November 2013


Provisional faith terms are precious only as they reflect our encounters with Jesus. Then they become descriptives in testifying and teaching of Him.

That’s why I love the word grace.

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lessismore

One of the great works God done to me was 17 years ago by breaking my body.
I was reduced so that I can be more fit.
Lesser to be greater.
I have been reduced and in it left with choices focusing on the most important activities: love and joy. When they work together, I am most satisfied.

A year prior to that breaking, now over 18 years ago, He gave me the wonderful gift of my bride to walk with me through it all.
Many fears.
Many tears.
She was with me and patiently took on the load that I could not bear.
And help me know, I am not alone.

The breaking and the beauty.
I am a better man because of both.

It was when I was happiest that I longed most…. The sweetest thing in all my life has been the longing…to find the place where all the beauty came from.—Till We Have Faces, C. S. Lewis

iambeautiful

One night I overheard my daughter and wife having a difficult exchange. My daughter, Joelle was crying profusely. My wife, MJ, was trying so hard to console Joelle who was upset because she was convinced that she was not beautiful. Nothing MJ said would comfort her. I looked at MJ to get a signal that it was okay for me to step in (didn’t want to intrude on her connection with Joelle). She gave me a nod okay and I proceeded to step in.

I went on to ask where she got that thought that she was not. She said she didn’t know. Was it from others? She couldn’t say. Was it from watching media? Didn’t know. All she knew is that she was convinced that she was not beautiful.

My heart broke. It is not something any dad wants their child to believe. I am sure it is the same way for mothers. Initially, I thought of those modern day pop psychology songs “I am beautiful” and verses such as Psalm 139:14-15 about being “fearfully and wonderfully made”. But something stirred me to take a different route. I told her “Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder.”

She didn’t know what that meant. We explored it together. I went on to tell her that beauty is something decided by the one observing not by the object itself. Therefore, beauty is not universally agreed upon. Someone may think one thing is beautiful and another think not so. My example is this shirt of mine my wife and I constantly (and humorously) argue about its beauty. I think it is great. She thinks it is deplorable (well she never said that but won’t let me ever wear it, presently hiding it from me). Probably many would be on her side. I may be the only one who thinks it is beautiful. In my eyes it is.

We went on to talk about do we want to try to be beautiful in everyone’s eyes. That would be constantly frustrating and disappointingly painful. Then who would we want to see us as beautiful?

Joelle said “God.”
“Yes” I responded. “Anyone else?”
“Mom and dad.”
“And guess what? Mom, dad and God already see you as beautiful. We are energized by the truth that God sees us as beautiful. We can be at peace that He is pleased with us as we trust in Him. And it feels good to have the knowledge that mom and dad sees us as beautiful too.”

It was one of those many landmark moments we had with her. And it speaks to a great truth. Getting value out of being valued by another. Nothing in creation has innate value. It is given. The world says validate yourself. Can try getting it from others (o I dread the day she seeks it from boys. that’s where the uncles will be sitting at the front porch waiting for that poor boy coming to see her). You can try mimicking the world.

But none is a reliable source.
All others are unreliable.
Only God is reliable.

The word Grace in Hebrew means “being seen favorably”. It is being the apple of one’s eyes. God’s eyes.
My hope is that Joelle seeks the validation that only God can give to her. Nowhere and no one else.

“Who made these beautiful changeable things, if not unchangeable Beauty?” St. Augustine

jon-027
A few rambling thoughts out of father stuff
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Yesterday on veteran’s day my thoughts went to my dad who served in the air force and died when I was only ten years old. His death lead to a deep hole in my heart. This is a pic of me probably when I was 14 at his grave site with family members.

“father longings lead to Father longings” I wrote that years ago in reflection during the men’s group I lead.

“The deepest search in life, the thing that in one way or another is central to all living is man’s search to find a father, not merely the father of his flesh, not merely the lost father of his youth, but the image of strength and wisdom external to his need and superior to his hunger, to which the belief and power of his own life could be united.” Tom Wolfe

May our father stuff draw us deeper to meet the True Father and may we trust in His fathering us along the way.
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The Moon and the Son

In a short film with the above title, an adult son deals with his internal conflict with his feelings about his father. In the end he explains ” I made you the man on the moon: far enough so you can’t hurt me- bright enough so I could never forget you”. A very real analogy of how we distance ourselves from our fathers who hurt us, yet are so emeshed in our spirit with him.

