Simple Habits Simply Exemplified

You shall put these words of mine in your heart and soul, and you shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and fix them as an emblem on your forehead. Teach them to your children, talking about them when you are at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you rise.
Deuteronomy 11:18-19 (NRSV)

I remember as a child going to spend a week with my grandparents in Le Mars. Mom would take me to the Greyhound bus station in Des Moines and put me on a bus, telling me to sit right behind the driver (where he could keep an eye on me, no doubt) and I would make the long bus ride to Sioux City where my grandparents would be waiting to shuttle me back to their house.

Staying with grandpa and grandma in the small town of Le Mars was a treat. I got to walk “uptown” to explore the shops on Central Avenue. I would be grandpa’s guest at Lion’s Club and we would play Canasta for hours on end.

Once a day, after we ate our meal, Grandpa would get out his Bible and a devotional called The Upper Room. He would read the Bible verse for the day and then read the short devotional thought for that day before offering a short prayer. It did not take long, and to this day I can’t recall any of the actual words or thoughts that were shared. Nevertheless, the simple act of doing it made an indelible impression on me.

Today, I’m thinking about God’s command through Moses not only to ingest and embody His words but also to pass them along to your children. I remember Grandpa reading the upper room after lunch. I recall the daily experience of waking for school and descending the stairs to find my father sitting in his chair, Bible open on his lap as he read and prayed. These things weren’t rigid religious disciplines demanded of us like some kind of cruel and inhuman punishments. They were simple habits simply exemplified which made an indelible impression on a child’s impressionable heart.

I pray that I have been faithful in carrying on the example for our children. I hope for the day when our grandchildren come for the week to the small town of Pella to explore the square and to be Grandpa and Grandma’s special guest so that I may continue to make an impression passed through the generations.

Top Five Tuesday: Five Things I Miss About My Toddlers

Speaking of the toddler stage…I know that pre-school kiddos are a handful. As a father who is about 20 years beyond those years there are things that I truly miss about parenting between when the girls were out of diapers and walking to when they were off to school. And, since I missed my “Memory Monday” post yesterday, let’s do a two-fer today. For the Top Five Tuesday and Memory Monday mash-up, here are the top five things I miss about parenting my two little toddlers:

  1. Bedtime stories.
  2. Cuddling (especially when they fell asleep in my arms).
  3. The screams of “Daddy!” and the sound of four feet running to greet me when I came through the door.
  4. The most hilarious things that came out of their mouths.
  5. Wrestling and rumbling on the floor, tickling, and the giggles, giggles, giggles.

Humanity in the Toddler Stage

At that time the Lord said to me, “Carve out two tablets of stone like the former ones, and come up to me on the mountain, and make an ark of wood. I will write on the tablets the words that were on the former tablets, which you smashed, and you shall put them in the ark.”
Deuteronomy 10:1-2 (NRSV)

For many years now I’ve been mulling over a concept that the story of God’s relationship with humanity is the story of a parent (God) and child (humanity). When humanity began in Genesis and the early chapters of the story, it reminds me of infancy. There was something innocent and naive; there was very little knowledge or understanding of God. Humanity was undeveloped. Life was messy and base.

With the story of Moses and the giving of the law in the book of Deuteronomy, it feels to me that we’re in the toddler stages of the relationship. God has to do a lot for them. Rules are simple and direct and put in black and white terms. Good behavior is rewarded and bad behavior is swiftly punished. Humanity, meanwhile, is strong willed, stubborn, willful, and…well…childish.

I was reminded of this concept again in today’s chapter. Moses, in his unchecked emotional tantrum, threw the stone tablets God made for him on which the ten commandments were inscribed and smashed them in pieces. God’s response? Like a true parent God tells Moses, “Now you’ve done it. You smashed the tablets I made you. Well, you’re going to have to replace them, young man. I’m not making you another set. You’re going to have to learn to take care of the things I give you. Now, make yourself tablets to replace the ones I gave you and I’ll inscribe them for you.” The replicas would be a word picture, a constant reminder to Moses (and the rest of the family) of his tantrum and its consequences.

