Monthly Archives: September, 2013

Vacation Bullets

My thoughts as our vacation comes to a close and we prepare to return to Tennessee.

  • Long trips in a vehicle are longer for kids than for parents (“Are we there…?”).
  • My joy was made complete as my children were OVERjoyed as they saw the condo and the ocean.
  • So thankful that I insisted on a unit on the beach with a balcony overlooking the Gulf.
  • We thoroughly enjoyed our visit to Lambert’s Café and even caught some of the rolls!
  • Our kids love the ocean; the shells, the sounds, the waves; their parents like it too.
  • Smurfs 2 was a great movie FOR KIDS.
  • Jellyfish offend without realizing it; a good object lesson for humans.
  • Celena is to jellyfish what a flytrap is to flies.
  • We should carefully navigate the waters of the ocean as well as waters of life.
  • A good pizza after an afternoon at the beach is one of life’s simple blessings.
  • Sipping coffee, studying the Bible, overlooking the Gulf of Mexico – Can’t get much better.
  • TJ might want to reconsider sitting in the water (you should have seen his bite/sting/reaction)!
  • Frozen custard beats ice cream any day of the week–especially on Wednesdays!
  • Nothing compares to seeing your five-year-old get crushed by a wave and respond with “Awesome!”
  • It has become impossible for us to finish a Phase 10 game (we haven’t done so in years).
  • Successful seashell hunting on the beach while watching the Blue Angels fly overhead–nice, very nice.
  • A local seafood restaurant on our last night at the beach!
  • Perfect Moment:  Full, yellow moon on my left, fireworks over the beach on my right, waves hitting the shore to my front, kids laughing as they chase and catch sand crabs behind me.
  • Sunrise with my bride on the balcony–a good way to start a long day.
  • But sleeping in on vacation was a pipe dream.
  • This has been the best vacation we have taken as a family.
  • Grateful for God’s many blessings, including the “real world” we are about to re-enter.
  • And this blog entry is complete.  Packing the laptop.  Headed back home.
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Wondrous Deeds and Thoughts Multiplied

“Blessed is the man who makes
the Lord his trust,
who does not turn to the proud,
to those who go astray after a lie!
You have multiplied, O Lord my God,
your wondrous deeds and your thoughts toward us;
none can compare with you!
I will proclaim and tell of them,
yet they are more than can be told.”

That is the English Standard Version’s rendering of Psalm 40:4-5.  I first read the passage in The Message.  Verses four and five read:

“Blessed are you who give yourselves over to God,
turn your backs on the world’s “sure thing,”
ignore what the world worships;
The world’s a huge stockpile
of God-wonders and God-thoughts.
Nothing and no one
comes close to you!
I start talking about you, telling what I know,
and quickly run out of words.
Neither numbers nor words
account for you.”

I like some of the paraphrase above, including “turn your backs on the world’s ‘sure thing'” and ‘I start talking about you, telling what I know, and quickly run out of words.”  Good sentiments!  The world is nothing compared to God.  Nothing “comes close” to Him!

At first, I found myself appreciating the line, “The world’s a huge stockpile of God-wonders and God-thoughts.”  That is truly a reality.  This week at the beach has me meditating about God’s wonders.  This morning I was sipping coffee on the patio, watching the waves hit the shore and thinking about how amazing it was and then Cascade–my five-year-old–came over to talk to me and sing a song.  I was reminded at that moment that human beings are the crowning achievement within creation, and that Cascade makes the ocean seem boring.  And who can argue with the concept that the “world’s a huge stockpile of…God-thoughts?”  His Word is broadcast from the heavens above to the earth below.  The hills of Tennessee and the shores of Alabama all declare the glory of God (Ps. 19:1,2).  Furthermore, the written Word proclaims the excellencies of the Creator and Sustainer of all that there is–Jesus Christ (Col. 1:16,17).  The Triune God has clearly communicated and we often ponder His thoughts.  And yet–as true as all of this is–I am convinced that Eugene Peterson failed to offer an appropriate understanding in this verse.  His “Message” seems to indicate that believers ought to worship God for what might be described as “common grace,” the general blessings experienced by us all.  This, of course, is genuine fuel for our worship.  However, that is not what is being exhorted in this passage.  Two words–accurately rendered in the ESV–do not make it into the text of The Message–“toward us.”

