It Builds Character   One-a-Day Friday  8/3/18

A life worthy

Throwback Friday? Yep–It’s been exactly that kind of week. We’ll get back to Ephesians on Monday.

Hiking is a great way to damage those you love.  Over the years I have sometimes forgotten this and taken my family out on “Togetherness” hikes.  You think I would learn. See, I have a problem with remembering things like distance and difficulty.  The beautiful thirty-minute stroll that I remember turns out to be a three-day slog of despair.

The walk my kids fondly refer to as, “The Killer Death Hike” took place years ago, when Alec and Carissa were eightish.  Oh yes, they still remember. In defense of dads everywhere, there is no way I could have known that they were both packing a virus along on the hike.  They looked fine, and the fevers didn’t hit until we were beyond the point of no return. Getting lost—that was my fault—but not the fever. Besides, they perked up after a couple of days. Such things build character…and resentment.

Another fine family moment occurred when  I took Cathy and the kids on a beautiful, snowy mountain walk to a gorgeous lake.  I’m not allowed to forget this one, either. My bride has fairly clear guidelines for what constitutes a good hike.  It should not be too long, nor too steep, and it must be in or to a pretty place. I took this hike with Alec and found that it fulfilled all three requirements, so two days later we took it again with Cathy and Carissa.  Now I ask you—is the man to be held responsible for the weather? Is it for the man to realize that the light drizzle we had at our house would translate into a foot of new snow on the mountain? Should the man have calculated the additional effort required to hike a couple of miles in fluff as compared with well packed snow?

Yeah, probably.

For future reference, it is much more difficult to walk in fresh snow.  But it was pretty; even the ladies admitted as much as we all gasped and reeled and fought off Mr. Death. So much character built that day.

The night hike to the fire observation tower was pretty too, except for the part where it was too dark to see anything but the glowing eyes of numerous predators.  Once we got to the top, the view of the city was amazing. If there had been a helicopter to fetch us and take us home, it would have been perfect. Less perfect was the two-mile stumble back down the road. The really steep and slippery road.  In the dark. Character, Baby.

Now here’s the great thing about my clan—they keep coming back for more.  I once suggested that Carissa hike in her Converse high tops—bad idea. Blister bad.  She still hikes with me. I took Alec on a backpacking trip with a pack heavy enough for Chewbacca–he may or may not have been carrying canned fruit–but he never complained. He wept, but I’m pretty sure it was from the joy of building so much character.  I’ve seen my Cathy lead the way up the trail when she would undoubtedly have preferred to use her boots to stomp her loving husband because he miscalculated the distance…again.

What a great example of trusting in a father’s leadership, even when times are tough.  At least, that’s the message I’m taking from it. The alternative does not bode well for the gene pool.

If you’ve never taken your family hiking, do.  I’m actually not sure whether it builds character or simply reveals it, but you will definitely find out what your family is made of.  You will learn to take abuse, both physical and emotional. Best of all, you will get to practice being family. Besides, it provides great metaphors that make you sound wise and fatherly:

“You know, life is a trail, full of rocks and brambles and biting insects…”

Good luck with that, Pops.

Happy Friday

Family Worship One-a-Day Thursday  8/2/18

A life worthy

It’s been a little crazy the past few days. Please enjoy this Throwback Thursday.

I am Husband.  I am Father. I am called by God to be the spiritual leader in my home.  It’s one of those callings I have received, of which I want to live a life worthy.  Of.

So I make plans to have Family Worship.  You know, a time to read Scripture, pray, discuss, and sing together as a family.  It is a great plan, and I am a great planner, and it never seems to work.

I can envision it perfectly.  We begin shortly after dinner. Everyone is home, the family is settling down for the night—it’s our own private vespers.  I play a little guitar, and my family is transported to the very throne room of God. Then we read the Bible, and I expound upon the mysteries of Truth as my children sit, awestruck at their father’s wisdom, and my bride silently weeps with the knowledge that this spiritual Atlas is her soul mate.  As we pray, we are drawn, singly and corporately, closer to the Lord. In nations around the globe, lives change and darkness is pushed back…

It’s a really good vision.

The reality…not so much.

See, the reality is that we seldom begin Family Worship until bedtime or well after bedtime.  I tend to get unreasonable after a certain hour—that’s about the time we usually start. There’s no time for music, which is fine because my guitar playing is painful for all involved, so we just pray, and it ends up being pretty rote. Occasionally I’ll read Scripture—it takes about thirty minutes to make it through four lines because I am unreasonable and sleepy and because we have raised homeschoolers who like to actually understand what they read.

When the kids were little, we used to all climb up on the bed together for Family Worship. It was cuddly.  These days we are all larger than we used to be, so we end up cramped and cross. We jostle each other and jockey for position. Holding hands is always entertaining, with teenage siblings in the mix.

