God’s Family

 

Last night I headed up to Madrid, IA to say goodbye, again, to a good friend. The congregation there was holding a good bye party for him as he and his family head to Texas as I write this. I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to see him again before he left when I saw him last month. It sure was wonderful to see him and his family one last time.

As I sat there watching the elders and others say good bye I realized that this was the 1st time I can remember being on this side of the party in a really, really long time. As a preacher I have moved more times than I like. In the last 13 years I have lived in Florida, two different towns in Illinois, Missouri, Virginia, and now Iowa. My wife and I often joke that whenever she gets pregnant we have to move as each of our children have been born in different states. Saying good bye is something I have had to do over and over again. And the truth is, it never gets easier.

Even the places that I left under not so good circumstances, I left part of my heart there. I wept tears of sorrow as I hugged those whom I loved. I wept tears of sorrow as I didn’t know if I would see them again. It was amazing how in 2-3 years I could grow so fond of perfect strangers. It was amazing how in 2-3 years they went from perfect strangers to beloved brothers and sisters. I can still recall as if it were yesterday some of these goodbyes as if they were yesterday. I can remember one brother in Christ who once told me he would never hug another man slapped my hand aside and hugged me the day I told him I was leaving to work with another church. I remember the 1st time a brother in Christ gave me a holy kiss. His scruffy beard against my cheek is something I will never forget. I can remember the sister in Christ who hosted me and my family the night before we left town just trying to hold herself together as we got into our car and drove away the following morning. And as I watched last night’s good bye I was humbled. This man has spent 11.5 years with the saints there. These men and woman were hardly strangers. They were family. Saying good bye, as I could see in my dear friend’s eyes was not easy. As he talked to me about his last sermon, he told me how hard it was to start and how hard it was to finish. And I thought to myself, I have been in Iowa for almost 5 years; almost twice as long as I have stayed anywhere prior. Not that I am looking to move again, but how can I say goodbye to my friends, my family. How can I say good bye to the people that helped my daughter to understand that she needs to put Christ on in baptism? God’s family has become my family and I don’t think my heart could take saying good bye.

Last night, I also go to talk to another brother in Christ from Texas. It was my friend’s father-in-law. As I spoke to him, he and I gravitated toward the amazing nature of God’s family. We spent a good portion of the night discussing the fact that it doesn’t seem to matter what town you are in, or what state you are in, or what country for that matter. God’s people are the same wherever you go. You can walk into a congregation a perfect stranger and walk out as a beloved. This was never truer for me than the time my car broke down in North Carolina. I was on my way back to college my senior year. On the way down I decided to stop in and see on good friend of mine in eastern Kentucky. Upon leaving his places a few days later I got a little lost as I missed my turn (this was back before GPS devices). As I looked over my map, I knew where I had to go and started making the corrections needed to get back at least close enough to the interstate that I could easily find on onramp to get my back on course. It was a good half day detour as I drove through the mountains. I was frustrated because that meant that I would not get as far as I had hoped and would have to find a way to stay in a hotel room and pray I had enough money to pay for gas to get back to campus. As I went through the mountains with a fully loaded truck, I learned my little truck couldn’t handle the mountains. I blew my engine. I was stuck in the middle of nowhere. I knew no body. I had money for maybe two nights in a hotel. Naturally I called my folks. They wired the money for me to fix the truck, but it would be a week before I could head out for Florida. I didn’t know what to do. As I sat there, a little worried, a little scared. Just then, I heard a knock on the door. Standing before me was a young lady I hadn’t seen in a couple of years. She was on my Forensics team in college my freshman year. I happened to break down in her town. She took me to her parents’ home and they kept me for the night. I was then picked up by another saint there in town and he kept me the rest of the week. I never met him before, but he took me around town. Made sure I had something to eat each day. It was really something else. When I thought I was all alone, God’s family was there to lift me up.

I full well understand why the bible speaks so much about being with God’s people (Heb. 10:25). They are completely wonderful people. Why wouldn’t you want to be around those that love without measure, that love without question, that love even the perfect stranger?

