Archive for the ‘Christian family’ Category

“Sing to the Lord a new song, for he has done marvelous things; his right hand and his holy arm have worked salvation for him (Psalm 98:1).”

A new year is supposedly a time of change. What most people think about is making resolutions to change themselves in some way.

This isn’t the theme of the current animated fantasy movie “Brave”.  According to the protagonist Merida, a princess, the person that really needs transformation is her mother Elinor.

Elinor and her husband King Fergus have invited allied Scottish clans to their castle so that the first-born sons can compete for the hand of the teenage Merida. However, the spunky young lass wants no part of this arrangement.  This is understandable, as she can run rings around the doofus boys who are her suitors in every way.

In scenes as old as the hills, Merida and Elinor have clash after clash. Teenager against parent. What a surprise.

Merida is out in the forest one day when she encounters a “will o’ the wisp” which leads her to a witch’s cottage. Merida arranges to buy a cake which the witch has promised will “change” her mother.

After Elinor unsuspectedly eats a piece, she is changed alright. She is turned into a bear.

This is bad enough, but the impact of the event is exacerbated by the family history. Her husband King Fergus is renowned for having fought and defeated a monster bear, losing his leg in the process. So the king has no love for bears.

Merida and Elinor flee the palace and find a holographic recording left by the witch. This message says that the spell will become permanent “by the second sunrise” unless Merida “mends the bond torn by pride”.  Merida takes this to mean that she is to repair the family tapestry she tore during one of her fights with her mother.

Merida and Elinor reenter the castle and take the tapestry as they are being pursued by Fergus and the clans.   Merida mends the tapestry as they once again flee.

In the exciting conclusion, Merida fights off her own father and the others, telling them “”I will not let you kill my mother!”.  Of course, they have no idea what she is talking about.

In the process, the evil bear defeated by her father shows up and attempts to swallow Merida. Elinor fights off her fellow bear and this enemy is killed.

As the sun rises on the second day, Merida remembers the parameters of the witch’s curse and throws the tapestry over Elinor. However, it appears to be too late.

Merida cries and kneels before her mother and exclaims

“Oh, no! I don’t understand. I… Oh, mom, I’m sorry. This is all my fault. I did this to you, to us. You’ve always been there for me.  You’ve never given up on me. I just need you back. I want you back, mommy. I love you.”

Merida feels the touch of her mother and looks up to see that her mother is once again human. Elinor hugs and kisses her daughter.

“You’ve changed!”, Merida screams. Elinor replies, “Oh darling. We both have.”

The real bond torn by pride has been mended: by love.

I think many of us are like Merida. We claim we need to change, but what we really want is for the people who are causing us grief to be transformed.

What we don’t understand is the impact our own negative behavior has on those around us, especially those close to us. We most likely have had a major role in making the person who they are today.

We like Merida could state,”I have done this to you.” Our barking, cajoling, yelling, manipulation and and abuse have done major damage.  Furthermore our attempts to remake others to suit us have actually harmed them.

The teenager Merida had to go through hell to see that the solution to the problem she was having with others lay within her. At the end of the movie, she says:

“Some say fate is beyond our command, but I know better. Our destiny is within us. You just have to be brave enough to see it.”

Merida took the first step in changing herself. She had the courage to look within. Then she  confessed her lack.  God calls us to do this as well (I John 1:9).

However, we shouldn’t  just stay in remorse. We ought to move on to love, compassion and understanding of the other, as Merida and her mother did.  Doing this will at least change us.

More than likely, though, continued love of the other will also result in their changing as well. However, even if the other person doesn’t change, we will engage in what Emerson Eggerich calls “The Rewarded Cycle”. Even though the other person doesn’t respond to our love (and we may have to wait a long time), God will reward us for our effort.

If you are like me, you have a tendency to dwell on  the results of the curse we are under in this world and our own failures and say “Woe is Me!”. However, the third stanza of a popular New Year carol tells me that this is not God’s desire for us:

“No more let sins and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found,
Far as the curse is found,
Far as, far as, the curse is found.”

Jesus came at Christmas to dispense with the evil portrayed in “Brave”.  The curse doesn’t have to be allowed to stay in our homes, our workplaces or other spheres where we have influence. It can be booted.

What is needed is  the courage at the New Year to change ourselves by appropriating and spreading His encouragements in our relationships with others.


