What did you say?

I was reading in the living room when I heard my wife from the kitchen excitedly saying, “The whisk is one of my favorite kitchen tools.”

I put my book down and asked her to repeat what she had said, just to make sure I heard her correctly.

Yep.

So now I am sitting there, book in my lap, pondering, “People have favorite kitchen tools?”

And after a minute or so I am thinking, “My wife has a favorite kitchen tool, and it’s the whisk?”

And finally, “It took me nearly 40 years of sharing life with this woman to learn this about her?”

This weekend we celebrate 40 years of marriage and I gotta tell you, I love it everytime I learn something new about her.

Slow Motion Miracles

One woman was abandoned as a child by her mother. Another woman was assaulted as a child by her mother. And there they were in the gathering yesterday for Table and Word.

They ate the sacred meal. They soaked up the message of Jesus.

And gathering by gathering, meal by meal, message by message, a slow motion miracle is taking place in their hearts, minds, and lives.

These woman have worked hard to break old family patterns. These women, by the grace and power of God, are living out their lives as loving mothers of children who will never experience the same kind of heartbreak and pain that their mothers experienced at the hands of their grandmothers.

It’s work, hard work. And it’s a miracle, a slow motion miracle, rolling out over a period of years.

Thanks be to God.

Being Intentional with our Thoughts

My friend Jon Anderson says, “When you dwell on what you don’t like about your mate, you like them less. When you relish what you do like about your mate, you like them more.” When going through a difficult patch in marriage, don’t stay fixated on things you don’t like. Remember those things you like. Remember the good times you have shared. Remember how much God loves you!

Love in the Details

Lourene and I settled into a booth at a Denver restaurant eager to relax, converse, and check out yet another find from Guy Fieri’s Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives. By the way, if you are looking for a good restaurant to try, take a look at the places Fieri’s show has been. But enough of that, let’s get back to the booth.

I have learned that I am easily distracted when at a restaurant. I love people-watching, so if I want to be fully present with my wife it is helpful if I sit where I will have the fewest people in my line of sight. I also enjoy sports-highlight watching, so I try to sit where the television is least likely to distract me.

From past experience it seemed I had chosen a perfect seat to allow me to be focused on my sweet wife. I carefully chose a seat where my back was to the television. In front of me was a perfect view of a wall, the whole wall, and nothing but the wall. Hey, I even left my smart phone in the car to eliminate distractions.

So I slid into the booth that night pretty confident that I was going to get the attentive husband award. But even before the server had brought us our water, I became distracted by the conversation coming from the booth behind me. Yes, I heard them talking. Yes, I was listening.

Now let me try to make myself look a little better by saying that I did not intend to listen. It just happened. The two men in the booth behind me were having a very animated discussion about baseball. In fact, I would dare say this was the most detailed conversation about a baseball game I have ever heard. One of the guys was getting more excited and louder with every pitch he described. When I say, “every pitch,” I mean he was going pitch by pitch through inning after inning in his recollections of this ballgame.

For a minute I got pretty excited about who this mystery baseball commentator might be. Was it some baseball play-by-play announcer or color-commentator? Was it an active or retired major league player recalling a memorable playoff game or maybe even a game from the World Series? The conversation went on and on. Strike two. Ball four. Line-drive. Pop-up. Stolen base. Double play. Wicked curveball. Pitch in the dirt. Tagged out at the plate. Pick-off attempt. Ground-rule double. Balk. Terrible call by the umpire. Questionable strategy by the manager. Pinch hitter. Relief pitcher. Extra innings. Walk-off single. Mobbed at the plate.

Just when I was trying to figure out how I was going to get the autograph of the baseball star sitting behind me his words revealed that the entire conversation was about a little league game that his son had played. Then I realized the entire conversation had been from the perspective of a father sitting in bleachers behind the backstop to watch his son’s game.

