Fields of Grief and Joy

Years ago I stood in a quiet Pennsylvania field.  It was as beautiful that day as it was today, and as it was fourteen years ago.  I had my oldest son with me there.  He was just 3 years old and didn’t know why just being there was terribly difficult.  He didn’t understand the long granite path into a field that seemingly held nothing.  I didn’t tell him that day that free men and women died in that field not that long ago in the most recent shots of a clash of civilizations because he didn’t yet have the maturity to understand.  Funny thing is that the joy of taking a walk with his dad was infectious.

There was sadness and grief there, but there was also joy.  Joy in the bright sunshine and perfectly cloudless blue sky.  Joy in the quiet solitude of the field and the trees beyond.  Joy in the eyes of a child and the new place.

I have said before that I have learned so much more about God after becoming a father.  That day God used my son to teach me a lesson that I knew intellectually, but had never really thought through.

I knew the moment that I first saw the towers burning that Americans were dying at the hands of a mortal enemy.  I knew that moment that my life and everyone’s lives would change forever.  I was sad for my country and grieved the loss of life.  That grief turned to anger, as it did for many.

What I didn’t know was that God was setting me up for that day years later in that field – so that I might finally understand this:

You have turned for me my mourning into dancing;
    you have loosed my sackcloth
    and clothed me with gladness,
that my glory may sing your praise and not be silent.
    O Lord my God, I will give thanks to you forever!

Psalm 30:11-12

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PSA: Drowning

There are many misconceptions about drowning.  It is so critically important to understand the differences between struggling and drowning because it takes so painfully short of a time for someone, especially a child, to drown.

Rescuing Drowning Children

  1. “Except in rare circumstances, drowning people are physiologically unable to call out for help. The respiratory system was designed for breathing. Speech is the secondary or overlaid function. Breathing must be fulfilled before speech occurs.
  2. Drowning people’s mouths alternately sink below and reappear above the surface of the water. The mouths of drowning people are not above the surface of the water long enough for them to exhale, inhale, and call out for help. When the drowning people’s mouths are above the surface, they exhale and inhale quickly as their mouths start to sink below the surface of the water.
  3. Drowning people cannot wave for help. Nature instinctively forces them to extend their arms laterally and press down on the water’s surface. Pressing down on the surface of the water permits drowning people to leverage their bodies so they can lift their mouths out of the water to breathe.
  4. Throughout the Instinctive Drowning Response, drowning people cannot voluntarily control their arm movements. Physiologically, drowning people who are struggling on the surface of the water cannot stop drowning and perform voluntary movements such as waving for help, moving toward a rescuer, or reaching out for a piece of rescue equipment.
  5. From beginning to end of the Instinctive Drowning Response people’s bodies remain upright in the water, with no evidence of a supporting kick. Unless rescued by a trained lifeguard, these drowning people can only struggle on the surface of the water from 20 to 60 seconds before submersion occurs.”

This doesn’t mean that a person that is yelling for help and thrashing isn’t in real trouble—they are experiencing aquatic distress. Not always present before the Instinctive Drowning Response, aquatic distress doesn’t last long—but unlike true drowning, these victims can still assist in their own rescue. They can grab lifelines, throw rings, etc.

Look for these other signs of drowning when persons are in the water:

  • Head low in the water, mouth at water level

  • Head tilted back with mouth open

  • Eyes glassy and empty, unable to focus

  • Eyes closed

  • Hair over forehead or eyes

  • Not using legs—vertical

  • Hyperventilating or gasping

  • Trying to swim in a particular direction but not making headway

  • Trying to roll over on the back

  • Appear to be climbing an invisible ladder

The Shadow of the Gun

Gun horror is not a productive emotion, but learned helplessness disguised as moral superiority. Rather than teaching children to hate killers, schools are instead teaching them to hate guns. And reducing murders to instruments rather than morals, children are left with no sense of right and wrong, only an instinctive horror of violence.

Read more at Sultan Knish’s blog.

Do You Have a Family Password?

As a father of two boys under five years old, I struggle with how to provide them with the tools to keep themselves safe when they finally venture off to school and are outside of our home.  This is a great, easy tool to give them and something that my oldest and I have started to practice with (so far, with just a single code word that if I say he is to run as far as possible, while Daddy engages the bad guy or guys).

Do You Have a Family Password?

 

Arrows

Like arrows in the hands of a warrior
are children born in one’s youth.
Blessed is the man
whose quiver is full of them.

Psalm 127:4-5

He shot his arrows and scattered the enemy,
with great bolts of lightning he routed them.

2 Samuel 22:15

arrow2

Children are like arrows.  Mine are young right now, but one day I will send them out into the world to do battle with it.  Will they be well-made – hewn from stout wood?  Bound strongly and tempered to flex, but not break?  Will I fletch them correctly to guide them on their flight?  Will their sharpened warheads pierce the evil they are sure to encounter?

Thirst

Are you thirsty today?

My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.
When can I go and meet with God?

Psalm 42:2

My oldest son is being used by God to show me something and it’s not subtle.  Everyone is born with fundamental questions within their soul that need to be answered.

