Category Archives: Daughters and Sons

Monday Morning Moment – Generational Trauma and an Early Morning Exercise Toward Flourishing

Photo Credit: Medical News Today

Early riser here. In fact, I rarely need an alarm.

In other seasons of life, the morning came with joy. For some time now, I have struggled with negative thoughts…not so much anxiety or depression as much as a certain sense of feeling undone.

Since reading Tyler Staton’s Praying Like Monks, Living Like Fools, my morning routine has changed some. No more mindless scrolling through various social media on my phone. It is no longer within reach. Once up, I make my bed. That lifelong routine continues. However, while still in bed, just barely awake, I now do two things to clear my head and set my heart for the day.

1) I recite the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:9-13). This is actually the prayer that Jesus taught his disciples when they asked him to teach them how to pray. Whether you have a relationship with Jesus or not, if you believe in God, this prayer is one you can embrace. A friend, younger than me, said to a small group of women recently in a study on prayer, “We should memorize the Lord’s Prayer”. It struck me as odd because, in my generation, we learned the Lord’s Prayer in school. Led by our teacher, we recited it as a whole class every day along with the Pledge of Allegiance. Whatever our religion or lack thereof. Until 1962, when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled school prayer (led by teachers) unconstitutional.

This prayer helps me to turn my thoughts to God and the creeping uneasiness changes more to hopefulness.

Photo Credit: Lutheran Homeschool

2) I recite Psalm 23. This psalm, often referred to by its first line “The Lord is my Shepherd”, was written by David, a shepherd himself before he became king. In meditating on this psalm, I’m reminded of God’s care of his sheep. No matter what happens, he keeps his eye on us. He provides for us, anticipating our every need, and welcomes us Home to be with Him at the end of our lives.

Photo Credit: ChristArt

These two passages are easy to memorize and even easier to make part of a morning routine They have done wonders for my waking to a new day.

So what does this have to do with generational trauma? I’ve written often about this previously (and strongly recommend reading these pieces if you haven’t already).

Monday Morning Moment – Generational Sin and Trauma – Don’t Trip Over What’s Behind You – Deb Mills

Monday Morning Moment – Sins of the Fathers – Neglect and Abandonment – It Stops Here. – Deb Mills

Monday Morning Moment – Abuse – Where Does It Begin and How Do We Respond? – Deb Mills

Photo Credit: Jennifer Nurick

We have all experienced some sort of trauma through our families, across generations. Some (including in my own family) would rather not “go there”, and I understand. However, it is in recognizing our trauma and taking steps toward healing that helps us to avoid continuing the trauma in our children and grandchildren.

As adults, we want the same things our children need – to be safe (no “bracing for impact” in relationships), to be seen (truly known by those most significant in our lives), to be soothed (our emotions understood and acknowledged, without judgment, even when they are big and out of proportion), and secure (that no matter what, we are loved. Our persons are NOT leaving the room).

Whatever we may have experienced as children, we can alter our present. Whatever we did as young and overwhelmed parents, we can move, with love and insight, to a better situation with our kids. The past is just that…the past. We can be truly with each other, in the here and now…if we are brave and willing to be humble.” – Deb Mills

The major component of trauma in my own life was abandonment. I don’t know about my grandparents’ childhood, but from my grandparents’ adulthood through the present, my family has felt the sting of abandonment. It is generational and can not only affect us but our children as well. Abandonment is a very real source of trauma and can actually find its way back up the family tree, if we don’t do the work of rooting it out. [The longer stories are in my blogs above.]

What better way to start each day praying to and meditating on a Father who will NEVER abandon his children!

[Below you will find further resources on generational trauma and a helpful graphic on the power of showing up.]

Photo Credit: Dr. Dan Siegel & Dr. Tina Payne Bryson

Breaking the Chains of Generational Trauma: We Don’t Have to Pass Down Everything We Inherit – Elizabeth Dixon

Monday Morning Moment – Righting Ourselves After Betrayal – Deb Mills

How does trauma spill from one generation to the next? – Rachel Zimmerman

Generational Trauma: Breaking the Cycle of Adverse Childhood Experiences

Jakob’s Family: The Psychology of Generational Trauma

Monday Morning Moment – Raising Adults – Part 2 – Creating a Culture of Serving – Revisited

Photo Credit: Summit Kids Academy

[Adapted from my presentation at a home-school conference – Part 1 on Raising Adults with the focus on work and responsibility can be found here.]

One of the most challenging tasks a parent has is to teach a small child how to be deferential – to respectfully give way to another, to put another first. Whew! This is a hard one. It’s not just about helping a child understand sharing. It’s our demonstrating and them seeing the value of people and taking hold of how we can serve or help them, no matter our age. Not for any reward for ourselves but just because others matter.

The battles of will that communicate “Me, me!” or “Mine, mine!” can wear us out – both parent and child.

In Part 1, we talked about work and kids’ discovery that they can make a difference. Work and exercising responsibility are their own reward. Often there is compensation, but work is a head issue – a decision made to insert ourselves into a situation for the good of all (both the worker and the larger community).

Serving is a heart issue. In the role of the server, we do ultimately benefit, but the whole focus is on the one served. Serving, by its nature, requires sacrifice, sometimes small but, even for a child, it can be substantial.

Before we dive in, let’s pray to wrap our own hearts around this. [I’m coming at this as a Christian, but this, by no means, lessens the import for those who don’t believe. The wisdom of raising adults to serve stands.]

 “Father, we want to be wholly Yours. Whatever You ask of us…we want to be ready and willing. Not only to be laborers in the Harvest, but to serve with the same heart and mind that Jesus had while He walked this earth. Humble, loving, deferential to others. A servant heart, a mind bent toward You, God, a body and life laid-down in love for others. We want to be responsible and to do good work. Teach us to take our hearts even higher…or lower as the case may be…to serve as Jesus did, in Your abundant grace. In His name. Amen.”

When we model and teach work, the mindset or worldview we communicate to our children is “Get it done and done well”. In action and attitude.

In serving, one distinctive might be the military acronym: ABCD – Above & Beyond the Call of Duty.

“Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, existing in the form of God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped but emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross.” – Philippians 2:5-8

He has shown you, O mankind, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you but to act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?” – Micah 6:8

“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility consider others as more important than yourselves. Everyone should look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.” – Philippians 2:3-4

What if, along with leading our children to be responsible, we created a culture of serving? What would our homes be like if our kiddos embraced serving as a good thing and something they were capable of? And not just for a jelly bean or a favorite TV show.

Photo Credit: Caring For Our Generations

Lisa Jacobson, author, encourager and mother of 8 has a lot to say about her own experience of creating a culture of serving:

I did things right. The way things should be done. Oh, and, of course, I was serving my family all the while. I was the sacrificial mom who cooked, laundered, and cleaned up after everyone. Most every job was done by me.

And, as a ‘shining model’ of service, I figured my children would eventually follow my example. It was obvious that I worked hard and did my best to please our family. So wouldn’t they just naturally follow in my footsteps? More is caught than taught, right? But you know something? They didn’t catch on like I thought they would. They really enjoyed being served…and it kind of stopped there. I was a good giver. They were good takers.” Lisa Jacobson

She then discovered how to teach her children the joy of serving others:

  • Start by letting them work [serve] alongside you.
  • Teach your children to notice what needs to be done. [This one point is so worth your time reading thus far – both in working & serving – guiding our children to see, for themselves, what needs to be done. It’s a strong beginning to winning their hearts.]
  • Let them enjoy helping out.
  • Instruct them in how they can be a help to you [and others].
  • Cheer them on as they learn to serve.

