Monday, February 1, 2010

A note to Fathers

“It is the rule, I think, that we often romanticize what we have first despised” - Wendell Berry

Mr, Berry is a philosopher / farmer with whom I would not agree on economics but who has a great deal of wisdom in land stewardship. He wrote these words with reference to farmers, but I think they apply accurately to our attitude toward children.

Children are romanticized and sentimentalized to the point that we can get teary with warm fuzzies thinking about them. We talk of how sweet, precious and cute they are. Yet the reality is they are a lot of work. Joyful work. Rewarding work. But work none the less. We need to be willing to give the time, attention, sweat and effort that this work calls for and not give it grudgingly.

“Behold children are and inheritance from the LORD” Psalm 127

An inheritance in that day was most often land, and land needs to be worked. Land left to itself turns from productive fields to thorns to brush to woods. Even as a man stewards land, so we must steward our children. We must know them, their strengths, weakness, and sins. And we must clear things out here, plant things there, put fertilizer over there, and make sure the thorns on the edge of the field are kept in check. It is work, constant work, and we get tired, but it is the work God has given us to do so let us do it with all our heart.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

She belongs with me

I can be sappy sometimes. Often it has to do with love songs on the radio that get me thinking about my wife, Anne. Anyway I was listening to the radio in the truck and this song comes on about High School. High School is not my favorite time to dwell on so I started to change the station but as I do I hear the young woman singing about this boy who should be interested in her not some cheerleader and I smile and remember...

I remember a boy,recently dropped by his first girlfriend (a cheerleader), now at a pool party, coming up for air next to this cute girl with dancing brown eyes that almost disappeared when she smiled, and what a smile. She wanted to know if I wanted to come along on a bike ride she planned to take the next day. “sure, that would be fun” I replied.

The next day we rode out in the country to a farm with an old cabin, walked in the fields, spent most of the day together and sat on the porch and talked and talked. What a girl. Four years later I took her back to that old cabin on that farm and asked her to be my wife. We have been married for over 28 years now and I still melt at those smiling eyes.

After we had been married several years we were together with some friends form High School. A friend of Anne's told a story about a slumber party where Anne announced that the boy her cheerleader friend was dating wasn't right for the cheerleader at all he was right for her. The friend summed up, “I guess she was right”

She was. She “belongs with me”.

“House and wealth are an inheritance from fathers, but a prudent wife is from the LORD” Proverbs 19:14

Friday, September 4, 2009

The Seductivenes of Infatuation, or "But I'm in Love"

As a young man I remember standing around before work on a construction site. The men were talking as they often did about people and happenings when someone mentioned that the son-in-law of a sub-contractor was divorcing. Of course he was also fired, though he had been in line to be a partner. Apparently he had met a girl who worked at an ice cream shop and had “fallen in love” with her and went home and told his wife. One man spat out, “He got his brain caught in his zipper.” Well, pardon the crudeness, but that pretty much describes the situation.

I have lived more than half my life since then and have seen this same script play out many times. It is not sex dependent; women can be as guilty of this as men. Often a marriage is going through a difficult time, one partner meets someone different, sparks fly and the course is set.

What is going on? People confuse love with infatuation.

Infatuation is easy, Love takes work.
Infatuation is temporary, Love never fails.
Infatuation is about how I feel. Love is about seeking the best for the beloved.
Infatuation is quick to get and quick to leave, Love takes a lifetime.

All that surrounds us says that “love” hits you from outside yourself and you are powerless before it. What a lie. Solomon warns us of flattering and seductive words and tells us to run. Of course you can do something when infatuation hits you. It may be fun to give in, but what pain and destruction you cause.

Now flee from youthful lusts and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart. (II Tim. 2:22)

For the sake of your spouse, for your vows, for God whose you are,


Thursday, August 6, 2009

Helping Our Children Find Their Calling, Part 2

The training of our children includes their whole being: spiritual, character, physical, and mental/academic. The spiritual aspect of our children's lives is paramount. If this aspect of their training is missing, the others don't matter much. A successful man without Christ is little different from a poor man without Christ. What does it profit a man if he gain the whole world but lose his soul? (Matt. 8:36)

This spiritual training must begin early and continue as long as you have any influence in your children’s lives. The three broad areas to be addressed are:
1) Who God is.
2) Who the child is.
3) What to do about 1 and 2.

