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.

IMG_0656
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.

IMG_2730
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.

Advertisements

Black Holes of Music

sheet-music-944796__180

This evening I have a yellowed sheet of notebook paper in my hand. I was wondering what my reflections were on music in my college days. Despite hesitation and much gained maturity I will let my old self speak to you this evening about my love of music.

I never really had the time to pursue my music. Often, I really didn’t have the time, but sometimes it was also because I was afraid that I couldn’t bear to keep music for a hobby. Hobbies are something you do in your spare time. Music has always been a little dangerous for me. I love it so much that whenever I get involved in it I begin to pull back with fear.

That fear comes from the fact that it has resembled a black hole to me-one that I want to fall into. Music pulls at me with a force stronger than gravity when I get close to it. As long as I can remember I have wanted to throw myself in with reckless abandon. In my dreams I can let it swallow me up and I’ll never have time for ordinary life again.

I first learned piano beginning at age 10. Then I started rearranging my lesson songs, and won a talent contest with the updated version. At 12 I wrote my own songs. Then I wanted a better piano teacher, but couldn’t afford it. At 14 I discovered chamber music and the violin. For me the piano spoke to my heart and the violin echoed my soul. I couldn’t really find much in the way of a violin teacher. The dream faded. I wanted so badly to make time to learn enough theory to compose, but other priorities always drowned out the song.

In college I’d tuck a music course elective in here and there, but was becoming clear to me that it would never be. Ultimately, I decided that the brass ring had slipped through my hand. The dream never died.

I did make room for a hobby as a young adult. I did study theory and wrote more music. I used to lie awake at night listening to the strains of music in my head. The next day I would try to write them down. It wasn’t practical, but it was something that helped me through the hardest time of my life.

My beloved Mother developed cancer and died all too soon. When I remember that dreadful year of her chemo and radiation that ended at the cemetery all through it, I remember the music I was writing. I was singing to her the pinnacle of my compositions during her last day in the hospital. I think that God put the music in me for just that time.

The music faded away as I fell into my grief. Music never took me to a state of pure bliss. It did bear me through the dark hole of loss. It was the only earthly thing strong enough to distract me though that pivotal chapter of life, and death.

Beauty has the power to help us to process the unimaginable. We can walk down roads of song that we could never walk down in silence.Deep space seems to have a symphonic sound. The Holy Spirit, we are told in scripture, will make intercession for us with groans that are too deep for words. In the places that we cannot even find words, there may be music.

galaxy-11098__180

Nothing

WW1 foxholesIt just occurred to me again that this July 28th is the one-hundredth anniversary of the start of World War 1. The “Great War” or “War to End All Wars” was a dark period in history, so much suffering, so much destruction. How much have we learned as a society? For many people in Europe World War 1 was a war that left them with nothing. Their way of life was annihilated. For others life itself was gone and their families and communities could never be the same.

What am I afraid of loosing? What possessions, family, friends, habits, physical abilities, pleasures am I counting as necessary for life? So much of what society took for granted as basic was unraveled in the guns and poison gas of the “Great War”. What am I building my life upon?

“For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:38-39 My life as a Christian should be built on the solid rock of Jesus Christ. Civilization did not actually end after the smoke cleared on the western front in France. Nothing can really stop God’s love for humanity. Jesus said it on the cross, “It is finished”. Death is defeated. No longer can the devil do his worst to us,because of Easter. Victory belongs to Christ in the end.

Nothing can separate us from God’s love in Christ Jesus. There really isn’t anything that can destroy my peace if it is really built on Jesus Christ. So much of what I fear, is not really going to destroy me. I can face the future with more hope knowing what the past has taught us. No matter how cataclysmic the circumstance nothing can prevent us from living fully in the love of Christ!

\f0\fs32 \cf2 \cb3 \expnd0\expndtw0\kerning0
\outl0\strokewidth0 \strokec2 Five Minute Friday}

We Do Not Loose Heart

So we do not lose heart. Even though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day. For this slight momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all measure, because we look not at what can be seen but at what cannot be seen; for what can be seen is temporary, but what cannot be seen is eternal. 2 Corinthian 4:16-18

We do not loose heart…
What we see is such a poor reflection of what is to come. Some days all we see is heartache and loss. The dark can seem impenetrable. We are told in Scripture that light ultimately triumphs over dark, but there are days when the darkness seems to win.

The discordant notes of this life sound like they have taken over and threaten to derail the beauty of the music of life. The cacophony of sound threatens to overwhelm my migraine prone head into utter misery.

Dark and jarring sound are two images that seem at first contrary to a migraineur. Dark when one has a migraine is a relief. A cessation of pain comes with the evening darkness. Yet too much darkness does not really solve the problem, but merely hides it. Night does not reliably guarantee the end of a migraine.

Atonal music needs a harmonic resolution to feel complete. The amazing thing is that minor and discordant music can resolve into something which is beautiful in its entirety. Life has periods when it becomes atonal. It can seem as though the discord is consuming all of a life when it is really but a movement, adding depth and increasing the relief and sensation of a resolution.

It is hard to believe in the music of life, the absolute goodness of God and His never ending grace when it seems as though your life is surrounded by a modern symphony orchestra with each musician playing their own thing and creating an unbearable chaos. Family, friends, work associates, fellow Church members everyone needs a piece of you, something different from you, all at the same time. Life, sickness, hurt, need, poverty everywhere we experience pain…where is the harmony?

What we can hear, what we can see in any one moment is limited. We are finite beings. St. Paul reminds us in his letter to the Corinthians, that what we see in the dark is not all that is there. All that we hear is not all that is sounding. It is cold and dark, it is March. The noise of town is less than in the summer, but still ever present in the day. But if I listen for them I hear the birds singing of spring to come. Only if I listen for them. When the traffic roars, my Dad’s tv blares, my sister’s stereo tries to drown it out and my head throbs, I forget to listen for the birds. Hope is always singing.

We do not loose heart, not because we are protected from life’s storms, but because we remember to listen. The affliction of the present is not all that is. God is still good and loving. Some day all the pain will fall away and the joyous resolution will overtake all of creation, and we will see how the world has become better through pain, the pain of the cross.

In Lent we remember that loss is not all that there is, but that sacrifice is the road that redeems and restores. Waiting is hard. Believing in a spring or hope that never seems to come can test us to the breaking point. Yet, because of Easter we do not break. We believe in what is not yet come, for He has come.

20130308-210622.jpg