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“Think of ways to encourage on another to outbursts of love and good deeds. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage and warn each other, especially now that the day of His coming back is drawing near (Hebrews 1o:24,25).”

I don’t know what prompted me to do it: seek advice that is. I am a typical male. I hate to stop and ask for directions.

It could have been the Corp of Cadets at the university in my town. With school back in session, the campus is full of these young men and women.

The other day I passed some of them at an exercise station, the kind with balance beams and wooden bars. As I walked by these students,  about 10 of them were in a circle. They had their arms around each other and were yelling some kind of chant, moving their bodies up and down in unison.

I got the point of the cheer. It was designed to develop and show their comaraderie and unity.

I chose to see some counsel because of a family matter that couldn’t get resolved. It concerned a path one of my kids wanted to take.

So about three days ago I got the idea to send some Emails around to some men I trust. One was a mentor of mine. Another was a high school principal.  The other Emails went to my pastor and an elder at my church in charge of the high school group my child is a part of.

Within a couple of hours these fellows had all responded. What impressed me also was the consistency of their advice.  Although their suggestions differed somewhat, their comments were more like shades of the same color.

Their counsel tended to agree with my wife’s view of things, even though I had not brought her ideas up specifically in my request for advice. While I agreed with my spouse generally, these men gave me some specifics that helped sway my view toward hers.

As we met with child and discussed the pertinent issue, I spoke out the written suggestions of my counselors. With input from my wife and kid, I made a decision.

All seem settled, that is until I heard my wife and child heatedly discussing the issue again in another room a few minute after our discussion. So much for my effective leadership!

I was quite flustered and basically just delegated the whole thing to my wife to solve. (Men: I wouldn’t recommend this as a conflict resolution strategy.)

During the last three days since there has been an edge of contention in my household.  The argument finally came to a head this morning as I was trying to sleep in. (It’s Saturday.)

Again my wife and child were having a loud discussion. Forget trying to sleep.

I came upstairs and got involved in the battle. I wasn’t much help. Indeed, in my pre-coffee state I just added fuel to the fire.

Finally, some thing occurred to me.  It became clear as day that my wife’s spirit was just flat out against the whole approach I was taking. Even though I was trying to be conciliatory and my wife was willing to compromise, it was clear that no matter how I framed the issue, she was not comfortable with how things were going.

It was after comprehending how she was feeling, I made a decision that from my perspective was completely in line with with what was in her heart. What was interesting to me was how, within the next hour or so, I had this complete sense of peace about me. In addition, my wife had the same spirit.

We were both in unity. We both were positive we were making the right decision regarding our child.

None of this would have happened if I had not chosen to ask advice from some other guys. Their thoughts acted as a catalyst to bring my thinking around to that of my wife. It took three days, but at least I finally was open minded and made the decision that seemed to be the best one.

The wise man of Proverbs tells us that healthy counsel is very valuable:

Timely advice is lovely,  like golden apples in a silver basket. To one who listens, valid criticism  is like a gold earring or other gold jewelry.  Trustworthy messengers refresh like snow in summer.  They revive the spirit of their employer. (Proverbs 25:11-13).

This same wise man writes that involving my wife in the decision making was a smart thing to do to:

 Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble.  Likewise, two people lying close together can keep each other warm. But how can one be warm alone? (Ecclesiastes 4:9-11)

This sage closes this  thought by reiterating how effective it is in a conflict to not be a loner.

A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken. (Ecclesiastes 4:12)

My adult son and I have been watching the Little League World Series. I am intrigued by how, whenever there is a home run, the entire  team of the boy who hit it greets him at home place and enthusiastically celebrates.

To me. the peace my wife and I gained, a rlesult of a decision borne from our teamwork, was to me a home run. And it was a sign to me that our success was a sign  of God’s pleasure.

He was at home plate jumping up and down with us. If those counselor friends of mine had been here, they would have been patting us on the back, too.

It’s this kind of fellowship I ought to be engaging in every day.  In addition, in the times we live in, and with the difficult contests of life sure to be ahead, it’s essential to be a part of  a community of saints like this.

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A wife of noble character who can find? She is worth far more than rubies (Proverbs 31:10).”

As they lay in the bed in their hotel room, Coach Eric Taylor and his wife Tami can’t sleep. They are under a lot of pressure.

