The Battle for “Mine”

About three weeks ago I picked up on my son’s comment during the car ride, and I attempted to drive home a point. My son had claimed something as “his.” More specifically, he wanted credit from his brother for finding a particular YouTube video. It struck a nerve with me because my oldest son, who is now 13, has become notably more territorial. Explaining all of the factors that would have gone into “his” discovery of the video made me feel better, even though it may have landed on deaf ears.
And then it was my turn. The very next morning, after bringing my sons to school, I stopped by the grocery store for a handful of staple items. The local grocery was quiet early in the morning so only the service counter was open. I set my items on the counter and decided to be Mr. Good Citizen and walked over to put the basket back where I had found it. As I came back to the counter, I noticed that the cashier had begun to check out the woman who was behind me in line. Internally I was taken aback: “I was there first! Didn’t she see that I was doing a good thing? And couldn’t she wait twenty seconds until I returned?”
Mine. That ugly word reared its head in our home again today. My two oldest sons disputed the use of a shared desk in their bedroom. Neither would budge. My attempt to intervene only proved more frustrating to them and to me. I tried to exhibit dominion over them as their father, reaching deep (not that deep) into my bag of tricks to restore order and reclaim peace. My peace. Their conflict was interrupting my day.
I would not often accuse myself of being a fast learner, as this course of events clearly revealed. As I retreated to the bathroom to wash up after a workout – and to avoid further unraveling on my part – it finally dawned on me. I was fighting the wrong battle. My sons were not the problem. The problem was not even the problem. The problem was a lie and the problem was the liar – the father of lies. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. (Ephesians 6:12) That is the truth, and thankfully, that is the truth that was brought to my mind.
Recognizing that truth helped redirect my energy, helped refocus my battle. Why should I be in combat with my sons when the source of conflict was a spirit of selfishness, greed, and pride? In my very helpless I-can’t-do-it state, I began to speak out truth and claim the victory found in the life of Jesus Christ. I commanded the enemy out of my home and away from my children and humbly acknowledged that neither this house nor these children are “mine.”
“Have your way.” Simple words, but powerful. They ought to leave my lips more often. I would do well to leave my Burger King attitude at the foot of the cross so that God’s will can be accomplished without my resistance. I need to be the burger flipper and fry dipper that simply says, “Have it your way, God.” But far, far too often I think I own the place. Very clearly I don’t.
I need to speak truth more often – not my truth – God’s truth. I need to speak Scripture. I need to pray Scripture. I need to stop believing that I can add anything to what is HIS. I would love to tell you that my oldest sons have hugged and washed each other’s feet. Nope. But I have confirmation that I’m fighting the right battle and I’m chasing them with the truth. When I opened up YouVersion to study Proverbs, the Verse of the Day was the same one I have painted on my living room wall – 2 Thessalonians 3:3, “But The Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen and protect you from the evil one.” Truth. And I turned on Pandora to bring an atmosphere of worship into the home. I chose the Francesca Battistelli station – my son Joshua’s favorite artist – and the first song that played was “I’m Letting Go.” I pray that I can also make that statement a truth in this home.


10,000 Reasons

The seed for this began when my youngest son’s class at school put into practice the recording of blessings as explored in Ann Voskamp’s book, One Thousand Gifts. Others had recommended the book after that, and I began to put it into practice. Yet I was also challenged by Matt Redman’s song “10,000 Reasons,” and I decided not to stop at 1,000. Now that I have reached that mark, I want to shift the focus. I want to not only take note of the blessings, but also note a Scripture or a promise of God that is reflected in the blessing. I want to not only hear the echo and see the reflection, but I want to turn and see the source. Pressing on and in.
*All Scripture passages are from the New International Version unless otherwise noted.

