Dear Children

Letters From A Father's Heart

Archive for the month “February, 2015”

About “Dear Children”

I’ve been meaning for some time to write this for the “About” header.  It’s been an evolution of sorts and since things have now somewhat congealed, I think I can write it without being too far off.  I’ll start with what is already there:

I am the father of a daughter and a son, born 2000 and 2002 respectively, whom my wife and I educate at home.  These are open letters, from me, addressed to the two of them so that they may have something permanent from their father.

This site rose from my years as a blogger of eight years.  In that time I have developed, shall we say, a relationship with the world of the internet, and have discovered a few things that I’ll mention here in passing.  It is a great place to interact with ideas, and even to learn how to interact… civilly.  Going back a few years and reading things that I’d forgotten that I’d even written, I must admit that I was often aghast and ashamed, not of what I had said, but due to the arrogant, condescending and unloving and uncaring way that I said it.  Without the blogosphere, I would have never even had the opportunity to learn that lesson.  Blogging has also afforded me the time to analyze and think about the thought forms of those with whom I disagree; to unpack them, and to understand them, in ways that simple conversation simply cannot allow.

Also my introduction to the blogosphere introduced me to another thing that was completely new.  It introduced me to yet another monster that had come to devour my attention and time with ever more ferocity.  When I would sit down in front of my computer the clock would disappear.  Hours would turn to minutes.  I had an epiphany a few years ago.  It happened that I was writing, probably about the importance of family and fatherhood, or following Jesus or some such, and it hit me.  My children were playing in the back yard just through the sliding glass door, and there I was, for all practical purposes, in another world.  That was bad.

So, to pull all this together for the purpose of explaining the “About” of this blog, here are three things.  First, this blog is written from my heart to my children.  This is an arena for which I am officially ordained by God, and in which He has unquestionably given me the authority and the gift to teach.  I am plowing my own field as I write, and there is a personal comfort I get with knowing that.  Still, we live in a time of great fatherlessness, so in the mean time, if these letters admonish or bless you too, then I am likewise blessed twice.

Second, by making these public I not only welcome input, I ask for it.  If there is an angle, a thought, a challenge, or any advice you’re willing to give that is consistent with my theology, then I am more than pleased.  I have found fatherhood to be daunting.  It wasn’t until I was in about waist-deep that I realized I’d never plumb the depths of it.  Beware to all those who think they know too much… or even enough.  I pray constantly that God would call my children to Himself, and to hinder all my efforts, however good intentioned they may be, that interfere with that end.

But there is another reason that I request your input.  It is my goal to cull my favorite and best posts a few years from now and bind them into a nice book to be given to my children individually as a gift, probably for their 18th birthday, or graduation.  So please feel free to call me on misspelled homophones, bad punctuation, and the like.  If you are still reading this, 700 plus words in, I guess what I am asking is that you do a little volunteer-editor work, if you have time and are willing.  Also, with this in mind, keep also in mind that I am in the habit of rereading and editing these posts.

And lastly, please have grace on me when it comes to responding to any comment that you leave.  I have made it a goal to make one post every Sunday.  When I do the enjoyable but difficult work of writing, I am drawing on a dry well as it pertains to inherent talent.  Most of my posts are therefore time consuming.  This fact coupled with the monster that would have me sitting here writing about fatherhood rather than actually being a father means that there will be some Sundays that I will not meet my goal.  But it also means that I may well not be prompt with a response should you leave a comment.  Though I do like to acknowledge everyone who takes the time to say something, I don’t always.  The reason is generally that I don’t know what to say, other than thank you, which, to me, would begin to appear monotonous.  So let me say now, I never tire of receiving encouragement, and every positive comment or “like”  is precious to me.  I always also try to visit the sites of those who do make their presence known here, and could actually spend all my time doing so the truth be known, but there is that monster that I must keep tamed and at bay while at the same time fulfilling my goals here.

So there you have it.  I hope you are blessed, admonished and encouraged by reading this blog.  Feel free to copy and paste anything you see here, and though a link and/or credit would be nice, it is not necessary and you have my permission.

Danny

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Some Management Advice For Disappointment

Dear children

We are fallen creatures and as such we don’t always behave well.   Knowing and accepting this fact is a good first step on the road to becoming a decent human being.  As I often tell you, the worst battles in your life will be with your very self.  With that in mind I would like to write to you this day on managing disappointments.  Here are four thoughts on how to do this.

