Raising BRAVE Dads

I recently wrote a blog about raising brave boys because the world needs a few good men in it. To raise those brave boys, it takes brave moms and dads.

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But the role of the father figure has been stomped on and mashed to pieces by society and the world. As a result, we have boys being raised by men who are afraid to be who they were truly created to be because everyone around them, including many women have stripped them bare and made them inadequate. Not every man has fallen prey but way too many have taken on this mind-set of failure. It has become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

We have dads portrayed as defuses and idiots on many major networks and in especially in kids’s programming. What is this teaching our kids, both boys and girls?

We have dads who bail on their families because they’ve bought into the message that they are stupid, have nothing to offer and aren’t needed anyway. If people already believe that, than why bother at all?

We have dads who fail to lead their families in spiritual matters. It’s moms who bring their kids to church the stats are telling us. Where are the men and why did they leave?

This is not a man bashing piece. On the contrary. As a mother of boys, it is important to me, that they learn to grow into strong, loving men, who are not afraid to be leaders. To lead their families, to lead in their jobs and in the world around them. To be the men they were created to be, not some feminized version that the world decided was necessary and right.

Some days it feels like a losing battle because men seem to be giving up ground here. The male beating that goes on in the media, in social settings and in conversations with women is seriously threatening our men, boys and future dads.

Moms, we need to look at how we speak to our husbands in front of our children and other people. Do we put them down, emasculate them, humiliate them? We’ve all done it. I’m guilty of it. We need to change our ways. As women, and wives, we need to respect our husbands but also believe in them. To put our trust and faith in them. To let them take the leadership reins. I believe that most men want to be good husbands and dads. They just need to be given the chance.

This is hard. I know. But as a mother of boys, I want them to see their Dad lead their family. I want them to see us (Mom and Dad) work together as partners, with respect and love for each other. I want them to witness their Dad being brave enough to listen to me and take in consideration my ideas, opinions, thoughts on important issues. But I also want them to see a strong woman who is brave enough to follow her husband. Sounds like an oxymoron. It isn’t. I believe it is the essence of a healthy marriage. (And you know I’m not talking about abusive relationships here.) This kind of healthy relationship mirrors our relationship with God. How as His sons and daughters, we have input but we need to trust and have faith that He knows what’s best for us. That we follow Him. We trust in His love. We let Him lead us.

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I am so blessed and thankful that my boys have a great role model in their Dad. He has made time for them even though a whole congregation wants and needs his attention as well. He has sat and played on the floor with them, first with trains and then lego and board games.

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When I have stepped back and rescinded control, my husband has more than stepped up to the plate. He does so many fatherly things well. Maybe as moms, we need to do this more often. Set our husbands up for success rather than failure.

This world needs to see men who are brave enough to step out and smash the demeaning image of men and dads that is so wrongly portrayed today. Who are brave enough to embody who a man really is and then go out and live it. So our boys can follow them and become the men God created them to be.

I’m on the lookout for a few good role models. What about you?

David: Portrait of a Son

If I wrote fiction, I’d base one of my characters on King David. He is one interesting dude. We all know him as the man after God’s own heart, but he was also someone who didn’t do anything half-way. And he did it all. He was both bad boy and the boy next door. He led a bunch a warriors called the Mighty Men (2 Sam 23:8,9). (Superheroes are biblical people!) This guy lived life to the fullest. David was as complex as his life was complicated.

In my devotions this week, after months of studying his life in Beth Moore’s Portraits of Devotion, we buried this amazing man.

There’s much of David’s story that I find tragic. Maybe because he didn’t do anything half-way, the tragedies seem even more heart-breaking. You’d think that a guy who walked this closely with God, wouldn’t stumble so badly. You’d think he’d have it together. He didn’t. His personal life had some serious gaffes. The kind that tear families apart. That bring about death, figuratively as well as literally. You’d think David would have wanted to hide from God or maybe God wouldn’t want much to do with David. That’s what you’d think.

It wasn’t that way at all. God doesn’t usually do things the way we’d think. In fact it was just the opposite. In reading the devotional, the picture that stood out to me was one of a father and his son. The love that girded that relationship even in the messy parts of David’s life.

IMG_1301If you’ve raised boys, you understand that on some levels they need to be tamed. There’s so much good stuff built into the DNA of boys but it needs to be shaped and channelled so it can be used mightily. I’m not talking about emasculating them. I’m talking about taming the wild into wild servanthood. This is part of a parent’s job.