Teaching Our Children the Joy of Serving Others – Lisa Jacobson

Photo Credit: Intentional by Grace

“God does not need your good works, but your neighbor does.” – Martin Luther

Author, educator, and pastor Andy Crouch writes about our callings in life. He is speaking to Christians, but these would richly apply to anyone who believes in God as Creator.

Our three callings*:

  • To bear the image of God. [“Be fruitful & multiply.” Our human calling is inextricably linked with the family where we first found our name, language, identity, and home.]
  • To restore the image of God. [Our distinctive calling as Christians is to actively seek out the places where that image has been lost, to place ourselves at particular risk on behalf of the victims of idolatry and injustice. So in every workplace, Christians should be those who speak up most quickly, and sacrifice their own privileges most readily, for those whose image-bearing has been compromised by that organization’s patterns of neglect. In every society, Christians should be the most active in using their talents on behalf of those the society considers marginal or unworthy. In every place where the gospel isn’t known, Christians should be finding ways to proclaim Jesus as the world’s true Lord and “the image of the invisible God.”]
  • To make the most of today (contingent calling). [If you get the first two right, the third is practically an afterthought. Your third calling is your contingent calling: to make the most of today, while it is called today. “Contingent” is a word used to describe something that could be otherwise—in that sense, it’s the opposite of necessary. It’s also used to describe something that depends on something else—in that sense, it’s the opposite of independent. You are in some particular place today—maybe at school, maybe on a bus, maybe in a workplace, maybe at home. And you are there with certain resources—memory, energy, reason, attention, skill. All these are contingent. It is God within these that we must learn to discern and then serve as He leads.

[Heady topics for a 2 y/o maybe…but highly teachable concepts, as well…how would we teach and model these three callings to our little ones?]

“There is one topic that I’m extremely interested in that the writers of Scripture do not seem interested in at all—and that topic is, actually, me. I am quite interested in the expressive individual that I call me—but Scripture turns out not to be interested in me hardly at all. It is somewhat more interested in me as a member of a community, connected to one of the “nations” of the earth—but really, what Scripture is interested in is God, God’s mission in the world, God’s commissioning of a people, and God’s gracious invitation to me to stop being so interested in me and start being absolutely fascinated by [Him and] his mission.Andy Crouch

*The Three Callings of a Christian – Andy Crouch

How do we cultivate a culture of serving in our home, community – for ourselves and our children? What are you doing? What do you dream of doing? Please share in Comments below. Thanks.

As with work, so with service, we not only model but insure our children have the opportunity to contribute what only they can do – for others…whether operating out of their strengths or their weaknesses.

Looking back, I don’t think we were intentional in creating a culture of serving in our home during our kids’ childhood. It was just “easier to do it myself”, right? They had so little time, between schoolwork and their other “just being children/youth” activities. There were moments, however, bright and shining…teachable moments where they did see how serving mattered…especially when they (at whatever age) showed up to serve. Now I hope to come alongside our grown-up children to model and teach serving to the grands. In fact, it is already a reality – seeing our kids, as adults, discovering the deep joy of serving others, pushing through the awkward strain to pull back or be less present, putting others ahead of themselves.

[Nathan helping dear Mrs. Marge…many years ago.]
Photo Credit: AZ Quotes

Parents, Take Note of the Spiritual Practices Common to Kids Who Flourish As Adults – Trevin Wax

Saturday Short – Raising Adults – Part 1 – Responsibility Is Two Words

[Adapted from my presentation at a home-school conference. Part 2 – Raising Adults – Creating a Culture of Serving can be found here.]

Being a parent is a humbling work…one way or other, it takes us to our knees at some point. In thinking about how we shape our little ones and raise them into adulthood, I was driven to prayer…a lot.

“Oh God, You have given us such crucial work in raising our children to adulthood. Help us to be faithful to live in the tension of remembering they are still small/young and yet pointing them to their place in this world and Your Kingdom. In Jesus’ name. Amen.”

In the book of Genesis, we have a beautiful picture of God’s work – His eye for detail, His gift of order – He provided everything that was needful…including work for us.

God has given us all work to do. It was His plan from the beginning… In training up our children, we will always push against the counter-pressure of entitlement in our kids’ lives (and in our own)… but we are not alone. He’s already promised that “His yoke is easy, and His burden’s light”.

The Scripture is full of wisdom pointing us toward teaching our children to become responsible adults…understanding the importance of showing up, working in whatever capacity they can.

So we built the wall and the whole wall was joined together to half its height, for the people had a mind to work.Nehemiah 4:6

Anyone who can be trusted in little matters can also be trusted in important matters. But anyone who is dishonest in little matters will be dishonest in important matters.Luke 16:10

Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it. Proverbs 22:6

Whatever you do, do it enthusiastically, as something done for the Lord and not for men, knowing that you will receive the reward of an inheritance from the Lord – you serve the Lord Christ.”Colossians 3:23-24

What goes into raising adults? Teaching our children and giving opportunity to see the value of work, to treat people and possessions appropriately, and to see themselves as a responsible part of a larger community. When does it start? Very early.

Author and parenting coach Reggie Joiner talks about the key to raising responsible adults is to give them responsibilities…now.

We are called, by God, to work…from the beginning…to have dominion…and to essentially clean up our own messes. As we learn to do that at home – caring for ourselves and contributing to our family – we can quite naturally expend the effort, and extend that, toward our larger community.

Joiner defines responsibility and counsels parents how to train it:

“Responsibility is an interesting word.
It’s actually two words.
Response and ability.

Do you see the link between the two concepts? If you want to raise kids to become responsible, then lead them toward a life where they develop the right attitude toward work and tasks. Give them chores at every stage.

  • Lead so their response reveals their ability.
  • Lead so their response matches their ability.
  • Lead so their response grows their ability.

Think about it this way:
Home should be the first job every kid ever has. What kind of experiences are you giving your children to prepare them to be responsible adults?”
Reggie Joiner

Raising Adults – Reggie Joiner

Sometime ago, I was listening to a podcast from Liberty University (would have linked it but it is no longer at the original link). The guest was writer, thought leader, and world-shaker-upper Karen Swallow Prior:

Prior talks about this being the anxiety generation. Some of that anxiety revolves around the pressures coming out of social media. “There is an existential anxiety that goes with having so many choices in front of you and being afraid you’re going to make the wrong choice and miss out and go down the wrong path.” – “Everything you do in life [marriage, work, weekends] is supposed to be this huge self-fulfillment…such that you can post it on social media.” Too often, our experiences aren’t fulfilling and then the anxiety comes, “did I make the wrong choice?” – Notes from the podcast with Karen Swallow Prior

Dr. Prior supports education as a help in correcting the “tunnel vision and distorted vision” that can evolve in young people’s thinking. Work throughout our children’s growing up years can also impact thinking as well…restoring perspective.

One of my favorite books on this topic is Escaping the Endless Adolescence by Joseph Allen and Claudia Worrell Allen. The Allen’s write about the “failure to launch” generation. Teens who are exhausted at what seems required of them to be adults and therefore resist doing more than the minimum, coasting through life.

Instead of asking: “What will keep our teens out of trouble?” “What will make them happy?” or “What will get them into college?”, we need to switch our focus to a different set of queries: “How can we introduce realistic elements of adulthood into their worlds?” What activities best provide real feedback about their effort and skill?” and “Which other adults can we recruit to help pass our values on to them?” In short, we need to switch our focus from activities that reflect living happily as a teenager to activities that let our young people actually use their energy, connect with adults, and make choices that matter in order to begin moving successfully into adulthood.Allen & Allen

In their helps for parents of teens (and younger children), the Allen’s coach how to guide kids to become contributing members of the family, how to give genuine, real-world feedback toward maturity, how to connect their kids with role model adults (including the parents themselves), and how to positively stretch their kids toward skill- and confidence-building.

