read the entire Bible (and keep reading it again and again)

Read or listen to the Bible, or both. Read it slowly, read it in large chunks. If it is God’s word written, it should begin to make an impact on our lives. And get into a church which either reads all of the Bible over time (through a lectionary), or preaches/teaches the Bible well (like the church we’ve been taking our grandkids to), preferably both.

Start children slowly, but wisely through the word, through the story and message of scripture. I think Our Daily Bread for Kids (and here) is a good place to start. Of course with the littlest ones, we’ll need materials or practices appropriate for them. Our Daily Bread for Kids Sunday School Songs (and here, scroll down) starts getting them to listen and eventually sing, which is good, even for the youngest age, I think.

The point is, we need to be in the word, day and night. And that word leads us to the Word, Jesus, the fulfillment of everything, bringing all things to their ultimate goal in God’s grace and kingdom come in him.

Why? Not for any other reason, other than the end itself. This is not a means to be a better American, a better world citizen, a better whatever, even though those things might be good in their proper place. No, it’s about being a true Christian, a follower of Christ, whatever the result of that may be.

Begin small, and keep at it. Bible Gateway is a good place to start to look for a Bible translation which might fit you. My preferred translation is the New International Version (NIV) which I think achieves an excellent balance between up to date scholarship, accuracy and readability. My second preference might be the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) , but there’s many other good Bible translations to choose from (again, see Bible Gateway).

I can’t end better than from the psalmist, but with the additional thought from scripture that this light is not just for ourselves, but for the world, in and through Jesus.

Your word is a lamp for my feet,
    a light on my path.

Psalm 119:105

beauty in brokenness

Our society doesn’t embrace brokenness. Somehow it needs to be fixed, and the sooner the better. The leading candidate of one party for the upcoming presidential election is popular in part because he would not only never acknowledge such, but doesn’t believe in it. But Jesus did. Even if some of us, and even some churches might to some extent get caught up in something of an unbroken superiority complex.

Give me the real, the human, the honest and suffering person, and there you will find someone who not only can be helped, but who more often than not enters into a beauty that is beyond them. Simply to be honest and reject all masks is beauty enough. There is a person I know who is up there in years, and supposedly has the cognitive ability of a two or three year old, and while I may not doubt that, I think assessing this person is more complicated than that. And even though she may not be pretty to look at, as the world sees it, I find her to be one of the most beautiful people I know, because she radiates and lives in the childlikeness which the Lord holds dear. “Except you change, and become like little children, you will never enter into the kingdom of heaven.” And in our brokenness and humility, something of the greatest of all beauty can begin to break through: the beauty of the Lord.

Part of the difficulty in this condition is that although we’re close to being in rhyme with heaven, we are also close to being in rhyme with hell (Michael Card). I can find myself there a number of times everyday. Pushed onto that side for whatever reason. So that I realize I need more of the Lord’s work in me to overcome that. Perhaps too little in my eyes, and at least largely hidden from others most of the time, but important in God’s eyes, and as we learn to see more and more with God’s eyes, it becomes more important in our eyes as well.

Yes, we need a broken and contrite, humbled, penitent heart, because we indeed are broken. The ones most broken are those who don’t believe they are. But brokenness can be beautiful, when before the Lord we acknowledge such, and his beauty begins to be seen through forgiveness and cleansing, and even in the midst of our struggle and weakness and even failure. It is certainly not us we want others to see, but only the Lord.

we impact each other, for good or ill

Walk with the wise and become wise,
for a companion of fools suffers harm.

Proverbs 13:20

The original idea for this post was that we become like the people we hang out with. And there’s plenty of truth in that. But I want the emphasis here to be not only on how others affect us, but how we can affect them, how we all can and do impact each other.

Wise parents will want their children to have good company, other children who are being brought up in the training and instruction of the Lord (Proverbs 6:4). I struggle much with that thought, not so much on parents watching out for their children. And let me add here that I don’t think for a moment that the only children friends for our children are those of Christian households. Not at all. It’s more of a point that we want them to have friends who are being raised in the same way we are seeking to raise them, in the grace and fear of the Lord.