1. Manage your expectations.

When it comes to managing disappointments this is a preemptive action.  What should we expect out of life?  Well one thing we ought to expect is a healthy dose of disappointment.  If we expect it, then we won’t be disappointed when it comes… if you catch my drift.

Also, when disappointment finally does arrive, we should also be realistic about what it is exactly that we are disappointed about.  As my good friend says, there’s a worm in everything.  We are masters at building the things that we look forward to up in our minds to be bigger and better than they could have ever actually been.  Such disappointments could be as big and encompassing as a career or failed marriage engagement, or something as small as a birthday party.  But when, for whatever reason, a thing we are so looking forward to doesn’t com to pass, we need to first realize that our disappointment is not with the loss of the actual thing but rather the loss of an idea that was created in our minds that is necessarily without the unforeseen worms.

Also, while we should have hopes, goals and dreams that are worth looking forward to or achieving, we should not hold them so tightly that we lose our sense of reality.  I once wanted to play the guitar and sing.  You both know that I can’t sing, which is something that I didn’t know when I first picked up the guitar.  I can’t sing because I am somewhat tone deaf, which is also why I’ll never be able to play any musical instrument very well.  Things like this, and much much worse, are going to happen.  When they do, some of them will have the potential to change our course in life from that which we expected; and we can expect that.  So it is important to manage those expectations and adapt, both in the big things and the little.

2. Manage Your Disappointments 

You can find yourselves a little depressed for a few days, when something small like, say, a vacation falls through.  Or it can be devastating when that fiance lets you know that there’s been a change of heart.  If we have managed our expectations well then hopefully we are more prepared to manage our disappointments.  First there are things we should do, like being honest with ourselves and others.  Larger disappointments are generally the result of an accumulation of causes.  As such we should accept our own responsibility for bringing them about and so learn from our failures.  We should let those close to us know that we are battling disappointment, and ask their forgiveness for the times that this battle has and will spill over into the relationship.  Ask for grace from those you love, and extend grace to those who are not handling your behavior well.  We should grieve if grief is due.  And we should realize that time will heal our wounds.  Your life will not be made by a few successes, nor will it be ruined, by a few failures and disappointments.  It will be an accumulation of successes and failures, wins and losses, victories and disappointments of all types that will end up making your life what it will be, and you who you are.  Learning to manage disappointments well will make it easier and quicker to climb out of the valleys when they come.  So begin now to learn how.

3. Manage Yourself

It is a learned skill to manage one’s self, though it does take some longer than others.  The learning process will be quicker if you realize that you are in the midst of just that, a process.  You will find that this process will be a life long venture that ever requires development and fine-tuning.

You can start with your thought life.  As I always say, think about what you’re thinking about.  Manage your thinking so that you don’t descend into an emotional pit.  If we actively attempt to direct our thought life it is actually possible to gain some semblance of control over it.  This will go a long way in helping you to manage your emotions and so manage yourself.

Second, ask for help.  Everyone, either knowingly or unknowingly. manages themselves in some way.  When you know someone who does this well, try to glean from their abilities.  But also keep in mind that everyone’s disposition is not the same.  Some are simply predisposed to dealing with adversity better than others.  But neither is anyone stuck where they are.  Growth is always possible.

4. Manage Your Relationships

There is probably nothing external to yourself that will determine your destiny more than the company you keep.  Some friends will feed your disappointment with words of rage.  You will be strangely drawn to their affirmation of your disappointment as it feeds a monster within, and your own thoughts will grow increasingly bitter.  This is Godlessness and it leads to misery.

There are some friends however who will come along side of you and give you a measure of comfort.  But they will also help you overcome your disappointment by assisting you in getting beyond it.  They will have grace for your failures, and will desire what is best in you and for you.  They can also help you gain some perspective that is outside of yourself and your current trial, and can help you see more clearly the reality that, no matter what the disappointment, not all is lost.

For this reason it is of the utmost importance that you choose relationships wisely.  Realize when someone is aggravating a situation, or is helping to heal it.  And with this in mind, be the friend to others that you need for yourself.  Learn from good friends how to be a good friend and be willing to teach the same in a loving way.