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When God sets aside people to do great things in His kingdom, He usually sets them apart to tame them in a sense. It’s preparation for what’s ahead.  Moses lived in Midian for forty years after fleeing Egypt (Acts 7:29,30). Paul went to the desert after his conversion (Gal 1:17). David ran for his life, from Saul. David wasn’t just handed the throne He had been anointed for years earlier. He had to wait for it. And then He had to fight for it.

Waiting for something that’s been promised you, is one of the all-time pruning machines God uses, in my books. Waiting is excruciating. Waiting can bring out the worst in a person or the best. Sometimes it’s one then the other. Waiting can test your relationship with God. Waiting can make or break you depending on your attitude.

As a parent, making your child wait for something you want very much to give them, is also excruciating. I wonder if God feels that way too? David was God’s anointed to be king over His people. Do you think God couldn’t wait to give that to David? It’s a picture of a good dad, helping his son to grow up. God loved David so much that He taught him the lessons, some of them incredibly hard, that he needed to learn so he could step into a very big purpose, matured and ready.

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Throughout his life, David had God’s love and favour. Maybe because deep down, David’s heart was tightly bound to God’s own heart. When God dealt with David in his mess and sin, David repented. His heart was teachable and open. On several occasions David listened to advice from his appointed leaders even though he was king. He didn’t have to.  David’s love, respect and awe for His God is somewhat breathtaking. He exhibited a humble spirit before God. His position, his wealth, his success didn’t deter David from recognizing who was in control of His life. We could take a few lessons from him.

In the very depths of his heart, David was still the son looking to his Father for guidance, for love and to do His will. David never outgrew that. Even in his old age, David was still the son, adoring his Father.

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God honoured David for his faithfulness and love. He gave David His favour, then the favour of men. God loved David. Life was still hard. David still struggled but he wasn’t alone. He was beloved. That made the difference in the outcome of David’s life.  It is one of the thrilling things about David’s story; this love between God, the heavenly father and David, his adopted son. It gives us insight into the kind of connection we can have with God. Sometimes I think that David’s bond with God was a “one of a kind” deal. But it’s not. Maybe so much of David’s life is shared in scripture so that we will learn from it and get an idea of the kind of relationship we can have with God our Father. To start to understand and believe that’s why He created us. Maybe the story of David can inspire us to pursue that deep relationship with God. To not be satisfied with mediocre but to seek hard after the One who calls us beloved.

So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God. Galations 4:7 ESV

When Church is Imperfect and Feels Unsafe

Sunday, my husband, the pastor, was talking about how we are the living stones of the church, built on the cornerstone. Part of being that living wall of believers, of being the church, is discovering how we fit together through relationship. I was getting slightly uncomfortable. And then it happened. A line in a song or maybe my husband said it, about church being a safe place.

My hackles went up. Honestly, as a pastor’s wife, I haven’t found the church to be the safest place. Not by a long shot. And as a pastor’s wife, should I really be admitting that?

In reality, there are a lot of people who have not found the church to be a safe haven. Both those in ministry and those who attend services have been wounded.

I think what makes it worse, we’re blindsided by it. We think that all Christians are good people who always behave like Jesus did. That’s a very unrealistic expectation on our part since no one is perfect. Including pastoral staff, board members and Sunday school teachers. But because we slap the label Christian on everyone and everything in a ten mile radius of a church, when people are rude, unkind, and downright malicious, the cut is even deeper and bloodier. It hurts. A.Lot.

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We need to ask ourselves, why are we surprised? In a perfect world, the church should be very different. People should behave a lot better! The church should stand out from the crowd, and the world. It should be a refuge for all. Don’t get me wrong. There are churches out there who do it well. But no place is perfect. Every church has it’s faults as well as its silver linings. I’ve been and served in enough of them, to know.

You don’t have to look very far into the New Testament, to see that the ancient church wasn’t much different. Jesus dealt firsthand with pharisees, religious rulers who felt they belonged in an elite crowd, those who doubted His calling or His God-given vision. Even one of his own inner circle betrayed him. Ouch. Betrayal is one bitter pill that cuts all the way down. Jesus understands. As the apostles went out and built the New Testament church, they also encountered difficult people, issues and problems.  So why are we surprised by what goes down in the church today?