1055) A cup of cold water offered to me.
Like cold water to a weary soul is good news from a distant land. Proverbs 25:25

1056) God working out the details after I surrender.
Then Abraham raised his eyes and looked, and behold, behind him a ram caught in the thicket by his horns; and Abraham went and took the ram and offered him up for a burnt offering in the place of his son. Genesis 22:13

1057) A phone call that encourages my spirit.
Lord, by such things people live; and my spirit finds life in them too. You restored me to health and let me live. Isaiah 38;16

1058) An invitation for my son to speak.
Listen, my son, to your father’s instruction and do not forsake your mother’s teaching. Proverbs 1:8


What is the Point of Purity? Less of a Mess

For nearly three years we have been a dog-owning household. Our dog Boxer (not a Boxer breed, strangely) is a great fit for our family. His previous owner trained him well in the first fifteen months of his life, and they knew his habits well enough to teach us. He came to us with the disclaimer that he would chew shoes and plastic. He did, and he added library books to his repertoire. Overall, he is a solid dog full of loyalty.
There is one piece concerning Boxer that still frustrates me, but I’m working on that. Boxer, a labrador and shepherd mix, has a long and powerful tail. He becomes very excited when we arrive home, and there are times when you can hear his tail clanging off the dining table legs or the wall or the door – or our legs. I don’t mind his tail specifically, I mind the blood. In the winter, despite our best efforts to help him, his skin grows dry. And, at times, he chews at the very end of his tail which then leaves an exposed area. Because of the force by which he wags his tail, it will leave splatters of blood on the wall. On the doorway. On the curtain. On the trash can. On the side of the kitchen counters. Sometimes, out of a loss of options, we try to encourage him to just sit when we arrive home. I have noticed my sons mimicking me and yelling out, “Boxer! Your tail!”
But Boxer loves to see us, and there is little that would stop his tail. My son Joshua has some designs on a contraption that would hold Boxer’s tail under him, but I am skeptical. So we tolerate Boxer’s tail, especially since it is not all the time, and especially because we understand. At one point as I sprayed down and scrubbed the wall, I thought of the thankless work God does to clean me up. Even my best efforts are a mess. The prophet Isaiah tells us that “all our righteous acts are as filthy rags.” (Isaiah 64:6) I am, you are, we are – a mess.
Despite my best efforts to be pure, to be holy, I will fall remarkably short on my own. Even when I operate in joy, as Boxer does, and I run about to love and serve and see God, I leave a mess everywhere. Can I teach Boxer to stop chewing his tail in the winter? Perhaps. Can I teach him to stop wagging his tail in excitement when he sees us? Doubtful. Would it help me to shame him for the mess he leaves behind? No. So I simply spray and scrub.
Boxer is smart enough to know when he has does something wrong. He does not, however, seem to be smart enough to stop doing all of those things. Huh. Sounds like somebody I know – me. It seemed to me that the more I focused my thoughts and writing on purity the more difficult purity became for me. Part of my silence in writing came from losing my rhythm. I made sacrifices in the work of feeding my roots to attend to the fruit. In other words, I became so preoccupied with the busyness of ministry work that I neglected the work of a minister – to seek first His kingdom and His righteousness.
We will not achieve complete purity on this side. If we could, we would be able to earn our salvation by becoming spotless and blameless ourselves. We are saved by grace through faith. But we should not continue sinning so that grace may abound. No! We are to clothe ourselves in righteousness – not ours, but that of Christ Jesus. Clothing ourselves in his righteousness is a slow work. It requires a different pace than what most of our world expects. We put together 30-day plans, 6 month plans, five year plans, and run.
I recently began a new position and started to think about it in terms of how I would like to leave it for the next person in five years. Then I started to laugh as I wondered, “Did Jesus have a five year plan?” Just imagine what Jesus would have, could have done, with five years of ministry! No, Jesus did not operate with a five-year plan. He knew the end goal, but he achieved the end goal – the will of his Father in heaven – by walking out a life of obedience and purity every day. We would do well to do the same.
About a month ago, we became a two-dog household. Well, a dog and a half. We added a puppy to the mix. I grew up with dogs throughout my childhood, but I do not remember that a puppy was this much work. Boxer has adapted extremely well to the new addition, and the puppy looks up to him for his cues. Sometimes I talk to Boxer about being an example (I wish I were joking about that, but I’m not), and then I think, “What about me? Am I the example that I would want my sons to follow?”
When I was a young parent, someone once shared these words: “Lead the type of life you would want your children to live.” Those are good words, but difficult words.
I have taught my children well, I believe that. They know what is right and what is wrong. They often are commended for their behavior. But have I truly become their example? More importantly, has Christ truly become my example so that when my sons see me they don’t see me? Can they see Christ?
Our puppy is full of mistakes, but he is a joy to have around. And he is already learning at his young age what is right and what is wrong. But will he live that out when it counts? The shredded pieces of various objects I find when I come home would suggest: not yet. The same is true for my sons – not yet. There is much to teach them, but I am reminded how much they learn from what I don’t say. They watch. My father is not a talker, unless you are outside of the family and call his house, then he turns on the conversational charm. Yet, even still, I have learned so much from watching him. I have, in many regards, become more like my father with each passing year. But how am I doing at becoming the Son?
Romans 8 tells us that we are adopted as children into the family of God. We are. Present and current tense. This then, would suggest a new standard. When a child is adopted, they do not live by the rules of their previous home and family. They live according to the adopted family’s rules. That is what we must do, brothers and sisters. We are called to live a life that is pure and holy. You might be a pup in your faith, not knowing all of the right and wrong and how to live. You might be a Boxer in your faith, still messing up in spite of your best efforts. You might be an old dog (which I still hope to see) who has learned how to walk out a life of obedience quite well. No matter where you find yourself, let God wash you clean.
The blood of the spotless Lamb was poured out for you and me. The apostle Peter gives us these words:
For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.”
“Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for your brothers, love one another deeply from the heart.