God’s Family

Words and Music by Lanny Wolfe

Verse 1
We’re part of the family that’s been born again
Part of the family whose love knows no end
For Jesus has saved us and made us His own
Now we’re part of the family that’s on its way home

Chorus
And sometimes we laugh together sometimes we cry
Sometimes we share together heartaches and sighs
Sometimes we dream together of how it will be
When we all get to Heaven God’s family

Verse 2
When a brother meets sorrow we all feel His grief
When he’s passed through the valley we all feel relief
Together in sunshine, together in rain
Together in victory through His precious name

Verse 3
And though some go before us we’ll all meet again
Just inside that city as we enter in
There’ll be no more parting with Jesus we’ll be
Together forever God’s family

What is Your Legacy

As a father the above question has become increasingly important over the last two years. While I have been a father for over 11 years, it seems that the importance of such a task didn’t hit me square between the eyes until just a few years ago. I began to see my children behave more and more like me. I saw, as they began developing their own personalities, myself. It scared me. I didn’t like who I was when I was younger. I was bitter, angry, frustrated with the world, and in general a reclusive person. I thought those days were behind me. The reality is, they weren’t completely behind me. I still had bad days. Sure, I could go out, put on a happy face. But behind closed doors I was, how do we nicely put it… grumpy. I learned that my grumpiness stemmed from a problem I had been facing for my entire life. I had little real self control.

Sure, as I said, I could act like I had it. But when it boiled down to it, self control was nowhere to be found. I had ballooned up to 367 lbs. I kept arguing with my spouse that my weight wasn’t an issue (the fact that I wasn’t diabetic and my blood pressure couldn’t have been more perfect wasn’t helping me). I ate what I wanted, when I wanted and however much I wanted. At my worst, I was drinking a 2-Liter of diet Coke a day. It was nothing for me to eat a big bowl of “healthy” cereal for breakfast and grab a doughnut by mid morning. For lunch, I would eat a ham, salami or roast beef sandwich and 3-4 helping of potato chips or potato salad. It was not unusual for me to go grab a slice of pizza by 1:30 or a candy bar by 3:00. For dinner, it was whatever the wife prepared. I was bound to seconds and thirds. By 8:00 I was eating again; snacking on cheese and crackers or air-popped popped corn with a whole stick of butter for taste. No self control. To be honest, I still don’t know how I wasn’t diabetic or worse dead. But, my lack of self control wasn’t limited to that. I had anger issues. Bad anger issues. I yelled at my wife. I yelled at my kids. I brooded over money problems. But, my lack of self control wasn’t limited to that. I also lusted after other people’s possessions. I wanted that nice F-150. I wanted a bigger screen TV. I convinced myself that I would be happier if I could just have cable TV instead of rabbit ears. And my kids saw it all. And my kids began to be everything I didn’t want them to be.

Sure, I could have played the “I want my kids to be better than me card.” But the truth is, my kids likely won’t be better than me. They will turn out just like me. I know this now. It was a hard lesson to learn. So, I repented. I pleaded for God’s forgiveness. I pleaded for my wife’s forgiveness. I pleaded for my kids’ forgiveness. For those that have been following me this is why I have lost more than 70 pounds. This is why you see posts about running half marathons. This is why you have read about me trying to provide my children with a good foundation in God’s word. I want my kids’ life to be better and it begins with me being a better dad.

I want my sons to grow up to be great dads. I want them to love their children, to love their wives. I want them to love and serve God all the days of their lives. I want my daughter to marry a good man. I want my daughter to know what a good man looks like on the inside. In order for that to happen, I have to be that man! When it is time for me to leave this world, I want to leave behind a great legacy for my children.

So now, I ask you, what will be your legacy. Knowing that your children will grow up to marry someone just like you. Knowing that your children will grow up to be just like you is there anything you see that needs changing? How do you treat your parents? Were you there for them in their hour of need? Did/do you call them, visit them, care for them? Is that what you want from your kids when you get older and need someone to care for you? Do you and your spouse fight often? Do you have a drinking problem? Do you teach your kids to not smoke while holding a cigarette? You do realize that you have a choice. You can not only teach your children how to rise above the muck, you can show them how by taking yourself out of it.

Consider the Ant You Sluggard

This week here in Poweshiek county is the 4-H fair. It is always a busy time of the year for us. Our daughter has been a member of 4-H for 2 years and was a clover kid (an introductory level for 4-H to get little ones interested) for a year. Both of our boys are also members of clover kids. This year our daughter entered 19 projects into the county fair. No, that is not a typo. She entered 19 projects. This year she made her 1st quilt. She continued her love of photography. She planted her own garden as a junior master gardener and assisted Dawn and I with our own. She made a poster about a particular breed of rabbits, Netherlands Dwarfs. She also entered a couple of creative arts projects. And most importantly, she started 2 jobs this year. She took the baby sitting courses that 4-H offers and has began babysitting on a regular basis (2-3 times a week). She has also started her own rabbitry. In her possession are 3 rabbits that she has been working with since early this spring (and a 4th she bought a little over a week ago). She plans on breeding them in the weeks to come. She is quite the busy little bee. What is most amazing about all of this work she is doing, is that it is her choice. She wanted to do every one of them. She wants to keep busy. She wants to be a worker. This is quite amazing when you consider the fact that she isn’t even a teenager yet.