At about this time the dog usually comes wandering in to lick any exposed feet, which transports you back from the Throne Room really quickly.  If the offended flesh happens to belong to one of my ladies, screaming and leaping ensues. Meditation is replaced by pandemonium, and lives are not changed so much as threatened.

And yet…

I’ve got to figure that God is more pleased with our pathetic attempts than with my glorious visions.  We are a real family—frighteningly, annoyingly real—and I know that’s a priority for God. I’m not saying we can’t do better, because I know we can.  He deserves our prime time, not our leftovers. Still, we bring him what we have, and who we are, and he does not turn us away.

As a Dad, I want to be a better leader.  I want to inspire my family, and, frankly, impress them with my spiritual manliosity.  It doesn’t often work out that way. I’ve heard leadership described like this: If you think you are a leader, take a look behind you. If someone is following, then you are leading. If not, then you are just out for a walk.

I look back, and they’re still with me.  So, for better or for worse, I am the spiritual leader of my family.  I will do all I can to do it right, and I will drink deeply of grace.

I’m not pleased with our worship. Praise God, he is.

Happy Thursday, Beloved.

Honor One-a-Day Wednesday  8/1/18

A life worthy

“Honor your father and mother”–which is the first commandment with a promise–”that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.”  (Ephesians 6:2-3)

Sometimes we honor by looking both ways, just like they taught us.

Sometimes we honor by being brave when it really, really hurts.

Sometimes we honor by taking care of our brothers and sisters.

Sometimes we honor by telling the truth.

Sometimes we honor by sharing when we had it  first.

Sometimes we honor by coloring inside the lines.

Sometimes we honor by coloring outside the lines.

Sometimes we honor by standing tall.

Sometimes we honor by bowing low.

Sometimes we honor by praying.

Sometimes we honor by doing.

Sometimes we honor by speaking.

Sometimes we honor by keeping our mouths shut.

Sometimes we honor by learning the lesson.

Sometimes we honor by passing it on.

Show honor today, Beloved.

Happy Wednesday

Trust and Obey One-a-Day Tuesday  7/31/18

A life worthy

Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right (Ephesians 6:1).

Parents, you know you love this verse.

Plaster it on your kid’s wall…on your kid’s lunch box…bathroom mirror…

Heck–plaster it on your kids.

Kids, I got a little something for you here. You know that phrase, “in the Lord,” that Paul uses? It means basically the same thing as when Paul told wives to submit to their husbands, “as unto the Lord.” See, no matter how amazing your parents are, you may not always catch the wisdom in what they decide for you. Furthermore, Paul knows that some parents are not exactly the strongest, wisest, most obeyable folks out there. But your job is to obey your parents as an act of obedience to God. You have to trust that God knows what he’s doing, even when you may wonder about the people he’s put in charge of you. So, unless your parents are taking you in a direction that clearly violates God’s law–

and curfew does not–

you gotta suck it up, trust, and obey.

Trust and obey, for there’s no other way

to be happy in Jesus than to trust and obey.

That’s one of those hokey, old-timey hymns that happens to make a ton of sense.

Happy Tuesday, Beloved.

Nutshell One-a-Day Monday 7/30/18

A life worthy

However, each one of you must also love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband (Eph. 5:33).

And, there it is.

Remember, this is still in the context of mutual submission. The husband submits by putting his wife first, even when he would rather be first, which is probably pretty much always. The wife submits by showing respect for her husband as the leader of her home, even when she figures she has a better way of doing things.

Again, probably pretty much always.

But Michael, how do I love her when she acts like such a crow?

Oh, Oh,but Michael, how am I supposed to follow this guy? He couldn’t find his way out of a cardboard box with the flaps left open!

Pray, Beloved. Pray and trust and obey.

Here’s the kicker: Husband, as you continue to love your wife, really truly looking to her needs and not your own, you may just find her becoming more and more lovable in your eyes. Wife, as you show true respect for your husband, trusting God to lead through him, you might just see the Holy Spirit building him into a strong man of God you are proud to follow.

Then again, maybe not…but it is a command, so make it work.

Happy Monday, Beloved

One One-a-Day Friday  7/27/18

A life worthy

“For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” This is a profound mystery–but I am talking about Christ and the church (Ephesians 5:31-32).

In a few weeks, I will have been married for over half my life…and I still don’t have it figured out.

How is it that, by saying “I do,” I ceased to be Michael and became the less attractive half of “Michael and Cathy?” Every subsequent decision made and action taken and moment lived is no longer just a Me, but an Us.

Until the end of always

I love it, but I don’t fully get it, you know?

And marriage, as amazing and wonderful and mysterious as it is, is only a dim echo of what exists between Jesus and his church. The Lord of Everything and his Bride, made up of schleps like me who have been united and made holy by his endless, depthless grace.

I don’t get it…but I’ll take it.