I have been noticing my own detachment mechanism in my dynamics with my daughter. There are times I want to check out (usually when she has a tantrum or its been a very long day with a lot of ‘daddy, whys’). After discussing our fathers’ absence in group and on this blog, I need to confess my own struggle of being present. I realize it is an inherited trait that I worked on to change for a long time in friendships and marriage, but it resurrects in my relationship with my daughter. I am involved in so many ways with her, as I truly want to be. But in my weakness I remove myself emotionally. It seems God faithfully uses the important things in my life to push me toward repentance and a deeper work of Him to shape me.

To be a good father, it truly is an act of the grace of God.

Continue in me O Lord. I need you.

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I thought I would write about something that came to me as I was driving to see a friend and thinking about the exercise regarding the father introduction. I was thinking about how the other side of the coin is regarding my longing for approval and recognition that springs forth from my father wound. Let me explain a bit more. I was talking last night about how we are marked by our fathers and how we can pass on the wound as we are wounded ourselves. I gave an example of one acting out of that wound. Yet in our prayer time, I sensed God wanting to give us a vision of the beauty that comes out of that redeemed wound. Today I realized a piece of that beauty from my own father wound.
I wrote on a recent facebook post “Got a email from a Professor at Talbot who wants to support me in promoting Resisting Grace. I was so touched.” One stream of interactions out of that went:

Why are you touched?
I take it as a honor that he would back me up.
He should take it as an honor that you contacted him.
thanks dude. I know you love me. :=)
Your a great man..I am not sure if you know it

As I thought about it some I realized that my growing appreciation and emotional warmth toward others who express affirmation, small or large, comes out of a redeemed wound. The longing use to drive me and I would be ashamed of my “neediness” for affirmation, like a hungry child. But what that has turned out to be as God worked in me grace, is a response where I am moved greatly by others response to me. I am no longer clingy like a child (as Paul says I put away such childish things) but neither do I take those things for granted and brush off compliments.

When reviews came in regarding Resisting Grace, my eyes watered several times. One because my words touched others. Two others expressed appreciation and affirmed me.
For me the beauty in my fathers wound is I can feel more freely without shame or neediness. I am able to feel touches and respond back with a touch. The such a loss as the death of my father when I was ten caused a forging that brew out of brokenness. It is strength in tenderness. It is power made perfect in weakness.

th
This recent picture of Pope Francis embracing a man who was disfigured reminded me of this story I read of St. Francis of Assisi kissing the leper.
May the work of grace work so deeply in all of us, first starting with me.

One day while Francis was praying fervently to God, he received an answer: “O Francis, if you want to know my will, you must hate and despise all that which hitherto your body has loved and desired to possess. Once you begin to do this, all that formerly seemed sweet and pleasant to you will become bitter and unbearable, and instead, the things that formerly made you shudder will bring you great sweetness and contentment.” Francis was divinely comforted and greatly encouraged by these words.
Then one day, as he was riding near Assisi, he met a leper. He had always felt an overpowering horror of these sufferers, but making a great effort, he conquered his aversion, dismounted, and, in giving the leper a coin, kissed his hand. The leper then gave him the kiss of peace, after which Francis remounted his horse and rode on his way. From that day onwards he mortified himself increasingly until, through God’s grace, he won a complete victory. 
Some days later he took a large sum of money to the leper hospital, and gathering all the inmates together, he gave them alms, kissing each of their hands. Formerly he could neither touch or even look at lepers, but when he left them on that day, what had been so repugnant to him had really and truly been turned into something pleasant.
Indeed, his previous aversion to lepers had been so strong that, besides being incapable of looking at them, he would not even approach the places where they lived. And if by chance he happened to pass anywhere near their dwellings or to see one of the lepers, even though he was moved to give them an alms through some intermediate person, he would nevertheless turn his face away and hold his nose. But, strengthened by God’s grace, he was enabled to obey the command and to love what he had hated and to abhor what he had hitherto wrongfully loved. In consequence of this he became such a friend to the lepers that, as he himself declared in his Testament, he lived with them and served them with loving eagerness.