Master One-a-Day Tuesday  8/14/18

A life worthy

And masters, treat your slaves in the same way. Do not threaten them, since you know that he who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and there is no favoritism with him (Ephesians 6:9).

You know how some people can get all jazzed over a little bit of power? Maybe they’re on the plant committee of the HOA, or they’re the assistant shift manager of the local Wendy’s, or maybe a pillow fluffer at a nursing home.

Perhaps a 7th grade history teacher.

They take their little bit of power and suddenly become Genghis Vader, the Mongol force-choker from space?

Don’t be that way–God doesn’t like it.

Happy Tuesday, Beloved.

Him, Not Them One-a-Day Monday 8/13/18

A life worthy

Obey them, not only to win their favor when their eye is on you, but like slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from your heart. Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not men, because you know that the Lord will reward everyone for whatever good he does, whether he is slave or free  (Ephesians 6:6-8).

So we’ve established that you’re not a slave, although that may be difficult to believe on a Monday.

But you probably have a boss, and these verses fit the boss-employee relationship, too.

It’s simple, really: you just have to imagine that your boss is the Lord.

Wait…are you laughing or crying?  I can’t tell.

I don’t know if you have a good boss or not, but I do know that “My boss is a jerk” is no excuse for failing to do your work wisely and well. If you have any doubts about that, I have one word for you.

Joseph

If anyone ever had an excuse for skating by and doing the minimum, it would have been he. But Joseph knew that, no matter who signed his paychecks, he had one Master.

You work for God, Beloved.  He redeemed you–that means he purchased you.  You have accepted him as Lord–that means he is your master. So whoever signs your paychecks, you only really ever have one boss. Work for him today…and give him all you’ve got.

Happy Monday, Beloved.

Slaves   One-a-Day Friday  8/10/18

A life worthy

Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ  (Ephesians 6:5).

I’ve never been a slave.

I’m gonna figure you haven’t been either.

So…kinda hard to identify with this one.

Yes, there’s the comparison to the boss-employee relationship, and I’ll explore that next week, but really?

Not  the same.

Because your boss doesn’t own you. He just thinks he does.

So consider this, Beloved. Whatever hard thing you’re facing today, whatever difficult point of submission, whatever impossible area of trust, whatever grueling act of humility you are called to today…you are not called to this.

And remember that your act of obedience, or trust, or humility, or whatever, is actually directed to Christ. Just as the wife submits to Christ through her husband, and the child submits to Christ through his parents, so you submit to Christ today through this difficult act.

Look, if Jesus appeared before you in bodily form and asked you to get him a ham sandwich, you’d do it

even if you’re Jewish.

So, if he appears before you in the form of…

Fill in the blank, and act accordingly.

Happy Friday, Beloved.

Land of Knowledge One-a-Day Thursday  8/9/18

A life worthy

School starts today. Bear with me while I pause to pontificate.

“What is a capital letter?”

“Does the United States have a king?”

“What city is Boston University in?”

The questions in this post are real.  They were asked of me, in my classroom.  The eleven to fourteen-year-olds who posed them are real children.  Many of those children are now grown, and walk among us as adults, leaders, parents.

I teach middle school.  You’re welcome.

School begins today. Though I have yet to meet my students, I am confident that some things do not change.  They will ask questions that will make me laugh. They will ask questions that will make me weep. I’ve taught kids from a variety of ethnic, geographic, and socioeconomic backgrounds, and they all have this in common—the bizzaro question.

The following exchange happened in my classroom many moons ago.  The discussion was about George W. Bush, then serving as President of the U.S.  You can bet I wrote it down verbatim, before the kids had even left the room. Even if I hadn’t, it’s kinda burned into my brain.

Student: So, when did he (President Bush) die?

Teacher: He is the current President of the United States.

Student: Yeah, him.  When did he die?

Teacher: He hasn’t died.  He is too busy being the current, right now, President.

Student: So, he’s still alive?

Teacher: Yep.

Student: Oh.

This, you must understand, closely followed an exchange in which another student asked if John Adams, the second President of the U.S., was still alive.

Student: So, is he still alive?

Teacher: John Adams was President of the United States from 1797-1801.

Student: So is he dead now?

Teacher: He was president over 200 years ago.

Student: So, he’s probably dead?

Teacher: Yes.

Student: Oh.

“Michael,” you ask me, “how do you do it? How do you teach day in, day out, without becoming brutally sarcastic?”

I don’t.  I am often brutally sarcastic, but they don’t get it, so I get to keep my job.

Don’t get me wrong.  These children aren’t dumb…mostly.  By and large, they will grow up to be  fully functioning adults who comprehend normal life spans and realize that people cease to function in this world once they have passed on to the next.  But at this age, their logic circuits haven’t fully formed. It’s a frontal lobe thing. Their mental world is just random enough to allow Africa to be one of the original thirteen colonies, or for Germany to have won WWII.