In an episode of the TV drama “Friday Night Lights” Coach Taylor will be coaching his Dillon High Panthers in the Texas state championship game the next day. A pressure-cooker situation under any circumstances, the heat is increased by the instability of his 15 year-old freshman quarterback J.D. McCoy.

J.D. is probably the best quarterback in the state, but he himself is under a lot of pressure to perform from his tightly wound father. In fact, after the game which got the Panthers into the final, J.D.’s Dad hit him in the face repeatedly in front of  the Taylors and other witnesses because the boy didn’t follow his instructions about how to play.

By law, both Eric and Tami (who is the Dillon principal)  have to report the incident to Child Protective Services, and do so. This causes the breakup of Tami’s relationship with J.D.’s mother, a close friend, and an even more adversarial relationship between Eric and the quarterback’s intrusive father.

At first, J.D. is angry at his father’s beating. However, he eventually sides with his father and becomes upset with Coach Taylor for reporting his Dad’s indiscretion.

As Eric and Tami stand on the balcony in the middle of the night, looking over the city of Austin and in sight of the stadium where the state championship is to be played, the coach says,”I have no idea what is going to happen tomorrow.” Tami replies,”Well, you’re going to win. Or, you’re going to lose. Either way, the sun will come up the next day.”

Tami Taylor exhorts her husband with some wise words that help him to see the big picture and what is important. In essence, Tami is saying that life is unpredictable, but whatever happens life goes on regardless.

Tami’s statement echoes one Jesus made in the Bible. In the context of this statement, Jesus had just told his disciples to seek the higher values, i.e. God’s kingdom and his righteousness, over temporal concerns and added that they would have everything they needed as a result.

Maintaining such a character in a world that has no interest in pursuing godly qualities, and in fact goes after the opposite, is not easy. Thus, Jesus gave His followers some practical advice to handle the pressure:  “So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.” (Matthew 6:32-33).

Both Eric and Tami Taylor continue to keep this perspective in the days ahead. Things don’t work out as they hoped, but they still keep their character.

First, the Dillon Panthers encounter a huge deficit in the state championship game.  Coach Taylor courageously benches J.D. in the second half. He has played terribly and acted disrespectfully toward both Coach Taylor and his teammates.

Even though Coach Taylor’s move almost pays off, Dillon loses the championship by a whisker. Even so,  the coach encourages his team and compliments his players in the locker room in front of their parents afterward for playing like champions.

You would think that having almost won the state title and having taught values to his players would make Eric’s job secure. However, in the world of Texas high school football, this kind of behavior is not necessarily prized.

Indeed, J.D.’s wealthy and influential father works behind the scenes to pull off a coup to replace Coach Taylor with J.D.’s personal quarterback coach. The school board is faced with the choice of potentially losing their star quarterback or saying goodbye to their highly successful coach.

At first, Eric refuses to defend himself. He tells Tami that he has some pride, and that the board knows his record.

Tami wisely advises Eric that he needs to come to the board meeting and speak. She knows he has no chance of warding off the attack of J.D.’s father otherwise, and it is clear that his livelihood is at stake.

Although Eric bravely fights for his job in front of the school board, they opt to keep J.D.’s father happy. Eric is basically demoted. He is offered the position of head coach at a previously defunct  high school the board intends to resurrect across town in a lesser district as a consolation. 

At a wedding where Tami informs Eric of  the decision, she continues to display grace, telling Eric,”No matter what happens, wherever you go, or whatever you do, I will be behind you.”  Eric takes Tami away from the wedding  and drive  across town to view the ramshackle East Dillon High facilities.  He obviously plans to make the best of the new situation and coach next season at the reopened school.

The show ends with Eric and Tami standing on the abandoned school’s tiny football field with their arms around each other. Eric is a man with plenty of godly traits, and fortunately for him, he has a wife who is even godlier and helps him to make right choices despite the pressures of life.

Knowing what he has in Tami influences Eric’s decisionmaking.  During the wedding, as various couples, including Eric and Tami, dance a band sings the following lyrics, which help to explain the coach’s choice:

When a man loves a woman
Can’t keep his mind on nothing else
He’ll trade the world
For the good thing he’s found

Eric Taylor has won a state championship previously and  just took his team to another final. He is a highly respected coach and would have no trouble landing a job coaching elsewhere.

