my father is a spreading tree

my father is a spreading tree
and I and many others
live in his shade and branches





Note: I have had this line in my head for well over a year and have been able to do nothing with it. When it first came to me, I thought perhaps it would be the basis for some grand statement on the “thinginess” of fathers, on the reality of them, on the way a father or a mother both take up and make space in the world around them, the way they give shape and meaning to the very worlds we live in. I still want to write that statement, but I also want to put these words on a page somewhere. Maybe they will germinate and something better will grow up from them.

Why You Cannot Afford to Vote for the Lesser of Two Evils

I have said this before, and I will say it again. Eventually, all things come to blood. If a nation heads in the wrong direction for long enough, good men will die. Here’s the thing though: how can you expect a nation to turn around if you do not pursue that which is great, rather than that which is barely acceptable? How can you expect goodness to come forth by choosing between the lesser of two evils?

Let’s take it a step further: If you believe that America is heading in the wrong direction but you are not willing to fight for what is good nor willing to look the part of a fool for the sake of righteousness; if you continue to be complacent and hope that tomorrow will be no different than today, then let me congratulate you on the murder of your children1.

For if you truly believe that all things come to blood, and you do not fight today, then you are leaving that fight to your children. You are leaving them to live in a world made worse by your inaction and to either become corrupted by that world, or to be killed by it.

You are leaving them to death.

And if you are that sort of man; if America is a nation composed of men who are willing to make that choice, then we will deserve the death that comes. We will deserve it, because day by day, in a million tiny ways, we will have chosen it.

1Let me be clear here: if you are fighting for good as well as you know how, I cannot accuse you. But there are those of you who are and have been compromising. Who know it, and need to be confronted with it. You have made easy choices for the very reason that they are easy. I have been one of you. I say, let it end today.

Turning Our Nation Around II: The War at Home

If a man would change the world, let him begin with something that is right before his eyes, let him lead his home.

My church hosted a father/son retreat this weekend, and I was fortunate enough to attend several of the sessions. I came away with a deeper appreciation for the incredible relationship that fathers and sons have and for the primal nature of that relationship. Some of the highlights that were particularly relevant to the discussion at hand are as follows:

The story of the Bible and of this world is essentially the story of a Father working through His Son, of Jehovah God, accomplishing all things through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Children, when you obey your father, you are testifying to the fact that there is a God in heaven who must be obeyed.  Father’s when you care for and discipline your children, you are testifying that there is a God who loves and chastens those who are His own.

Children, when you disobey your father, when you roll your eyes and mock his authority, you are committing high treason against heaven. Fathers, when you take too lightly your children’s rebellion, when you wink at it and let it exist unchecked, you are tolerating witchcraft in your homes.

We also spent a lot of time in Deuteronomy 6, reading the Shema Yisrael, and asking ourselves what a family would look like if it built itself around the Hebrew concept of learning, around the idea of a father walking and talking with his sons, taking them with him everywhere that he can, letting them see the world through the lens of his knowledge and experience. And not a perfect father, mind you, or perfect sons. Through all of this, we were reminded that every son is challenged by being forced to submit to and learn from an imperfect father and that every father is similarly challenged by having to lead and discipline imperfect sons.

To my mind, this is the first step in turning our nation around, that of turning our homes back to God, putting away our childishness and our love of sin and the easy life.

What do you say?

Turning Our Nation Around

Children die because of their father’s decisions.

Do you believe that? Lately that phrase keeps popping into my head, pushing out every other thought, until all I can do is stop whatever it is I’m doing and pray for my nation, for myself, for my wife, for my son and my daughter, and for the children that I hope they will have one day. If this seems strange to you, let me at least try to make a simple case for why I’ve been thinking about this.

I hope you won’t think I’m being melodramatic when I say that I believe America has been headed in the wrong direction for some time now. I hope you still won’t think it when I say that if a nation heads in the wrong direction for long enough, it means that at some point, there will come a day when good men will die as a consequence. If you aren’t shaking your head in disagreement yet, then humor me one moment longer. If both of those statements are true, then among the people who will die, will be my children.

Children die because of their father’s decisions.

Do you believe that? And if so, what are you doing?

The Disconnect

Subtitled: Moral Immorality, the Music and Movie Industry, Disney’s Double Standard, and the Duke Lacrosse Team and Honest Strippers

I’ve been meaning to post something along these lines for some time, but for a million insignificant reasons, I haven’t. It’s the sort of thing I think about every time I hear about the RIAA or the MPAA suing someone for illegal music or movie downloads, or when I occasionally read that Disney if firing some teen star because of the teens behavior. Most recently, it was brought to mind when I read a recap of the Duke lacrosse team case.

What always surprises me about the Duke lacrosse case is the statements I hear “Christians” make regarding how the team members were mistreated by the press, the justice system, and the perjuring stripper. I hear people defending the players and making statements that I swear, to my ears sound something like this:

It’s a sad day when men can’t hire a stripper without the fear of getting indicted for rape. I remember back in the “good ‘ol days” when strippers wanted nothing more than to do an honest Saturday evening’s work and get a good night’s sleep before going to church the next morning. It makes me sad to see the country falling apart like this. What’s next: doctor’s helping women kill their babies? I certainly hope not…

It’s sad really that people living in a society that allows men to legally hire a stripper are shocked to learn that someone who is ok with breaking God’s commandments about nudity, doesn’t have a problem with breaking his commandments about lying. These same people then follow that bit of illogic up with being shocked that the media and a district attorney drawn from that same society might not be quite so moral either.