Writer and stylist Jo-lynne Shane shares a ‘raising adults” system she used with her three children.

[Her] system based on the following principles:

  1. logical consequences vs discipline and anger
  2. choices vs commands
  3. questions vs lectures
  4. no nagging
  5. no idle threats
  6. no yelling

You see, when you allow them to experience the natural consequences of their choices rather than resorting to nagging, yelling, idle threats, and unrelated punishments, you put the responsibility for their actions on their shoulders.  Too often parents make their kids’ problems their problems.  Then the parents get angry and the kids learn nothing. 

By giving them choices rather than commands, they don’t have the option to disobey.  The key is to give only choices that you can live with, and then to be willing to follow through. 

Asking questions instead of lecturing encourages kids to think for themselves and be discerning. – Jo-lynne Shane

Raising Responsible Kids – a Series – Jo-lynne Shane

Finally, writer and parent Cara Sue Achterberg offers this exercise:

List the abilities and qualities you hope your children will have by the time they are eighteen.

Back track from that point and begin thinking of chores and responsibilities you can give your children now which will help them attain those abilities and qualities before they leave home.

Instead of thinking in terms of what they can’t do, begin to see them as the capable human beings they are and discover what they can do.Cara Sue Achterberg

Are You Teaching Kids Responsibility? 50 Simple Challenges to Get You Started – Cara Sue Achterberg

…and then they were grown.

All our children are, bit by bit, becoming adults. [Like we are often told, it comes faster than we can imagine.] We as parents recognize the adult inside each one and build scaffolding, just enough support, to help each child grow into that adult. At every age, they can see it matters that they show up. It matters.

15 Tips to Raise a Responsible Child Dr. Laura Markham

Are You Teaching Your Kids Responsibility? 50 Simple Challenges To Get You Started – Cara Sue Achterberg

Practicing What You Preach – Raising Responsible vs. Entitled Children – Marsha B. Sauls

The Goal Is Not to Raise Good Kids, but Great Adults – Dave Ramsey

I Took ‘Adulting Classes” for Millennials – Andrew Zaleski

Monday Morning Moment – On Fathering

Photo Credit: Heartlight

Fathering…it’s an intriguing topic for me, and I’ve written a lot on it [see here].

My biological father was fairly absent from my life. Even before he and my mom divorced. Our father’s own abandonment of us had an impact on us kids developmentally (even possibly affecting how we parent today).

[My brothers and me when we were younger]

Fortunately I had a kind and loving step-father. Sadly missed by his first family as he poured himself into my siblings and me. He tried to love them well, too…but…

My mom’s dad was an alcoholic who dealt poorly with the Great Depression and his inability to provide well for his family… isolating himself from his children. I remember as a child following him around the woods when we visited. Wish I could have known him better.

The father of my own children was and is a present, loving dad to our bunch. I hope they feel how much he loves them…still and always.

[These four, Morocco]

You have your own fathering stories.

Fathering matters.

“Fathering, like mothering, is not an easy job. So much dying to self. So much responsibility. What a delight for us when the men in our lives take fathering on their shoulders as they might a sleeping child. Surrendering themselves to the serving of those younger than them. I thank God for men who humble themselves in prayer for their children and who go to work every day to support their families. Working, studying, and life-long learning passed on to their children and others.

These dads are too-often taken for granted in the shadow of fathering that falls short. The absent, neglectful and downright abusive fathers cut wounds so deep that decent fathers are sometimes judged by the same measure. We watch for “the sins of the fathers to be revisited on their children” (Numbers 14:18).

Today, let’s reflect on the good fathers. Those who were present at our births, or those who came later in life to us, or those who father us out of their own great hearts. Imperfect, sure. All of us are. Yet, there are those men who go many more than second miles for us, and we are grateful.”Deb Mills

In thinking about fathers, with the approach of Father’s Day here in the US, I pulled all the books on fathering from my bookshelves. There weren’t many (more on parenting, but just these few on fathering itself). Maybe we miss the crucial nature of this role in children’s lives, such that we don’t feel training is needed. I don’t know.

Dr. Danny Huerta, with Focus on the Family, has written a short and important book on 7 Traits of Effective Parenting which especially touches on how weighty the presence of fathers is in the lives of their children. These traits, he extols, are:

  • Adaptability means you handle stress and what is coming at you as a dad in healthy and effective ways. It also means you have the mental flexibility to help your child feel understood and noticed by you.
  • Respect brings you fully present to your family. Through respect, you model looking inward and managing yourself well so you can listen, see, effectively respond to, and love all image bearers of Christ that surround you each day.  
  • Intentionality helps you create goals and focus on what you’re building in your children’s lives. Intentional affection, instruction, conversations, mealtimes, playtimes, and encouraging words can all have life-giving impacts on your family.
  • Steadfast love allows you to love deeply and give your family the strength that stems from a father’s unconditional love.  
  • Boundaries allow you to model and teach healthy ways to engage with opportunities, relationships, and interests.
  • Grace and forgiveness present the ministry of reconciliation that Jesus began through his death and resurrection. A dad can truly make his home debt-free and spiritually strengthened by modeling grace and forgiveness.
  • Gratitude provides a father with a loving and humble perspective that helps him lead his family well. 
Photo Credit: Calvin & Hobbs from the blog of Kenneth Reeds

Parenting is challenging for sure. Through all the seasons and stages of life. From the birth of our children through when they are grown…really until we are gone. Challenging, but also a beautiful work of the heart and mind, as we seek to win the challenge. For our children’s sake, and for our own. If we weren’t fathered well, we can determine to take the steps for it not to continue in our own parenting. The resources we have available to parent well today are plentiful.

We can be grateful for good fathers and hopeful for those overwhelmed by (or unfortunately unaware of) the challenge of parenting well.

…Let’s live in hope that those fathers who struggle to be present or loving may one day gather themselves together, awaken to what was left behind, and reach out to the treasures they missed along the way…and may they find us within reach.” Deb Mills

Fathering – Celebrating Men Who Did It Well; Forgiving Men Who Didn’t – Deb Mills

Saturday Short – Fathers and Father’s Day – Deb Mills

Fathers (and Mothers), Do Not Provoke Your Children – Tim Challies

7 Ways Parents Unfairly Provoke Their Children – Tim Challies

Christian Books on Fatherhood – Top Books for Fathers

Biblical Fathering – 4-part Series on Being Fair, Flexible, Firm and Forthright – Don Strand

The Significance of a Father’s Influence

50 Best Christian Fathers Day Messages and Bible Verses

“As to my children, you are now to be left fatherless, which I hope will be an inducement to you all to seek a Father who will never fail you.”Rev. Jonathan Edwards, his last words to his children, as he lay dying.

Slow to Chide, and Quick to Bless: Vision for Earthly Fathers – David Mathis – excellent article for any dad

Train Them Up in Jesus: The One-Verse Vision for Dads – David Mathis – excellent article, by the same author above, for any dad but especially Christian dads

Lastly, one powerful little Tweet:

The Audacity of Calling God “Father” If I call God “God” I speak truthfully. If I call God “Lord” I speak submissively. If I call God “King” I speak servilely.

But if I dare to call God “my Father,” I speak with a brassy audacity, chutzpah, that is shockingly familiar and intimate. So it seems anyway.

You dare to call the Master of the Universe “Father”? You dare to call the One who controls heaven and hell “Father”? You call the Omnipotent one “Father”?

Who do you think you are? It is difficult to imagine a more audacious act than to stand before the Creator of the world and to name him “Father.” And mean it. And not only to mean it, but to act and speak as a child acts and speaks before a loving and doting Dad.