Where do I come from?

Why I am I here?

Where am I going?

Why is there something rather than nothing?

Why is the world like this?

Is there a God?

What is good?

What is evil?

What is truth?

How can I be happy?

When you boil down every world religion and philosophy, they are all attempting to answer these questions.  There is a thirst for knowledge and truth within us all and the driving element in our life is our attempt to answer these questions.

You, God, are my God, earnestly I seek you;
I thirst for you, my whole being longs for you,
in a dry and parched land where there is no water.

Psalm 63:1

My oldest son has an intense focus on books and puzzles. Being four years old, he studies things incredibly and remembers the smallest details about these things that capture his interest.  He will spend hours in his room quietly playing with a single puzzle, memorizing every single piece to the point where I believe he could assemble it in the dark if he really wished to do so.  My son’s thirst is well-developed and he is attempting to quench it.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.

Matthew 5:6

For Christmas, my son received a gift to help quench this thirst and encourage it to grow within him.  He received a bible for Christmas (mind you, he is not quite four years old yet).  Most kids would put the bible aside and attack the toys still waiting under the tree or already unwrapped.  He on the other hand promptly sat down and started to read.  It has only been a few short weeks since he received this gift, but he is addicted.  If this is the addiction (and we all have one) he suffers from in his life, praise be to God.

Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.

John 7:37-38

My son truly clings to the Word.  He wants to know where it is always.  He wants to bring it with him to everything we do (eating dinner, playing with cars on the floor, to the gym, or to Nana’s house).  He wants the Word close to him as often as possible.

Shouldn’t we all feel that way?  When the trials of life hit us, we may turn to the Word for reassurance, but do we do it daily?  Do we cling to it?  I thought I understood what Christ meant when he said the following.

Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.

Matthew 19:14

Children are able to put such amazing faith into things.  They believe them fully – Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, Tooth Fairy, Spiderman, and untold numbers of other completely fictional creations, but there is something else… children are not yet corrupted by pride or personal success, they have a thirst that seems so unquenchable that when they are exposed to the Wellspring, they fear to leave it behind as it is exactly what their souls need – knowledge, truth, strength, courage, faith, righteousness, perfection.

My son CLINGS to the Word at just shy of four years old.  Do I?

Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters.

Isaiah 55:1

Whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.

John 4:14

spring-water

 

The Law

We know that the law is good if one uses it properly. We also know that the law is made not for the righteous but for lawbreakers and rebels, the ungodly and sinful, the unholy and irreligious, for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers, for the sexually immoral, for those practicing homosexuality, for slave traders and liars and perjurers—and for whatever else is contrary to the sound doctrine that conforms to the gospel concerning the glory of the blessed God, which he entrusted to me.

1 Timothy 1:8-11

What is the law?

The Apostle Paul was a highly educated man, so it is understood that he was talking about the Old Law here, the Judaic norms, practices, etc.  This is an interesting passage though because of the phrase “the law is made not for the righteous but for lawbreakers and rebels…”

It is fairly well understood as well as in my observation that the law was instituted so man would understand that he could never live up to the righteousness necessary to be in God’s presence.  The law’s purpose was to convict the people in their hearts of their need for grace.

 So, my brothers and sisters, you also died to the law through the body of Christ, that you might belong to another, to him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit for God. For when we were in the realm of the flesh, the sinful passions aroused by the law were at work in us, so that we bore fruit for death. But now, by dying to what once bound us, we have been released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code.

Romans 7:4-6

So Paul, again, was writing that striving for obedience to the law only bore “fruit for death.”  Why is that?  If the law is God-given, isn’t it holy and just?  How could attempting to adhere to it cause “sinful passions” to be aroused?

Paul goes on and states:

I would not have known what sin was had it not been for the law. For I would not have known what coveting really was if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.”But sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, produced in me every kind of coveting. For apart from the law, sin was dead.

Romans 7:7-8

Is Paul saying that he would not have known how to sin or what was a sin if it were not for the law?

So is the law there to bind our behavior?

Imagine a metaphor.  As a father, I have to lay down rules of behavior for my children.  My children, before these rules are laid down would just go on not knowing that anything they were doing was “wrong” in my eyes.  The rules I laid out were designed to constrain certain behavior, but they did not put an end to it.  Rather, they provide a guideline for them – if you do X, you will be punished.  This doesn’t mean that such behavior is instantly curtailed, but rather they test the limits of this new rule in any number of ways.  They also do their best to get away with the behavior and hope that they don’t get caught.  How are we any different as children of God?

If the law is meant for the ungodly, then it is meant for people that are spiritual infants at best.  They need direction on how to be and how to act.  They need that direction that touching something hot will mean you get burned so don’t touch it.

Does this excuse the rest of us that have come by faith to Christ and mean that sin is no longer an issue for us because the law no longer binds us?  Not at all.  If you take Christ’s commands to love your neighbor as yourself and love God with all of your heart, mind, and soul, then you will act in accordance with the law of God without needing the law to convict you daily.  Instead of striving to obey the law, you will strive to love fully, and by doing so you will fulfill the law as Christ did with his death and resurrection.

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