A father’s love

a-fathers-love

I had an interesting conversation with my 6 year-old son this evening. He has been ‘disengaged’ at school and told me that school is boring and he just wants to play with his Lego. We talked about how learning new stuff is fun and that being able to count is useful. I explained that all he has to do is try to learn one new thing each day and before long with be able to count to 100 and read stories for himself. My point was that school seemed boring because that’s what he expected of it.

All through this conversation I could see both my adult self and me as a child of similar age staring out the window feeling bored, actively disengaged from what I should be doing. It is a familiar feeling and odd to hear myself giving the very advice I should act upon many days at work.

My wee boy is a reflection of myself. He is like me in many more ways than he knows. It worries me that he may carry my own weaknesses on into another generation.

I can be stubborn and proud. I’m irrational when angry or experiencing strong emotions. What I told my wee guy this evening is that he is a lovely, inspiring person when he is happy, someone people really like. It’s harder to accept this as true of me too. He has always been a cuddly kid, I’m learning to return the affection.

While boundaries and discipline are necessary, I’m discovering that a better way of being heard by mini-me is to give him a cuddle, show him he is loved first, then allow conversation to follow. Letting him tell me what is upsetting him has a far deeper effect than a battle of wills in which I tell him what I think is wrong – our two versions of what the problem is are never the same. Boundaries exist, discipline will occur, but the first need is for this boy to know his father’s unconditional love.

This is what I also long for when struggling with my own strong emotions. To be held by a Father and assured that I’m loved. To know that within the hurt I’m not actually alone, my Father is walking alongside me even in the mess of my life.

for the Father himself loves you, because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God. (John 16:27 ESV)

“Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by name, you are mine.
(Isaiah 43:1 ESV)

Outwardly, being held by God and told I am loved looks different to me cuddling my son. The inner dynamic is much the same. I grow older, get grey and look like an adult but have the same need of love as a child.

A few more years under my belt means the path of consequences and discipline is longer and maybe rougher. Yet what I’m only slowly learning as a parent, God has been doing for me all my life – responding in love first, before the discipline.

God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.(Romans 5:8 ESV)

For the Lord disciplines the one he loves,
and chastises every son whom he receives.”
(Hebrews 12:6 ESV)


Image: iStock

A Sunday prayer

God,
you are love itself!
You have shown yourself to us
in so many ways,
yet all of them tell us of creative love,
that never changes.
Love which in the beginning
created the universe,
and brought mankind out of the earth
to live in glorious freedom!
Love which was crucified,
yet rises
with every generation
bringing new promises for the future!
Love which meets our needs
and gives us hope
through our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

By Alan Gaunt


Credit: Alan Gaunt, New Prayers for Worship. 1972 John Paul the Preacher’s Press. ISBN 0-903805-04-9
Image: iStock

The beautiful people


I have just discovered that yesterday (NZ)/today (USA) is/was World Down Syndrome Day.

As a teenager I attended school with two classmates (in a class of 27 students) who were Down Syndrome. Despite my typically teenagerish bad attitudes initially, I grew to greatly appreciate these students and in retrospect realize I learned a vast amount from them about compassion, teamwork, how to help others, and that people are of much more importance than achievements. I am delighted to be able to add a small voice of encouragement and support for folks with Down Syndrome.

The United Nations Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, has made a statement about world Down-Syndrome day, here is an excerpt:

For too long, persons with Down syndrome, including children, have been left on the margins of society. In many countries, they continue to face stigma and discrimination as well as legal, attitudinal and environmental barriers that hinder their participation in their communities.

He finishes by saying:

On this day, let us reaffirm that persons with Down syndrome are entitled to the full and effective enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms.  Let us each do our part to enable children and persons with Down syndrome to participate fully in the development and life of their societies on an equal basis with others. Let us build an inclusive society for all.

I have highlighted a statement which is very important. The most important human right which needs to be upheld for people with Down’s Syndrome is the right to life – spelled out in Article 10 of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities:

Article 10 – Right to life

States Parties reaffirm that every human being has the inherent right to life and shall take all necessary measures to ensure its effective enjoyment by persons with disabilities on an equal basis with others.

New Zealand (and the United States) have signed the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. I consider this of huge importance in the face of a concerted effort by ‘health providers’, atheists and liberalists to eliminate any Down Syndrome babies detected prior to birth. On one hand we claim to uphold the rights of people with ‘disabilities’ (in our view), yet consider inconvenience for families and mothers to be of more significance than a person’s right to live. In the view of some, a baby does not even have the right to be considered a person, so if a newborn will be inconvenient they could theoretically be disposed of! (OK, that is another issue – one which I fully intend to discuss at length in future).

It is true that raising any child who is different is a lot of work, but our selfishness is not a reason to become evil and deny life to such people. Let us love people first and then worry about achieving other goals (I am preaching to myself here).


Photo of happy boy: iStock

Love in pain

Recently I have been a bit stuck for what I should be writing about. There are some topics I’d like to address, but I’ve felt as though this is not the correct time for me to venture my as yet partially-formed thoughts on certain issues.