What I struggle with is mostly on the children’s level, though certainly can apply to us adults, particularly for those who are not seeking to walk close to the Lord. Jesus was a friend of tax collectors and “sinners.” He hung out regularly with such in a way which chafed against the sensibilities of his people. And we who are seeking to follow him should do the same.

We can relax and enjoy such people, and even be impacted by them in ways that are helpful. They too are made in God’s image, even if they may deny the God in whose image they are made. We love them, and therefore wish and pray for their salvation, but our love for them has no strings attached. It’s not if they do or don’t do this or that, or become such and such, then we will continue to be their friend. And we follow and live in the one whose holiness was not defiled by sinners, but whose holiness could be used to make the unclean clean, and the unholy holy.

Where the danger for us comes is when we are not seeking to walk close to the Lord, which in significant part involves what is called the common life of the church in which we regularly meet together and interact to build each other up in the Lord. If we flag there, and start lagging behind, we can set ourselves up to be influenced by people of the world (the media being a major player in that) for ill.

We can’t think we’re foolproof either, just because we’re seeking to follow Christ. And even if we hung out only with others so doing. And an important part of the life we are to live in the present is to reach out to those who do not know the Lord, who may be plagued with this or that in their lives. We are there to help them. And even to receive whatever help God may give us through them.

And so we live in the love  and joy, as well as the fear of the Lord. Seeking to know him and others, and to be known. Even as we seek to walk closer and closer with our Lord.

 

a precious new life

Now we have two precious granddaughters, Morgan Marie and our new arrival Mandie Lynn. It was a blessed weekend, our daughter Tiffany called on Saturday morning, as it seemed that the special day had come.

I can still remember Morgan’s arrival nearly seven years ago. I don’t think we were as prepared, but it was every bit as special. And now her little sister is here, a bundle of love, a human being made in God’s image, loved by God and by her family. Tiffany and Chris are experienced at it this time around, and with some healthy apprehension, are ready for what’s next. We want to help them by our prayers and doing what we can.

In scripture whenver the birth of a baby girl or boy is spoken of, it is special. In the created order male is no better than female. Together they constitute “Adam” or humankind in Genesis. Made in God’s image, they have the unique call to be rulers in submission to God’s rule. Especially as stewards of the earth. Something which humankind has botched, but is especially fulfilled in Jesus. Everyone of us having our part and responsibility. Both in and through creation and new creation- in Jesus.

And so for Mandie Lynn, I pray that God will help her at a young age to be a person of faith, even as I trust God is working the same in Morgan Marie. That they will be stalwarts for Jesus, devoted to God and God’s will in Jesus out of love for God and for others. I pray for God’s protection on them both and on this fledgling family.

The only bad thing about the weekend is that between Mandie Lynn going here and there and I having to go in and out, I did not get to hold our new granddaughter yet! Other than that we were blessed indeed. And we pray God’s blessing on this family, that they might be a blessing to each other and to those around them. In and through Jesus our Lord.

prayer for children

There are a number of things that are noteworthy about the character Job’s life. The one that especially sticks out to me is how he would pray for his children and offer sacrifices to God after their feasts. In case any of them had offended God.

We suffer with those who suffer, or we are called to that. And this is especially the case with our children. We need to learn to pray for them regularly, and to pray for God’s good will in Jesus on their lives. Of course how that unfolds and what that looks like may not on the surface seem good to us. It seems like suffering hits us all and leaves its mark. For us in Jesus we can respond to suffering as those seeking to draw near to God for help, and by the Spirit we can become more like Jesus. And at least more like the “blessed” which to the world are losers, such as “the poor in spirit,” and “those who mourn,” etc.

Back to praying for our children: we certainly pray for God’s mercy on them, and we pray God’s will for them, in and through Jesus. This is a good book to help one develop and practice along those lines, or to simply keep praying the prayers in the book. From one whose son had become a heroin addict, but now has a ministry to help heroin addicts.

We pray for our children because we love them. We suffer when they suffer. But we try to hold them before God for his very best in their lives in and through Jesus. That in itself can be painful when we see them make decisions which are not good. Of course we remember that we haven’t always made the best decisions ourselves. And we hold them before God, for his mercy.

