So this is birth month for our first child, Hazel Grace. We're at maximum excitement and anxiety about the journey ahead.
Two things I've read scare me to death about bringing this precious girl into the world under my stewardship:
1. A girl's father is the most important person in her life.
2. Parenting is largely who you are and what you do as a person; not what you do or what you say as a parent.
Talk about pressure! The Lord created this beautiful soul and body inside Amanda's womb and he's entrusting her to my leadership (thankfully, with Amanda's help). And that leadership isn't as much something I learn from a book/lecture/class as it is an outgrowth of who I am as a person.
I am humbled the Lord trusts me and Amanda to raise Hazel to know him. But I also recognize his trust has little-to-nothing to do with my ability to earn or deserve it. I want to please the Lord more than anything, but boy do I fall short sometimes (cf. Rom. 3:23)! My laziness, fearfulness, apathy, complacency, anger, jealousy, and judging rise to the surface more often than my ability to control them.
So I'm a little anxious I'll raise a lazy, scared, disinterested, entitled, mad, jealous, judgmental little girl. Overreaction? Possibly. But I still have doubts about my ability to consistently be the man of God she needs in her life.
But there's one statement that continues to blow up these doubts.
But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. (1 Corinthians 15:10)
Paul had every reason to believe he was unworthy to preach the gospel and serve as an apostle. But he recognized God's loving mercy and grace allowed him and empowered him to do just that.
I am so thankful Jesus came to extend God's grace over my sin. And I'm thankful that as I grow daily in His grace, my daughter can see not how great I am, but how awesome God is.
While I want to be the perfect dad for Hazel, I'm thankful that she gets to see the perfect Father working through an imperfect one. And that she can learn she has the same hope in Him.
I've been told I write well.
College professors complimented my writing style when grading my assignments. Rarely do I write a bulletin article that someone doesn't tell me "good job," or "I liked that one." Amanda probably praises my writing ability and style more than any single strength of mine. I've even had a childhood friend praise my writing style, though he disagrees with much of what I've written.
I wouldn't dare suggest that praise is proof that I'm a good writer. But I do think I've learned throughout the years how to communicate in a clear, smooth, and enjoyable style. On that level, my on-again/off-again blogging habits are irresponsible stewardship of an ability with which the Lord has blessed me.
But this alleged "writing well" also provides a different dimension in the world of blogging. I know a lot of good writers who write blogs that stink. There are very few blogs--including popular ones--that I actually enjoy.
The blogs I enjoy most communicate a specific purpose, but are not predictable and formulaic. I can think of at least one such blog by someone I don't consider a great writer. But he (or she) is a fantastic blogger.
So it's possible part of my struggle with maintaining consistency at blogging (to a lesser degree than this) is that I've never approached this space with a sense of purpose.
I still don't know what my exact purpose for blogging should be. I know a few things I don't want it to be. And I have some ideas about what I might like for it to be.
Above all, I want to be helpful.
I have no desire to get another "Thanks for that post," "great job," or "someone needed to say this" about posts here. But my prayer is that from time-to-time, someone does something based on what they read here and it influences the kingdom, the community, or the world for good.
Our greatest struggles often aren't determining what to do. But a lot of us struggle with figuring out how. So I want to write not to write well, but to write how. Writing well easily becomes about me; but I want to write how so that it's about you. And about that someone you can help.
Again, I thank you for reading. Let's commit to helping one another. It is difficult to purposefully and consistently be helpful. But we all need it.
Every person has strong emotions and specific visions about how he/she should use money. So when two people get married, the oft-differing perspectives can create all sorts of difficulties. If left to the changing winds of emotions and assumptions, money tension can effectively end marriages, or at least render them unfulfilling.
Scott and Bethany Palmer are not trained marriage counselors, but they are financial counselors who've seen their fair share of marriages devastating by money difficulties. In The 5 Money Personalities: Speaking the Same Money and Love Language, they walk through their self-identified 5 "Money Personalities" for the purpose of addressing the potential for conflict in marriage over money. They especially emphasize ways to make differing personalities work together. The second-half of the book deals largely with the emotional foundations of financial conflict in marriage. They address the role of financial infidelity and take an honest look at why it hurts so much. They close the book with practical strategies for maintaining healthy communication in marriage when it comes to money, including how to "fight fair."