In fact, this is not the first time Eric has put  his career behind his wife and family. Once he was offered and took a coaching position at a major university in Texas even though Tami had just had a baby and elected to stay in Dillon. When he saw his family suffering from his absences, he leaves his new job, a dream come true, and returns to coach the Panthers.

Yes, Eric knows what he has in Tami.

 When a man loves a woman
Spend his very last dime
Tryin’ to hold on to what he needs
He’d give up all his comfort
Sleep out in the rain
If she said that’s the way it ought to be ( When a Man Loves a Woman, Jody Watley, made famous by Percy Sledge)

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“Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” (I Corinthians 15:55)

My niece Bethany Fowler-Jimenez died this week. She was 33 years old.

I was heartbroken when I learned the news and I have been in that state since. This morning I asked myself why. After all, I hardly ever saw Beth.

Sitting on my sofa and weeping (and I am not ashamed to write this), I think I came to understand why her passing hurts so much. There are several reasons for the sense of loss I feel.

First, Beth was family. She was the daughter of my only brother, himself very dear to me.

In this day and age, you would think the word ‘family’ doesn’t mean what it used to. Still, as the old German proverb says, blood is thicker than water.

There’s something almost mystical in relationships between those who share the same DNA. Beth and I were joined by mutual histories, triumphs and failures carried down to us from previous generations.

Second, as an adult Beth had become my friend. Once when my family and I were thinking of coming to her area, she learned of it and made a point to contact me and invite us into her home with open arms.

We did come and we did spend a weekend with her and her family. It was a fun and enjoyable experience as we got to know her husband and kids, and even her multiple dogs!

Beth not only was my niece and my friend, but she was a person who treated me with honor. In recent years, this one especially, she has contacted me for advice and made no secret of her respect and love for me. Indeed, when Beth told you she loved you, somehow you knew she truly meant it.

Her young son and I share a name together. Blood is thicker than water; names connect us.

William Shakespeare wrote,”If it be a sin to covet honor, I am the most offending soul.” Beth honored me and that fed my spirit.

Speaking of spirituality, there was a time this year when Beth caught me on Facebook and began a chat with me. She asked me how I sensed my calling in life was from God.

Beth told me she was asking this because the older she got, the more she found herself turning to Scripture and prayer. “I have learned to let go and let God a little bit more”, she wrote.

She related to me a meeting she had had with a female chaplain recently. This woman touched her so greatly that it had made her cry.

Beth wrote to me:

“The cry was a good cry because I almost felt like the conversation we had cleansed my soul and took me further into my faith and it renewed  my hope that God has a plan for me.  Im just not sure what it is and how do I know that’s it..I don’t wanna miss the boat!”

Beth talked about how she felt drawn to helping people since she was 18. She became an emergency medical technician as a result of that.

Her posts told me that she was thinking of going to nursing school. Her motivation came from this passage from Matthew in which Jesus is telling a parable:

 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.

   “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

   “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

   “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’(Matthew 25:31-40).

For me, Bethany didn’t miss any boats. Unbeknownst to her, she had already loved me in the manner Jesus describes here and made Him proud.

Beth told me she loved the Psalms. This morning as I was thinking on her life, I read Psalm 91. I believe the Psalmist had her in mind when he wrote these words:

“Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.I will say of the LORD, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.”

Surely he will save you  from the fowler’s snare [AND IF I MAY PAUSE HERE, WE FOWLER’S HAVE A LOT OF THEM) and from the deadly pestilence. He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart. You will not fear the terror of night, nor the arrow that flies by day,  nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness, Nor the plague that destroys at midday.  A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you. You will only observe with your eyes  and see the punishment of the wicked.

If you say, “The LORD is my refuge,”  and you make the Most High your dwelling, 1no harm will overtake you, no disaster will come near your tent. 11 For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways; they will lift you up in their hands,so that you will not strike your foot against a stone. You will tread on the lion and the cobra;    you will trample the great lion and the serpent.

 “Because (s)he[loves me,” says the LORD, “I will rescue her    I will protect her, for she acknowledges my name.  She will call on me, and I will answer her;    I will be with her in trouble,  I will deliver her and honor her.  With long life I will satisfy her  and show her my salvation.”

Beth, you are in Jesus’s boat now. Knowing this has lessened the sting the scorpion wanted to make of your passing. See you on the other side.

Uncle Tim

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“The ‘gods’ know nothing, they understand nothing.  They walk about in darkness; all the foundations of the earth are shaken. “I said, ‘You are “gods”; you are all sons of the Most High (Psalm 82:5,6).”  

