedicated to you, Teri, my beautiful friend.
For the new mommy and daddy:
Welcome, friends to the wonderful world of parenting. You are about to embark on a journey that will last a lifetime. Your journey will be filled with adventures and missteps, occasional pain, frustration and frequent joy, if you let it. You won’t do it perfectly, so don’t get caught up in beating yourself up or wasting any time trying to be or look perfect. God has chosen you to be the mom and dad of the brand new person hanging out in your womb. The Lord already gifted you with everything you need to bring him up, so don’t worry too much.

Here are a few things I learned along the way:

1) The first best gift you can give your child is spiritually healthy parents. Don’t place your child before your relationship with God. Your relationship with God will make you a better parent. “And now these three things remain: faith, hope and love; but the greatest of these is love.” You will need all three in abundance, cultivate them purposely.

2) The second best gift you can give your child is parents who love each other. It is easy to lose yourselves in the mundane day to day business of parenting. Wife, don’t forget to be your husband’s girlfriend and husband, don’t forget to be your wife’s boyfriend. Dream together, talk, plan, hope, commiserate together. Be best friends. Kids flourish under the light of two parents who genuinely love each other. Your relationship creates a sense of security and stability that allows them to grow in the best possible environment. Not only that, they learn what a love relationship ought to look like. Lastly, remember that someday your children will be gone from your home and it will be just the two of you again. Don’t neglect the friend you hope to have in your old age for the sake of the kids that will leave the house.

3) Develop a parenting plan. Choose a book, or a few, and read them together. A little study will save you a lot of potential heart break. There are many great books out there. They espouse various philosophies. Some advocate spanking, some advocate time out, some lean toward attachment parenting. The important thing is not so much which approach you choose, but to choose one together and to follow through with it. My personal favorite is Shepherding a Child’s Heart by Tedd Tripp. And very, very importantly, never undermine one another to your child. This is important, especially for mommies to remember. We often tend to think (not always on purpose) that we know best and too often interfere with daddy’s discipline. Trust your husband. Let him be a dad. Your kids need you both, that is why it took the both of you to make them. Back each other up!

4) Think in terms of the big picture. You are, in reality, launching an adult into the world, not a child. That doesn’t mean you should start treating your new born like an adult. It means that as you think, plan and discipline you should keep in mind how your decisions will contribute to turning your child into the kind of adult you hope he will be. When you are caught up in mounds of laundry, dinner-making, sinks full of dirty dishes and tantrum-throwing toddlers, stop and remember what is most important. Laundry, dinner and dishes will always be there, but your chance to teach your child won’t. In those baby and toddler years, it can be tempting to avoid leaving the house with your child. You feel overwhelmed and that toddler challenges you at every corner. Don’t give in to this temptation. Get out, take the kid with you. Risk a scene in public. Your child learns how to behave because you teach him what is acceptable and what is not. You can’t teach him this if he never experiences being challenged to behave appropriately in restaurants, stores, museums, parks and movie theaters. Sure, you may have to abandon the activity if little Johnny flips out, but you have begun a lesson that will teach him the things he needs to know to get along in the world.

5) Major on the majors and just don’t even worry about the minors. Say “yes” as often as you can so that when you say “no” you aren’t drowning yourself out in too long a set of rules. This is best accomplished by focusing on matters of character. This will grow in importance as your child grows into the teenage years. Give your child plenty of room to be himself. If something interests him or he likes a certain style of dress that you don’t particularly like, ask yourself if the interest is a matter of character and if it isn’t, then why stress about it? Your child is an autonomous being. Let it happen. You want it to. But draw the line when matters of character come in to question. The presumption is that you want to launch a responsible, modest, hard-working, honest, kind person into the world. Hold the line with an iron fist in these matters and practice liberality in the rest.

6) Simply like your child. This may sound strange, like it would come naturally, but that is not always the case. Your child is a unique person, with a unique personality. That personality may or may not be a natural fit for your personality. Get to know your child for who he is. Remember to laugh, play and have fun with your kid as you develop your relationship with him. And, frankly, decide to like him for who he is. A tomboyish mother may get a girly-girl daughter or an artsy dad might get an athletic son, or any combination there-in. Let your kids be who they are and learn to like it! Don’t compare them to other kids, either outside or inside your home. Compare your child only to the best version of himself and help him become that.

7) Lastly, trust your instincts. You will get a lot of advice along the way. Everyone thinks they know the best way to do this thing, but the truth is, every child is unique and even within your own home you will find that discipline techniques that work with one child make no difference in another. In the final analysis, you will be held responsible for the children you were given. So whether you breast-feed, cloth-diaper, wear your baby, spank, give time-outs, co-sleep, or do them all or some or none, don’t worry about what others think of you. You must look into your own heart and soul and after you do, look yourself in the mirror and answer the question, “Am I doing the right thing?” No one else can truly answer that for you. And never forget to enjoy the ride, mom and dad. It’s like a roller coaster with ups and downs and thrills and over way too soon.

The Law of Love in a Shifting Culture

Originally posted on Faith Adrift in a Postmodern Sea:

As our society changes and evolves and I and my children and friends and my faith community are faced with ever evolving values and shifting truths and indeed shifting views on the very nature of truth and even outright denial that there IS TRUTH, I wonder, how now are we to live?

