- 2017Jun 26
One of my favorite songs from Carly Simon touched an emotional chord recently. That's the Way I've Always Heard It Should Be features raw and emotional lyrics detailing the dashed dreams of many marriages. These couples have everything they were sure would make them happy. A beautiful house, manicured lawns, and a Facebook picture perfect family. Yet the truth of their lives is starkly different.
Their children hate them for the things they're not
They hate themselves for what they are
And yet they drink, they laugh
Close the wound, hide the scar
My heart hurts that I personally know a lot of people caught in that cycle. They wear a mask and smile bravely through the pain. My heart cries out that there is a better way. There is a different path that ends in a room of grace. But you have to be tired enough and sad enough to quit trying to fix yourself and especially trying to fix others.
The net result of desperate self-effort is shown in a haunting image from Simon's lyrics. The belief that if we just try harder we can keep our love alive. But she has seen the reality of relationships built only on that shaky foundation and she sings this melancholy but insightful verse.
You say we can keep our love alive
Babe all I know is what I see
The couples cling and claw
And drown in love's debris
How sad that so many relationships are "drowning" in love's debris as couples claw to survive. Culture sells that love should be a non-stop euphoric feeling but when the feeling is gone we are free to go. God says that love is a decision to love because we have been loved first by Him. We are not free to leave because we have been redeemed at great cost.
I see the same thing in my Christian journey. I hear others talk about their spiritual "victories". How they always receive financial blessings and how dynamic their prayer life is everyday. Satan suggests that is the way it should be for me and the enemy notes constantly that I am falling way short. I cling and claw and drown in sin's debris that have already been taken care of. That is the irony of my struggle.
There is a better way. The way you've always heard it should be may not be the way it should be. What if the real truth is that happiness and relational happiness is not about the other person at all? What if it is realizing that you are are a new person? What if happiness is about recognizing your need to live out of the new identity you received when you became a follower of Jesus?
Author Tim Keller wisely notes this truth. "If you seek righteousness first, you get happiness. If you seek happiness first, you get neither."
And where do we find this righteousness? The truth is it found us.
But God is so rich in mercy, and he loved us so much, that even though we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead. (It is only by God’s grace that you have been saved!) (Ephesians 2:4-5, NLT)
It is entirely because of Christ. Nothing I have done or will do will make me righteous. I spent four decades trying to be “righteous.” When I hit a dry spell I would try harder, read more books, buck up and beat myself up because I felt so distant from God. Lots of helpful Christian friends would faithfully remind me that God hadn’t moved so it had to be me. So I disliked myself more and tried harder and God seemed even more distant. I had reached the end of my spiritual rope and that is where God is patiently waiting. I cried out to Jesus something deep and insightful along these lines.
“I CAN’T DO THIS ANYMORE!”
God does not get insulted by all-caps. In fact, I picture Jesus smiling at that point because I was finally ready to trust Him and not myself. I had reached the point of brokenness that allowed me to finally let Him have full access to my heart. I reached the point where I no longer had to be right. I had reached the point where I didn’t want to wear a phony mask of holiness. I had reached the point where I was willing to trust God completely with everything about me. I had reached the point where I was ready for grace. I was willing to believe what God says is true about me. That I am completely forgiven. I am completely loved. I am completely changed because of Christ. I am completely empowered with the Holy Spirit to mature into all of those things that are already true about me. I am righteous not because of anything I have done but entirely because of Christ.
If you are tired enough, discouraged enough, wounded enough and ready to scream you can’t do this anymore then I have good news. You are ready for grace. Marinate in these truths today written to the church at Colossae.
Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony. 15 And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are called to live in peace. And always be thankful. (Colossians 3:12-15)
God is waiting for you to experience His grace. There is a better road. Maybe the way you've always heard it should be is not true. What have you got to lose? For me there was so much to gain.
- 2017Jun 19
A song by Joe South reflected my teenage disdain for those in power who seemed to not care a whit about the regular folk. I check the comments of Millenials today and I realize that not much, if anything, has changed since this song was recorded in the turbulent late 60’s.
“The Games People Play” was recorded by Joe South and here are the first two stanzas.