Ignorance is bliss. What you don’t know can’t hurt you.

I think we all agree in this day and age that those proverbs are not true. Not knowing something may keep us from worry or discomfort, but the chickens do indeed come home to roost (an idea used by poets since the Middle Ages, beginning with Chaucer).

Everyone knows that our government didn’t connect the dots on the terrorist plot of September 11, 2001.  Just surfing the Internet with the phrase “what you don’t know can’t hurt you” will bring many examples of published material that seeks to disprove this notion:

* “The American”, the journal of the American Enterprise Institute, reports that the less education you have, the more back pain you will suffer later in life.

” Mercola.com, a health webzine, notes that aspartame, a common sweetener in soft drinks and other products, is the most dangerous food additive in the marketplace.

* Nat Hentoff of USA Today worries that the lack of civics teaching in the American classroom today is producing ignorance among young people that will endanger our liberties.

” The Australia Institute even has a paper that tells me that I may have not found the most suitable examples in my search!  The report explains that the monopoly power of search engines and their methods of prioritizing the results could kill off one of the biggest advantages of today’s Internet: diversity in knowledge and products.

The flip side of all of this is Francis Bacon’s statement that “knowledge is power”.  The Soviets knew this in World War II and implemented their understanding in a dastardly way.

Movie director Andrzej Wajda documents the murder of thousands and thousands of Polish officers in his movie Katyn, which was nominated for a “Best Foreign Film” Academy Award.  It is the story of the mass executions that took place in the Katyn forest in 1940.

Anne Applebaum explains the reason for this atrocity:

The justification for the murder was straightforward. These were Poland’s best-educated and most patriotic soldiers. Many were reservists who as civilians worked as doctors, lawyers, university lecturers, and merchants. They were the intellectual elite who could obstruct the Soviet Union’s plans to absorb and “Sovietize” Poland’s eastern territories. On the advice of his secret police chief, Lavrenty Beria, Stalin ordered them executed.

While unofficially most knew that the Soviets did the deed, the Russians themselved blamed the act on the Nazis. As Applebaum says, the episode has been the source of mistrust between Russia and Poland for decades.

In the last part of the last century, as the Soviet Union fell apart, the Russians admitted their role in the massacre. This had led to some healing between the two countries.

Applebaum explains Wajda’s reason for making the film now, in the new century:

Most of those who actually remembered the events of 1939 were now dead, he explained—Wajda himself is eighty-one—so the film could no longer be made for them. Instead, he said, he wanted to tell the story again for young people—but not just any young people. Wajda said he wanted to reach “those moviegoers for whom it matters that we are a society, and not just an accidental crowd.”

A couple of scoundrels in the Bible learned the hard way that ignorance is not bliss and that what you don’t know can hurt you in a big way.  Their names were Baanah and Rekab.

These two men served the son of Saul, Ish-Bosheth, who inherited the kingdom of Israel, save Judah, which was in the hands of Saul’s enemy David. Baanah and Rekab were leaders of some commandos who fought against Judah.

These commanders began to see the handwriting on the wall when Ish-Bosheth’s primary general was murdered in a diplomatic mission to Judah. It was only a matter of time before David became the king of a united Israel. After all, even God was on David’s side, and all the people knew it.

One day when Ish-Bosheth’s guard fell asleep on duty, Baanah and Rekab snuck into his house, where their king was also taking a nap, and murdered him. They cut off his head as a souvenir.

Taking the head to David, they expected to get rewarded.  Baanah and Rekab even invoked God’s work in the whole scheme.

They should have checked with David first. David, with the two men present, said:

“As surely as the LORD lives, who has delivered me out of every trouble, when someone told me, ‘Saul is dead,’ and thought he was bringing good news, I seized him and put him to death in Ziklag. That was the reward I gave him for his news! How much more—when wicked men have killed an innocent man in his own house and on his own bed—should I not now demand his blood from your hand and rid the earth of you!”

 So David gave an order to his men, and they killed them. They cut off their hands and feet and hung the bodies by the pool in Hebron. But they took the head of Ish-Bosheth and buried it in Abner’s tomb at Hebron. (II Samuel 4:9-12).

Had Baanah and Rekab done a little research and intelligence gathering instead of going on in ignorance, things may have turned out differently for them. Instead, they acted without knowledge and paid for it with their lives. 

