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A Post for Dads

randomlychad  —  September 2, 2014 — Leave a comment

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This post is for dads (or dads to be). It’s okay if you moms, wives, sisters, daughters (cousin’s former roommates) read it, too. Because what I’m going to share (I know, I’m sounding like an informercial here) has the potential to change. Your. Life, too.

I didn’t come up with it. A guy named Greg Vaughn out of Lubbock, Texas did. In a nutshell: Mr. Vaughn was one day cleaning out his garage, and came upon an old, worn out, rusty tackle box that had been his dad’s.

It was literally all he had from his father. There were no no notes, no letters, nothing to remind him of his dad’s love. Mr. Vaughn got angry. He was upset that all he had was this worthless tackle box. It was then that he heard God speak in his heart: “What do your kids have, Greg?”

Convicted by this, Greg Vaughn got together with a group of friends, and like the old shampoo commercial, they told two friends, etc.

Thus Letters From Dad was born. In the last 10 (or so) years it has gone quietly viral. What it is is a series of meetings (five in total), where men gather to learn the the lost art of letter writing. These letters are tokens of faith, hope, and love poured out upon the page for our families. It’s about not just writing well, but living well–backing up those words. Let’s face it: words are powerful. Why not use them to powerfully speak into the lives of those we love the most?

The program starts with us guys writing a letter to our wives (we wouldn’t be dads without them), proceeding through our children–eldest to youngest–and then our parents. Writing all this down gives us guys an opportunity to say the things we often mean, but forget, to say. We get to express our love, our gratitude, our hopes and dreams for our kids.

We get to leave a written record of what was most important to us. One that will live on after we are gone.

Again, I know this sounds like an informercial, or something, but I believe in it (Letters From Dad) so much that I wanted to let you, my faithful readers, know.

Look up Letters From Dad on the Internet. Ask your church to host it. Get your friends and neighbors together. It will really change your lives, men. And more importantly, it will change the lives of those that mean the most to you:

Your families.

(Ladies, if you read this far, I would encourage you to order the materials for the man in your life. You’ll be glad you did).

Dr. Karl Meninger wrote years ago, asking Whatever Became of Sin?

Good question, doc. Because that line keeps getting pushed further and further out. Things, only a generation ago, which were considered sin are now not only not, well, sin, but are approved of, applauded.

The collective consciousness (and conscience) it would seem have been given over. This shouldn’t surprise us. It’s there in the scriptures: Romans chapter one: “And God gave them over…”

I’m not here calling out any one particular sin, but a general trend in what is arguably a post-christian society. We (at least we here in America) can’t even agree if this country was ever a “Christian nation,” whether–or not–it was founded on biblical principles.

No, everbody–left, right, centrist, liberal, conservative, progressive–is too busy planting flags, claiming territory. Everybody is saying that God is on their respective side in this cultural divide. (I write here of those who particularly claim to be in the church).

But what does God say?

Matthew 13:24-30 ESV

“He put another parable before them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field, but while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat and went away. So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared also. And the servants of the master of the house came and said to him, ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have weeds?’ He said to them, ‘An enemy has done this.’ So the servants said to him, ‘Then do you want us to go and gather them?’ But he said, ‘No, lest in gathering the weeds you root up the wheat along with them. Let both grow together until the harvest, and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.’”

Yes, I know the scriptures tell us that we shall know them by their fruits. I’m just sick of arguing. So I’m going to propose a new tack:

Instead of going out on tare patrol, I’ll instead leave the question of who’s in, or who’s out to God. Apparently, He has plan. I have sneaking suspicion that we’ll all be shocked on that day as to who are actually wheat, and who are tares. And the simple fact is that all that each of us can do is reflect Jesus to the best of our abilities.

We never win by arguing. Because people are no longer persuaded by logic. No; they’re looking for love, looking to be heard and understood. They’re looking for a shared connection via a shared story. Let us not forget that the Bible is first a story: God’s story. It’s a story of how He, Creator of all that is seen, and unseen, wants a relationship with each one of us.

It is love which will persuade hearts–not carefully crafted persuasive arguments. Or vitriolic vilifications. First, folks want to know how much we care–before they can even begin to care about what we know. We’re not even on the same page regarding what is, and what is not, sinful. There isn’t a common morality to come to any consensus upon.

There’s just this:

Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.

I’m not here talking about being soft on sin; rather, it’s about being soft on the hearts of folks who don’t even know they’re sinners in the first place.

As Jesus was…

Live a life of love, and let God sort it out, my friends. He knows who’s wheat, and who’s a tare.

'notting hill' photo (c) 2010, Nikos Roussos - license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

I’m a happily married man of many years. As such, it happens that I’m contractually obligated to see a certain number of romantic comedies per annum. As there really haven’t been any romcoms produced of late (what’s up with that, Hollywood?), I’d like to reflect upon one of my favorites (did I just say that?):

Notting Hill.

Starring Hugh Grant and Julia Roberts, they play variations of themselves (shocking, I know). The more I watch it, the more layers I peel back. Because this movie works on so many levels. It’s a meditation on celebrity, society’s obsession with it, and the consequences of that celebrity.

But mainly it’s about wish fullfilment.

There’s a hang dog, down on his luck book shop owner (I’ll leave it to you to puzzle out who plays this part), and a starlet, whose paths cross in the most ordinary of ways: shopping. Upon their first meeting, Grant’s William Thacker is nonplussed by Julia Roberts’s Anna Scott. In fact, excuses himself to deal with a shoplifter. In our world, one wouldn’t think that such souls would be drawn together, right?

