How Deep the Father’s Love for Us

dad and daughter cuddling on couchLike her parents, my oldest daughter is more on the introvertive side.  Sure, we can host crowds of people, or invite friends over, but we find our energy reprovisioned in a still and quiet house, being able to rest, read, pray and relax.

So it was appropriate after a busy season of hosting that my oldest daughter simply wanted to cuddle on the couch.  Just to be close and to rest.  In the quiet.  No words.  Just rest.  As I enfolded my arms around her, it occurred to me the benefit of this simple process.  I simply held her, stroking her hair by her face, letting her know she was loved. Home.  Safe.  And accepted, just as she was.  There was not any need for performance here.  No striving to earn either my love or her ability to come near.

I was struck with the similarity of this picture with my daughter and my relationship with my Heavenly Father.  God, too, wants me just to be with Him, to pause from the busyness of the day (days?!) so that He can remind me that I, too, am loved, am accepted just as I am without any need for performance.  His love for me is “deep, vast beyond all measure,” as the hymn says, powerful enough that in God’s giving His only Son, it brings many a wretch His treasure, bringing many sons to glory.

Each of us—my daughter, you and I—are learning these truths, that “because of His great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions, for it is by grace we have been saved.  And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2).  May this reality of ours become more and more accepted, noticed and lived in each day.

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Parenting in the Digital Age

Readers! It’s been a long time.  Sorry for the absence.  In the midst of this summer, there’s been a lot on my mind.  Here’s the latest….

Not so long ago, I was in elementary school, where watching TV in the summer was a luxury.  My parents were cautious enough to limit our television watching to 5 hours per week (this is today’s equivalent of 1 day of television consumption, while I do realize there is much more internet consumption today as well).  TV was limited even further with a little monetary incentive.  Ten “TV coupons” were issued each week, each good for one-half hour of television watching, which could be redeemed at the end of the week for 50 cents (you could buy a lot more in the late 80s and early 90s for 50 cents than you can now).  Given that an extra $3 per week could be added to my wallet by rationing my television to two Gilligan’s Island reruns and a wonderful episode of The Price is Right with Bob Barker, I was quite frugal in my use of TV coupons, using the extra funds for an ice cream at the lake, a pack of gum, whatever.

Fast forward twenty to twenty five years and I am now raising a little munchkin myself.  My two-and-a-half year old watches streaming video on our computers, will never understand that her parents had to watch a show the afternoon or night it was on or miss it for years to come.  Yes, there was a time that Costco, Amazon or Hulu did not sell multiple series of episodes of Friends, Madmen, or Grey’s Anatomy to name some shows for adults, or Curious George or Dora the Explorer, for more age-appropriate shows related to this blog post.

No, Ellie will not understand those things because the world she is growing up in has multimedia at our fingertips, either wired to the TV or wireless through her parents’ laptops or cell phones.  Recently, as I’ve pondered this topic, I’ve observed kids with their own iPads or Kindles and they are absorbed in them, playing games or drawing virtual pictures.  While I don’t consider myself a techie, I know a thing or two about technology and still I wonder what the long-lasting effect, if any, is on our culture where we readily turn on the boob tube, fire up the laptop to check up with our “friends” on Facebook or watch hours on the television.

And still, the information available to us is amazing in what it lets us see.  Wikipedia is my constant friend for learning about things that would have taken much more effort to learn previously.  Youtube brings about humor like sneezing pandas, and recordings of Mister Rogers and vintage Sesame Street.

I think that as a parent, finding the balance for my child is what is needed.  She needs active, live play with others.  She needs rest from a busy day.  This with learning via the occasional TV program, while learning about the available technology that will be so much more common in her life than mine, is a way to do that alongside other things that stimulate her brain.

In closing, I would love to hear your comments on this topic, dear reader.  How do you see the access to nearly everything via our digital fingertips to be a positive influence in your family?  A negative influence?  And, mostly, how do they impact our ability to connect with one another and with God?  I’d be grateful for your insight.

