Friday, May 29, 2015

Memorial Day Musings

I grew up listening to Waylon and Willie croon on about their heroes being old, worn-out cowboys. Heroes are those rare people that make an indelible impact on our lives, so forcefully that they cause not only our admiration, but often our emulation. Well, while I like the song, I never wanted to be a cowboy. There was, however, someone that I tried to pattern my life after: my real life hero, my dad. Yeah, I know that it sounds cliché and all, but it really is true. I love Bluegrass music, Merle Haggard, and football because he did. I joined the Navy because he had been a sailor. I worked as an engineer because he did. I tried to smoke Winston cigarettes because that was his brand, even though the “cool” people smoked Marlboro. (Luckily that was a short lived attempt at my own brand of being a maverick. Plus, I never could get used to the smell.)

His life was hard, and because of that he was a hard man. His philosophy of life was simple: work hard and take care of your little acre. In other words, take care of you and yours, leave everyone else to theirs. Not an earth shattering revelation or groundbreaking epistemology of course, but it was his. He grew up very poor in the mountains of East Kentucky and left school in the eighth grade to help support the family. At nineteen he joined the Navy and spent his time in Asia touring on the USS Oriskany CV34 (The Mighty “O”) on two WestPac’s . He got a giant cobra tattoo in Hong Kong, and his True Love knuckles in the Philippians. (Did I mention my tattoo??? When I left for Boot Camp, my dad didn’t warn me about loose women or crotchety old CC’s, but he did tell me that if I got a tattoo to make sure a short sleeved shirt covered it up. Smart man and advice I’m glad I heeded. Current occupation and all.) He worked at NASA building platforms for the Saturn program, and married my mom making a buck an hour. Four kids and a move to Georgia later, he was in management at Sheet Metal Engineers. Things were going well when he lost two children in separate car crashes about five years apart. Life was never really the same.

On August 8, 2012 he lost his final battle, a bout with Pulmonary Alveolar Proteinosis, of all things. PAP is a very rare  lung disorder (about 500 cases per year worldwide) that is an autoimmune disease; the body cranks up the production of the surfactant protein and fills the air sacks in the lungs with fluid. Throughout his life he taught me things, and I guess that makes him my hero still. Even though he had become dependent on me in his last years, he will always be the one man that I will think about and wonder what he would have done in a given situation.

I will miss him terribly, and can only hope that I can measure up to the high benchmark he set for me. My hero is not a cowboy. He is a sheet metal worker. Not a barroom brawler, but a hard worker. Not a whoremonger, but a devoted husband. Not a modern-day drifter, but a dedicated family man. Not a high rider, but my dad.

Monday, May 18, 2015

How To Raise Godly Children Without Them Knowing What You're Up To

How To Raise Godly Children Without Them Knowing What You're Up To:
Ten Suggestions For Biblically Based Parenting

1) Give your children a Biblical foundation and encourage their bent, and trust God when things get hairy. (Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it. Proverbs 22:6)

2) Always speak about spiritual things around your children, and let them see you pray. Let them see God in you. (And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. 7 You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. 8 You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. 9 You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. Deuteronomy 6:6-9)

3) Remember to distinguish the urgent from the important. That phone call may be urgent, but your children are important. Let them know it! (Then they also brought infants to Him that He might touch them; but when the disciples saw it, they rebuked them. 16 But Jesus called them to Him and said, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God. Luke 18:15-16)

4) Remember that parenting is a hard job. You are to be a parent, not a bff. Discipline must be a core component of biblical parenting. “Spare the rod and spoil the child?” Yeah, it’s in there! (Whoever spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him.)

5) Be positive, even in correction. Praise often, even in times of discouragement. Your children will reflect your attitude about them. (Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged. Colossians 3:21)

6) Never, ever, ever, think that the school or church has the responsibility of teaching your children! You make sure they have knowledge. Whether about math or about God, you are responsible. (The rod and reproof give wisdom, but a child left to himself brings shame to his mother. Proverbs 29:15)

7) Invest in your children your most valuable commodity. Invest your time. A small amount of time now will pay off in huge dividends when they are adults. (Therefore you shall lay up these words of mine in your heart and in your soul, and bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. 19 You shall teach them to your children, speaking of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. Deuteronomy 11:18-19)

8) Be a living epistle of what a good, honest, and true marriage looks like. Let your children see how a woman is to love her husband. Let them see how a husband is to cherish his wife. (Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands. Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word. Ephesians 5:22-23)

9) Instill in your children a love for and appreciation of the local fellowship of Believers. Raise your children to have a great respect for church and for God’s people. (And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. Acts 2:42)

10) The end game of all of this would be naught, if your children do not receive the gift of salvation made possible through Jesus Christ. Insure that you have a right relationship with God. And then place the necessity of salvation before your children often. (Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, 4 just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, 5 having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, 6 to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved. Ephesians 1:3-6)

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Glory Days

I get this feeling every time summer appears and the night air becomes full of static and heat. The kind of air that lets you know that summer is here and is going to be intense. For a few moments, my mind drifts back to being 17 again, the t-tops off of the charcoal-grey Trans Am, sunglasses on at night, and cruising around Hwy 25 with a million other knuckle-heads who didn’t know any better either. With the radio on, Don Henley ushered us into summer time bliss...

Nobody on the road
Nobody on the beach
I feel it in the air -
The summer's out of reach
Empty lake, empty streets
The sun goes down alone
I'm drivin' by your house
Though I know you're not home

But I can see you -Your brown skin shinin' in the sun
You got your hair combed backAnd your sunglasses on, baby
And I can tell youMy love for you will still be strong
After the boys of summer have gone
Ahh...glory days. I can now full appreciate the philosopher George Bernard Shaw when he said that youth is wasted on the young! Unlike many, I not only remember the good times but also the bad. Like the very, very bad decision to try snuff. A powdery form of chewing tobacco popular here in the South. (I am instantly reminded of the Psalmist who said, “I felt weak deep inside me. I moaned all day long.”) Or the time we decided it would be “fun” to tie a rope to a bicycle tethered to the back of a pick up truck, allowing ourselves to experience biking at 55 mph. The original X games. Can I just say, it’s all fun and games until somebody gets dragged a half mile on his elbows!

But mostly I remember the good times. I remember when the biggest problem was where would we scrape up another 5 bucks for gas. (Mind you, at .65¢ a gallon, that was half a tanks worth!) I remember how much better Waffle House food was at 2am, how leather pants were considered “cool”, and how we thought Queen was a bunch of straight men. (If you’re over 50, don’t laugh, you thought Elton John was!) I remember walking around the mall, and joybuzzer attacks, wondering if a certain girl liked you, and the arcade where the hippest thing was Pac-Man! Mostly though, I think about how I never thought it would end. Glory days forever!

Now, I do not consider myself old. Let’s be clear. At 45, I’m still a spring chicken! However, I did spend the day at various hospitals and nursing homes, praying with and consoling many people who are desperately ill. In an ICU room at a hospital in Columbia, I held the hand of a man who is recovering from a heart attack. As we spoke he asked me, “How is it that our bodies just up and stop working for us one day?”

There are theological answers to his question. I could have told him about original sin and the curse and Adamic nature. But I think the answer lies in hope. And so I told him about Revelation 21:4, “And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away."

And so I told him about our new bodies that will last forever and the days of no suffering, no sorrow, sickness, or death. When our bodies will be perfect and defect free. And...for a moment within myself...I didn’t look back to glory days, I looked ahead to days of Glory.