The church will never be the perfect place we long for it to be. It cannot meet all our needs. Can it do better? Um, yes. It absolutely can. Every church has room for improvement. Some more than others.

I believe in the local church. We served under a pastor who instilled in us that the local church was God’s plan to bring redemption to the world. Period. I’m a believer. I just don’t always want to engage. But it’s to my detriment. If its God’s will but I’m refusing to be a part of it, then I lose out. I know this but I still struggle with it. This is a conversation God has been having with me for a better part of I’m not sure how long. Some days I choose to walk away from said conversation. He hasn’t let it go. I don’t think He will until I choose to engage.

What about you? Is this something you are struggling with, thinking about? If it is, know you are not the only one.

The only place that will be perfect is Heaven. And only Jesus can meet all our needs. He is the cornerstone. The one we need to keep our lives lined up with as my husband reminded us on the weekend. Maybe, just maybe, if all of us who set foot in a church, both staff and congregants alike, focused only on Christ, and following His example and His call on our lives, the church could move forward and become the place of His love, His care, His peace, His refuge. It is His House after all. No one else can lay claim to it, no matter how much they put in the offering plate or how many years they’ve served there. Maybe instead of being His House in theory, it could be His House in practice. Because the people who make up the church are committed to only Jesus, His teachings and His commandments.

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It might be time to engage in that conversation…and if that’s too hard at the moment, at least to open our minds and hearts to the possibility of having that conversation in the near future.

Summer Reading 2015

My Reading Lists are not pieces of paper but rather stacks of books laying around the house. I hate putting them away because I’m afraid I’ll forget about them and they won’t get read. So piles of books lay around, begging to be read next. Some are fiction, others non-fiction. I have favoured fiction this last year. After getting a degree in English, I went about two years reading hardly anything to reading mostly non-fiction with the occasional novel thrown in.

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I think I got sick of all the DIY books and failing at them dreadfully. Combine that with a son who is a voracious reader himself and is reading well beyond his school years. I decided I better read some of those novels he kept asking about. I had forgotten how much I enjoyed curling up with a good book! I was a bookworm as a kid, often preferring the characters in my books to real people. Sometimes that’s still true! 🙂

It’s an addiction for sure. There are days in our house, where not much gets done.  I mean, where is the dirt going to go anyways?  I have ignored everyone and everything around me. Irresponsible? Yes especially for an adult and mother. Oh well it can’t be helped. No one has starved. The house is not infested.  Everyone is very much alive and kicking.  And as my writing buddy reminds me, “For a writer, reading is research.” Mmmm yes, yes it is!

Since volunteering in my kids’ library at school, I also feel it is my responsibility to know at least a few of the books and series on the shelves, so I can help recommend books to the students. So that’s my excuse, I’m sticking with it.

I’ve read so many good books this year, I can’t even list them all. I’ve mentioned some in different blogs or quoted from them. If I’ve mentioned them, then I’ve really enjoyed that particular book.

If you’re looking for some recommendations, here are a few great reads for the beach this summer or sitting on a porch with a glass of lemonade:

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Fiction:

Desperate Measures by Sandra Orchard
This is the last book in the Port Aster series. This was a great mystery that spanned all three books. I really enjoyed this series. It was really well written! And she’s Canadian!

David Baldacci

I read anything by this guy! He writes about spies and Washington! Very interesting reading. I’m planning on reading his new book, Memory Man this summer. He has several series in his portfolio. I don’t think I’ve ever been disappointed by him.

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

An adult dystopian novel. I found this very different from other books I’ve read. I liked it and it certainly gives one a lot to think about if a pandemic should ever happen.

YA Lit – I’ve read so much good young adult literature this year that I couldn’t even begin to list them.  Here is a sampling.  

The Agency Series by Y.S. Lee

Book #1 A Spy in the House
Takes place in the 1800s about a girl spy. Oxymoron right? That’s what makes it fun. Think Murdock Mysteries with a teenage girl as protagonist. There are four books in all.

Gregor the Overlander Series by Suzanne Collins  

I read this series a while back but it was so great!  It’s nothing like The Hunger Games (which I enjoyed too) but goes to show what a great writer Suzanne Collins is.  It’s a fantastical tale but the characters are so awesome!   I was sorry to finish reading these five books.