Then this morning while my son trashed our house and I enjoyed a cup of tea, God reminded me that the greatest thing I can do is to know Him, to meditate upon the perfections of Christ and to share the glory of this with you.

Perhaps the most obvious of Christ’s perfections is his love. I want to consider the love of Jesus even in His pain.

Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. During supper, when the devil had already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray him, Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him.
(John 13:1-5 ESV)

Jesus loved His disciples not only through many weary miles of ministry on dusty roads, He loved them through their betrayals and in His deepest times of agony. He loved them to the end.

At this time when He knew His betrayer had ‘gone over to the dark side’ and He knew that His disciples would all scatter and run from Him, Jesus continues to love. He does not retreat into being wrapped up in His own trials and misery, He does the opposite. Laying aside the clothing of a man, Jesus takes the place of a servant and voluntarily undertakes the most demeaning of tasks.

The act of washing feet introduces Christ’s final discourse to His disciples. Jesus has much to communicate to them, but the overall message is “love one another as I have loved you” (John 15:12). The ultimate example of His love is yet to come, this command is given knowing that He indeed will not shrink back, that He will love them to the end.

Jesus is fully God. He is also fully man. This means that the pain of following through on what love required hurt Him every bit as much as it would hurt me. I have no grounds to dismiss what Jesus endured as being impossible for me because I am not God – He experienced the pain of it just as much as I would. In that pain He continued to love. Through pain Jesus made good His promises. In agony He forgave. While being tortured He refused to call upon angels to take the easy way out.

When I am in pain you see me at my worst. I will be irritable, short tempered, selfish, unkind to others, refuse to forsake comfort, impatient and withdrawn. What I will not be is loving.

This is sin.

It is dishonouring to Jesus.

Such behaviour reveals my lack of trust in God.

Paul proved that it is possible for a man to love through pain (2 Corinthians 4:7-18), the cost is high but the gain to everyone is beyond our usual ability to measure things:

For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. (2 Corinthians 4:11 ESV)

So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. (2 Corinthians 4:16-18 ESV)

The little I can do

Leaf-cutter ant - Acromyrmex octospinosus

In my job at the Poisons Centre, I recently received a call from a person who was very distraught and sincerely seeking help, but the situation was outside both my area of expertise and also my role so all I could do was to give some cautionary advice and encourage her to contact one of several agencies that may be able to help her. It was the middle of the night so the options were limited, but she did seem a little calmer by the end of the call and thanked me for my help. “What help?” I thought to myself, feeling that I had been next to useless in giving her the sort of help she really needed. Though I suppose sometimes just having a calm voice offer a few more options is better than nothing.

There are so many times I have encountered situations in which I felt powerless to be really useful. Either I lacked the training, skill, tools or resources to be of much help.

But recently I was in the opposite situation – I was the one needing help. Having already sought professional help from experts, who did I then turn to? The person I sought out is someone I have known for a while now, and has one primary attribute that the professionals lacked: he is passionately God-focused.

At that particular time what I needed was to chat with a friend who would consistently keep pointing me to Jesus Christ. We yarned about all sorts of stuff, the overall message I went home with was; God is in control. The help I had already received from other experts was transformed as a friend faithfully gave of what he had.

The world around us has some massive needs – right now 10 million people in East Africa are facing drought and possible starvation. How do we fix that?

The Burma Army continues to enslave, rape and slaughter ethnic peoples in their own nation. Is there even the will to fix that?

How often I see the needs of the world around me, consider the puny contribution I could make towards those needs and end up thinking, “It wouldn’t make any difference anyway.” Even if I gave my entire income and the remaining years of my life to serve the needs of the world it would not make a noticeable difference. But is it my role to make a difference? It is God who is in control. Our job is to love, on a small scale maybe – but if multiplied…

For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
(Galatians 5:13-14 ESV)

Can we truly love our neighbours, and in so doing be pointing people to Christ? In words and deeds acting in love?

As thousands of ants can move huge amounts of leaves despite each individual’s small size, surely the Body of Christ each loving their neighbour can do God’s will on Earth as it is in heaven.

Gifts I have noticed this week:

486) An hour relaxing at the library.
487) A friend who will take time to listen when time is what he has least of.
488) Happy, noisy children waking me up.
489) Psalm 139:12
490) Praying for my kids
491) Good books to read.
492) Bacon!
493) This reminder from John Piper: Beware of presuming on the strength of youth. “Even young men shall stumble and fall” (Isaiah 40:30). [even if I’m not so young any more!].
494) Eagerly looking for dawn when working night shift (2 Samuel 23:4).
495) Reminder to look through my circumstances to see God.
496) That sometimes simply doing my duty is enough.
497) Pen and paper, helping me to think and unload.
498) Eyesight – so fragile, so beautiful.
499) Clock ticking.
500) God’s strength (Isaiah 40:30)


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Image of leafcutter ant: iStockPhoto