It’s shocking. It’s exhilarating. And it’s beautiful beyond words.

But here’s a secret: it’s not really chutzpah. It’s not some brassy boldness that we work ourselves into, nor it is gained by swallowing a bottle of liquid spiritual courage, as it were.

To call God “Father” is simply to live in the space which Jesus created. To move from residing far from God as his enemy; or on the other side of town from him as a stranger; or down the street as an acquaintance; or in an adjoining house as a servant; and to move into our own bedroom as a child in his family. To wake up in the morning and see our Father sipping a cup of coffee and saying, “Good morning, my child,” as we respond, “Good morning, Father.”

You see, when we live in this house, when we move into the room built by Jesus, we inhabit the home not merely of a Master or Lord or King, but the one who’s given us his name and made us his own, now and forever.

“Our Father”: two of the most amazing words ever uttered.Chad Bird

Photo Credit: Tim Challies, Charles Spurgeon

Worship Wednesday – Scars in Heaven – Casting Crowns

Photo Credit: Providence Ministries

Now Thomas, one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came [after He had risen from the dead]. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them,“Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.”

Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”John 20:24-29

When Jesus appeared to his disciples after his horrific death on a Roman cross, he was alive again. Not a ghost but in a glorified body. Jesus resurrected. Never to die again. As he confirmed his identify to Thomas, the struggling to believe disciple, he, knowing all things, offered the proof asked for.

Wound marks. From the nails hammered into his hands and the spear thrust in his side on the day he died for us. God the Father must have known these marks would form into necessary scars…for at least one to believe. The scars of a savior…the Savior.

“Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

That’s us.

Yet we benefit from that brother Thomas who, in his grief, still needed a sign that Jesus was alive again.

We all bear scars of some sort or another. Scars of abuse or loss. Disappointment or betrayal. Scars from hating and being hated. Unforgiveness or caring too little. Even scars of victory, as were the scars of Jesus. Wounds we received, even standing, as the Lord fought our battles for us…and won. Jesus has such scars of victory.

What Does It Mean that God Fights our Battles? – Catiana NK

No Scars in Heaven? – Joni & Friends

“By His stripes, we are healed.”1 Peter 2:24

A friend of mine died this week. Becky Cole. We have known each other for over 35 years. We met in church in East Tennessee. I was pregnant with my first born, married to a good and Godly man, financially stable…in a really good place. She was pregnant with her first and would be only child. A son. She was a single mom who took herself out of an abusive home and away from a man who she feared would abuse her child as well. She had a heart full of love for that little boy now grown up into a gentle and accomplished man who made her proud.

She also loved Jesus which was clearly the biggest steadying force in her turbulent life.

We moved away from Tennessee in 1994 – almost 30 years ago, but we never lost touch. The phone would ring, and we would start up right where we left off. Did we always agree on things? Absolutely not. Still, I admired her tenacity so much. If something needed to be made right, she would not give up on it. She was a fighter. An activist. An advocate.

Did she have scars? Absolutely! She just wasn’t afraid of a fight.

Photo Credit: Pinterest

If there was ever a Mama Bear, it was Becky. Much of her mid-life she was what some might label a welfare mom, but as happens with stereotypes, she was so much larger than one who sought aid from the state. So much more.

She fought for her son to have the best life she could give him. Plagued with health problems, she wasn’t always able to work. That did not stop her from being deeply concerned and involved with her larger community, not just for her sake but for those around her. She tried to make life better; tried to help people with power and authority to do better. I know I was better knowing her…being her friend.

Mama Bear Apologetics: Empowering Your Kids to Challenge Cultural Lies – Hillary Morgan Ferrer

As she grew older, her health issues worsened, as happens in life. Her son became successful with work and married the love of his life. Becky kept fighting to make the world a better place…for her son…and she kept fighting to live…until this week when the fighting came to an end.

I was actually shocked when her son told me she had died. She had been at Duke University under evaluation for one more surgery that would have hopefully given her more time and more quality of life… but she just wasn’t a good candidate, they said. She was too far spent.

We talked before she traveled to Duke. She was hopeful. I committed to pray. We wouldn’t talk again. She texted me that the surgery wasn’t going to happen and she would be placed on hospice care. That was hard to hear about someone as full of life as Becky, although I knew she had been so sick. I called and texted through the last days of her life…she has never not picked up or answered a text…until now.

For Becky, the fighting was over. She would go Home. Once that was settled, I wonder what it must have been like for her to “lay down her weapons” for the last time. Thank You, Jesus.

All the week while she was at Duke, the Casting Crowns song “Scars in Heaven” seems to have been on auto-repeat on my Christian radio station. Listening to the beautiful truth of this song, I thought of Becky…and prayed.

“I know the road you walked was anything but easy
You picked up your share of scars along the way
Oh, but now you’re standing in the sun, you’ve fought your fight and your race is run
The pain is all a million miles away.”

Worship with me.

If I had only known the last time would be the last time
I would’ve put off all the things I had to do
I would’ve stayed a little longer, held on a little tighter
Now what I’d give for one more day with you
‘Cause there’s a wound here in my heart where something’s missing
And they tell me that it’s gonna heal with time
But I know you’re in a place where all your wounds have been erased
And knowing yours are healed is healing mine

The only scars in Heaven, they won’t belong to me and you
There’ll be no such thing as broken, and all the old will be made new
And the thought that makes me smile now, even as the tears fall down
Is that the only scars in Heaven are on the hands that hold you now

I know the road you walked was anything but easy
You picked up your share of scars along the way
Oh, but now you’re standing in the sun, you’ve fought your fight and your race is run
The pain is all a million miles away

The only scars in Heaven, they won’t belong to me and you
There’ll be no such thing as broken, and all the old will be made new
And the thought that makes me smile now, even as the tears fall down
Is that the only scars in Heaven, yeah, are on the hands that hold you now

Hallelujah, hallelujah
Hallelujah, for the hands that hold you now

There’s not a day goes by that I don’t see you
You live on in all the better parts of me
Until I’m standing with you in the sun, I’ll fight this fight and this race I’ll run
Until I finally see what you can see, oh-oh

The only scars in Heaven, they won’t belong to me and you
There’ll be no such thing as broken, and all the old will be made new
And the thought that makes me smile now, even as the tears fall down
Is that the only scars in Heaven are on the hands that hold you now.

*Lyrics to Only Scars in Heaven – Songwriters: John Mark Hall, Matthew Joseph West

YouTube Video – Casting Crowns – Scars in Heaven (Story Behind the Song)

Significance in Your Scars – Keela Craft Ambrose

Beauty Marks: How God Turns Our Scars Into Something Beautiful – Linda Barrick

The Story Behind Your Scars – God’s Grace Revealed – Dana Rongione

Photo Credit: Pinterest, Henry van Dyke

Monday Morning Moment – Reject Passivity

Photo Credit: Libquotes

When a father dies he leaves a legacy. Yesterday, the three sons of our friend Mike Pineda, stood on the platform, at his funeral, and spoke beautifully about their hero of a dad. He had faithfully walked alongside of them all their lives. Teaching, mentoring, and modeling. One of the lessons their dad had taught them (by word and action) was to reject passivity.

That stuck with me. What is it to resist, in fact, reject passivity? Where does the temptation to be passive come from?

We can go all the way back to the first man who lived – Adam. When the Evil One tempted him and Eve to question the goodness of God, and even though Eve seems to take lead in sinning against God (Genesis 3:6), Adam was physically present, right there with her. [This isn’t to cast greater judgment on Adam, or Eve, for that matter. It is a declarative statement of what can result from passivity.]