I have greatly desired to share this Passover meal with you

We just came home from our church’s Passover Seder.  Wow–what a treat to celebrate the Passover meal this evening with our friends and church family, the same meal that has been celebrated now for many millenia to usher in the Holy Week!

A few weeks ago, Ellie and I were off to Disneyland for a quick morning trip in the park.  As passholders, it’s a privilege to go to the park for just a quick trip and then back out before naptime.  We set off for Fantasyland, that part of the Magic Kingdom where height restrictions don’t exist and where we can easily find a ride or two for my little two-year-old.  During our last few visits, the Peter Pan ride had either been closed for repairs, had an extremely long line, or as it was one time we waited, the ride malfunctioned just as we were about to get on it.

This ride is one of my favorites.  You’re in a suspended-from-the-ceiling pirate ship that appears to be floating, just as in the movie, allowing you to see the sights below—a miniature London complete with Big Ben, Neverland and a few scenes from Barrie’s story Peter and Wendy.

Needless to say, I was excited to share this ride with my baby girl when we visited.  And so we waited.  As I explained what we would see on the ride, I could see my own excitement and desire in sharing these things with her, in passing on the fun of what awaited us.  There was a fleeting thought of Jesus’ words to His disciples at the Passover meal celebrated tonight:  “I have greatly desired to share this Passover meal with you” (Luke 22).  I have greatly desired to share with you, this.  And this is the picture I had as I waited for the line to go forward, thinking thoughts of “Dear one, it’s almost here.  This ride that I’ve wanted us to go on for some time now.”  So it was similarly for Jesus with His disciples.

Clarke’s Commentary on the Bible says that these words of Jesus best translate as “with desire I have desired.” He writes that it is as if “our Lord’s meaning seems to be, that, having purposed to redeem a lost world by his blood, he ardently longed for the time in which he was to offer himself up. Such love did the holy Jesus bear to the human race.”

And so as we love and yearn and desire great things for others, may we have this perspective in mind.  As we enter this Easter season, may we remember that our Lord Jesus willingly—no, longingly—went to the Cross so that He could convey to us something we couldn’t have otherwise.  That is a “wonderful thought” that would lift anyone off the ground.

He is risen!

He is risen indeed!

Look, Dad! The plane! The plane!

The year was 1978. The location was a mysterious island in the Pacific where visitors came to live out all sorts of fantasies at a sort of hotel. The proprietor of this hotel was a Mr. Roarke, whose assistant, Tattoo, would shout, “The plane! The plane!” upon the arrival of these guests by air. And it was here that the episode began. Visitors began to live out things they had only dreamed of—reconnecting with lost friendships, finding large hidden treasures, discovering new parts of themselves they had never realized, and the like.

Fast forward twenty-two years. The year was 2000 and I was in southern California studying at a private Christian university. My summer plans involved a mission trip to Romania and our team of eleven needed our last bit to purchase plane tickets, yet another chunk to cover our costs in-country. As a college student, I’d seen God’s provision before—tuition payments were a regular opportunity for Him to show that He was truly the owner of the cattle on a thousand hills. But this trip was important (didn’t He know that?) and an airfare purchase to Europe for roughly a dozen of us was a bit larger of a purchase than this kid had seen, or made, before. Our travel agent had found us a great deal, lower than we had budgeted for, on KLM, that wonderful Dutch airline with its Smurf-blue planes. Tickets were purchased. Sure enough, that daily Smurf-blue flight was easily spotted from the skies of my school, which happened to be right under the LAX landing path. As we prepared for our trip, the appearance of KLM Flight 601 into Los Angeles was a regular reminder of God’s provision, the fact that I was under His care and that worry was not needed as I lived in His plan.

Fast forward to 2012. This week actually. Living in the same area still, that Smurf-blue flight still makes itself known on a daily basis. And I happen to see it just when I need it most—at a time when I begin to once more doubt God’s goodness, His presence in my life, His protection over me and my family. Then, out of the blue (pun unintended), there it comes. And it’s a reminder just the same as it was before—that God is present, that He is with me, and that He is calling me to things I’ve never dreamed of. For many of the last few years, the appearance of that flight comes just when it’s needed. So, as I wondered this week about what lay ahead for my family as we approach the holidays, property tax bills, a fiscal cliff and the like, I hear my baby girl say to me, “A plane!” as we’re by the window. Could it be? Sure enough, I look up and it’s my Smurf-blue reminder of the fact that nothing can separate us from the love of God, from His care for His children and from the knowledge that I am His.