I can't say that I enjoyed reading the book. But the majority of the reasons why I didn't are largely "external" and related to how the book was organized and approached. The content of the book is especially helpful, however. I highlighted over 30 quotes in my Kindle for future reference. It's clear they know what they are talking about. I just think they could have had some better advice or editing when it comes to laying it out clearly in the book.
I was especially intrigued by the notion that criticism about our money personalities is extremely painful because we feel as though our perspectives about money are noble, right, and in the best interest of our marriage.
There are a lot of helpful and eye-opening aspects to the material here. Though it's ideally written toward all married couples, I would only really recommend it to couples with particularly strained relationships. It would also be helpful for those who counsel couples with financial difficulties or those with specific financial interests.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com <http://BookSneeze®.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.
Let the lowly brother boast in his exaltation, and the rich in his humiliation, because like a flower of the grass he will pass away. For the sun rises with its scorching heat and withers the grass; its flower falls, and its beauty perishes. So also will the rich man fade away in the midst of his pursuits. (James 1:9-11)
In addition to writing his book full of imperative statements, James also relies heavily upon contrasting elements. In 1:9-11, he contrasts the "lowly" against the "rich." He challenges them with action in the present, but does so by previewing the future.
We must take note that James' emphasis is not upon their bank accounts; it's upon their attitudes. The lowly (humble, 4:1-10) brother acknowledges the utmost importance of God in all that he does. He will be exalted in the life to come. The rich are not necessarily all who are financially blessed, but those whose pride and boasting are founded upon their possessions--and the status in life they provide (cf, 5:1-6).
When Jesus came to earth, he turned it upside down--especially for the Jews. He didn't come with the purpose of doing away with rich and poor designations while on earth. He came to show that man will not be judged by their political, socio-economic, or even religious status. He will judge all men by their hearts (Matt. 5:8).
To illustrate this reversal of standing, James turns to nature in a way where first century Palestinians could not misunderstand him. He compares those who are rich to the grass and flowers of the land. Though beautiful, they don't last forever. Though beautiful, they don't withstand the elements of heat. Likewise, he says, the rich man will perish "in the midst of his pursuits."
These few verses are not James' final word on proper attitudes, partiality, riches, and the brevity of life. He further develops those themes throughout his letter. But we cannot gloss over these specific instructions. Humble and lowly Christians should take courage from their relationship with the Creator of the universe; Christians who choose to build their lives on possessions should repent. Soon, there will be a day when those possessions are nothing but dust.
Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it. (Matt. 7:24-27)
The shortest distance between two points is a straight line.
The shortest distance between children’s hearts and Christ is their parents (Deut. 6:6-9).
From the beginning of creation, God designed the world to operate through parents raising children, who then become parents who raise their children, etc. Modern societies spend countless hours and dollars attempting to transform current generations into upstanding citizens. Yet God’s design places them into the care of people who are relationally and emotionally in the best situation to protect them, teach them, and introduce them to Him.
- They are blessed to listen to you pray thanksgiving for their food.
- They are blessed to see you show affection to your spouse.
- They are blessed to interrupt your quiet personal study of God’s Word.
- They are blessed to notice your graceful and calm response to difficulties at work.
- They are blessed to discuss perplexing spiritual questions while you’re in the car.
- They are blessed to ask you about sensitive and embarrassing things they hear at school.
- They are blessed to cry on your shoulder when you tell them about death, pain, and loss.
- They are blessed to observe that your commitment to the Lord guides your every decision.
- They are blessed to approach God’s throne while you tuck them into bed each night.
- They are blessed to receive the discipline you lovingly provide.
- They are blessed to hear your words of praise more often than words of correction.
- They are blessed to witness your example of service to the Lord and others.
- They are blessed not just to have someone. They are blessed to have you.
The ugly side of this blessing is that parents are also the shortest distance from their child’s heart to hypocrisy, apathy, resentment, and rebellion. Each day’s decisions are building something in their hearts. You have the opportunity to ensure what it is.