Men have been living in Adam’s shadow ever since. Rather than being strong dads, men often just stand there. Rather than being loving husbands, men often just stand there. Why is it that so many men are so decisive, focused, and effective in areas of life that don’t really matter, but tentative, uninspiring, and passive in some of the areas that matter most? It’s as if passivity is in our DNA. And that if we don’t actively fight it, we’ll default to being passive.

Where does passivity reign in your life? Is it at home? Or with your finances? Or in your career? Or with your wife or girlfriend? Where are you doing nothing when you should be doing something? Where are you being silent when you should be speaking up? Authentic men reject passivity. They refuse to live in the shadow of Adam and instead choose to fight for what truly matters most. They find their strength in the grace of Jesus and follow His example of rejecting passivity—ultimately by coming to earth to rescue us.Authentic Manhood

Now, please don’t get me wrong here. I’m not trying to bash men for being passive. Maybe like Eve, we as women, hold some measure of complicity in this whole issue of passivity. Do we make it difficult for the men in our lives to act decisively? Do we act in ways that prove to be passive-aggressive and pose for men a lose-lose outcome…that either way, they will pay for “manning up”.

Even as I write, it’s a little uncomfortable having grown up in the era of women’s liberation, ERA, and feminism. Hard battles have been fought for women to fare well in the workplace. In the home as well. Yet, is it possible that one of the fruits of this movement has been men just stepping aside and letting us have our way…even when it’s not what it could have been with both men and women working better together.

Of course, we know this whole issue of passivity didn’t start a few decades ago (go back to Adam and Eve). So what do we do about it?

I’m going to talk to my sons right now. [You’re welcome to read along.]

“It’s so easy…too easy…to let others make the decisions. When others make the decision, you don’t have to accept the consequences of those decisions. You can, in many cases, let those others live with the outcomes. You can elect to go along with the decisions, or (if not required) you can step back, and let the chips fall where they may. Now if it’s work, and you’re held to a standard requiring you to go along with the decision once made, you have little recourse. You didn’t speak into it, therefore you must to some extent abide by the decision. How much better if you had entered into the decision-making yourself?

What about the larger community? Your circles of potential influence outside your work. Are you willing to sit silently…to offer nothing of your giftings, your intellect, your experience to those conversations?

What about your family? Your wife, your children? Are you willing to let others speak into their lives and you take a quieter, more disengaged space? You will find the years will go by…and the voice in their ears and hearts…is not yours? Is that really what you want?

Passivity is like a weak link in a chain…compromising the strength of that chain. In relationships, passivity is something we can correct, if we’re willing to take the perceived risk to do so.

Photo Credit: Life Going Through Some Day
Photo Credit: AllAuthor

In Lay Aside the Weight of Passivity by Jon Bloom, we are reminded of how our expectations and resultant emotions shape our engagement with struggle:

What we expect shapes how we respond. If we expect peace, we will resent having to fight. If we expect rest, we will resent having to endure. If we expect leisure, we will resent having to work hard.

This is why it’s so important for us to prepare our minds for action.

We lose perspective and forget that in this age war, not peace, is the norm; vigilant self-control, not indulgent rest, is the norm; difficult cultivation, not easy picking, is the norm.

Our emotions typically tell us what our mind-sets are; our responses reveal our expectations. So, when weariness, disappointment, disillusionment, and resentment set in, we need to examine what’s fueling those feelings.

Our emotions springing from misplaced expectations of peace, rest, and leisure ask to be coddled. Jon Bloom

Passivity is sometimes born out of exhaustion from battling for too long a season. Or a lack of hope when looking at the opposition. As Bloom states in his article: as we choose to stay in the battle, with a mindset to act, we resist passivity and the false sense of safety it projects.

In thinking back to our friend Mike’s funeral, his sons talked about both his rejection of passivity and his pursuit of a quiet life. He aspired “to live quietly, and to mind [his] own affairs, and to work with [his] hands (1 Thess. 4:11). This is not passive living. It takes focus, prioritizing, and hard work…out of which is the great harvest of those in your sphere of influence learning the tools of fruitful and faithful lives. By your example.

So my loves, I’ll let you get back to your lives. I see you resisting passivity. Keep nurturing that habit of life.

Stand with or stand against, but don’t allow yourselves to stand aside.

Fatherhood.gov

Fathering Practices in Twenty-six Intact Families and the Implications for Child Contact – Jane Lewis & Elaine Welsh

YouTube Video – Purging Passivity – an interesting video on a martial arts training approach with children (Christian perspective – fascinating – whether you agree or not)

Reject Passivity (1 of 5) – Stephen T. Messenger

YouTube Video – Passivity Is Not an Option! – Dave Ramsey – EntreLeadership

YouTube Video – The Problem Of Passivity | Paul Tripp’s 1 Peter Study (Episode 012)

Sunday Remembrance – Mike Pineda – Friend and Brother

Photo Credit: Facebook, Julie Pineda

A friend of ours died this past week.

Mike Pineda. In his sleep. February 14. 65 years old. Healthy.

It’s been a couple of years or more since we’ve seen him, but his sudden and early passing has left us stunned and clinging to God for comfort and hope.

I didn’t know Mike (or Julie, the love of his life) until 2016. There was an email of mine, in 2009, that got forwarded to him for counsel about a TCK (third culture kid) issue (we were living in North Africa at the time). Just found that email today…don’t remember the situation now.

Dave had actually met him years before. At a pivotal time in Mike’s (and Julie’s) life. Mike then showed up in our lives at another pivotal time.

In 2015, he asked Dave to work on a leadership project with him and a small group of other professionals. In 2016, I, too, entered the story. Mike was inclusive of spouses, and it was a super satisfying experience for me to be a part of these conversations. It was then I got to also meet Julie.

Sometimes, you don’t really get to fully know a person (married at least) until you see them engage with their spouse. They clearly loved and enjoyed each other. When Mike told stories, Julie would add her own color to it. Both of them, telling and listening, showed pure delight with each other’s adds…even with stories you know they have shared for years. Sweet.

Mike is one of the wisest men I know. It was a joy for us that he, Dave, and others got to put their heads together for a larger cause. In fact, until a book is written, here is something that Mike said about teaming:

“There were seven of us on the most effective team I’ve ever been on.

I had been asked to do something that I could not do. It was above and beyond me. I didn’t really even understand the problem, much less have a clue about the solution. What could I do, except to surround myself with people smarter and more gifted than me?

We were as different as any seven people you could find. We fought and we challenged, and yet together we were a team. We developed something that was good.

The Body of Christ is made up of many parts. 1 Corinthians 12:14-20 tells us this:

For the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot should say, ‘Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,’ that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear should say, ‘Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,’ that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as He chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, yet one body.

It is natural to desire all the gifts, to need no one, to overcome challenges alone. That is not the way the Body works, though. Yes, the Lord has gifted you, but He hasn’t given you all the gifts needed to accomplish what He has given you to do. He has put others in the Body with the gifts you lack.

It is also natural to seek comfort by working with people just like you. And yet, what do you gain by working with people who know what you know, act like you act and have gifts that you already have?

You need others who are not like you. You introverts need extroverts. You task-oriented folks need the people-oriented. Jethro Leroy Gibbs needs Ducky, Jean Valjean needs Cosette, the Skipper needs Gilligan, Reddington needs Keen, Andy needs Barney, and Paul needs Barnabas.

The Lord has put around you those you need to accomplish the task He has given you. You will have vastly different passions, gifts and callings. Cast aside the temptation to follow only your ideas and processes. Listen to others. Develop something together with people who are nothing like you. Work with others in a diverse Body of Christ. And rejoice.” – Mike Pineda, Facebook, November 21, 2020

I hope a book is written one day. Mike was much more about relationships and not renown. He was an excellent story-teller. What a way with words! Each year, he published an April Fools’ email. We only started receiving them in 2016, but they are funny, biting, and brilliant. I hope they are published…so fun just to think about reading every single one.