________________________________

So, dear children, I wish that I could say that I have lived up to this advice.  But, as I am well aware that you know, and that you know that I know, this has not been the case.  Still, I think that you would agree that I am not the same now as I was, and in fact have grown in my abilities to manage these things also.  And that’s just it.  Growth is all that I would ever expect from you, and it is also all that you should expect from yourselves.  I pray that God will give you the wisdom early to have success in managing this thing we call our flesh so that your lives will be Godly, and filled with as much happiness as one can expect while living in this sin soaked world.

Your father.

The Law Of God, Prison Or Sanctuary?

Dear children

As you live out your Christian faith, you will discover that God’s law and His grace can at times be difficult to reconcile.  You will encounter a full spectrum of thinking concerning the tensions that exist between the two.  On one end of that spectrum there are those who would say that the law of God has been abolished and that we can live as we please because we are under grace.  On the other end you will find those who say that God’s law is still in effect, many of whom will attempt to obey it in order to gain God’s approval.  There is ample scripture to support both ends.  Life experience can also throw its weight behind one side or the other depending on how one interprets life.  In this letter I simply want to give you something to think about as you contemplate where the correct place on the spectrum is; and I believe that there is a correct, as well as an incorrect,  place on that spectrum.

I’ve been thinking of a metaphor that I’ll try to explain.  Imagine a temple and a fence.  The fence is in the shape of a circle that surrounds the temple.  Now think of the fence as God’s law and the temple as the residing place of Jehovah.  Put yourself in the courtyard between the temple and the fence, because if you are a follower of Christ, that’s where you will live.

All of humanity begins outside of the fence, for all men have broken God’s law and so therefore are unholy and banished from entering.  Those on the outside are living in rebellion against the law.  But God, out of his love for this world, offered The Way for man to cross into the protection of His law.  No man can enter this area except those for whom the requirement of God’s law has been fulfilled.  Some will desire to enter through The Way into God’s rest.

Understand that for those who live on the outside, the fence will be seen differently than those who live on the inside.  For some it will have the feel and appearance of a prison, threatening to keep them locked up, denying them the freedom to appease their flesh.  These will not want any part of the law’s protective presence.

And then there are others who will hate the fence simply because it exists.  Fences, by their very nature, exclude and divide, and for that reason the fence is passionately hated.  All men, so it is thought, have rights to be included in all things, divine or not, and to decide for themselves with certainty that their decisions are righteous.  Therefore these will want the fence destroyed and so they may well devote their entire lives to those ends.  They hate God’s law and desire rather to live under the illusion that there is no distinctions between men.  “God loves everyone unconditionally” they will say, and there is no need for any fences that might be misinterpreted as God loving some more than others.  And besides, such fences make God look like a kill-joy in the sight of our fellow man.

Then perhaps there are those who see themselves as on the inside of the fence, but who are not.  For these, their gaze and desires are for what lies beyond its confines, to the “good times” being had by all who do not suffer its restraint.  Though they acknowledge the temple behind them, their concerns and priority is with the fence, and getting as close to what is beyond the fence while convincing themselves that they are still on the inside.

But then there are some who spend their time at the door of the temple, wondering about what our Lord is doing in there, and eagerly waiting with perseverance for any glimpse they might have the occasion to gain.  For these, the fence is behind them.  It is not a primary concern, they are not fixated on it, but it is there all the same.  They do not concern themselves so much with the dots and tittles, the possible loop holes and such.  Their interests lie elsewhere.

With this perspective in mind let us change our metaphor a bit to bring it down to a more personal level.  Let us look at another circle with you at the center, me in the courtyard, and your “law” for me as the fence.  Your law would be, let us say, that I love you, that I provide for you, that I protect you and your mother and sibling, that I instruct you, that I spend time with you, and that I not harm or hurt you.  Now let us suppose that I keep all of these laws to the letter, out of duty, but all the while my heart and my mind is elsewhere.  My real and obvious desire is to do other things that have nothing to do with you, but still, I keep your law.  My relationship with you, therefore, is governed by these laws, and my duty to fulfill them.  So, it only stands to reason that I would in many ways ignore you, ever focusing on your laws as I search for ways that I might keep them for you while still fulfilling my own true desires.  It is obvious that such a relationship would be empty.  But you know that this is not how our relationship works.  The fact is that I love you.  I don’t obey these “laws”, I fulfill them without burden because of this love, and you do the same for me also, because you love me.  Do we fulfill them perfectly?  Of course not.  We transgress often, and the sting of the law is there when we do, but we are not cast out, because we love each other.