Toward us.

All of the literal translations of the Bible are careful to include the identity of the recipients of God’s “special grace.”  The “us” utilized in this passage is not a designation for all of humanity.  Rather, it is employed to denote the people of God.  And while we are all God’s creation, we are not all His children.  But if you are a child of God, please remember the wondrous deeds and thoughts multiplied toward YOU!

God has accomplished great things on behalf of His people.

Please allow me to illustrate from within this particular Psalm:

“You, O Lord, will not withhold Your compassion from me;
Your loving-kindness and Your truth will continually preserve me.
For evils beyond number have surrounded me;
My iniquities have overtaken me, so that I am not able to see;
They are more numerous than the hairs of my head,
And my heart has failed me.”

That’s verses eleven and twelve (NASB).  Munch on these blessings today.  God’s loving-kindness and truth preserve us.  Although we are faced from opposition outward (“evils beyond number have surrounded me”) and opposition inward (“My iniquities have overtaken me”), we are blessed!  God has not withheld His compassion.

Now that is high octane fuel for worship!

Beloved, it is easy for us to become discouraged.  If we ponder the world’s opposition to Christ and the enemies of the Christ-followers, or if we pause to consider our numerous sins and sinful habits, we quickly become demoralized.  What we must do, instead, is ponder God’s loving-kindness, His truth, His compassion toward us.

He has not treated us as our sins deserve.

“Blessed is the man who makes the Lord his trust.”

BEND LOW – BUILD HIGH Final Results

A tie!

Dayton and Cascade have tied for the championship of BEND LOW – BUILD HIGH!  Celena took second.  TJ got third.  Congrats to my kids!

BEND LOW – BUILD HIGH was our family’s theme for this summer.  It was our mission, and hopefully it will remain our mission!

BEND LOW means that we all need to be on a mission to serve one another.  I illustrated the concept during our family meeting on June 1st by washing Jodi’s feet–something I did many years ago when I made our relationship “official.”  I also read the account of Jesus washing the disciples’ feet.  I informed the children of the significance of the event and how the principle remains to this very day.  We need to serve one another.  We also read Philippians 2:3,4.  Paul wrote, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit; but in humility consider others better than yourselves.  Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others” (NIV).  This summer, each of us should have been looking for ways to practically bless one another.  When we struggled, we reminded each other with the words, “BEND LOW.”  I pray that this will continue as we navigate this last quarter of the year.

BUILD HIGH means that we were consciously making attempts to encourage each other with our words.  As you know, this can be challenge for siblings!  We read two verses of Scripture as we embarked our journey.  Romans 15:2 reads, “Each of us should please his neighbor for his good, to build him up” (NIV).  1 Thessalonians 5:11 states, “Therefore encourage one another, and build up one another, just as you also are doing” (NIV).  The exhortation of this verse stands as binding today as when it was written by the Apostle Paul.  Each member of our family was on a mission to encourage.  We attempted to find ways to build one another up through our words.  The verse ends with a statement which cannot yet be said of our family – “just as you also are doing.”  My hope is that these words will one day truly describe us!  The two words were often heard in our home this summer:  BUILD HIGH.”

“Please stop; you’re almost making an argument.” 

I just now heard Dayton admonish Celena and TJ with that line!  As you might imagine, BEND LOW – BUILD HIGH will remain our challenge.  Two adults.  Five children.  All sinners.  All self-centered.  All possessing loose tongues.  Thankfully we can look back on this summer and our theme together and remind one another to be like Jesus Christ–the greatest example of BEND LOW – BUILD HIGH in the history of the world!