The most beautiful writing he completed was daily emails to his sons for 15 1/2 years. Every single day.

When his oldest son, Sam, went off to college, Mike began writing him. He would share what he was reading in the Bible that day, and what he gained from the Scripture, a prayer for his son, and a bit of news from his and Julie’s life. Every single day. In Mike’s funeral, Sam shared how many emails over the years – 5662. Every day.

In fact, this is exactly how the family knew something was wrong the morning of February 14. Julie was out of town, so she didn’t know yet that Mike had died sometime early morning. The email that had arrived every single day for the past over 15 years…didn’t arrive. That sounded the alarm for the kids… something was terribly wrong.

I hope the video of the funeral service for Mike stays published. We were able to watch from Virginia, unable to make it down to Tennessee for the service. It was beautiful. So God-honoring…and so like Mike’s family and friends – telling stories about him and about his faith, wisdom, and humility. His priorities of his wife, his family, and the Lord. His determination to major on what matters and let go of the rest. His joy in the simplest things in life.

If I had been there, my story would point to Mike’s courage in the face of adversity. We knew him best during a very difficult time. You know those times when things seem so muddled up that you start wondering if you’re really understanding what’s going on. Something so wrong, but it’s like the Emperor with No Clothes. Where you see something but it seems others do not (blind spots of a sort), so are you crazy or what? Without malice, Mike could name the what of what’s wrong, and did not flinch when confronting the what’s wrong. Whew! He was a modern day Daniel and we were blessed to know him.

Funeral Service for Mike Pineda – Stuart Heights Baptist Church, Chattanooga, Tennessee

I would have loved to hear all the stories told around the room before and after the funeral. All the stories of this week, since Mike’s Homegoing, told to comfort and reassure each other.

Mike would have enjoyed those stories, and especially the ones about his Jesus. He wouldn’t have chosen to leave his wife, kids, and grandkids so young (65, so young). However, he was one who chose to obey God in every circumstance of his life. He knew his family would be ok…in fact, better than ok.

So for us, his death seemed so early, and yet for Mike, he had finished his days…and his life’s work.

…in Your book were written All the days that were ordained for me.Psalm 139:6

When Jacob finished charging his sons, he drew his feet into the bed and breathed his last, and was gathered to his people.Genesis 49:33

We will glean from the stories he has told us through the years, and those told in his funeral – especially those from his three sons. Thank you, Sam, Ben, and Caleb. Also Mike’s old friends, Daryl and Elbert. You helped us get through what could have been a very hard day.

It is not too late for us to set our eyes on Christ and love well and live large… like Mike did.

Obituary – Michael Stuart Pineda – January 31, 1958 – February 14, 2023

Worship Wednesday – Big Love, Small Moments – JJ Heller

Photo Credit: Heartlight

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind,” and “your neighbor as yourself.”Luke 10:27

“I urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling you have received: with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, and with diligence to preserve the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.”Ephesians 4:1-3

What beauty we know in the love of Jesus – talk about BIG LOVE!

Even from the cross, He appealed to the Father to forgive those who sought to destroy him saying, “Forgive them. They don’t know what they’re doing!” [Luke 23:34] He calls us to that same kind of love.

Often, big love is rolled out in one small moment after another small moment after another. We’ve all experienced that and hopefully we’re all in lives of executing those small moments for others.

I’d like to showcase two sets of folks who demonstrate such love. I don’t know them personally but they loom large in my social media.

1) Tony and Karen Vick were married in 2015. Two years later, Tony was diagnosed with ALS. I came across their story on Instagram @thekaregiver. Karen is her husband’s primary caregiver and also manages her own small business. Every day she posts videos (on their various platforms) – videos that give a glimpse of small moments in their lives. Whew! So much love. Both from Karen to Tony and vice versa. Even a devastating, terminal disease like ALS can’t keep us from communicating love to others. They both do this so beautifully. Pray for them, too, as you get to know their stories.

Photo Credit: Russell Colburn, Twitter

The Karegiver on Facebook

Photo Credit: The Karegiver, Facebook

Tony and Karen Vick – Faith Over Fear – Video

2) Stan MitchellStan Mitchell is a pastor and the son of this beautiful lady in the picture. His mom, Mrs. Shirley, was a church organist for 40 years but now struggles with dementia. Still, with minimal prompting, she sings the beautiful old Gospel songs many of us grew up with. Such a blessing in these waning years of her memory…and life. [Check out Rev. Mitchell’s Facebook page for some of that sweet singing of hers.]Photo Credit: Stan Mitchell & his mom – Facebook

Rev. Mitchell founded GracePointe Church in Nashville, Tennessee, in 2003. Under his leadership, in 2015, GracePointe moved to be completely inclusive of LGBTQ+ persons in the church family. Then a great upheaval followed within the church body. The church has survived and flourished, in a different direction than the beginning.

I’m not really sure what all Stan Mitchell does professionally but he seems to work with churches around our country in consultation to help them love better those in the LGBTQ+ community. Rev. Mitchell describes himself actually as progressive and liberal, cis-gender and heterosexual. He is also the fortunate son of Mrs. Shirley.

How I first came across Rev. Mitchell I couldn’t tell you. Maybe it was through a mention from seminary professor and thought leader Karen Swallow Prior. Ever how he came to my awareness, in our fractured world, I am learning from him on a big love within small moments. He has the wordsmith skills of a writer and preacher. He is quite clear in what he believes and his goal seems to be prompting us, as Christ-followers, to love those in the LGBTQ+ community …bigger.

[Most all of you who read this blog regularly know I’m fairly conservative in my thinking. I take the Scripture quite literally. In some camps of Christian theology, there does seem to be a disconnect, unfortunately, in the truth and grace conversation. We either lean heavily one way (toward truth/knowledge) or the other (toward grace/mercy). I want to learn how to love well (big) without compromising the truth of God’s Word. That gets revealed by our focus and decisions made in the small moments of every day life. There is the challenge.]

Worship Wednesday – Until Unity – Francis Chan – Deb Mills

Stan Mitchell’s Facebook posts pop up often on my Facebook newsfeed…thanks to that unknown social media giant’s algorithm. I read them to see the videos of his visits with his mom. Hearing her sing those old Gospel songs, even with memory darkened by dementia. I read them for what he says about people with whom he has counseled in and about the LGBTQ+ community. He is probably not someone I’d know, but he is giving me food for thought about how to love big…a particular population of people who don’t feel loved by churches who also love the Scripture.

We have these two commandments that Jesus calls the greatest. Just two.

  • Love God.
  • Love people.
How we learn to love big…to love like Jesus…is in moment-by-moment obedience to Him. We refuse to be stalled out by self-loathing or self-righteousness. We do what is needed…by a husband who can’t do everything for himself, as with Karen and Tony. Or by Pastor Stan who is spending these days treasuring his mom in this most vulnerable time of her life and extending the love of at least his church to the LBGTQ+ community. As with the Vick’s, pray for Rev. Mitchell and his mama.
I have been convicted by both the Vick’s and the Mitchell’s – to seek God’s face and His Word in bringing His large love into the lives of those closest to us…and to those who are not drawn so much to people like us. Whoever is on your heart right now, may they know the love of Jesus…it’s the biggest love available to us…and He is not diminished by an ideology, theology, or worldview.
Christian singer, songwriter JJ Heller gave us the captivating piece below – “Big Love, Small Moments”. She doesn’t call the name of Jesus…but He is there. His big love in all the small moments.

Catch this song (lyrics and music here) with the Lord in mind.