She takes quite seriously Solomon’s words in Prov. 6:6-11. Go to the ant, O sluggard, Observe her ways and be wise, Which, having no chief, Officer or ruler, Prepares her food in the summer And gathers her provision in the harvest. How long will you lie down, O sluggard? When will you arise from your sleep? “A little sleep, a little slumber, A little folding of the hands to rest”— Your poverty will come in like a vagabond And your need like an armed man.” The ant is a worker. And despite what many of the Disney movies might tell you, the queen ant does not exactly command the ants to go here or there. They have no supervisors to send out orders. They have no motivational speakers to keep the ants working at maximum capacity. They just work. That is their life. They work until the day they die. It is difficult to imagine that an ant would ever die of starvation due to their hard working status. But man, man is entirely different. We can be quite lazy. As we can see in Prov. 6:6-11, laziness is not a new issue. There were people in Solomon’s day they were just unwilling to work. The words to me are just haunting. When asked how much rest is enough rest, the reply was “a little more.” I’ll get up and work some other time. While I may be a preacher now, I have not always been a preacher. (And even as a preacher I have occasionally worked a secular job). It was astounding to me how I could watch someone sit around and do nothing all day and still expect to get paid. In the last job I had, I constantly was doing my job and the job of the person I relieved because that person couldn’t find time to do their job. In an 8 hour shift I rarely had time to sit down and eat, there was always work to be done. The issue was not if there was work to do, but if someone was willing to do that work.

As I look at the economic situation in this country I have a hunch that America’s growing poverty problem has more to do with not having enough people who aspire to be more than just a leach upon society. If you desire to not be hungry Solomon says go to work. (Now I realize that many lost their jobs at no fault of their own, this is not about those who are struggling because they can’t find work). This is a warning to those struggling because they refuse to work. To them, Paul said, if a man isn’t willing to work, then he isn’t willing to eat (II Thes. 3:10). To be honest if my daughter can work like that, go to school, run 5Ks and still find time to be a kid (and believe me she plays quite a bit around here) I don’t think any of us can argue that work is just too hard.

Don’t Let Time Escape You

On Sunday my youngest child will turn three. It is with great difficult I have accepted the fact that my baby isn’t a baby any more. She sings, she runs, she plays, she talks, she climbs, and she yells, fights and pushes. Yes, she is definitely no longer a baby. And yet, it feels just like yesterday I held her for the 1st time. She was definitively the most eventful birth we had of our four. I still remember vividly, as if time stood still, as the doctors frantically worked on my wife and baby as they tried to assure that neither had to be rushed to surgery or worse. I can still hear Dawn crying, I just want to hold her, please let me hold me baby, and yet, they couldn’t because she was born in distress, her heart rate had dropped and they needed to 1st make sure she would be okay. By the time it was all said and done, the room was spinning, but both, praise God, were okay. While each of my children’s birth stories are special to me, the last has been the most special because it was the first time anything went wrong during the delivery. I have cherished these last three years. And now they are soon going to be gone. Gone forever are the tiny feet I would kiss. Gone forever are the days when she would quietly lie in my arms for hours. Gone forever are the smiles that came every time she experienced something, because for her it was the first time.

As each of my children grows older I realize what my parents kept telling me. “Time flies when you get older.” How true it is. We don’t have much time with our children. Regretfully some end up with even less. For this reason, I say, redeem the time. Don’t pass up a single moment that you can to spend with your children, for it won’t be long and they won’t want to be around you any more.

On the 3rd of July my family travelled through Kansas City and decided to hit the zoo on our way home. While there I had the unpleasant experience of sitting behind someone on the little train in the zoo complain about children, big families, and just how hard and time consuming it is to be a parent. Too often I here similar comments when I someone hears how many kids I have. Questions like, “How do you get time to yourself?” “Aren’t you going crazy yet?” Add to this the fact that I home school and people generally look at me like an alien. I have never viewed time with my kids as a bad thing. I consider myself extremely lucky in life. I have 4 wonderfully created children that bring smiles to my face every day. We home school our children so they are always around. And, I work from home. At any given moment I can walk into the living room and see my kids. At any given moment I can hear them playing, laughing, running and romping about the house. And not once over the last twelve years have I ever thought, “I wish they weren’t here” or “I wish I could just get away from them for five minutes.” “Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, So are the children of one’s youth. How blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them (Psa. 127:4-5).” My quiver is not yet quite full, but my heart is.