Trusting A GOOD and SOVEREIGN CREATOR; Rejoicing in the work of the Author of Life

“Number five is alive.”

Yep.  Jodi is pregnant.

And—believe it or not—we are genuinely excited!

“Baby Season” is difficult indeed, but there are also many, many precious moments. And raising children is a challenge, but we wouldn’t trade it for the world.

We truly believe that the Bible is accurate when it states that children are a blessing from the Lord.   And we remain convinced that God –Author of life–is currently knitting another human being together inside of a womb.  How can we not be excited to see how HE is at work in our family?

But we are a bit surprised to see our family grow by natural means.  Jodi’s body was acting as if it was transitioning past “child-bearing years.”  We were fine with that, though we did sense the pull towards adoption.  In fact, we recently contacted an adoption agency and had downloaded the forms.

Obviously, the Lord had other plans!

And so another journey begins.  I am rapidly approaching The BIG 50!  Jodi is forty-two.  She will turn forty-three before the baby arrives in early April.  Don’t you think an April 1st birthday would be a bit appropriate at this point?  But it isn’t a joke.  He/she is a gift; a gift we will cherish.

Why didn’t we take “preventative measures”?  No one has asked.  Some have wondered.

Trust.

Why did we wait so long to have our first child?

Lack of trust.

I guess the older we become the more old fashioned we find ourselves.  As strange as it may sound in this world of sight, we have faith to believe that God is worthy of our trust.  He is sovereign.  And He is good and does good (Ps. 119:68).  So we know that He will provide.

He will provide an infant car seat and newborn clothes.  He will provide diapers and burp cloths.  He will provide a pacifier and a stroller.  He will provide rest and strength.  He will provide patience and all that is needed to care for another baby.

And, of course, He will provide love.  He will fill our hearts to love our baby.  He will fill the hearts of those around us to love our baby.  Once again, we will love the first words, the first crawls, the first steps, the first this, the first that.

The big sisters and the big brothers are very much looking forward to all of the firsts.  It’s a bit hard to believe, but Cascade is no longer our baby!  We know that all our children will be a blessing to our blessing.

Boy?  Girl?

It doesn’t matter much to me.  We’re probably split on the subject.  We’re just excited.

Praise God with us.  Please don’t pity us.  Prayer is always appreciated.  I don’t smoke cigars.

And one more thing…

Excuse me.  Jodi needs help getting off the couch.  “Kids, come help me lift Mommy!”

Yep.  Jodi is pregnant.

I came across a great article this past week by a mother of ten children.  She is more articulate than I have been on the subject.  It is worth the read if you have the time.  Rather than simply providing a link, I will paste her blog here:

CHILDREN: Blessing or Burden?? by Elizabeth (see link below)

Recently, a sweet young mother emailed me for encouragement, as she and her husband are in the early stages of trusting God for the number of children in their family.  This precious young mom has three little children, very close together, and is already receiving an abundance of negative feedback about her “large family.”   Unfortunately, most of the comments are from family and friends.

We live in an era when children are definitely thought of as a Burden, rather than a Blessing, and couples who dare to have more than two of these “hindrances” are considered to be ignorant, foolish, and totally out of touch with reality.  Our society considers children to be inconvenient, a nuisance, unruly, expensive, dispensable, and a threat to an already over-populated world.

Would you agree???  What is your view of children??

Frequently, even as Christians, we have the same view as the secular world around us.  We no longer realize the value of a child.  We’ve been indoctrinated into believing that the world is over-populated.  In addition, our own experience seems to validate the fact that children are sometimes inconvenient, irritating, expensive, unruly and annoying!!!

However, the Bible teaches that children are a Blessing and a Reward!  That means, it is our duty to adjust our thinking to align with what the Scripture says, not to reinterpret Scripture to match what the world says.

“Lo, children are an heritage of the LORD: and the fruit of the womb is his reward.”  — Psalm 127:3.