What troubles me most about the “what you don’t know can’t hurt you” falsehood is not that I in truth can be harmed by my ignorance. What bothers me is that my cluelessness can due major damage to my loved ones and others.

For example, if I do not know how to be a good husband or father, disaster is at hand. My wife and my children will suffer due to my lack of instruction and scholarship in the area of family.

The good news is that my awareness of my ignorance and it harmful effects is a positive development. It is the beginning of solving the problems I have created due to my  callowness.

It is time to ditch the hubris and become a little more sophisticated in some things.  It is time to begin the process of learning.

As Benjamin Disraeli, the great British prime minister of the 19th century said, “To be conscious that you are ignorant is a great step to knowledge.

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“You then, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others. Join with me in suffering, like a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No one serving as a soldier gets entangled in civilian affairs, but rather tries to please his commanding officer (II Timothy 2:1-4)”.

It’s the middle of August, and I’m cold. I am sitting in the  harbor in my Finnish town,  late in the afternoon.

I am cold physically, but as I reflect  I know my whole spirit is chilly. I am in a blue funk, one that is not caused by the weather.

Oh, the weather exacerbates it. I mean, there are few places in the Northern Hemisphere like Finland in August.

The summers here are short but intense. Now, the holiday is over.

The resort-like atmosphere at the harbor is gone. So are the people.

The kiosks are not busy at all. There is no one but me buying a cup of  coffee.

I am pretty much alone.

I later talk to a friend, telling her that I am in a state, but I don’t know why. She tells me that it is easy to know.

She says,”You miss your wife. You miss your kids. And you wonder what the hell you are doing here.”

I think she hit the nail right on the head.

Yesterday, the work I came here to do began to pick up steam, also. As the shock of the initial move settles down,  I am faced with the reality of working, working, working, and not having my loved ones around for support. That reality hurts.

In my mind, I came here to support my family financially, and that is what I intend to do. I can’t get away from the idea, however, that this exile is some kind of disciplinary measure from the Lord.

I am thinking,”Couldn’t you have whacked me back in the States just as well, with my family and friends nearby?” I guess not.

I chose to do this. It isn’t the Lord’s fault I suppose. I just couldn’t see any other way out of our financial mess except by working in my field, which pays much better abroad than it does in my own country.

The apostle Paul didn’t have to make tents. He had as much right as the rest of the apostles to get his support from those to whom he was ministering.

Paul also had the right to move around with a wife, also. The other apostled did.

However, in Paul’s walk with the Lord he determined that he should minister AND work for a living. He also apparently had foregone marriage.  His  plan was within the will of God for him (I Corinthians 9:1-23).

This choice wasn’t going to be easy to implement for Paul. He saw the need for a lot of discipline to carry it off (ICorinthians 9:24-27).

In my own case, I have a lot of independence here to do what I want. However, I know it would be self-destructive to use it wrongly.

Knowing this, I see the need to build some structure for myself in order to accomplish what I came here for. At the moment, I am mulling over exactly how it is the Lord would have me use my time when I am not engaged at work.

If the Lord has it in mind to discipline me, than discipline it shall be. I have a role model in Sergeant Thomas “Gunny” Highway.

In the movie “Heartbreak Rídge”, Gunnery Sergeant Highway (Clint Eastwood) has been assigned to train a bunch of slovenly, undisciplined Marines, whose previous leader had allowed to slack off. When he shows up with his gruff, demanding ways, the platoon rebels.

One of the Marines in rebellion is Corporal “Stitch” Jones, a self-absorbed trickster and night club singer. Gunny Highway is partícularly hard on him because Jones, not knowing who Highway was, stole his bus ticket on the way to camp and left him to pay a bill at a diner.

The Marines  even go so far as to sic their most powerful and muscular member on Highway. “Gunny” is not intimidated, however, and despite the age and size difference he beats the young man handily. He continues with his rigorous training program.

Highway eventually brings the men around. They learn to respect him for his methods and his heart because they know their sergeant’s motivation is to keep them alive.

In addition, his men have learned that Highway knows what he is talking about. In a previous war, he won the Congressional Medal of Honor.

When they actually enter combat, their training pays off. They are successful against their enemy.

While teaching his men, “Gunny” Highway is in his own training program, one involving how to relate to his ex-wife and win her back. She is initially hostile, and Highway goes so far as to read Cosmopolitan Magazine in order to learn about the female mind.