Matched Trilogy by Ally Condie  

Slated Trilogy by Terri Terry

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Non-Fiction

Becoming Myself by Stasi Eldridge

This was such an awesome book! Read it and read it again! And then go read anything else that Stasi or her husband John has written. It’s all good!

The Pastor’s Kid by Barnabas Piper

Read this if you are a pastor or a pastor’s wife or a pastor’s kid. Then give it to your church library or someone in the church and tell them to read it! It should be required reading in seminary and for anyone who ever wanted to tell the pastor or his wife how to raise their kids!

Some Books I Plan to Read This Summer (let me go check my piles!)

Memory Man by David Baldacci

The other three books in the Agency series

Fight Back with Joy by Margaret Feinberg

Sand in My Sandwich by Sarah Parshall Perry

Breathing Room by Leeana Tankersley

Elijah’s Boy by R. K. Livingston  (A friend and local writer!  Check out her website!)

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Go get yourself to your local library or bookstore and start an adventure that’s only a page turn away!

Being Defined By Love

“Remember, our choices decide who we are, but our loves define who we’ll become.”
The Pawn, by Steven James

Read this quote recently in a novel. It stood out because it seemed so out of place in a story about a profiler. Just goes to show that you can’t judge a book by its cover.

It was so remarkable I marked the page and then later wrote it out.

Choices we make do decide who we are. We decide what our attitudes will be. How we will respond to someone or…is it more of a reaction? We decide what job and activities to pursue. Who we will marry. Our decisions do make up a large part of who we are. But they don’t define us.

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Wedding Day over twenty years ago!

I really love the last part of this quote. “Our loves define who we’ll become.” There is hope in that statement. Like it’s never too late. In the novel, the protagonist was struggling to love his very prickly, grief-stricken step-daughter after her mother’s death. It wasn’t that he didn’t love her, he just didn’t know how to show it.

When we choose not to love, we become less. I believe this. I’ve felt this. We shrivel into ourselves. We grow inward instead of outward.

In loving people, we become more. I believe God designed it this way. His intent was always that we love through relationships. To grow outward, reaching out, toward others. Think of vines and branches like Jesus often talked about. He is the vine and we are the branches. He loves us first. We love Him back. Then we reach out to other branches around us. We bear the fruit of that love.

We shy away from this purpose in our lives don’t we? I do. It’s risky, loving others. Even the easiest people to love, some days aren’t so lovable.

Maybe that’s the point. Asking us to love the unlovable stretches us beyond what we think we’re capable of. We have to rely on God to help us do it. I’d rather stay stunted sometimes, to be honest. Make excuses. And I have. I would continue to do so except that is not what God wants from us. That’s not what He’s commanded us. Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’  All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” Matt 22:37-40

It’s definitely a command. We can’t do it in our own strength. We’ve all tried and failed. Sometimes miserably. God isn’t asking us to go it alone. Some days I have to ask God to help me love my children, my husband, because at the moment I don’t like them very much. I’m sure the feeling is mutual at times! I ask to see them through His eyes not my own. To see what He sees instead of my selfish, warped, sin-filled perspective.

Some days I need to pray that same prayer about myself. I’ve written myself off because once again, I’ve failed and it feels like there will never be any victory on this earth.

Or maybe I need a reality check on an enemy. Our sons have struggled with being bullied. We tell them that bullies usually learn it somewhere, sadly, often times at home. We don’t condone the behaviour but we try to get the boys to think about it from a different perspective. Maybe the bully gets bullied somewhere else or by those he loves, who should be protecting him but aren’t. We don’t know because we don’t walk in their shoes but sometimes we need a glimpse from the perspective of those shoes belonging to our enemy.

We have to have His love in us to love others.

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That’s the crux for some of us. It’s hard to accept His love for us when we can barely stand the sight of ourselves in the mirror. That’s a bit of a problem on the love scale. It’s not easy to solve either. We might need to ask for some help with it. But it is something we all need to work out. If we can’t love ourselves, accept we are worthy of His love, it will just bounce off us. We don’t get filled up and we only have so much human love to give. It will eventually run out. The human love. Then we burn out. We get angry. We get frustrated.

If we can solve it and accept His love for us then we are filled with this divine love. It will start to define us. Who will we become? First we take on our rightful roles as His Sons and Daughters. It’s a role we are all given when we enter into His Family but few of us claim it.