-I Peter 1:18, 19, 22
The price God paid for you is one that no one else could afford. He did it to clean us up, to make us worthy of being called his daughter or his son. So now what? We love. We love God; we love one another. We love God enough to give our best. We love one another enough to forgive. We make mistakes, we fall short, we get cleaned up, and try again. All of us face the same question as Boxer does, as our puppy does, as my children do: what will you do when no one is looking? Before you answer that, let me remind you: there is never a time when no one is looking. Learn to live not in fear of doing wrong, not in fear of punishment, but with love and sincerity that offers your best to God.


10,000 Reasons

*The seed for this began when my youngest son’s class at school put into practice the recording of blessings as explored in Ann Voskamp’s book, One Thousand Gifts. Others had recommended the book after that, and I began to put it into practice. Yet I was also challenged by Matt Redman’s song “10,000 Reasons,” and I decided not to stop at 1,000. Now that I have reached that mark, I want to shift the focus. I want to not only take note of the blessings, but also note a Scripture or a promise of God that is reflected in the blessing. I want to not only hear the echo and see the reflection, but I want to turn and see the source. Pressing on and in.
*All Scripture passages are from the New International Version unless otherwise noted.

1040) Receiving words of encouragement and affirmation.
But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s faithfulness. Hebrews 3:13

1041) Discovering that a need was unexpectedly met.
Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. I Timothy 6:17

1042) A prayer that is translated on Pentecost.
When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard them speaking in his own language. Acts 2:6

1043) The aspirations of graduating students who will follow the Lord’s leading around the world.
“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28:19,20

1044) The receiver of a gift – from four years ago – still remembers it, even after I had forgotten.
A gift opens the way for the giver and ushers him into the presence of the great. Proverbs 18:16

1045) Making a child smile.
Even a child is known by his actions, by whether his conduct is pure and right. Proverbs 20:11

1046) A child telling me, “I don’t want you to go!”
Even a child is known by his actions, by whether his conduct is pure and right. Proverbs 20:11

1047) Being able to help because I had been obedient to a prompt.
By day the Lord directs his love, at night his song is with me – a prayer to the God of my life. Psalm 42:8

1048) Giving water to strangers twice in one day.
“I tell you the truth, anyone who gives you a cup of water in my name because you belong to Christ will certainly not lose his reward.” Mark 9:41

1049) A young man who wants to preach because God has laid it on his heart.
“So it is with you. Since you are eager to have spiritual gifts, try to excel in gifts that build up the church.” I Corinthians 14:12

1050) Encouraging words of truth from a friend.
I have chosen the way of truth; I have set my heart on your laws. Psalm 119:30

1051) Reading these words: “Thanks for your advice the other day.”
Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. Ephesians 4:15

1052) The crisp, clear sounds of birds during a morning walk – a symphony.
I will give thanks to The Lord because of his righteousness; I will sing the praises of the name of The Lord Most High. Psalm 7:17

1053) The way that trees reach up to capture the sun.
When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” Luke 19:5

1054) Testimony that brings tears to my eyes.
So do not be ashamed about the testimony of our Lord or of me his prisoner. Rather, join with me in the suffering of the gospel, by the power of God. 2 Timothy 1:8