Oh the games people play now
Every night and every day now
Never meaning what they say now
Never saying what they mean
And they wile away the hours
In their ivory towers
Till they’re covered up with flowers
In the back of a black limousine
I have to admit that a bit of the anger and power of the protest was diminished with this hard-hitting chorus.
La-da da da da da da da
La-da da da da da de
Talking ’bout you and me
And the games people play
Hard to gin up a lot of “in your face” intensity and passion when you are singing “la-da-da-da-da-da-da”. My frustration with the hypocrisy I saw in my church was fueled by this lyric.
People walking up to you
Singing glory hallelulia
And they’re tryin to sock it to you
In the name of the Lord
We thought we could change the world by promoting love, hope and peace. I see the same anger directed at my generation (pretty much deserved) that we felt toward my parent’s. I read how this generation is going to change things by promoting love, hope and peace. Can you say full circle?
We thought that hope would be realized with a leader or a political party. We believed that change would come because of kindred politicians or better laws or courts that would establish justice as we saw it. We thought that the right leader would make sure that we educated every child no matter their circumstance. We hoped that this political savior would provide for the needs of every person at no cost to them. We were wrong by placing that hope on the government without putting responsibility on ourselves.
So many people are placing their hope for happiness on political candidates and parties. I do believe that leaders make a difference. I care deeply about making an informed and prayerful choice. But I never place my hope or desire for change on a politician. The word hope is used about 80 times in the New Testament. The first appearance of the word in the NIV translation pretty much lays out my belief.
“In his name (Jesus) the nations will put their hope.” (Matthew 12:21, NIV)
Paul wrote about the hope that I have in his letter to the Romans.
I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit. (Romans 15:13, NIV)
The second chorus of South’s tune has a real pearl of wisdom.
God grant me the serenity
To remember who I am
That is what I have learned since I was the frustrated and all-knowing young man hellbent on changing the establishment. I remember who I am. I am a follower of Jesus. A child of God. A servant who is humbled by His amazing grace.
I will be shocked if our leaders in Washington decide to work together for us and tone down the rhetoric. But I will not be surprised one bit if they do not. I have hope that is real. I have peace that transcends circumstance. Because of those truths I can deal with the rest of the news. I believe that no matter what happens in Washington in the coming months and years I am convinced that the following statement is true.
God is in control. And that is where my hope rests today.
- 2017Jun 15
Being a father is tough because we learn how to parent while on the job.
Ken Druck and James Simmons in The Secrets Men Keep discuss six major secrets men have. At the top of the list is that “men secretly yearn for their fathers love and approval.” This is often without their conscious knowledge that this yearning manifests itself in the drive that many males have to prove themselves. The authors say:
It may surprise us to know that the most powerful common denominator influencing men’s lives today is the relationship we had with our fathers …. Of the hundreds of men I have surveyed over the years, perhaps 90 percent admitted they still had strings leading back to their fathers. In other words, they are still looking to their fathers, even though their fathers may have been dead for years, for approval, acceptance, affection, and understanding.
These article is not about being a perfect dad. If it were, I would be completely unqualified to write it. I am simply seeking some ways to have a better chance to leave a positive legacy as an earthly father.
The first way to leave a good legacy is found in Paul’s letter to the church at Ephesus.
Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her. (NIV, Ephesians 5:25)
The translation in The Message says this.
Husbands, go all out in your love for your wives, exactly as Christ did for the church–a love marked by giving, not getting.
The number one way to leave a great legacy for your children is very simple:
Love your wife.
Theodore M. Hesburgh wrote that the “most important thing a father can do for his children is to love their mother”.
Your children watch how you treat their mother. They watch … and they are learning and forming their concept of marriage from you. You are creating a pattern, a blueprint for marriage with your children.
The second part of leaving a legacy that endures is to be an encouragement to your children. Paul wrote this simple instruction to the church at Colossae.
Fathers, do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged. (Colossians 3:21)
The Message translates this verse like this….
Parents, don’t come down too hard on your children or you’ll crush their spirits.