Beyond the end of always

Happy Friday, Beloved

Self Love One-a-Day Thursday  7/26/18

A life worthy

In the same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.  After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church–for we are members of his body (Ephesians 5:28-30).

If you have ever seen me with a bowl of ice cream and a novel whilst reclining in my Daddy chair, you will have no doubt that I love myself.

Of course, not all the things that I might classify “love” are in fact healthy for me. Sometimes I pamper myself when I should exercise self-discipline. Sometimes I am overly critical when I should cut myself some slack. Sometimes I eat things that that are undeniably toxic because they taste of yumminess. My self-love is imperfect as I am imperfect, and I have no doubt that my love for Cathy suffers similar flaws.

But

God isn’t calling me to perfection; he is calling me to perspective and persistence. He is calling me to love Cathy as I love myself, and not just in the big, abstract picture but in the little, everyday snapshots.

This runs counter to my flesh, so it’s going to take some time…like the rest of my life.

I’m willing.

Happy Thursday, Beloved

Make Her Holy One-a-Day Wednesday  7/25/18

A life worthy

Husbands, love your wives just as Christ loved the Church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless (Ephesians 5:26-27).

I gotta admit, I freaked out a little bit the first time I read this verse. Because, well, I was reading a little too fast, and it sounded like I was personally responsible for the spiritual development of my as-yet-unmet future wife.

Then I read a little more carefully–always a good idea–and realized that Paul was expounding on what Christ has done for us, not what I was supposed to do for my bride. We are the church, and Jesus has cleansed us and made us holy and removed our sins–something I could never do for myself, let alone anyone else. That was a huge relief.

This morning, my perspective changed again. It does that from time to time.

I mean, look, Paul put these words here for a reason–he wasn’t getting paid by the word.

Of course, I am not responsible for Cathy’s relationship with Christ.

But I am responsible before God for what I do to encourage her relationship with Christ.

Am I washing Cathy in the word of God? Am I bathing her in prayer, encouraging her in her walk, leading her in worship and acts of service? Am I pouring my energy into the life of my Beloved as Christ has done with me?

I’ll let those questions remain rhetorical. Probably better for everyone that way.

Happy Wednesday, Beloved

Husband One-a-Day Tuesday  7/24/18

A life worthy

Husbands, love your wives just as Christ loved the Church and gave himself up for her… (Ephesians 5:25)

Last night Cathy and I went to a movie. It was one of those “One man must save his family from a host of evil dudes aaaand a burning building” kind of movies. I remember thinking, “Yeah, I’d do that. I’d leap from a crane 100 stories in the air into a flaming skyscraper to save my bride. I’d go mano a mano against a dozen professional bad guys to protect my beloved. I’d give myself up for her…

But will I clean the kitchen? Or fix the broken desk drawer that she’s been asking about for months? Or stay awake to listen when she’s anxious and needs to talk but I need to be up at 0-dark-thirty and I desperately crave sleep…

You see, the chances are that I will not be called upon to literally die for my wife. If the need arises, I think and hope and pray that I will do so without blinking, but let’s face it–those moments are rare in the world of the middle-school teacher. But there’s more to giving yourself than a one-time sacrifice that the world will see and applaud.  Yes, Christ went to the Cross for his Beloved. But before he went to the Cross, he went to his people and lived with them and loved them and served them. Nothing was beneath Jesus as he demonstrated his love. The Creator of Everything washed feet and fed children and cooked meals and…gave himself.

Can you do that today, Husband? Can you give yourself up for your wife in small ways, unseen and unpraised by the world? You stand ready to make the big sacrifice–will you make the small ones just as readily? Because I promise you this–you may not be called on to leap into danger today, but you will be called on to leap into discomfort.

Will you take the leap?

Happy Tuesday, Beloved.

Wife One-a-Day Monday 7/23/18

A life worthy

Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is head of the church, his body, of whom he is the savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so wives should submit to their husbands in everything (Eph. 5:22-24).

Oy, ve…it’s that passage.

Beloved, remember last Tuesday’s post? Paul spoke of being filled with the Holy Spirit. Over the next verses, he spoke of several manifestations of that filling–speaking praise, worshipping, giving thanks, and…submitting.

Submitting to each other–that was Friday’s verse.

And today we start to see what that looks like in a godly marriage.

Ladies, you are called to submit to your husbands as an act of submission to the Lord. That is an act of trust–not trust in your husband, but trust in your God. Of course, some husbands are strong and competent and easy to follow. Others…well, sorry Cathy. Regardless of who your partner is, there will be days when submission is no easy task.

Maybe today is one of those days.

And that is your spiritual challenge, Woman of God–trusting that the Father loves you, that he knows what he’s doing, and that he’s working in your husband even as he’s working in you.

Easy for you to say, Michael–you’re a man. You’re the one who gets submitted to.

Umm…have you seen tomorrow’s verses?

Happy Monday, Beloved