Highway is eventually successful in this endeavor, also. At the end of “Heartbreak Ridge”, he wins his wife back.

Highway and Corporal Jones end up with a mutual respect. Jones has proven to be a capable soldier under Highway’s leadership. He goes so far as to tell Highway he intends to make a career  in the Marines.

The Scriptures state the obvious and the not so obvious when it comes to training. The book of Hebrews notes: “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.” (Hebrews 12:11). 

What is clear is that discipline hurts. What is not so obvious at the time we endure it is that it has a positive effect in the long run.

The passage in Hebrews 12 also gives some other perspectives:

* God’s discipline is a sign of his love and that we are truly members of His family;

* God disciplines us so that we will live;

* God wants us to become like Him, i.e., holy.

With this perspective, the writer of Hebrews tells us what our response should be. He tells us not to lose heart in the midst of the discipline (Hebrews 12:5b).

We are told to respect God for what He is doing for us and to submit to Him in the training. His intent is for us to build up our weak and lame areas and be healed.

God’s boot camp for me isn’t going to be easy, but in the midst of the hardship there is His grace. He wants to heal me and keep me alive, and He is there to teach me.

Keeping this knowledge in front of me will help me avoid the blues.

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Whoever spares the rod hates their children, but the one who loves their children is careful to discipline them (Proverbs 13:24).”

“I do something for my people and my country. You are young and active. What have you done for your people and your country.”

This is the statement and question Dr. Hawa Abdi made to  two 18-year-old religiously-based militants who had just told her that she was an old woman and needed to sit down. These fighters had invaded her camp for displaced people in Somalia and wreaked havoc. Her story is in a current episode of Newsweek magazine.

After she had refused to hand over her camp and medical facilities to the militants on the basis that, in their religion, she was a woman and not allowed to have authority , 750 of them showed up at her facility.  They beat the guards and leaders of the camp.

In addition, they flung mortar shells into her hospital. Terrified mothers, including a new one, and their children fled into the forests.  Dr. Abdi knew they wouldn’t survive.

She and some of her nurses were taken away from the camp and put in an empty room. When they were taken back, the camp was silent. The place had been devastated.

Mayhem had been wreaked in Dr.  Abdi’s own office.  Personal papers, photos and property had been destroyed.

The militants had ripped open her furniture. They were looking for hidden money.

Somalia has been at war for over 20 years. It’s men have made the country a sore place on the globe. People are starving and dying.

Of course, as Dr. Abdi describes, the main sufferers are innocent women and children. They have no means to defend themselves from the oppression and brutality forced upon them.

When men behave badly, the Somalias of the world are the result. It is conflict, chaos, despair and agony.

The last time I remember hearing anyone utter a statement like the one Dr. Abdi made to her young captors, I was the one who made it. I was not in a war-torn region, but at a sporting event.

I had taken my young son to his first professional football game. Although our favorite team, the one at home, was pitiful and was playing a very good opponent, and the weather was atrocious, we were happy to be there.

However, the atmosphere began to be spoiled by a large number of visiting young male fans. They were drunk and unruly. They uttered loud epithets against the team we were rooting for.

I was beginning to get disappointed for my son. Knowing that these drunks were rooting for a team for whom winning was a new experience, I lashed out. I looked at one of the winos and said,”When was the last time YOUR team won anything?”

Sometimes you have to ask some hard questions to wake people up. This is what I was trying to do in some respects. Of course, in a much more dire venue, this was what Dr. Abdi was doing.

The Bible tells a story  similar to the one related by Newsweek concerning Dr. Abdi. Its villains were also supposedly religious young men.

In fact, the men in the story were the sons of the high priest of the whole nation of Israel, a man named Eli.  The Bible writes that these young men were “scoundrels” (I Samuel 2:12).

These bad boys profaned the meat sacrifices of their religion instead of using them in accordance with God’s instructions. According  to Matthew Henry, they stepped in before the sacrifice was performed and took the best cuts for themselves.

These sons of the high priest did more than this. Adding tothe stereotype of ministers’ boys being bad apples who fall far from the tree, they slept with the women who worked at the temple (I Samuel 2:22).

My guess is that these illicit couplings were not ones welcomed in most cases by the women involved. They most likely feared for their jobs, or even their lives.