I cannot remember hearing a lot of teaching on that verse over the years. It is really easy in this success mad culture to discourage your children. Nearly every dad wants his child to be successful. What is wrong with that desire? There is nothing wrong with that goal if we balance it with love, encouragement, and awareness of your child’s unique design. Sometimes we forget the journey we have traveled in our own lives. Frank Clark said that “a father is a man who expects his son to be as good a man as he meant to be.” Ouch.
I am not talking about being a perfect father. These kids (and many of us) are simply looking for the affirmation and blessing of our earthly fathers.
When Scripture says that God is our Father, it is telling us that these needs can be met by Him. This is where our role as Christian dads becomes so important. There are no perfect earthly dads. But it is critical that we understand the impact that we have on our child’s relationship with God. Some may find it hard to get excited about the scriptural descriptions of God as a father because of the imperfect models of fatherhood they have experienced here on earth.
Some remember a father who was too wrapped up in his job, his buddies, and his hobbies to provide much support or affirmation. He might have been one of those men who believed that their only job was to bring home a paycheck, while Mom was responsible for everything else. Others might recall a dad that was demanding, cold, and unapproachable. Children can tend to transpose their father experience when they think of God as Father.
I have talked to many adult men who are still desperate for the approval of their fathers. And I know that is true for women as well. Jim Valvano, the now deceased coach, said “My father gave me the greatest gift that anyone could give another person, he believed in me.”
The third way to leave a positive legacy as a dad is to simply be present and enjoy every mile of the journey as you model being a man to your children.
In his book, Being a Good Dad When You Didn’t Have One, Tim Wesemann gives his readers a two-word piece of advice: “Lighten up!” He says that adults laugh an average of 15 times a day while children laugh 400 times. “Sometime between childhood and adulthood, we lose 385 laughs a day! That’s a great loss!” Wesemann says. “Maybe we need not only the faith of a child but the funny bone of one as well.”
I agree. One of my favorite moments happened on a family trip. Brett is several years younger than his siblings. I was addressing his older brothers’ behavior when I snapped at the boys and said in my best dad voice, “You are acting like children.” Brett was only five, and he thought I was including him in the accusation. He pondered the comment and then said, “But I am a children.” The laughter from the backseat derailed my dad authority and it definitely lightened the moment. The family that can laugh together has a huge advantage in the journey.
The Psalmist wrote these words: “Behold, children are a gift of the Lord; the fruit of the womb is a reward.” Sometimes it is hard to remember what a blessing those little ones are when they are throwing down a tantrum at Target. I encourage parents to enjoy every phase of their children’s journey. And I learned that what your children take away as favorite memories may be surprising. One of the questions I asked my sons was their favorite memories of time with me. I expected that they would remember the big trips we took together or some expensive outing. I was humbled by their responses.
Firstborn son Matt: “My favorite memories are throwing the baseball/football in the front yard of our Pecan Valley house, going to baseball games and growing up around sports.”
Second born son Scott: “Playing catch in the backyard for hours on end, even when your knees hurt. Going to cut down Christmas Trees every November and stopping at the Dairy Queen on the way home.”
Youngest son Brett: “You coaching my sports teams and going to cut down the Christmas tree.”
It was the little things that counted for them. The memories that really mattered to them were things that cost me only time. Each one of the boys felt valued when they felt I had sacrificed or made a special effort to spend time with them. I thought the big things mattered the most but I was wrong.
Model what you are teaching. Here is a powerful quote from Clarence Budington Kelland: “My father didn’t tell me how to live; he lived, and he let me watch him do it.” Wow. I have seen that prove out in my own life. I can tell you exactly what my father modeled for me, but I would have a hard time remembering any of his lectures. I believe that is an overlooked component of the wisdom expressed in Proverbs: “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” That training should include being a role model and then the verbal training will sink in. Being an authentic role model makes the message effective.
You are a role model for your children, like it or not. Your children will, to one degree or another, model their lives after you. You most likely have inherited some of your father’s characteristics and your children are inheriting some of yours. These are three principles that will give you a much better chance to leave a positive legacy as a dad.
- Love Your Wife
- Affirm You Children
- Be present and enjoy each moment