Now, the fun begins in translating this to my little one, of God’s provision for us, and how He reminds us of it in the most inconspicuous of ways.

Don’t Be A Marlin

I am, more oftentimes than not, a Marlin.

No, this is not my post about my being drafted by Miami (the Angels would pick me first anyway).  And I am not referring to the giggling one in Cabo.

The Marlin I’m referring to is that of Nemo’s dad, played by Al Brooks, in Pixar’s Finding Nemo.  In that wonderful film (which to my surprise is nearly 10 years old!), Marlin is a worry wart, a Debbie-downer, and one who is constantly relying on himself and not able to see anything beyond his own two fins.  My own proclivity to Marlinism goes back many years and as I see more and more the ways that I Marlinize, I’m learning that it doesn’t get me anywhere.

In fact, one’s own Marlinishness can only lead to more fretting and less trusting.  The Apostle Paul told the church at Phillipi similar words when he encouraged them not to “worry about anything, but in every situation with prayer and petition, and thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”  Why?  Because then, “the peace of God, which is above all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”  The benefit of not falling into Marlinism is peace.  God’s peace, and protection in Jesus.

That’s more than anyone could ask for.

Kept by the One who Neither Slumbers nor Sleeps

With a newborn, my time to post at Enjoying the Surface has greatly diminished. Yet, caring for my daughter Ellie (pictured, left) continues to be a place where the Lord reminds me of His great love for us—for me, for her, for my wife, and for you.

I’m a doer. Rarely a day goes by where there is not a list, mental or written, of things to do, accomplish and succeed. And with each task completed comes an inner joy of satisfaction, of accomplishment. Ellie’s arrival is obliterating all of that, as the learning curve for me here is that it’s no longer about what I need to do, but the task at hand is to meet her needs in their full spectrum.

Understandably, this has caused some inner turmoil. The tasks of life—work, cleaning, shopping, interactions with others, service—must get done at some point. But at what cost? The negligence of care of my daughter is not worth the price. Yet that is where the temptation lies when task-man meets people-man.

Some weeks ago, in between the exhaustion and piled-up tasks, frustration entered in. Why couldn’t I get the things done that I’d typically got done over the many past years? And the Lord reminded me of Psalm 121. Holding Ellie in my arms one evening, I began to doze off yet still wanted to savor the moment with her. Exhaustion. Frustration. Anxiety over the things still to do in the late hours of the evening. And there it was. I was reminded of a passage in the Psalms I’d read so many times before and it now had a much more clear meaning. “I look up to the mountains; does my strength come from mountains? No, my strength comes from God, who made heaven, and earth, and mountains. He will not allow your foot to be moved; He who keeps you will not slumber. Yes, He who keeps Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep.”

My strength comes from my Keeper. The one who made the mountains. And my daughter. And me. He does not slumber nor sleep. On His watch, which is all the time, God doesn’t fall asleep. As I bounced up and down and walked our hallway to lull my baby to sleep, the Lord reminded me of my day that day—the frustration of not getting the things done that I’d hoped to. He showed me the difference between He and I—I with my task list and He with His desire to be with me. In fact, His agenda is to hang out with me. Just that. There’s nothing else.

There was an invitation that evening for me that I think is for all of us—to remember firstly that I do not keep myself. He keeps me. And in my reliance on His keeping, I can enter into the life He has for me, for us. This God who does not slumber or sleep, who wants to hear our cries out to Him, cries of joy and of frustration and of laughter, wants us to let go and enjoy the things He has for us, to hang out with those He puts in my path, in your paths.

May each of us remember Him and let go of those things to which we cling so dearly as we go throughout our day and instead embrace the God who does not slumber nor sleep.