And this sort of thinking is popping up everywhere:

The music and movie industry have spent the last 40+ years promoting immoral and illegal behavior and then they are “shocked” and “dismayed” to discover that a generation raised on the values they have sold have no problem with stealing music and movies.

Disney wants to make movies about kids who buck the system and who live their lives their own way, but they want young actresses and actors who follow Disney’s rules unquestioningly.

The church wants parents to take a greater role in their children’s lives, but it also takes every opportunity it can to separate the children from the parents and to suggest to the parents that teaching children is something best left to professionals.

Parents want their children to respect them and take what they say seriously, but parents flippantly choose to ignore Scripture and the spiritual authority of the church when it inconveniences them.

Short version: Wake up, you can’t have moral immorality… if you deny God’s word in one area, it affects all the other areas as well.

Any comments?

My brother in law, prayer, love, and grace

We spent some time this weekend in Tennessee with my wife’s family. As you may remember, last Monday my brother-in-law fell eighteen feet from a rooftop and landed on his back, breaking three vertebra, two ribs, and his sternum. As of today, the doctors have no hope that he will ever walk again. In spite of all this, everyone was in pretty good spirits. My brother-in-law and his wife both seem to realize that the reality of what has transpired hasn’t had time to sink in yet. For the past week they have been kept fairly busy with a helicopter flight, surgeries, and with doctor’s consultations, with friends and family, with phone calls to and from their insurance company, and with all the interruptions associated with a stay in a hospital. Through it all, they’ve hardly had a chance to sit and think about what has happened or to discuss what their life will be like when it returns to “normal”.

All of that will change very soon though. Today, they are taking him from the Johnson City hospital he was life-flighted to, and they are moving him to Winston-Salem for physical therapy. He’ll have two fairly intense weeks there, with visitation limited to three hours in the evening (that includes his wife) and then it will be time to go home. And I imagine that is when he will need our prayers the most.

So if you have time in the next few weeks, say a quick word of prayer for Mike and Ginger Martin. Pray that Mike will continue to grow in the Lord and that he will lead his family spiritually. Pray that Ginger will love and submit to her husbands leadership and that she will cast all her cares upon God. Pray for them as you would pray for any other couple that you know, because the truth is, the challenges that they will face haven’t changed in their nature, just in their appearances.

Analogous Grace: Why God chooses to bless certain things

In my last article on grace, I wrote about Prescriptive Grace and the way that grace is always applied specifically according to God’s desires. In this post, I want to talk about grace in a slightly different way, but first I want to clarify some things. Because this post is about why God chooses to bless certain things I don’t want to give the impression that I believe that we can control or even manipulate God, however, because God has told us that He is a God of order and because He has revealed a great deal about Himself through His Word and through the world, there are things that we can know about His behavior and that we can, through faith, respond to. Of course, God can do anything He chooses at any time and is not bound by anything other than His own nature. As C. S. Lewis writes of Aslan in the Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe: He’s not a tame lion.
Continue reading “Analogous Grace: Why God chooses to bless certain things”

Feature Request: A car that will make me a better husband

Here’s my dream scenario:

It’s 5:30 P.M. and I’m pulling into my apartment complex. As I near my parking space, the radio fades to silence and a pre-recorded message begins playing: You are arriving at home. Do not be deceived by the cozy nature of that word or its comfortable connotations. Do not think for a moment that because you have left work, that you have put your work behind you. You must not be such a fool. This is where your most important work is done. Because of this, you can not afford to drag yourself across the threshold and collapse into your favorite chair. Instead, steel your nerves and screw your courage to the sticking place. Throw open the door of your house and face what lies inside as a man. There is no higher calling than this. You have no greater duty.

I don’t know that I need to hear the whole speech everyday, but I certainly need to be reminded of it. I don’t know about anyone else, but it’s far too easy for me to walk through the door of my apartment and act as if my day is done. I’ve done my eight, nine, ten hours of work, I think, I’ve done my share. Meanwhile, my wife has just as many hours of work with our two children behind her and probably wishes that she could punch out too.

Clearly, I have a problem. What I need is a reminder, a punch in the arm, and occasionally, in the face. I need to remember that within the walls of my home, I’m responsible for the spiritual well-being of everyone there. I’m the high priest of my household, the pastor of my little flock, the king of a tiny domain. And don’t get me wrong, I like the titles just fine, it the stupid responsibility that comes with them that gets in the way. So I need this feature: Ford, Chevy, GMC, Saturn, Volkswagen, Honda, are you listening?

So here’s my question. If someone put a car with this feature up for sale, what would you want it to say to you when you arrived at your destination? Post your custom “welcome home” message below or on your blog. If you let me know about it, I’ll link to it here.

mourning

I have never been anything other than a man
and so I cannot know how women mourn
and whether it is the same, or different

I have seen the mother, the wife, the girl,
sitting at her bedside, her dead child in her hands
weeping on his upturned face.
There is nothing selfish there.
She is broken, and weary.
She is full of pain, and strangely, guilt.
It is something that I can barely know.

I am most familiar with the man in the room
the one who stands behind her,
who believes that because she is broken, he must be whole,
who cries, but silently
who looks down through tear filled eyes,
and loves them both.