The conversation had come alive with details because that father had been fully present at his son’s game. He wasn’t people watching or checking messages on his phone. He was glued to the game — every single pitch of the game — because it meant so much to his son.

And that’s when I looked across the table into the forgiving eyes of my wife.

For the Love of God

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).

As Lafayette Christian Preschool wrapped up another year, I had opportunity to participate in the closing ceremonies by praying a blessing over the children and the parents. Before praying for the children, I had opportunity to watch them sing a song they had been practicing for several days.

The teachers were sweet and encouraging as they positioned the children for the big performance. As I watched I knew the teachers were wondering if all of their hard work in teaching the song and preparing for the performance was going to be evident or if it would come off as if they had never rehearsed at all. When you work with children, especially young children, you never know quite what to expect.

  • Would they remember the words?
  • Would they stand still?
  • Would someone start sobbing?
  • Would a little girl lift up her dress?
  • Would a little boy pull down his pants?

One of the best things about these programs is the audience. These children were not onstage to perform for me. They were not performing for their teachers. They were certainly not performing for Simon Cowell. The children were on that stage singing for an audience packed with their number one fans, their parents, grandparents, and other family members.

As I sat in the front waiting for my cue to step onstage and bless the children, I think I had the best seat in the house. I could see everybody — the children, the teachers, and the audience of family members. I am not sure what was sweeter – seeing and hearing the children singing the songs or watching their parents and grandparents support their precious children.

Some of the children seemed confident. Some seemed a bit uneasy. One or two decided to just stand there without singing or even moving, seemingly overwhelmed by their moment in the spotlight. And then there were the Moms who were waving to their sons. Dads who were videotaping their daughters. Parents and grandparents mouthing, “I love you!” to their children. And, of course, once or twice I saw parents and grandparents reacting to what they were seeing with a “D’oh!”

As I watched the preschool production with all the family dynamics taking place, I thought of how family presents a picture of God’s love. I imagined Jesus watching us perform for Him. I envisioned God being focused on us, waving to get our attention. I pictured the Holy Spirit doing everything possible to assure us of God’s love. As I watched the parents and grandparents I was reminded — that’s the way God is.

Where would we be but for the love of God?

A Wise Woman Builds

“For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh” (Genesis 2:24).

A leading reason people need marital counseling is difficulty with in-laws.  Sometimes a wife compares everything her husband does to what her father did and is quick to express disappointment and criticism when her husband does not meet expectations. Sometimes a husband is more loyal to his mother than he is to his wife.

Ever seen one of those difficult marital situations where the husband has never cut the apron strings from his mother? Ever witnessed the pain resulting from a wife idolizing her hero-daddy to the neglect of her husband? Both situations spell trouble. How can this be prevented, especially when the parents in these situations are often emotionally and spiritually needy to the point where they are dependent on the unhealthy attachment to their married son or daughter? Let me share a story with you.

I have a godly friend named Flo who is the mother of four boys. All four of her sons are Christians. All four are married to Christians. All four couples are raising their children in church faith-communities. Flo has devoted her life to her family, having been a full-time, stay-at-home Mom during her child-raising years. She was involved with each of her boys and supportive of their various activities and areas of involvement. As her boys grew older, she developed healthy adult friendships with them.

Flo once shared with me some advice she shared with each of her sons before they married. Her words went something like this: “Son, you have to love her more than you love me. You have to choose her over me. If you are not ready to do that, you are not ready to be married. She has to come first.”  Even though Flo loved her boys and had a good relationship with them, she knew that her boys needed to “leave father and mother” so that they could be united with their wives.

These words of wisdom helped shape her sons’ devotion to their wives. In situations when she felt like interfering, she would remind herself of that advice she had shared with her sons. And so these words also helped prevent Flo from speaking words that might have been hurtful to her sons’ marriages.

In an age of helicopter parents who hover over and interfere in their children’s lives, even if they are married adults, I appreciate the wisdom Flo shared with her sons. In an age where mothers and fathers are so emotionally and spiritually needy they cannot bear to “cut the apron strings,” I admire a woman who is emotionally and spiritually healthy enough to release her sons so they may be fully devoted to their wives.