We become people who are able to love unconditionally and without fear. Peter tells us that perfect love casts out all fear. That’s God’s love. Can you imagine God’s people, His church, loving without fear? How that would define not only God’s people but how it would change our communities, our churches, our families, our world?

It’s risky business, this love thing. The protagonist in The Pawn knew that. And deep down we do too. It makes life scarier for sure. There’s more at stake. More to lose. Yet in taking the risk and letting our loves define who we will become, we better ourselves, our world. Our lives take on purpose. In giving ourselves and our love away, we become who God created us to be. Defined by love.

Trusting Who God Is In Our Fear and Nightmares

We watched a war movie the other night that’s based on a book. True story. I can’t get it out of my mind. I wish I could. Because it has a very un-Hollywood ending. Its full of irony but not the kind I usually like. I believe the book was written first and then an ending so unimaginable played out after the fact.

I already knew what happened but watching the movie brought home for me again, how unfair life is. I was left with a bitter taste in my mouth. What a waste. I don’t understand in any way the purpose for the death of a good guy, who got it together, loved his family and tried to help others. It will be one of those questions, that will be first off my lips upon reaching heaven. Because honestly, God I don’t get it. It makes me mad. Perhaps because this isn’t just an isolated case. Maybe that’s why it tastes so vile. We all know someone or have endured ourselves, a similar story of unfairness, loss and grief.

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I get why bad stuff happens. Sin entered in and now we live in a fallen world. Blah blah blah. It doesn’t make it any easier to swallow the wicked always winning and the good guys always losing. I’m tired of that crappy ending. Seriously. Aren’t you?

So we’re left grappling. Trying to grab something of substance that will make sense in a makes-no-sense world.

I read somewhere or heard (I can’t remember the source now) that, it’s not what God does but who He is.

I got a dose of understanding of this concept this spring. I was driving home after a trip. It had been a good time away. I had no need to feel fear. But I was having a major anxiety attack. I wrestled through it for an hour. Going over worst case scenarios and what they would look like. What would happen if God didn’t answer my prayer how I wanted? That fear compounded the original one. Then I remembered this statement. It’s not what God does but who He is.

I thought about it. He was good even if what I didn’t want to happen, in the end happened. How could this be? What made God good if He wasn’t going to do what I wanted?

What made God good, was He wasn’t going to high tail it out of there. He might allow it to happen but He would stay by my side and give me what I needed to get through it. The thought gave me peace. I understood the statement thoroughly that day in the car. It had nothing to do with what He did or allowed, it was all about who He is. And He was much more powerful, compassionate, loving and wise than the bad I was fearing.

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A couple months later, as I’m contemplating the horrible ending of a good man, I’m again filled with doubt. Fearing something that hasn’t happened and dealing with real, ugly endings are two distinct things. Aren’t they? Fearing something that hasn’t happened yet and probably won’t, is different from dealing with a real life nightmare. Where the bad guys have won this battle and looks like a slew more.

How does one understand this concept when bad stuff is going on in our lives right now. Because some days, God doesn’t seem like someone I would like, or can trust. He’s not doing what I like or want, because He’s allowing bad stuff to happen to me, those I love and sometimes to people I don’t even know. It hurts. It’s confusing. It feels like betrayal.

As I’ve wrestled this in my mind, I’ve come to understand that there is no difference between living in fear and living in a nightmare when it comes to who God is. The circumstances change but God does not. Ever. He is always the same God, past, present, and future. Feelings are not reliable. Neither is our heart. They are the fickle ones, not God. Our feelings change as readily as our circumstances. God remains the constant.

If He remains the same, perhaps we need to discover exactly who He is so we can depend on the One who is unchanging rather than those things, and people, that can change so quickly?

This is who God is and it’s just a fraction of His character:
God is good. Psalm 136:1
He will never leave us. Deut 31:6
He loves us with an unfailing love. Jer 31:3
He works out everything for our good. Rom 8:28

Again, these are just a handful of God’s characteristics but good ones to remember when we are trying to understand it’s not what He does but who He is, in our own particular horrible, very bad days.

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Long ago the LORD said to Israel: “I have loved you, my people, with an everlasting love. With unfailing love I have drawn you to myself. Jer 31:3 NLT