More specifically,
1) God is the holy, All Powerful, Creator and King of the universe. Everything rests in His hands.
2) Your children are created in God’s image but born in the sin that they inherited from you.
3) They are to respond to God with repentance and faith that comes from God and walk in good works that He has prepared for them to do.

A related aspect to training our children’s spirit is training their character. We want our children to be courageous, hard working, honest, merciful, faithful, and many of the other traits taught throughout scripture but especially in the book of Proverbs. These fruits are vital to seeing them fulfilling their callings.

The second area to consider when helping a child work through his calling is his personality and gifting. This is more discovered than developed. We need to understand how God has put this child together. We can direct him in his use of his personality and gifts after we know what they are. For example, is your child a “people person?” You can teach him to use that to improve others instead of making himself the center of attention. Perhaps we can direct this people person into managing others or helping people to find solutions they are looking for. Perhaps he is good at math and can think in concepts and images instead of words. Some form of engineering might be a path for this child.

To do this work of matching personality and gifts with a career, we need to become familiar with a variety of jobs and note what those who are successful in them are like. I remember years ago standing in my oldest son’s closet and realizing it looked just like Tim Quiring's garage. (Not a pretty picture.) Tim Q. was a founding elder of CGS and an EE (electrical engineer). Andrew is now getting his PhD in EE. There are often personality features common to those who practice a particular profession. Electrical engineers tend to have many hobbies and collect “stuff” from their varied interests such as rebuilding old motorcycles, computers, or stereos. An interest in model trains is also common for engineer types. We haven’t seen as obvious hints with our second and third children, but even with them we’ve noticed clues.

When we have an idea of the general direction a young person should go, we need to tailor his education to match. This is easiest when the child is home schooled, but it should always be done regardless of the type of school the child attends. Is the child bound for the hard sciences or engineering? Then he needs calculus before he graduates from high school. Is he gifted with computers? Make sure he takes some programming classes or learns thatin some other arena. Is she bound for nursing? She needs to take anatomy. Not only academic work needs to be matched with possible career training. We need to give our young people opportunities to be around people doing the calling he is considering. Can he volunteer at the hospital, radio station, church? Can he get a part time job at the restaurant or the construction site? The more experience and knowledge the child has, the better the direction will be. While doing career exploration volunteer or paid work, your son or daughter will get an idea whether this is indeed the correct direction for him.

It is both exciting and intimidating to help our children find their calling. Can God lead them without us? Of course! But what a joy to stand alongside our children as we look to their future together.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Helping Our Children Find Their Calling (Part 1)

I believe that one of the duties of parents is to help our sons and daughters find their calling. Today we seem to have parents fall into two extremes, neither of which has the child's best interest at heart.

On the left side of the path is the swamp of no guidance. In this gooey, sticky mess of muck and quicksand, we lob our children, hoping that as they do what they like, they will somehow find their calling. Does he like building things? Set him up in a wood shop. Does he like to sing? Send him off to IU Jacob’s School of Music. Did he love the outdoors? He could study outdoor recreation. Whatever my child enjoys is his life’s calling, even if it has little chance of success or it is impossible to support a family doing it. He may be sucked under the muck and never be seen again.

The deep ditch on the right side of the path is the parents’ dreams ... what they did, or didn't get to do, what they think will impress their friends, what will make their children financially secure. Many a child flung into this ditch by their parents, with the best of intentions, is broken on the rocks below. Sometimes they crawl up out of this ditch bruised and bleeding and regain the path God intended for them, but not without a cost.