These young men had their own Dr. Abdi figure, i.e. their father Eli.  To Eli’s credit, he rebuked them strongly for their behavior.

However, Eli differed from Dr. Abdi in one respect. While he only talked a good game, Dr. Abdi put teeth to her reproach.

One day the militants came to her and told her to reopen her facility. They had told the media her camp was open and didn’t want to look bad.

However, Dr. Abdi would only do so on one condition. She would reopen her camp if she received a written apology.

She told Newsweek why she did this:

I knew if I accepted their request to open my facilities today, they’d have the power to return tomorrow, to tell me to close them. I had to show them the consequences of their actions, for their own survival; they are the husbands and sons of the women I treat, the brothers of the other wounded men in the hospital.

It took a week, but the second-in-command of the militants came with a letter of apology. Dr. Abdi reopened her camp.

She then told the militants:

“I am a Somali.  I am a mother. I am a doctor, and I deserve to be respected. I care for so many people around you–this was a tragedy you could have prevented.”

Eli could have prevented his sons’ wrong creation of mayhem among the Israelites, also.  He was far more powerful than Dr. Abdi. He could have done something to discipline them for their unholy behavior.

Instead, Eli  just blabbed. The boys ignored him and went on their merry way.

However, God saw what was happening and did more than just talk. He stepped in and told Eli what was coming.

Since he had not chosen to leave a legacy of godliness to his children, God told Eli none of his descendants would  live long lives. Furthermore, in the short term, Eli’s wicked sons would soon die on the same day. Ouch!

Preaching at the boys wasn’t good enough for God. In His scheme of things, being a good father and priest in his home and nation meant that Eli needed to take action against the evil in his sphere of  control.

Instead, Eli had aided and abetted it by doing nothing. To God, he was as guilty as his two sons. Double ouch!

During the raid and occupation of her camp, Dr. Abdi told the militants,”You are men. You need to give something to these people in need.” Instead, these unholy men were wrecking and pillaging the one place of refuge these people had.

We have a choice as men today. We can contribute to the well-being of our families and societies, or we can be part of the ongoing chaos and upheaval we see currently in the news.

The challenge to holiness in this unrighteous world is not for men only. Women have a choice also. They can be like Dr. Abdi and confront the excesses of men, who sometimes can be beastly, and choose to be holy themselves and contribute to their worlds.

The news today brought the story of a young woman who decided to join the looters during a riot in her city last week.  She has up until now had a solid reputation in her country as a sports ambassador and has been feted in the past.

Her mom saw her rampaging on the news and didn’t waste any time.  She called the police on her daughter. Good for her!

There was something wrong with Eli’s heart. There was something definitely wrong with his sons’ hearts.

What God wants is from his sons and daughters is hearts of gold. Brian Doerksen wrote about this prayer, which applies to all of us:

Purify my heart
Let me be as gold and precious silver
Purify my heart
Let me be as gold, pure gold

Refiner’s fire
My heart’s one desire
Is to be holy
Set apart for You, Lord
I choose to be holy
Set apart for You, my Master
Ready to do Your will

Purify my heart
Cleanse me from within
And make me holy
Purify my heart
Cleanse me from my sin
Deep within

As worship leaders, Eli and sons should have been at what Matt Redman calls the “heart of worship”. When his church had lost its way in worshipping God, the leaders got rid of the music, and parishioners began to express heart-felt responses to God.

Afterward, he penned these lyrics:

When the music fades
All is stripped away
And I simply come
Longing just to bring
Something that’s of worth
That will bless Your heart

I’ll bring You more than a song
For a song in itself
Is not what You have required
You search much deeper within
Through the way things appear
You’re looking into my heart

I’m coming back to the heart of worship
And it’s all about You,
It’s all about You, Jesus
I’m sorry, Lord, for the thing I’ve made it
When it’s all about You,
It’s all about You, Jesus

Our young people today need to know it’s not all about them.  As a father of two adult young people, and two teenagers, I know it’s my job to teach them.

If I don’t, and if you don’t, then we may end up with a couple of children of Eli, without hearts: young people who are confused, misguided and headed for destruction.

Gold is a precious commodity. It’s currently and its highest price ever and extremely valuable.  What is more valuable is the hearts of our kids.

You and I need to step up and develop hearts of gold in ourselves and in our children.  In a raucous period of history, it’s our only recourse for recovery.

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