And I get to teach them.  More than that, I am called by God to teach them, and I want to be a teacher worthy of that calling.  Now I don’t know how you spend your working hours, but I’m willing to bet that you come across the same basic question that I do from time to time: “What am I doing here?”

I wonder that frequently.  Why am I here? What am I supposed to do?  Can I really make a difference in the lives of these kids?   How do I live for God in a place that doesn’t even let me talk about Him?

I don’t know how well this will work for you, but what keeps me afloat, on the days I manage to stay afloat, is the reminder that God wants me to love these little twerps.  I’m supposed to see them as He does—as people of infinite value, for whom Christ was willing to sacrifice Himself. When I can see them that way—which is not as often as I’d like—I find it a trifle easier to put up with their inability to remember basic facts and their complete lack of common sense.

If I allow myself to dwell on it, I become uncomfortably aware of the similarity between the way I see these kids and the way God sees me.  How often do I miss simple spiritual connections or fail to hold on to basic truths? If God had a blog, would I be an example in it? Let’s think of other things, shall we?

Happy First Day of School, Beloved

It’s a Relationship Thing   One-a-Day Wednesday  8/8/18

A life worthy

Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord  (Ephesians 6:4).

I teach middle school.

You’re welcome.

The last few days, I’ve been in a lot of back-to-school teacher meetings, and one of the major areas of focus has been building relationships. The big idea is that kids learn better if they have a positive relationship with their teacher.  I have some questions about the validity of this in a classroom setting–I learned plenty in school, and don’t recall any significant teacher relationships. For that matter, my wife aced her AP test and refers to her teacher as a slave driver.

But when it comes to home, I have no doubt that this idea is spot on. Fathers, our job is to bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord. The stuff we’re teaching goes way beyond number sense and punctuation. We’re teaching life, and life eternal. That takes a relationship that is honest and deep and close and open to vulnerability. Hence the do not exasperate your children part of this verse. A frustrated, isolated, embittered child is not gonna be open to Life Lessons with Daddy.

Basically, if they are going to learn from you, they have to believe you.

So be someone they can believe.

Happy Wednesday, Beloved.

Exasperation Station One-a-Day Tuesday  8/7/18

A life worthy

Fathers, do not exasperate your children… (Ephesians 6:4)

Awww…but that’s the best part!

When I think of the word exasperate, I think of lovely evenings around the table making bad jokes and doing silly voices and causing my daughter such embarrassment–even when it’s just the four of us–that she threatens to leave the state and change her name, if not her heritage.

Good times.

Does Paul call me to give that up? No, that’s the stuff of life right there. I believe Paul is more concerned with a misuse of power. Your children have been called to obey you–that doesn’t make them your slaves. Nor does it make them You 2.0, with the responsibility of living the life you never lived and achieving the things you never achieved. They are people, no matter what their rooms look like, and you are called to guide them, not to shove them, through life.

But that in no way precludes Dad jokes. I’m sure that there’s Scripture to back that up; until I find it, just trust me.

Happy Tuesday, Beloved

Mom One-a-Day Monday 8/6/18

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)

Those of you who are paying attention know I already covered these verses last week.

Gold star for you.

I’ve been spending a lot of time with my mother this summer. She’s 80, and has a hip that’s rapidly failing from arthritis. This has caused severe pain and extremely limited mobility. Add to that her memory, which is more than a bit shaky these days, and it’s been a rough summer for both of us.

This verse has been on my mind as my sonly duties have morphed from picking her up for a doctor’s appointment to picking her up after a fall, from grabbing her some groceries to helping her eat them. The definition of “Honor” has changed over time, and I need to change with it. When I was a kid, honoring was pretty much the same as obeying. As a teen, honor meant trying to make her proud of me, or at least not embarrassing her. I remember a particularly painful middle-school sports award banquet where the coach forgot to call my name, and I actually waved my hand around to remind him that I was there.

Sorry, Ma.

When I left home, a big part of honoring my mom lay in simply not forgetting her birthday–which only happened the one time. Then came marriage and kids and honor meant remembering to involve her in family events and holidays, even when it was a hassle and involved two or three Thanksgivings on the same day.

Now, well, it’s changing again, and I’m not quite sure how it works. Today honor is about making decisions on Mom’s behalf and helping her do things she has always done for herself and comforting her when she’s afraid and taking a measure of authority over this woman whose word was law for all my growing years.

And trying to do it while helping her retain her dignity as she sits wide-eyed in a wheelchair crying from the pain and foggy from the pain meds and asking me why this is happening to her.

Well, beloved, it seems that I am using you as my personal therapist this morning. Thanks for letting me vent, and remember that life and circumstances and needs will all change, but the call to honor does not.

Honor your parents today, however they are, wherever they are.

Happy Monday, Beloved

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