Think again.

Upon their second meeting, later that same morning, Thacker bumps into Scott, spilling orange juice all over both them. He prevails upon her to tidy up at his house (it being just eighteen yards away). This is where the movie takes a turn. And for years, this particular turn bothered me.

After Scott returns to retrieve a forgotten bag, she kisses Thacker. In what world would a celebrity do this? It doesn’t seem realistic. Yet, the heart is fickle, right? I believe it is her desire for some degree of normalcy which prompts this. This self-effacing, unassuming Englishman represents something she doesn’t have: a normal life.

And for him, the kiss awakens a repressed desire for anything other than the quiet life of obscurity he’s been living.

Each represents for the other a fulfillment of a wish: a dream of a different life.

All of the best movies, in my opinion, awaken a similar longing in us; namely, that there’s got to be more. The late, great C.S. Lewis said that “If I find in myself desires that nothing in this world can satisfy, it stands to reason that I was made for another world.”

This is what the best movies, whether romcoms or otherwise, do: evoke in us that longing for that other world. That world where love never dies, where all is indeed right…

Where there is neither sickness nor pain nor tears… for all of these have passed away. But this is not that world. We are still in Act III of the play.

Notting Hill, despite its flaws, reminds that the path to lasting love is fraught with difficulty. But it is possible to find it. If we are willing to plunge into the pain, confront our demons, and work at it. That love won’t be perfect, and it often works best when we’re willing to lay aside our expectations–our wishes–and embrace what is.

We are all that girl, are we not? Standing in front of someone, asking them to love us…

Someday it will all be worth it.

What do you think? Have you seen Notting Hill?

Child of Divorce

randomlychad  —  May 15, 2014 — 2 Comments

You may have seen this video as it made the rounds via social media. Like so many of you, I not only saw it, but lived it. I was that kid. The one wondering if he mattered. The one knowing he didn’t.

I’m almost 45 years old, and I still fight that feeling inside that there’s something wrong with me–that I’m wrong. It doesn’t take much at all to take me back to that place. In so many ways I’m still that little boy…

I know God is my Father; yet I so often relate to him like I would my earthly father. That is to say, there’s a distance there that shouldn’t be. Yet I don’t know how to overcome it.

How could he love me?

I know he does. I’m just not good at feeling it. Faith, and trust, are hard to come by when the scars are still so very real. And God, like a faithful surgeon, often wounds right there in those very places of deepest woundedness… I don’t want to hurt, but I also don’t want to mask the pain.

God, are you listening?

How about you? Do you struggle with knowing, deep down, that you are loved by God?

Too Much to Ask?

randomlychad  —  April 22, 2014 — 3 Comments

If the other day I wrote of love being more than they have to give, today I’d like to address the other side of that coin. Namely, how growing up with a marked lack of intimacy creates questions, and puts burdens on others they were not meant to bear. For you see, nature (and here I mean human nature) abhors a vacuum. If we don’t get the mother love and/or the father love we need in our formative years, we look to other people, to tbings, to substances to fill that void.

We put burdens on spouses, and friends, that were simply not meant to bear.

If the questions:

“Daddy, do you love me?” and

“Do have what it takes?”

“Am I pretty?” (in the case of a little girl)

Are met with stony silence, or outright hostility, we naturally question our worth. The inference is that we don’t have what it takes, and we will do what we can to find it. They are all questions asking the same thing:

Am I valuable to you?

If the message is that we’re not, then we’ll go looking. And it’s often a fruitless, and heartbreaking, search for identity. As a husband, and as a man, say that I go to my wife: I’m not going to  get the affirmation of I’m looking for. Because she is a woman, and masculinity is something which is imparted. Besides which, having coming from a broken home, who is role model? My dad, with his philandering? Is that how a woman is to be treated? He took his question to the woman–and still hasn’t found what he’s looking for. Just a string of affairs, and two divorces.

And several disappointed kids.

The cycle of dysfunction set him up to fail, and that is the legacy he has handed down. I have learned I can’t look to him. Yes, looking to God is the answer.

But…

Other than His Word, the Bible, God is largely silent in today’s world. It’s not like we can sit down with Him and have a face-to-face conversation. Oh, sure, we can have a heart-to-heart via prayer. And we know He loves us–the cross proves it. But sometimes we want arms, we need our daddy’s love. Let’s face it our hearts are fickle: when we don’t get what we think we need from:

God

We turn to people

And when people likewise let us down

We turn to things

But the things never satisfy

Leaving us longing for more.

It’s a recursive loop, like a serpent devouring its own tail. It’s nuts to be so needy, but growing up without those loves needs met leaves one very vulnerable to getting on this affirmation treadmill.

Because enough just never is enough.

And I know Jesus is the answer. I just don’t know how. My heart is fickle, and wants to go full on Children of Israel:

At least I knew Egypt, but like song by Sara Groves says, “Those places that used to fit me cannot hold the things I’ve learned. And those roads were closed off to me while my back was turned.”

Maybe it’s a trust issue, you know? Maybe you and I know that God loves us. But maybe we’re just not to sure about his people? Or we view Him like we view our earthly fathers? I just wish He would show up more often and help me make sense of my messy heart.

Is that too much to ask?

What do you think?