So, why don’t we view children as a Blessing?? 

The main problem is that we look at children from a temporal, earthly perspective.  It is easy to see that children cost us money (sometimes lots of it!), get sick at the most inconvenient times, embarrass us in front of our friends, arrive in this world with their nights and days mixed up (and often revert to those primitive behaviors in their teen years!), and require years of education, training and sacrifice.  So, how is that a blessing again???  😉

The key to understanding the blessing of children is to develop an eternal, spiritual perspective.  God sees children as as blessing because they advance His kingdom.   The Psalmist compares children to arrows in the hand of a warrior.  Scripture teaches that we are in a spiritual battle, and our children are our weapons, who will one day wage war against the enemy and his strongholds.  (Refer to Ephesians 6:10-18.)

“As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man; so are children of the youth. Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them: they shall not be ashamed, but they shall speak with the enemies in the gate.” — Psalm 127:4-5

A second reason that children are a blessing is that they force us to grow up and to develop character.  It is a baby that causes a carefree girl to become a caring, nurturing woman and an irresponsible lad to be transformed into a dependable man.  Not that this metamorphosis is automatic or guaranteed, but being entrusted with the care and destiny of a living soul is such a sobering responsibility that many have been transformed by it.  Also, we are so prone to self-centeredness, and it is our children that cause us to get over ourselves and to learn the blessing of self-sacrifice.  As one mother of a large family confided to me many years ago, “With the birth of each new baby, I die to myself a little bit more.”

And of course, children are a blessing to us just because they bring us pleasure, joy, and even entertainment!  We enjoy their cute antics and clever little sayings and take much pride in their accomplishments.  We enjoy being with them and doing things to bless them.  We even take pleasure in the special way they say, Mommy or Daddy!  If we will look a little deeper, we will see that this pictures the relationship that our Heavenly Father desires to have with us.  He enjoys spending time with us, in giving us good gifts (Matthew 7:11), and He loves to hear us cry out to Him, saying Abba Father!

So, if we believe that children are a blessing, why don’t we want more of them???

A wise man once said — “The Bible calls debt a curse and children a blessing; but in our culture, we apply for a curse and reject blessings. Something is wrong with this picture.”

When we begin to see children the way Jesus sees them, we will desire more of His blessings in the form of children.  Matthew 18:5 says, “And whoever receives and accepts and welcomes one little child like this for My sake and in My Name receives and accepts and welcomes Me.”  (Amplified version).  Not that it will always be easy . . . or joyful . . . or pain free.  Sometimes there is sacrifice in obedience, and tears mingled with joy as we walk a path of faith.

Back to the young mother I was corresponding with.  She was worried about family members that were already upset about the number of children they had and would not welcome the news of another pregnancy.  I encouraged this young mother not to worry about pleasing her family, but to just worry about pleasing God.

With this advice, I was transported back about 21 years (!!) when we announced that we were expecting our third child.  I remember my mother-in-law being so distraught over the news.  She just couldn’t believe that we were going to have three children!!!  Remembering how horrified she was at the thought of three grandchildren, I dreaded telling her about number four . . . and five . . . and well, I guess she got used to the announcements by the time we got down to number ten!!!  😉

But, this is what I really want to share in this post.  Those same babies that my dear mother-in-law was so unhappy to learn I was expecting, were the very ones who drove her to the store, to the bank, to the pharmacy, to doctor appointments and hair appointments these last years.  They also mowed her lawn, planted flowers, killed various pests for her (including setting mouse traps and catching and disposing of mice!), hung pictures for her, mopped her floors, helped her up when she fell . . . and even discovered her when she had breathed her last.  And those babies that came on down the line, they were the ones who ministered cheer to her daily with their irresistibly cute antics, their childish stories, and their unconditional love.   They may have seemed like a burden to her in the beginning, but they were a blessing to her in the end!!

Link to Elizabeth’s blog:  http://www.yestheyareallours.com/