So if you have a narrow path of a young person’s calling, how do you help your children find it? I think there are four areas to consider: spiritual, personality, gifts, and education. My wife and I begin discussing this while our children are young, and we adjust their training as we go along to prepare them for what may lie ahead. We by no means consider ourselves expert in this area, but we are started. In the next post we will begin going through these four areas one by one.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

He Who Covers Over an Offense Promotes Love (Pro. 17:9) (Grace in Marriage)

My first year of marriage to my dear wife Anne was marked by more fights than I ever imagined. The first of our peers to marry, we were feeling our way forward without much instruction or friends to talk it over with. As two people learn to live together, there are the inevitable opportunities for conflict because two people just do things differently. Anne, still a college student, liked to stay up late studying. I had to be at work early. I liked the toilet paper coming out from underneath; she preferred it coming over the top. It was all the stereotypical points of conflict. There was a bigger problem, though. I was sure that Anne was doing these things to bother me. And she needed to understand how much it bothered me, so I would purposely do things to aggravate her. She might respond in kind, and you can imagine the escalation.
We made it through that first year, and after almost twenty-eight years of marriage I look back on my attitudes with a combination of shame and mirthful disbelief. My default setting now is that Anne would never purposely do anything to aggravate me, and if she inadvertently has, it must be because she forgot or just didn’t think about it. So I wonder, what made the difference? How did I change my attitude toward living with my wife? In a word – kids. As God gave us children, the marriage stopped being all about me. We had a common purpose and job. When you are on your hands and knees on the floor at 3 in the morning cleaning up vomit, you realize you need each other to do the job before you, and more than that, that you trust this person to help you more than anyone else in the world. Kids can be a great selfishness killer. It isn’t always the case, but having kids (and for us it took a lot of kids) has helped to suppress our natural self-centeredness.
I say “can” because one can still be selfish and have kids (even a lot of kids), but the Holy Spirit is working in the believer’s life to conform him to the image of Christ. That is almost always difficult. For us He used a big family; for others He may use a different means. But if you are God’s child He will be working on and with you to make you more like His Son. We want to be working with Him and not against Him.
So what does this look like in our marriage now? Anne still likes to stay up later than me. But when she is reading in bed next to me I think, “She needs time to unwind after this day. I hope this helps her,” rather than thinking, “She’s not considering me.” We still have our preferences about which way the toilet paper goes, but it just doesn’t seem to matter that much anymore. I simply can’t imagine Anne doing anything to purposely hurt me. Is this because she is a perfect woman? No. As with many of us, she has her same besetting sins she has had for years, as do I. But as we work together to prepare the arrows God has entrusted to us, I know we are both headed for the same goal, and there is no one else I would rather have with me.

1Pe 4:8 Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Created for Work

Work is good. While the ease of work changed in the fall, man was made for work.

I have written how work is despised in our day, a day in which the ideal job for most has short hours, high pay, and little demand mentally or physically on the “worker”, who of course, has no need of taking any work home on “their time.” Is it any wonder when I speak to friends who have employees, they often complain about finding and keeping good employees?

As a dad of five boys and four girls, I consider it a duty to teach my children to work, not only to prepare them for life, but because work is a good gift from God. So when I needed firewood the other day, I brought my boys instead of trying to get my father-in-law's power splitter going. Those boys needed to learn to split and load wood and feel the tiredness involved. Peter (12) loaded the truck himself, neatly, tightly and with enough wood to make the truck squat down a bit. Jon was introduced to the work and art of splitting a log into sticks for the stove. I wish all young men had that privilege. I do pity the young men who live in town and have their heat come through a gas pipe or electric line.

As part of our children's schooling this year, we have been requiring them to read (or listen to) a devotional book written for older boys, called Created for Work by Bob Shultz. Now maybe l like the book because Mr. Shultz is a carpenter who cares a great deal about building the kingdom of God. Or maybe I like it because he combines practical illustrations of scriptural commands regarding work. Topics range from putting art in your work to not being afraid to get dirty in your work, to God's Word being the plumb line for our behavior.

The practical wisdom combined with the Biblical insight is a joy to think about. Published by Great Expectations Books Co. this volume is a wonderful tool to help teach your sons and daughters about God's gift of work.