We are currently living in difficult financial times (not that you need me to tell you, or anything). When we experience a difficult situation of any kind (more than just financial), we have an opportunity to learn valuable lessons. Among them, we should learn how to improve the situation. There are several questions we need to ask--and answer--along the way in order to get to that intended destination.
I'm not an economist. I'm not a politician. And I'm not a politician who thinks he's an economist. The purpose of this post--and the ones that follow--is not to be political, dogmatic, or controversial. During difficult times, it's a temptation to let emotion override reason; our goal, however, is to exercise reason by asking and answering pointed questions concerning our current economic climate.
We could spend a long time figuring out exactly what policies and factors led to our current recession. We know a lot of people made some stupid choices. But we also want to know who messed up, right? The government blames businesses. Businesses blame the government. New government blames the old government. The unemployed blame the employed. The employed blame the unemployed. We're quick to blame someone--anyone--just not ourselves.
Most Americans have taken full advantage of a credit-based economy over the past several years and decades. That means we as consumers have spent more than we have earned. Banks have loaned more than they could afford to people they shouldn't have loaned to. Americans have tallied up debt on credit cards, car financing, mortgages, department store cards, home equity lines of credit, payday loans, and any other possible way to get something they simply can't afford with cash. Eventually, the sources of the given credit come calling for their money--especially when their lender comes after them. Though a portion of the downturn is cyclical, we are largely victims of our own dependency on credit and debt. In order to move forward, it's important that we recognize our role in getting ourselves into financial trouble.
We as Christians shouldn't be surprised by the answer to "Who's to blame?" Accepting personal responsibility is at the very heart of becoming a Christian. We submit to God because we realize our sinful shortcomings. We regularly admit to and repent of sin that creeps into our lives. Just as we recognize our spiritual shortcomings, we must have the courage to admit that our poor financial choices contributed to our nation's economic recession. Only by admitting fault can we accept the personal responsibility to improve the situation.
"Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness." James 1:2-3
I love surfing the internet on April Fool's Day. It's a virtual game of "I Spy" to find the fake blog posts, the new upgrade to Gmail (this year it's Autopilot), and other attempts to get people to bite hook, line, and sinker. I've not been creative enough to devise a good April Fool's joke myself (I briefly considered complementing Lane Kiffin's public relations genius), but I love the hoopla surrounding the day. Based on my posting schedule, you might think me making a post at all is a joke .
This year, my mind turned toward the word of God. "The fool says in his heart, 'There is no God.' They are corrupt, they do abominable deeds, there is none who does good" (Ps. 14:1, ESV).
Something heavy and heartbreaking struck me this morning about this verse. I am a fool. I've never uttered the phrase "There is no God." I've never formulated an elaborate argument against the existence of God. But the verse isn't pointing the finger at the staunch, Richard Dawkins-like atheists. "The fool says in his heart...they do abominable deeds...there is none who does good." The "fool" label isn't just reserved for those who articulate a disbelief in God, but also for those who act as if He doesn't exist.
When I presume on God's grace and act in my own selfish interests, I'm a fool (Rom. 6:1-2).
When I talk badly about someone God created with a grand and glorious purpose in His spiritual kingdom, I'm a fool (Eph. 4:29).
When I convince myself this life is about "stuff" and how much of it I can accumulate, I'm a fool (Luke 12:13-21)
When I stretch, bend, or hide the truth--even when I'm doing something I think needs to be done--I'm a fool (Col. 3:9-10).
When I attempt to fulfill a God-given need in an ungodly way, I'm a fool (Matt. 4:2-4).
When I put off encouraging a brother or sister because "there's always tomorrow," I'm a fool (Heb. 3:13).
When I minimize God's standards of purity by surrounding myself with unholy people/watching unholy TV & movies/going to unholy places, I'm a fool (Eph. 5:3-12).
When I think that God won't do what He says He will do when I dishonor the blood of Christ, I'm a fool (Heb. 10:29-31).
"Father, help me to stop living as a fool--as if You don't exist. Thank you for forgiving the foolish (1 Jn. 1:9)."
Listened to a Catalyst Podcast yesterday. In the intro, there's this quote by Andy Stanley:
Leadership is a stewardship. It is temporary. And you're accountable.