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Friday, June 21, 2013

Comfort Food – The Care of God – Psalm 23

The first time I talked publically about Psalm 23 was on a Mother’s Day.  At a funeral. For my mother-in-law, Gayle.  It was a very, very hard day. 
            Gayle had died suddenly of a heart attack at the young age of 55.  Pam and I were in Chicago and immediately thrust into the surreal chaos, raw emotion and numb pain that unexpected death brings.  Rushing to find plane tickets, struggling to understand the details of what had happened, coordinating schedules, embracing fond memories, weeping over regrets – they all came rushing in.
            Gayle’s husband (Pam’s step-father) was already an abrasive personality and the pain of his wife’s death accentuated his sharp edge.  He did things that weren’t nice, he said things that weren’t nice – for crying out loud, he scheduled the memorial service on Mother’s Day because there weren’t any other services scheduled that day!
            In the midst of such tremendous pain and unfairness my wife Pam exuded a level of grace that could only have come from the presence of her heavenly Father holding her and leading her.  God cared for us.
            The 23rd Psalm from the Bible has long been embraced by our culture at large.  There is a strength and peace that exudes from these brief six verses that draws us in to its power.  The dominant metaphor for God is one of shepherd.  Even those who have never been on a farm or around farm animals still understand what this means from the Psalm.  A shepherd has the responsibility of leading, caring for and protecting his sheep.  It was a combination of being a scout, nurse and warrior all wrapped together.  When you have been shepherded well, you recognize it clearly after-the-fact.
            To be shepherded we have to accept the shepherd.  We have to realize that we indeed need someone to direct us where we should go, to bind up our wounds and fight off the wolves that surround us.  This is life.  It is very lonely and frightening when we go about it on our own.
            It was 21 years ago when we got that horrible call about Gayle.  There have been other very painful valleys we have traversed during that time that have been oh so very dark.  The Shepherd has always calmly, patiently, gently, lovingly walked before us to show us grace on the journey to the table of his provision.
            God cares.

Peace and grace,


Wednesday, June 12, 2013

A Heart For The Father

            I’m blessed.  I’ve got a great father.  I’ve never had to wonder who he is or where he is.  I’ve never had to guess if he loved me or not – he showed it tons throughout my life and regularly reminds me that he loves me.  For over half my life I have lived in a different part of the country than my father yet our relationship remains strong and deep.  We have been intentional about making time for each other by going hunting together, playing with old cars, reading books and talking about the important and the mundane.  As I said, I’m blessed.  I know many that would love to have what I have.
            Fathers are so very important.  But it isn’t an easy job.  Pretty much every father I know feels inadequate to the task, struggles with knowing whether they are doing it right and wrestles with the multitude of demands on their time – work, chores, bills, friendships, play, marriage, family.  It constantly feels like a juggling act with balls ready to fall out of the sky all of the time and then the hope that you can catch it on the bounce without dropping anything else.  Lots of Dads live with a low electrical charge of guilt in their gut over harsh words that have been said, a sense of not measuring up, emotional and physical exhaustion yet an unwillingness to do anything for themselves because it seems too selfish.  Often times Dads are also the ones who draw the hard lines and say “no” to their kids when they are testing the boundaries.  So, having someone mad at you is a prerequisite.  It is not easy to be a Dad.
            Malachi gives us a small hint of what happens when God is on the move.  When God’s rule gets established, one of the things that happens has to do with fathers, children and hearts.  When God moves, there is a restoration of the heart connection of a child to their father and the father to their child.  It shouldn’t be surprising.  It is the earthly picture of the heavenly reality.  God is described as our heavenly father and there is nothing he wants more than for his children to turn their hearts toward him.  The heart of any true father is that their heart be connected to their child’s heart.  It is the essence of fatherhood – taking responsibility and saying to their child, “I love you.  You are mine – forever.”
            So here’s my encouragement to you – encourage a father.  Yep, they are imperfect and some of us have screwed up royally.  There is no one who knows it and feels it more than the father himself.  But it is never too late to begin turning your heart to your father and the father’s heart to his kids.  God can do it – it’s what he does.  You might even see Jesus in the journey.
            Peace and grace,