Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Parental Paranoia?

We've all encountered them before - young parents exhibiting signs of 'first-baby-itis': fleeing a room with baby (or child) in tow when someone sneezes or pulls out food containing high fructose corn syrup, reordering their lives around the child's sleeping schedule with drill-sargeant-like rigidity and life-mapping the child's first twenty years to include the books they will like, the kind of friends they will make and the kind of spouse they will marry.

I can relate because I was that parent during my eldest son's early years. Overprotection and great expectations are natural for first time parents, therefore, Terri and I typically have a lot of patience for them - we've been there. At the same time, our parental desire to create an ideal, injury-free, untainted childhood for our kids may have more to do with idolatry and fear than true love for our kids.

Doug Wolter explores this topic in greater depth here.

Friday, November 20, 2009

A Gospel Metaphor

My friend Ray Ortlund alerted me to the gospel parallels visible through the following ad. Can TV ads lead us to worship Christ with thankfulness? Read correctly, this one can.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The Instructive Power of a Broken Heart

"On my desk in New York sits a photograph of a seven-year-old boy. He's wearing a pair of glasses, a freshly ironed shirt buttoned to the neck and his best smile. I placed that picture on my desk at the suggestion of a friend who understood that, as someone who grew up fundamentalist, I was having a difficult time finding my way as an adult. 'Just look at that picture of yourself as a child,' he suggested, 'and try to recall what it was like to be that child.'

Then one morning, while seated at my desk, it all came back. In 1961, we lived in a parsonage next to the church out in the farm country of southern Minnesota, and there was nothing in the world more important to me than baseball. One day my father returned from town with a plastic bat and ball. 'Let's play ball,' he said. I couldn't have been more excited, in part because I knew, even then, that my father had no interest whatsoever in sports of any kind. I recall what happened next as though it was yesterday. After swinging wildly at a couple of pitches, I decided to let a few go by.

'Well, what's the point of all this?' my father huffed. 'If you dont' swing I'm just wasting my time.' He tossed the ball in my direction, turned and headed back to his study.

We never played ball again.

In the midst of my tears that morning in my office I recognized that I had spent most of my life hoping that my father would pitch to me again....Maybe, just maybe, if this kid smiled harder, if he excelled in school, if he suffered through piano lessons, if he obeyed all the rules or if he memorized enough Bible verses, his father would emerge from his study to hit a few grounders or to pitch a few more. This time, I vowed, I would swing at every pitch."

- Randall Balmer, Growing Pains, pp. 17-19

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Honoring a Different Kind of Veteran

Today is Veteran's Day - a day we should take time to thank the men and women who have served our nation in times of peace and war.

But today I'd like to thank a veteran of another kind - a veteran mom: My mom, Sandie Perry.

You see, today I heard Kenny Roger's 1980 ballad "Lady" and was taken back nearly thirty years to a very special time in my life. When I was ten year's old, roller-skating was very popular in my hometown. I practically lived at the rink. It was very much a 'youth culture' kind of place where adults were rarely seen.

Then, my mom discovered that the local rink was offering 'skate-dancing' lessons for couples on Saturday mornings. If I remember correctly, she asked me if I wanted to take lessons with her. Now, clouded by the decades, the details of that experience - including any skating ability I gained - are long gone. What remains fresh is the memory of the two of us skating together to Kenny Roger's "Lady" and the joy I felt to be doing this with my mom. The skating rink was not her world. It was mine. But for the sake of love for me she entered it and helped create one of the tenderest memories of my childhood. Thanks Mom!

Veterans deserve honor today, but moms like mine deserve far more.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Don't Just Bring Them to Church

How important is it for us as Christian men to be daily, proactively nurturing our families on the food of biblical truth? I'll let the Scots preacher of the 19th century, Robert Murray M'Cheyne answer that question:
"[Men], if you do not worship God in your family, you are living in positive sin; you may be quite sure you do not care for the souls of your family. If you neglected to spread a meal for your children to eat, would it not be said that you did not care for their bodies? And if you do not lead your children and servants to the green pastures of God's Word, and to seek the living water, how plain is it that you do not care for their souls? Do it regularly, morning and evening. It is more needful than your daily food - more needful than your work.
- Robert Murray M'Cheyne, The Sermons of M'Cheyne, p. 29
That last line haunts me: "It is more needful than your daily food - more needful than your work." Am I invested and motivated for spiritually training my family MORE than I'm motivated for succeeding in my career? If so, my priorities will reflect that. God help me.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Nurturing Humilty

The more we grow as Christians, the more we realize how prideful we are. Humility doesn't come naturally to any of us. Yet, as James 4:10 and other texts make clear, we can only benefit by growing in humilty. Are there any regular practices we can embrace to nurture humility to the glory of God?

One of the best I recently came across is offered by Roger Merrill, author of First Things First. Its the simple practice of soliciting honest feedback from our family members, truly being willing to hear their concerns about us and make necessary changes. Merrill writes,

"I asked each of our children to write three words on a piece of paper: 'continue,' 'stop' and 'start.' Then I said, 'What are the things I'm now doing you'd like to see me continue to do? What would you like to see me stop doing? What would you like to see me start doing that I'm not doing now?' My childrens' replies amazed me. Their replies were thoughtful, helpful and supportive. They reflected awareness and appreciation. I was astonished at the maturity of their replies." (First Things First, pp. 247-248)

The regular discipline of soliciting feedback can be used not only with our children but with our spouses, co-workers and friends. Though they may occasionally give us feedback out of step with God's will, more often than not their honesty will gently expose our sin and accentuate our need for Christ. When heard, received and responded to with an open heart desirous to change, the discipline of feedback is one of the best means by which to nurture godly humility - and grow in sanctifying grace.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Calvin on the Bible

"To try to establish contact with God without the Scriptures is like trying to behold His face by shutting our eyes or like an almost blind person trying to see without spectacles."

- John Calvin, C.R. 8, p. 427