In our weekly gatherings of Jesus followers we’re doing a series of messages on how we tend to confuse our relationship with our earthly father and our relationship with our heavenly Father. The former quite regularly distorts the latter. I tend to believe that this is part of the DNA of creation and it requires generous doses of wisdom, discernment and grace to untangle the two. At the same time, it also helps me see events like those in today’s chapter with greater clarity.

Blood Moon

Blood Moon - 1

Last night we had a spectacular view of the lunar eclipse from our back porch. Wendy, Taylor and I stood outside and watched the event. It was a gorgeous evening and I set up my camera and tripod to take some shots and experiment. I loved some of the results like this photo.

The Big Lie

It is not because of your righteousness or your integrity that you are going in to take possession of their land
Deuteronomy 9:5 (NRSV)

Yesterday I had the privilege of delivering the morning message among weekly worship with my local group of Jesus followers. In the message I shared what I believe to be the most subtle, insidious lie that we are led to believe about God and eternity: it’s about what we do or don’t do. Nothing could be further from the truth:

Now God has us where he wants us, with all the time in this world and the next to shower grace and kindness upon us in Christ Jesus. Saving is all his idea, and all his work. All we do is trust him enough to let him do it. It’s God’s gift from start to finish! We don’t play the major role. If we did, we’d probably go around bragging that we’d done the whole thing! No, we neither make nor save ourselves. God does both the making and saving. He creates each of us by Christ Jesus to join him in the work he does, the good work he has gotten ready for us to do, work we had better be doing.
Ephesians 2:7-10 (MSG)

Then this morning I read God sharing a similar message to the Hebrews through Moses. I hear in Moses’ message the concern that once the people took possession of the land they would “probably go around bragging that we’d done the whole thing.” Moses reminds them that it’s all God’s doing, not theirs.

I so easily fall into the mindset that God will accept me or reject me based on my deeds, good or bad. If I fall into sin I believe God will punish me. If things are going well I get the feeling I must be doing something right for God to be blessing me. So I do extra good things to try and counter balance the bad and earn a little extra blessing. I think in the back of my head that eternity must be based on some giant set of scales that will weigh out the good and bad in my life. If good tips the scales I’m in, if my good falls short of my bad then I’m hosed. But that’s not at all what Jesus taught and what God’s Message says. Here’ another reminder I shared yesterday:

It wasn’t so long ago that we ourselves were stupid and stubborn, dupes of sin, ordered every which way by our glands, going around with a chip on our shoulder, hated and hating back. But when God, our kind and loving Savior God, stepped in, he saved us from all that. It was all his doing; we had nothing to do with it. He gave us a good bath, and we came out of it new people, washed inside and out by the Holy Spirit. Our Savior Jesus poured out new life so generously. God’s gift has restored our relationship with him and given us back our lives. And there’s more life to come—an eternity of life! You can count on this. Titus 3:3-8 (MSG)

Today, I’m grateful for all the God has done in redeeming me and thankful that it’s not up to me or my effort, my good deeds, or my ability to earn my way into God’s good graces. God’s gift has restored my relationship with Him and given me back my life.

Morning Star

morning star

I was up early a few weeks ago and the morning star was burning bright just above the horizon as the glow of impending morning created a gorgeous silhouette of the tree line behind our home. I grabbed my camera and snapped this shot.

After Dinner Blessing

When you have eaten and are satisfied, praise the Lord your God for the good land he has given you.
Deuteronomy 8:10 (NIV)

The harvest here in Iowa is in full swing. Gorgeous, dry fall weather means that the corn and bean fields are full of combines and grain trucks bringing in the land’s bounty. When you live in Iowa, even if you have nothing to do with farming, you feel a keen connection to the land and the seasons of cultivating, planting, growing, and harvesting. It’s part of the fabric of daily life in the heartland.

Wendy and I love our meals with family and friends. We love setting the table, making a good meal, opening the wine, and sharing long hours of laughter and conversation over the food and drink. Especially during the harvest season there is a extra sense of gratitude I feel for God’s provision, the land which produces the abundance we enjoy, and those who labor to produce it.

The verse above is one that I have memorized and, quite regularly, at the end of a good meal it will come to mind as we sit in the contented afterglow of our feast. It is tradition at our table to say a prayer of blessing at the beginning of our meal, but this verse has taught me that it is every bit as appropriate to say a word of thanks and gratitude after “you have eaten and are satisfied.”

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