Good Fathers

baby-203048__340What is a father? The variety of answers that this question elicits are almost unlimited. The possible replies are limited only by the number of human fathers that have existed. The description may incite joy or fear, hope or despair depending upon your personal experience. I have been blessed to have been raised by a loving human father. My concept of a father is one of unconditional love. This has made my relationship with our Heavenly Father easy to learn.

Despite this there are pronounced differences between my earthly father and my Heavenly Father, and I recognized many of them early. My earthly father could build anything, but he could not make other people do what he asked. My Heavenly Father could make people do what He wanted but chose to let us have free will.
Good fathers sometimes allow children to experience difficult things if it is needed to help them grow. Fathers who bail their kids out of every problem and buy their kids every gadget raise kids who have no ability to care for themselves. They become selfish, needy adults who take rather than give.

france-85871_960_720My Heavenly Father has been teaching me about humility and trust quite a bit lately. If God did what I wanted He would simply heal me. But, God knows far more than I do, and He clearly believes that I need to learn to submit to His will sometimes without fretting. I am reasonably good at giving my worries to God. I have a great deal of difficulty in letting go of the problems that I have given to God. I continue to fret and worry. Wisely, God my Heavenly Father is putting me through a training course on humility and submission. The world calls this course chronic illness; God calls it teaching His child.

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I faint, and nearly faint. The nearly comes from the fact that after many years I figured out that it is much less embarrassing to put your head between your knees in public than it is to fall on the floor unconscious. After a good blood test at the doctor, who is treating my anemia, I nearly fainted while standing in line to make my follow-up appointment. This could be the definitive description of embarrassing. They had to move another patient out of a treatment room to get me into a room with a recliner so that I could lie down with my feet up to recover. That is only a piece of the inconvenience that I inadvertently caused. All of the ordeal was only to find out that my anemia is still under control! I told my fiancé that it felt humiliating. He wisely told me it was a gift.
God, my Heavenly Father, is teaching me humility. That is what my fiancé pointed out. Humility comes from the same root as humiliating.

All too often we ask why God allows suffering and difficulty in the world if He is good. The question assumes that we know what the good is.

Often we know good, sometime we miss the point. Some hardship exists to teach us how to grow up into the kind of people we are made to be. We are made in the image of God. That fact usually causes us to expect greatness and power, but Jesus is God’s Son and true God. What we are trying to grow up into is Christ-like. Our Father knows that we will never become who we were made to be as long as we call good only the things that feel good to us.

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Good fathers don’t give us whatever we ask for. They do not solve all our problems, nor do they remove all our challenges. They would if it actually made our lives better. They would lay down their own lives for us if it would really help us.

The truth is they sometimes are required to love us through the hard places. Good fathers want us to learn and grow. Helping us grow means that they may walk through a fear or embarrassment with us rather than for us.

Our God is a Good Father. We see the evidence in all the blessings we so easily call good. If we look carefully we can also see the traces in the gifts that don’t look good at first. Then we may trace the trail of Jesus’ suffering through the tears or feel the Holy Spirit’s groans that are too deep for words and then the Father’s seeming inaction may make sense–good sense.

 

This post is a reflection on God as our Heavenly Father from the Nicene Creed. It is linked to If:Gathering app and the study on the Nicene Creed.

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How Fast is Time Flying?

imageWhat make time fly swiftly at some periods of life and crawl at others? This is one of the enigmas of time that we all recognize and ponder on some level. As a young lady I was fascinated by time and eternity. In my twenties I wondered why forty-year-olds didn’t know twice as much as twenty-year-olds. I concluded that it was a matter of constantly learning. I defined it as, “falling into a rut of sameness.” I vowed to keep my spirit hungry for learning and thereby to ensure a life well-lived.

My goal became to always keep growing and learning. I promised to never stay static. I recognized that life challenges us and encourages those who fall into being busy to the point of barely holding-on. Through the last decade I have witnessed an extraordinary push in our culture for people to overschedule themselves to the point of exhaustion. I am not sure if it is really more prevalent in our society or if it is a matter of the demographic that I am part of. Are we actually more stressed and overcommitted or is it generation-x coming into middle age? I suspect that both factors prevail. I know that I have been stretched so thin that I collapse exhausted into bed at the end of the day and rise eight hours later to start the whole run-until-you-drop all over again the next day. What I think may be new is that I consider myself lucky that I actually have the privilege of eight hours in bed. Notice, I did not say that I get eight hours of sleep a night. Like most of my contemporaries I battle insomnia.

We have lost our connection to the natural world. I managed to take my dog to the park three times this spring and summer. I did not go to the park without her. I do not have useable outdoor space at home. Three times I went out into nature! Perhaps this is part of the struggle to sleep. Our activity has nothing to do with the seasons, the sun, the wind, growing things.
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If I am going to be true to my youthful promises to myself I need to consciously re-orient myself to the fact that the possibilities are indeed endless. I love to learn. Learning something new has always been refreshing and restorative for me. This summer I am learning to paint watercolors. It has been something I have wanted for longer than I remember. I never painted. Well, not on paper or canvas and painting a room isn’t nearly as enjoyable. No matter how much I want to paint it takes careful planning to achieve time. Time that we do not view as productive is the rarest commodity in our culture. I cannot help but believe that this is one of the reasons that all community groups and church groups are desperate for volunteers. We have become a culture that views anything that doesn’t produce an income as a time-waster. We all have a bucket-list of activities that we are going to pursue, “when we have time.” The reality that we do not allow ourselves time to continue learning doesn’t dawn upon us until it is too late.

My mother was going to write a couple of books. All my life I knew this fact. Someday. She was healthy until she was in her sixties and then developed cancer and went home to the Lord fast. When she turned sixty-five I asked her if she was going to write. She told me she was too tired. She never wrote her books. We have all lost out on her words. I cannot write her words. God gave them to her alone. It is ever thus for each of us.

What gifts has God given you? What have you always longed to learn? Why are you too busy to become a full person? In my early journal I vowed to never stop growing up. I have learned many things in my life. One of the more important is that God wants us to use our time here well. A life well-lived that makes the most of our God-given talents and dreams and is within reach of each of us. It is assuredly a matter of priority. A half-an-hour here and there really does make a difference.

I had a dear friend who was active well into her nineties. She always introduced me as her “youth leader” and I told everyone I wanted to “grow-up” to be like her. She never lost her love of learning and shared my enthusiasm for technology even though she did not personally have a computer. When I bought a new computer with a touch-screen I took it with me on a visit and she happily played along with me, writing with a stylus, taking and editing digital photos, etc. She entered into other people’s joy and love of learning. Need I say that she was a teacher and wherever she went, people would come up to her and say, ”You were my favorite teacher.” Each one of us is demonstrating what we regard as important everyday with our actions. What do your priorities teach? Is your bank account your value as a person? How important are your relationships? Are you growing or are you withering?