Our world has been dominated by the ebb and flow of many philosophies, cultural norms and religious ideas. Many have come and now vanished from the face of the earth. But the Judeo-Christian ethic  is one that has remained through much of human history. Whether one adheres to its philosophy or not , there can be no denying that it has a long, long tradition behind it. For many years, we had been accustomed to that same ethic dominating western thought. But today, that is no longer true. We live in the post-Christian era. This thought may feel…

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The Law of Love in a Shifting Culture

As our society changes and evolves and I and my children and friends and my faith community are faced with ever evolving values and shifting truths and indeed shifting views on the very nature of truth and even outright denial that there IS TRUTH, I wonder, how now are we to live?

Our world has been dominated by the ebb and flow of many philosophies, cultural norms and religious ideas. Many have come and now vanished from the face of the earth. But the Judeo-Christian ethic  is one that has remained through much of human history. Whether one adheres to its philosophy or not , there can be no denying that it has a long, long tradition behind it. For many years, we had been accustomed to that same ethic dominating western thought. But today, that is no longer true. We live in the post-Christian era. This thought may feel or sound disheartening, but I wonder if it isn’t an opportunity for the Christian church, worldwide to do something new. A time for the church to shine again, like a city on a hill.

In order to do this, we must turn inwardly. What I mean is that we often flail and fight and beat our fists against the changing laws and social mores of our shifting culture, yet within our own walls we gossip, complain, grumble, back bite, engage in what the Bible labels sexual immorality, and, I fear, that when we do not do these things we are often full of pride and self-righteousness because of our ability to adhere to a set of rules. Then we often withhold our friendship and kindness from those outside the faith. But the Bible says in I Cor 5:9-12, “I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people— not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one. For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? God judges those outside.” In other words, we have a certain set of values and standards by which God expects us to live if we call ourselves followers of Christ. Along with the listed offenses in this passage, in His Word, God continually calls out two particular types of people, more than any other. First, He calls out the prideful. Second, He calls out those that are strong who take advantage of the weak in any way. Psalm 10:14-18, Psalm 72:12-14, Psalm 146 and Luke 4:16-21 all outline God’s heart for the poor and oppressed.  Further the Bible states in Romans 12:14-18, “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.” With humility of spirit and with the aid of our Helper, the Holy Spirit, let us each subject ourselves to rigorous self-examination. Let our lives be an open book under the scrutiny of the Father and let us compare ourselves not to the world, where it may be easy to find ways in which we can be prideful, but to the standard set in scripture by Jesus. And, hardest of all, we must allow our lives to be an open book to other believers so that we can encourage each other in the effort to live how God calls us to live.  Brothers and sisters, we ARE called to judge. We are called to judge ourselves within our own church walls against this standard set out in scripture. That is how others will be drawn to the love of Christ.

The standards we should hold ourselves to as Christians should be motivated not by our own satisfaction in being able to follow a set of rules in order to achieve any kind of approval, either from God or man,  but by love. The standard of life set up in the Bible creates a way of living in which we are the least harmful and most beneficial to our fellow travelers to the grave. It is a life in which we learn how to love people, how to give love away even when it is hard, even when you don’t get anything back.  Jesus gave away love all the way to death. That’s hard.

On my daughter’s 20th Birthday

I could not let this day pass by without saying a few words about this momentous occasion. 

Twenty years. Can it be so many years since I brought home the most gloriously sweet baby girl? Her tiny head covered in dark, dark hair? Only twenty-one myself, young, unmarried, unsure, I had no idea what it would require of me to bring up a child. I had no idea what gifts it would give me in return, all of them of much greater value than any I had to give. At twenty-one, I was full of self, full of insecurity, full of fear. But my loving Heavenly Father had given me one wonderful gift already and I was to receive all that I needed from Him through the years. His first gift to me was my own mom, not a perfect mom, but a beautifully flawed one who loved me and made sure that I knew she would love me always, flaws and all, no matter what. And I was surely full of them, but I knew, I had been taught, to love my baby with all that I had within me and I did, and I do! Then, my Heavenly Father gave me the gift of Himself, through salvation. The transformative work He has done in my heart, gently, patiently has been a long one and continues, but I thank Him that He helped me to walk out this transformation in front of my own daughter’s very eyes. Indeed, she knows me as well as anyone and has been the recipient of the fruit of my flaws as much as anyone, but through the grace of God, she knows the power of repentance and forgiveness. And He gave me the gift of a God-loving husband who grew to love my little girl with heart of adoption, and the heart of a daddy. And God gave me the gift of knowing that my girl also loves Him. Not because of me, indeed, sometimes in spite of me, she has come to know the love of her Heavenly Father as well, and I am so grateful. When I see my beautiful daughter, she is so many of the things I wish I had been. She, through God’s gracious mercy, has been able to avoid many of the pitfalls and sins I fell readily into at her age. As I look forward to celebrating life’s milestones with her, it is with a grateful heart that she will not have many of the regrets that I had. There was a time in my life when my little girl and I were just another statistic, an unwed young mother relying on welfare and food stamps to get by, another brick in the legacy of dysfunction and fatherlessness and poverty, but my very big God has turned us into more than a statistic-indeed there is no one who is a statistic to Him-He has picked us up, turned us around and given us a legacy. Thank you, Father, for my daughter. Happy birthday, Allie. I love you times a billion. ImageImageImageImageImage