“The wise woman builds her house, but with her own hands the foolish one tears hers down” (Proverbs 14:1).

Holding Carson

“How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” 1 John 3:1 a

Last December when Keith and Mindy told us they were expecting their first child, I began wondering what holding Carson would be like. After months of waiting, Carson Robert Clark made his entry into the world. Lourene, Laura, and I were in the family waiting room along with Mindy’s family when we heard the wonderful news.

We made our way to their room and experienced that holy moment of seeing Carson for the first time, cradled in his mother’s arms. There was a mixture of tears and quiet laughter as we all tried to get a glimpse of his sweet face. Soon we made our way out of the room to give Keith, Mindy, and Carson some time together before Carson had to go to the nursery.

In the months waiting for Carson’s arrival friends tried to prepare me. Most of their comments about being a grandfather ended with, “It’s an amazing experience.” After a few moments in Carson’s presence and little more than a few glimpses of his face, I knew they were right — amazing! I love that little boy so much. The love for my grandson was as instant as my love for his father and aunt when they were born.

We stayed in town for the two days Mindy and Carson were in the hospital. I can tell you that I got to hold Carson in my arms four times for a total of about 35 minutes. I know this because I cherished every single minute.

When it was time to hand him over to the one waiting to hold him, I began thinking about the next time I would hold him. Truth is, the minute I passed him to his grandmother or aunt I was looking at the clock to figure out when would be my next turn.

Holding Carson was all I wanted to do!

As I reflect on holding Carson I imagine God wanting to hold me. I love being a grandfather. Being a grandfather reminds me how wonderful it is to be a child of God. Holding Carson reminds me of the love God has lavished on me.

Sorry if I seem a little distracted these days. Chances are, I am daydreaming about the next time I am holding Carson.

Saturday Links for September 4, 2010

Looking for something good to read this Saturday? You might want to check out these links!

Do you remember the old-saying turned bumper-sticker, “The Family that Prays Together Stays Together”? Well, seems like there is some substance to the old cliche. The Economist recently published a psychology piece that might interest you. Faith and Faithfulness:  Praying for your partner stops you straying discusses the impact of prayer on staying faithful in marriage.

There has been no shortage of media response to Kenda Creasy Dean’s (minister and professor at Princeton Theological Seminary)  book, Almost Christian: What the Faith of Our  Teenagers is Telling the American Church. While there’s a bunch of stuff out there, I especially enjoyed reading a CNN report, Author: More teens becoming “fake” Christians by John Blake.

And enjoy your grandchildren!

Psalm 128

A Pilgrim Song

1-2 All you who fear God, how blessed you are! how happily you walk on his smooth straight road!
You worked hard and deserve all you’ve got coming.
Enjoy the blessing! Revel in the goodness!

3-4 Your wife will bear children as a vine bears grapes,
your household lush as a vineyard,
The children around your table
as fresh and promising as young olive shoots.
Stand in awe of God’s Yes.
Oh, how he blesses the one who fears God!

5-6 Enjoy the good life in Jerusalem
every day of your life.
And enjoy your grandchildren.
Peace to Israel!

The Prayer of my Heart

Psalm 127

A Pilgrim Song of Solomon

1-2 If God doesn’t build the house, the builders only build shacks.
If God doesn’t guard the city,
the night watchman might as well nap.
It’s useless to rise early and go to bed late,
and work your worried fingers to the bone.
Don’t you know he enjoys
giving rest to those he loves?

3-5 Don’t you see that children are God’s best gift?
the fruit of the womb his generous legacy?
Like a warrior’s fistful of arrows
are the children of a vigorous youth.
Oh, how blessed are you parents,
with your quivers full of children!
Your enemies don’t stand a chance against you;
you’ll sweep them right off your doorstep.