As goes the relationship between people who love each other, perhaps we can say, so goes, in part anyway, our relationship with God.  But let me add one last nuance to consider so that I might take the metaphor from a static picture to real life, which is always dynamic.  I would love to say that my life before you has exemplified someone standing at the door of the temple attempting to get a glimpse of our Lord.  But we all know it hasn’t.  I can only say that there have been episodes in my life where this has been the case.  There have also been times in which I have stood at the fence looking out, my back to the temple.  Looking back, I am thankful for the fence, which kept me in the “courtyard”.  This is a reality of life as a worshiper of our God, just as it is a reality of life in human relationships.  If you are in Christ, your life will be lived between the fence and the temple, at different times closer to one than the other.

My prayer for you is that God will put a desire in your hearts to live your lives on the doorstep of the temple, that you would long for our Lord, to know Him and to experience Him.  You may pray the same for me also.

Your father

Set Your Sights On A Godly Life

Dear children,

In the life that is now set before you, you will every day be face with choices between living for just that day or living in such a way that sets you on a course toward a destination.  Everything that you achieve will be the result of God’s grace and your own intentions.  Those who are good at what they do do not wake up one morning with a desire, and that night go to bed as masters. Some devote their entire lives to a certain destination or goal they hope to achieve.  For others the seemingly random circumstances of life determine their course.

It is not my desire for you that you would accomplish great things, at least not as man considers great things.  While I do indeed desire that you be productive members of society, able to provide for and raise a family, my hope, my deep prayer to God is that you would spend your lives serving and worshiping Him.  But to do even that will require that you set your sights on that end.

Know that this is not just your father speaking.  I know these things from reading the scriptures.  The writer of Hebrews says as much as he uses a metaphor of running a race to describe our lives.  It says:

…let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,  fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.  (Heb 12:1-2)

This is a beautiful picture of someone who is facing the road of life with a specific destination in sight.  The fact that there are encumbrances is a given.  It is not a highway but a path that will have twists, turns, snares, challenges of all sorts, and disappointments.  But the runner is not concerned with these things.  His sights are set on something much better, just like his forerunner, who endured the cross, despised its shame, and then sat down at the right hand of the Father.

There is also this passage:

Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock.  “And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded on the rock. “Everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not act on them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand.  “The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and it fell — and great was its fall.   (Matt 7:24-27)

If you make the decision in the future to build yourself a house you will notice that the first thing that goes in is the foundation.  The house is not built to withstand the elements that are present on the day it is built.  It is built to withstand the elements that it is expected to encounter, because you want your house to still be there after the bad weather has passed.  The builder will build your house with his eyes set on future expectations and possibilities.  It is wise to do so.  It is foolish not to.

I have, by God’s grace and providence, done my best to lay, and help you lay, a foundation for your life.  I have set my eyes on the future in doing so.  I was never raising a child but a future father and mother, and man and woman, who will be leaving the protection of my house and heading out into a Godless world that will flood them, and blow against them.  To be wise or foolish will ultimately be up to you.  You will either hear the words of Jesus, and act on them, or you will set your course to a strange land of shifting sand.  I pray daily, often with tears, that God would have mercy on you and deliver you.

There are so many more scriptures that teach us to plan ahead, not to be caught off guard or easily ensnared, to be prepared spiritually and mentally and to not wait for adversity to come before we decide how we will navigate it.  The Proverbs are a great source of wisdom in that regard.  Read them and contemplate them with the course ahead in mind.  Watch. Learn. Discern. Prepare.

I realize that there are many things which we can set our sights on, many of which are noble and praiseworthy.  And I encourage you to do just that.  But unless you set your sights first and foremost on Jesus, all else will never stand the test of time, and I can say that with the utmost confidence.  The Bible says that God will not be mocked, whatever you sow you will reap.  It is said, it is so.

I pray for you dear children that you would not wonder without direction through this thing we call life, but instead realize that you have a destiny.  I pray that God’s word would be a light onto your feet and that you live lives straight and true, never forsaking wisdom, but instead setting your faces like flint toward the life God has willed that you live.

Your father.

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