Heartbeats only happen one at a time, one at a time
You can’t rush a moment so don’t even try, don’t even try
There’s a symphony you’re missing
If you only listen you’ll find…

Big magic in the mundane
The big picture in a small frame
Everything is sacred when you take time to notice
Big love happens in the small moments
Big love happens in the small moments

There’s no use in chasing nickels and dimes, nickels and dimes
Riches all around you, open your eyes, open your eyes
You can’t buy the peace you’re after so don’t even try
‘Cause you’ll find…

Big magic in the mundane
The big picture in a small frame
Everything is sacred when you take time to notice
Big love happens in the small moments
Big love happens in the small moments

Feel the rain on your skin, feel my hand in your hand
You can’t do it all, so just do what you can
Feel the rain on your skin, feel my hand in your hand
You can’t do it all, so just do what you can

Feel the sun on your face (Feel the sun on your face)
Bare feet on the ground (Feet on the ground)
I know you’ll see beautiful things if you look around, yeah
Just look around
And you’ll find

Big magic in the mundane
The big picture in a small frame
Everything is sacred when you take time to notice the…
Big magic in the mundane
The big picture in a small frame
Everything is sacred when you take time to notice
Big love happens in the small moments
Big love happens in the small moments*

[Closing with some small moments that make our hearts swell with big love. God is so good. His love shapes our world. It is His. We are as well. Hallelujah!]

[We have other grands, who are not on social media or the internet, but are loved big as well. Just adding that to be clear. :)]

*Lyrics to Big Love, Small Moments – Songwriters:  Dave Heller, Cason Cooley, Jennifer Heller

Big Love, Small Moments – a blog post by JJ Heller

Big Love, Small Moments – Katrina Kenison

Monday Morning Moment – a Parable of Lost Sons and Their Father

Photo Credit: Rembrandt, Wikipedia

Whatever your faith base is or even if you have none to speak of, the parables of Jesus are magnificent stories that call us to deep thinking about life…and the choices we make.

The parable reflected in Rembrandt’s extraordinary painting above is one such story. In brief, you see a father and his older son (both in red robes) and a younger prodigal son, returning home, repentant.

The Return of the Prodigal Son – Rembrandt – Wikipedia [read the short and powerful article – a beautiful synopsis of the work.]

“The Parable of the Lost Son” is found in only one of the Gospels – Luke 15:11-32 (the whole of his story is found in the link, within the larger context of Luke 15 – read that here). Jesus was responding to the questioning and contempt of the religious leaders of his day. Their problem with Jesus was the two opposing facts that he was a religious authority himself and yet he took company with sinners.

In Jesus’ response to them, he spoke of loss and our reaction. We go after what is lost, and we rejoice when it is found.

His story tells how a younger son wants his freedom and asks his father for his inheritance. He wanted something that would not normally come to him until his father’s death, but he demanded it still. The father then divided his estate between his two sons. The one left home to spend his wealth on folly, and the other, the older son, stayed, out of duty or love (we don’t really know).

The younger son’s foolishness quickly leads to a wasted, impoverished life. He longs for the life he once knew in his father’s house. He finally “came to his senses”, remembering his good father and how well even the hired workers in his household lived. He determined to return home and ask his father’s forgiveness – not to be restored as his son but in hopes of becoming one of those workers.

Jesus’ story goes on to show the father’s deep and loving character – seeing the son approaching from a distance, he ran to him. Receiving him back to himself, in joyous celebration.

This was part 1 of Jesus’ parable of the lost sons. Part 2 begins here with the older brother. He had been working out in the fields as always, and, returning at day’s end, he hears the noise of a party. When he asked a servant what was going on, he was told the younger brother had returned home and their father had ordered a celebration. Here, we find the other lost son’s response…

…he became angry and didn’t want to go in. So his father came out and pleaded with him.
But he replied to his father, ‘Look, I have been slaving many years for you, and I have never disobeyed your orders, yet you never gave me a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends.
But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your assets with prostitutes, you slaughtered the fattened calf for him.’
” ‘Son,’ [the father] said to him, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and rejoice, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ ” – Luke 15:28-32
Again, we capture the beauty of the father’s character. He loved both sons. He was generous with them both, and he invited both into his merciful love.
Jesus shared this story (as well as the story of the lost coin and lost sheep) with religious leaders who questioned his care for sinners. In a way, these religious ones were much like the older son.
Do you identify with one of these sons? One is reckless and searching – allowing his self-indulgent longings to take him far from home. The other is dutiful and obedient. Accepting the responsibilities of life to shape his character…and his subsequent lack of care for both his father and brother.
[My husband preached a sermon on this story years ago and I am often reminded of his reflection on it – how the elder brother must have thought he was pleasing his father because he stayed at the plow. What if that older brother would have come to the father and said, “Hey, Dad, would it be all right if I go and look for my brother?” If he truly knew the heart of his father, he would have left home, at some point, to search for that lost brother and bring him back to their dad.]
The father in this story is reflective of God. He is home. Whether that is your belief or not, we are place-oriented as humans. What (or who) we regard as home has a huge impact on how we do life.
I take heart in both of these brothers…my life has taken me far from home in both these ways. Wanting popularity and the stuff of this world as well as longing to do what is right and the influence that comes with that. Neither extreme brings us the joy we can have in being known and loved for who we are…and loving others the same.
Henri Nouwen‘s book The Return of the Prodigal Son is a short, winsome engaging of these three men in Jesus’ story.

Here are a few of Nouwen’s observations on Jesus’ story:

“Anger, resentment, jealousy, desire for revenge, lust, greed, antagonisms, and rivalries are the obvious signs that I have left home.”
“I am the prodigal son every time I search for unconditional love where it cannot be found.”
“…the question is not “How am I to love God?” but “How am I to let myself be loved by God?” God is looking into the distance for me, trying to find me, and longing to bring me home.”
“There are many elder sons and elder daughters who are lost while still at home.”
“The more I reflect on the elder son in me, the more I realize how deeply rooted this form of lostness really is and how hard it is to return home from there. Returning home from a lustful escapade seems so much easier than returning home from a cold anger that has rooted itself in the deepest corners of my being. ..Isn’t it good to be obedient, dutiful, law-abiding, hardworking, and self-sacrificing? And still it seems that my resentments and complaints are mysteriously tied to such praiseworthy attitudes… It seems that wherever my virtuous self is, there also is the resentful complainer.”
“In all three of the parables which Jesus tells to explain why he eats with sinners, God rejoices and invites others to rejoice with him. “Rejoice with me,” the shepherd says, “I have found my sheep that was lost.” “Rejoice with me,” the woman says, “I have found the drachma I lost.” “Rejoice with me,” the father says, “this son of mine was lost and is found.” All these voices are the voices of God.”
In closing, I would love to hear your thoughts in the Comment section of this blog. What struggle do you have in coming home? Or thinking of yourself as never having left, do you still feel alienated even at home? The best part of this story is that whether we feel more like the older brother or the younger brother, Jesus communicated that we can come home. A loving father is watching for us.
[Below are two sermons that got me thinking again about this great story – one of many Jesus told to those with “ears to hear”.]

YouTube Video – Parable of the Lost Sons – Part 1 – Sermon by Khiry Cooper – Movement Church RVA – September 18, 2022

YouTube Video – Parable of the Lost Sons – Part 2 – Sermon by Cliff Jordan – Movement Church RVA – September 25, 2022

Monday Morning Moment – Back to School – 12 Essential Lessons of Life

Photo Credit: Pixabay

[Adapted from the Archives]

It’s Back to School days around here. Whether we teach our children at home or contract and cooperate with other teachers, this time of year is both exciting and sobering.

