Monday, April 25, 2011

God Has No Grandkids

She turned nine years old on Saturday. If I saw her walking across the street, I wouldn’t recognize her nor would she recognize me. The last time I saw her or held her in my arms was she was barely more than a year old. I’ve heard stories about this beautiful little girl, and she’s heard some stories about me as well. And surprisingly, what she has heard about me is pretty good.

For obvious reasons I thought a lot about little (or not so little) Brooke this weekend. Paula, my ex-wife has been in Hawaii for the last week with Brooke and her family and she texted me on Brooke’s birthday to tell me how much fun they were having celebrating her birthday. And while I missed being there, I was okay. I knew that her day was going to be special with her mom and dad, older brother, a favorite uncle and Grandma Paula. She would definitely be surrounded by love.

I work with a pretty incredible man. As Lee came in to work this morning, we took a couple of minute to just visit. He and Luann had celebrated Easter with most of their family at their home and he was sharing some stories. Lee is nearly 77 years old and has experienced a great deal during his walk on this earth. He is a very godly man who loves Jesus with all his heart and he is never hesitant to give a testimony or simply talk about how great life can be when we have Jesus in our hearts. He was telling me that he was visiting with his grand-children about how God created each of us as human with the ability to make decisions. And then he made a statement that penetrated to the innermost part of my heart.

“God doesn’t have any grandkids”, he said.

It is such a simple statement, but it struck me in a particular way because my sister Debbie has been working on a memoir for the last couple of years. When she titled her first draft, she called it “God Has No Daughters.” I didn’t like the title (and actually shared with her why and offered a few “little brother” suggestions for something better) but as I reflect back now, it was the right title for her story. She had never felt loved by God and as a result she didn’t feel like a daughter loved by God.

Debbie and I have spent more hours visiting in the last three years than we had in the previous fifty combined. During that time, she has shared with me her perception of who God is, and was, to her and has helped me to understand why. Debbie gained her understanding and perception of God through our mom and through the experiences she had while in a cult for a number of years. She was having her picture of who God is painted with the brushes of others, and as such she was not seeing God as He truly is.

I love to take pictures and often these days take photos of the antiques that I sell. Sometimes I use my camera on my phone and other times I use my small Nikon camera. Each one takes a different quality of picture. They both look pretty good with the original shot, but when I try to enlarge them something happens. The more picture is enlarged, the farther the pixels are spread apart and pretty soon what seemed to be clear is now indistinguishable. Even with the higher quality Nikon, before long the image is no longer able to reflect the beauty of the original object.

And that’s what God wants with us…with me. He doesn’t want our image of Him filtered through the eyes and experiences of others. He calls us to be His children, not His grandkids. Dad’s discipline more than grandpa’s do. And they withhold more than grandparents do. Dads don’t spoil their kids nearly as much as grandma and grandpa do. Because of His nature, God simply can’t be a grandpa. So we can’t be His grandkids.

But God is a lot different from many dads in one important way. He is able to love us like a grandpa does. He’s never too busy to play with us or to come to our events. He doesn’t judge or try to live His life through us. Actually, He wants just the opposite…for us to live our lives through Him. When we need to talk to Him, we are more important than the game on TV, the golf date with His buddies or work. We don’t have to get straight A’s in school, be the captain of the football team or the head cheerleader for Him to glow with pride in us. And when we fail, He doesn’t ground us for life or tell us how worthless and “good for nothing” we are. He simply helps to pick us back up, show the direction we need to be going and loves us. He loves us the way most grandpas do…but how every dad should.

Photo from Flickr, by riffsyphon1024

Saturday, April 16, 2011

"Shout it out loud!"

My eyes are getting older I guess. I find them burning in the late afternoon much more often that I used to. At night, they itch and burn as I try to relax watching re-runs of “Criminal Minds” on a cable channel. It seems that every couple of pages of a book I’m reading is followed by the rubbing of my eyes. Even as I sit as the computer terminal at work, I find I need to step away a little more often to let my eyes rest so they can stay in focus.

It’s not only my eyes are struggling to stay in focus these days, it’s also the direction of a book I’m trying to write. I had the pleasure of attending a Christian writer’s conference with my sister Deb a few weeks ago and it got my “writer’s juices” flowing again…well, at least trickling a little bit. For the past several months I’ve found my mind pulled in so many different directions that the book has been set on the back burner as I’ve worked to establish a small antique business. Even in the midst of the busyness of my thoughts, my mind continues to go back to the story that I’m destined to write. But it seems that every time I start to focus on the book, I realize that I’m not sure of the story that I want, or need, to tell. What I’ve needed is a clear picture of message that God is intending through my story. I think I’m finally getting closer to what that is.

As we drove back from the conference, Deb and I were discussing what impacted us most about all of the sessions that we had sat through and the speakers we had listened to. For me it was the need to discover what that one absolute truth was in my life that my book could illustrate. Initially I thought about the truth that I serve a God of “second chances.” Certainly my life is a reflection of that as are many stories in the Bible.

But my story is deeper than that and my sister reminded me of a story that I’d shared with her only the day before about the sermon my pastor preached on the Sunday I got on the bus and headed south to a Federal prison in California. He told his congregation that he was going to go visit a friend after church that day who was getting ready to spend the next three years behind bars…in a prison far away from his friends and family. And that he wanted to visit with me and pray with me before I got on that bus. But then he reminded the people sitting in the church pews that morning that although I was going into a “physical” prison, I was so much freer than many of them were because they were living in their own prisons of sin and secrecy and unforgiveness. I knew that place because I had lived there much of my own life. And Debbie was right.

It always amazes me how God reinforces what He would have us do. We’re in the midst of preparing for our Palm Sunday concert at church and one of the songs that the choir will be singing is called “The Very Same Power” and it contains a chorus that has resonated with me this week.

“No more chains, holding me. From now on, I am free…I’m gonna shout it out loud!”
In that one line of the chorus I’m being directed on the direction that my book will take. My life was a prison and I was shackled with chains that nearly destroyed my life. And like many people I’ve found freedom from those chains. Now I am called to “shout it out loud” in pages of a book.
Photo from Flickr

"Very Same Power" lyrics by Free Chapel