And we want to do this to the very end. That their faith and hope might rest in God through Christ. That they may be among the blessed in and through Jesus.

review of Karly’s story, *A Silence of Mockingbirds: The Memoir of a Murder*, by Karen Spears Zacharias

A Silence of Mockingbirds: The Memoir of a Murder

Karen Spears Zacharias has written another memoir, a page turner, which tells it as it is, bare knuckles and all. It brings home the growing problem of child abuse and neglect. And it does so through the story involving people she knows.

Here in America, a report of child abuse is made every thirty seconds. Here in the land of the free, an estimated 906,000 children are victims of abuse and neglect every single year. That’s nearly a million children. Here in the home of the brave, 1,500 abused children die annually, usually from injuries sustained in their own homes. (p 309)

David Sheehan moved to the United States from Ireland, and met Sarah Brill. They married, and had a daughter, Karly. David was a loving, devoted father, but Sarah soon went back to her partying ways which soon meant the death of a marriage, and tragically, the death of their daughter.

Karen brings this story home in a way which helps us personalize a problem that has reached epidemic proportions in the United States: child abuse and neglect. You are not going to find a sweeter child than Karly, she indeed was a special child. And yet every single child is precious and special to Jesus, and should be special to us, as well.

Karly was specially gifted with a keen appreciation for and love of life. Even at the age of three she carried on conversations with adults, was a peacemaker in keeping the children playing well together in child care, soft-spoken, yet full of life. She had a special bond with her father, David. But her mother let her down, by not putting Karly and her needs above her own wants. And the system of Child Protective Services along with law enforcement failed to see what was right in front of them.

As a result of this tragedy, Corvallis put into place better policies, and Oregon passed “Karly’s Law” to prevent such failures. In the Journal of the San Francisco Police Association, this book was strongly recommended to everyone in the San Francisco Criminal Justice system.

You really need to read this book for yourself. Karen’s journalistic career, including that within criminal cases, serves the book well, along with her gift of making the pages weep, along with all the beauty. Karly’s prayer in the end was answered. And I’m sure God is at work through her all too short life. And us reading it, praying and thinking on it, and lovingly acting when needed can be a part of that ongoing work.

caring for the little ones

Jesus made it clear that infants and children have a special place in God’s kingdom. In fact if we want to enter God’s kingdom we must humble ourselves and become like little children. We must receive God’s gift of the kingdom in Jesus like a little child. Jesus also made it clear that anyone who misleads a little child is in big trouble with God. And that God’s angels always watch his face, as they guard and look after the little ones.

It is fun being a grandpa. I note with our precious granddaughter that while she likes to do many things in our presence, it seems that we are most important to her. Those she loves are what matters to her. When her mother leaves, or when Deb or I leave she begins to cry. Relationships and love are at the heart of what she’s about. And her eyes are wide open in wonder to the world. And oh for the faith of a little child!

Of course all little children, while innocent still do wrong. However we parse original sin, it is a reality. Simply stated, original sin means that all of us humans are sinners. And that begins from little on up. Sinners over time put other things before relationships and love. Sin separates us from God and from each other. Divisions of all sorts become a part of our lives. Sibling rivalry sets in. And surely a host of other sins or results of sin.

We need to care for the little ones. We do so first and foremost, by bringing them to Jesus. Jesus put his hands on the little children and blessed them. We need to read to them simple stories of Jesus, with pictures. I think of the hymn, “Tell me the story of Jesus, write on my heart every word. Tell me the story most precious. Sweetest that ever was heard.”  So true.

My mother faithfully read to her children from Kenneth Taylor’s The Bible in Pictures for Little Eyes (the edition to consider buying nowadays). I was fascinated both with the stories and pictures. I have no more vivid memory of young childhood than when she read to me and to us those stories.  And from that I surely developed an early love for the Bible, or of those stories in it. The story of God was beginning to take shape in my thoughts and imagination.

Of course we show them love in any number of ways. But we seek to bring them to the feet of Jesus where they can listen and be blessed. And from an early age begin the journey of faith (2 Timothy 1:5; 3:14-15). And while maturing into adults we seek to have the genuine and simple faith, hope and love of little children.

May God help us help them, and may we be open to God’s help given to us through them.