I married late in life, and the children came even later. Parenting wasn’t an instinctual process for me. Fortunately, mentors came along at pivotal times, as did parents whom I did not want to be like. Between the two, I found my way.

Feeding, clothing, and protecting children are all crucial…but what do we teach them? What are the essential lessons of life?

Two old songs come to mind when I think of the serious nature of teaching our children what they must learn for life. The old folk/rock group Crosby, Stills, and Nash & Young wrote and performed Teach Your Children. Graham Nash wrote the lyrics out of his painful relationship with an absent, sometimes imprisoned, father. Nash’s message is that we have to teach our children to make a better life…if not a better world.

You’ve Got to Be Carefully Taught is the other deeply emotional song out of the musical South Pacific. This song points to racial prejudice and cultural bias, and how hatred must be taught to children when they are young. Mandy Patinkin‘s version of this song communicates its meaning powerfully.

Although hatred or bias can be taught, even from an early age, such dreadful things can also be caught over time in culture. Things like entitlement, dishonesty, greed, and irresponsibility. We as parents (teachers and employers also) have a huge role in guiding children and young people to mature into caring and responsible adults…even in a culture that may cut across the grain of our own values.

I’d like to explore what we must teach our children. Intentionally, with meaningful purpose. Catching those teachable moments and seasons. Some things are more “caught than taught”, as the saying goes. Kids will catch some values living in close proximity to us and others. That makes the case, as well, for how we choose to live and what companions we seek for ourselves and our children.

More Is Caught Than Taught – Gabbie Nolen-Fratantoni

When our children were young, we taught them a set of rules which we honored in our home. The 21 Rules of This House by Gregg and Joshua Harris. These rules were, in ways, simplistic but also comprehensive enough to help us create a safe, orderly, and loving home, where children AND parents had the same expectations. Photo Credit: Choosing HomeSchool Curriculum

Our children are grown now, out on their own. Two of them are already in the season of small ones, establishing their own essentials for teaching their children.

This is a reminder to them of their own family values…I hope it’s also a help to you. These are 12 essential lessons of life. They are not comprehensive. I would love to hear what you think should have been there as well, in the Comments section below. Thanks.

1) Love God – You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment.” – Jesus – Matthew 22:37-38 If you are reading this and don’t share a faith in one God, then this won’t have meaning for you. Jesus was asked what was the greatest commandments of the law (in that day, they were burdened by the weight of over 600 laws). His answer? Love God with everything in your being. Clearly it’s good for us to do and something parents can model and teach from the time children are tiny.

2) Love others – You shall love your neighbor as yourself.– Jesus – Matthew 22:39  Jesus didn’t stop at the greatest commandment. He added this one as just second to the most important. Love others. Not just your buddies. Not just those like you…but whomever neighbor is…the nobody, the every man. Jesus was clear in his instruction in “as yourself”. However it is we would serve ourselves, we give of ourselves to those around us. Wow! Great wisdom to teach our children.

3) Be obedient (honoring) – Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise), “that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.” – Ephesians 6:1-3 What a struggle it is for us to teach our children to obey! What a developmental milestone when they get it! Not after we count to 3, or 10…or whatever other enticement to obey we use in desperation. Immediate obedience – in attitude and action. That is a lesson they will take all the way through adulthood.

Raising our children in huge cities made it crucial for them to obey the instant they heard us speak to them, especially over the noise of the city. One thing we did was a bird call (a whistle sounding “bob, bobwhite”). When they heard that, they looked up and started heading in our direction immediately. I still marvel when even today, that still gets their big grown-up attention.

More on obedience can be found here.

Photo Credit: Flickr

4) Be grateful. – Give thanks in everything, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. – 1 Thessalonians 5:18  God’s Word is filled with examples and encouragements toward being grateful (here are just a few). Jesus’ life was a testament of thankfulness to God the Father, and He taught us to pray with thanksgiving. Our kids grew up with The Thankful Song (from the Veggie Tales Madame Blueberry video) –A thankful heart is a happy heart; that’s why we say thanks everyday.”

The Power of Gratitude – 21 Verses of Thanks to God – Debbie McDaniel

Avoid Raising an Entitled Child – 5 Strategies That Really Work – Amy McCready

5) Speak the truth. – Lying lips are an abomination to the Lord, but those who act faithfully are his delight. – Proverbs 12:22 The worst offense in our home was lying. Jesus spoke of Satan as being the father of lies (John 8:44). Telling the truth is something we model and something, I hope, our children value highly in their adult lives. No spin, no deception…straight-up truth. Truth in love (Ephesians 4:15).

6) Work with diligence and excellence. – Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men.Colossians 3:23   In grasping this lesson, children learn perseverance, patience, and an understanding of the value of work. Our youngest struggled with academics and he would say, about homework, “I just want to get it done!” As he matured, he moved his lament to more of a charge of “get it done and done well”. Watching him grow in that continues to make us so proud of him.

12 Ways to Glorify God at Work – Jose Etter

7) Seek joy. – Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, persistent in prayer. – (Romans 12:12) Grumbling, discontent, and whining are such a part of human nature. When we count our situation with joy, whatever it is, everyone wins. Other verses here.

8) Seek peace. – “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” – Jesus (Matthew 5:9) Sometimes we crave peace, and we’ll do anything to get it. Our children don’t need to learn how to be peace-keepers but to be peace-makers. It’s not about giving way to the one causing trouble, for instance. It’s developing relational skills to bring peace to a situation, resolving the conflict. More verses here on peace.

9) Be forgiving. – Bear with each other and forgive any complaint you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.Colossians 3:13 Holding grudges and distancing ourselves from others in unforgiveness is no way to live. Forgiving because we are forgiven carries with it a deep, loving perspective. Helping our children understand how to forgive, especially little ones who have been gravely hurt by others, is huge. More on forgiveness.

10) See beauty; create beauty. – He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, He has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end. Ecclesiastes 3:11 My children tease me sometimes because they say I think everyone out there is handsome/pretty. God has given me eyes to see, maybe as He sees. He creates beauty and He means for us to see and appreciate it…and create beautiful things ourselves.Photo Credit: Public Domain Pictures

Our children are all musicians (one professionally) or writers . They create beauty as we all can…in some way or another.

Nathan Mills -Beyond The Guitar

Top 10 Bible Verses about Art with Commentary

Saying Beautifully as a Way of Seeing Beauty – John Piper

11) Be kind. – Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. – (Ephesians 4:32) Again, years ago, when our kids were very young, they participated in a Vacation Bible School and learned a little song on kindness. “K-I-N-D, Love Is Kind”. I couldn’t find it anywhere for today’s blog, but the message stuck in all our heads. One of the simplest ways to show love is to be kind – to be generous and caring in our consideration of others. The Scripture points often to kindness in loving each other.

Be Kind to One Another – John Piper

12) Serve others. – Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.Hebrews 13:16 This lesson of serving others is one I actually struggled to teach well. I fell into the excuse (like many parents do) that they had so much homework, so many assignments to complete, that they should just have fun when they had the time. Serving could have totally been a “fun” way of life. I hope our children do better with teaching serving than I did. More on serving here.Photo Credit: Niagara

In closing, I’ve left off many things. Critical thinking is one. Purity another. In fact, do you remember that little song, “Be Careful Little Eyes What You See.” Our kids knew that in English and Arabic.

Still probably the greatest lesson across the years of childhood (which goes along with the two greatest commandments Jesus taught) is the one Bob Pierce, founder of World Vision, taught us.

Let (your) heart be broken with the things that break the heart of God.

We want to teach our children to do right, for the sake of others and for themselves, and to stand up for what is right.

Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.Proverbs 22:6

Let Your Heart Be Broken – Jeremiah 8, 9 – Rick Ezell

Bible Verses on Injustice