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.

Dancing Mice and a Heroic Pursuit

 

A dream is a wish your heart makes, or so it’s been said.  Because no matter how your heart is dreaming, if you keep on believing, the dream that you wish will come true.  Such are the words that have flowed through my home in song in weeks past.  Most of you will quickly pick up on the fact that these are lyrics to one of the songs in Disney’s Cinderella.

Yes.  We have entered a new era of parenting—the love of Disney videos on the part of my daughter.  And while it’s fun to show her classics like this story about the housemaid-and-stepdaughter who lives in a high tower and still remains perpetually cheerful, in some ways we’re not doing much of anything other than helping open those preexisting places in her of hope and of longing.  Hope and longing for something bigger than herself, of adventure and of intimacy.

And while my daughter would not be able to articulate these principles as stated above, it is very evident that she has come prewired for that longing.  Remove those singing mice that can do wonders with a sewing needle and you have something far greater.  As Brent Curtis and John Eldredge said it, in “these two desires of adventure and intimacy come together in us all as a longing to be in a relationship of heroic proportions.”  You have a story that all of us desire—epic gestures of pursuit, passion, and ultimately being known and accepted.

This story echoes an even greater Story, the story of One who transcends time and space to care and redeem for those He loves.  Thanks be to God that we have the opportunity to be a part of His Story.

Continued Lessons from Parenthood

Parenthood continues to show me the juxtaposition of God’s gracious love for me as His child as well as His overarching concern for humankind.  Just as my daughter knows nothing of the big-picture affairs of our household, I, too, know so little of our omnipotent and omnipresent God.  I can only respond like Job to the fact that I cannot comprehend the vast expanses of the earth, nor have I seen the storehouses of the hail, nor send the lightning bolts on their way (Job 38).  There are concepts in our universe of which God the Father takes care and which I am completely ignorant, things which the wondrous images from NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope reminds me of this.

Still, this ignorance does not allow me to pass up the amazing love God has for me.  Similar to my interactions with my baby girl, God wants to interact with me, with us.  With a passion and gentleness that is innocently intimate.  For most of us, the vulnerability required for this on our parts does not come easily.  Still, God is patient and waits.  May each of us seek Him today and turn to Him as He longs to be with us.

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.