Gratitude, Day 11—Children


I’m specifically thankful for little children, toddlers, infants, preschoolers. Little people.

I spent over thirty years teaching the big kids, and I loved doing so. But the little people are the ones with no guile. True, they might be shy, but chances are, if you smile at a little person, he will smile at you. They haven’t learned the art of deception yet, and they aren’t looking for deception from those they meet. Other children are playmates. Other adults are question marks, unless we give them some attention. Then they giggle, and run, and sparkle.

Infants, of course, can do nothing but lie there and look cute. And that’s all great—because I’m not in a position to change diapers or give baths or get up in the middle of the night with a colicky, crying baby. But even when I was the aunt who took a turn doing those jobs, it was not burdensome.

There’s an element of hope. This little bundle of crying cuteness is a person. A wonderful person with all kinds of unknown potential. There’s joy in the discovery.

It’s great to watch children learn. The world is all so new to them and they want so much to do what the grown-ups in their lives do. That’s how they learn to talk—by imitating. That’s what makes them want to read or color or build with the Legos someone has given them.

They’re also filled with creativity and wonder and joy. Well, besides thinking the whole world revolves around them. But there’s just so much potential in little people.

But I have to admit, I also like little people books. The art, the simple wording, the unhidden point made on each page. Take Hannah C. Hall’s God Bless books, such as God Bless Our Fall, for instance. The first page reads

The trees are dressed in gold and red.
Their colors seem to call,
“God decorates what He creates.”
We say, “God bless our fall.”

Simple. Straightforward. Nothing too hard to understand there. And yet profound. That’s the kind of kid-book I like.

Of course there’s the very important truth that children are the future. They are! Which is why I don’t understand adults who don’t take time to build values into their children.

God told the people of Israel as they came out of slavery, to remind their children about God and what He’d done for them. They were to talk about God’s Law day in and day out. They were to display it visibly. They were to hold celebrations for what God provided, what He accomplished for His people. In other words, the children were to receive instruction from the adults about more than how to tie their shoes or how to make their bed.

Our culture has lost the importance of instructing children about morals, ethics, standards. At one point some noted psychologists taught that newborn were essentially blank slates and we could imprint whatever society wanted. Children are certainly NOT blank slates as the baby study at Yale showed. At the same time, they are not equipped with the experience, wisdom, and knowledge to make up their own minds about morality!

Interestingly, a series of commercials have popped up here in California urging parents to talk, read, sing to their children. It’s good advice, a needed correction. Because too many postmodern, and now post-truth, parents care more for what they want than they do for raising their children. Just recently I learned of a mom who essentially neglected her little one while she self-medicated with the drug of her choice. And her child? Delayed in speech, for starters. Who knows what else, given that so much of human development takes place in the first five years.

But we must not stop short with talk, read, sing. Content matters. At least to people it does. On the other hand, I can pretty much say anything to an animal—“You mangy, no good, ugly excuse for a dog. You act more like a cat”—as long as I say it with a winsome, engaging voice.

Children aren’t like that. They might not know what the words mean until years later, but if they receive negative values such as pride and selfishness and greed and division and hate and bigotry and abuse and dishonor and rudeness and such, long enough, their little hearts will bend with their sin nature. If they are neglected and left to devise their own values, they’ll bend to their sin nature.

Instead, children need to receive moral education along with the knowledge they receive that enables them to get through life.

But of course, that’s really on the adults in their world. Kids don’t usually cry because they aren’t receiving moral instruction. They don’t even understand that they need it. Unless the adults in their world harm them, children grow up filled with all kinds of laughter and curiosity and desire and expectation. They’re just waiting to be nourished.

When I see kids thriving like that, what a blessing. What a joy. It’s then I’m especially mindful of how thankful I am for children

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Published in: on November 15, 2018 at 5:40 pm  Comments (2)  
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Gratitude, Day 10—The Shepherd And Guardian Of My Soul


I suppose since I’ve already said I’m thankful for salvation and for God’s kindness, it’s probably apparent that I’m thankful for God Himself. But today I’m specifically thankful for these two aspects of who God is—my Shepherd and the Guardian of my soul. I learn about these characteristics of God from 1 Peter 2:

For you were continually straying like sheep, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Guardian of your souls.

Years ago I read A Shepherd Looks At Psalm 23 by Phillip Keller. It gave me a much deeper understanding of that metaphor. The shepherd isn’t just hanging out watching the sheep graze all day. The sheep really do stray, and the shepherd really does hunt them down, steer them away from danger, rescue them from the holes they get in, check them closely for critters that get into their wool, protect them from snakebite, from predators that would carry them off and eat them alive.

The Shepherd of my soul looks out for me spiritually in much the same way.

He also stands guard, the way a watchman does from a city wall. He is ready to sound the alert because he is ever vigilant.

Consequently, I can get a good night’s sleep. I don’t have to worry or anxiously look about, wondering if the next cultural trend will irreparably harm me or my faith. I don’t have to wring my hands at the latest election results or what the new atheists are saying or the progressives who pose as believers, but are not.

Because I have a Guardian of my soul who will not let the evil tear down my faith.

It’s really peaceful to put my trust in the Shepherd and Guardian of my soul. I’m still concerned about the way the world is going, the way western culture is moving into a post-truth way of thinking. I pray for revival. But one way I know I have a Shepherd and Guardian of my soul is that just today I heard another radio sermon in which the pastor talked about praying for revival. He is not the first! Other believers, other pastors, are praying, too.

So yes, I pray. And I do all in my power to be an obedient sheep, following my Shepherd, not one of the other stupid creatures who jump at any loud sound and go running off to hide. I once was straying, but not any more. Now I want to get as close to the shepherd as I can get. I’m that thankful for Him.

Published in: on November 14, 2018 at 6:05 pm  Comments (2)  
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Gratitude, Day 3—The Kindness Of The Lord


As you may (or may not) remember, I am doing a series of Thanks posts, sort of in protest to the fact that Thanksgiving here in the US is being squeezed out amid the candy and costumes of Halloween and the presents and lights, carols, nativity scenes, and Santas of Christmas.

I actually love Thanksgiving. It’s a holiday that hasn’t been overly commercialized. It can’t be confused with any other holiday, the way Memorial Day, Independence Day, Veterans’ Day, and Flag Day can be confused with each other. But the greatest plus is that the origins of the holiday have a spiritual foundation. The Thanks in Thanksgiving, is directed to God. And that fact gives me a good reason to love this particular day above other celebrations.

So, today, I am particularly grateful for the kindness of the Lord. A particular verse from the Bible came to mind when I thought of God’s kindness:

But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit (Titus 3:4-5)

Clearly, God’s kindness is connected to His work of salvation—something another verse of Scripture spells out:

Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance? (Romans 2:4)

So, yes, God’s kindness and love save us, but a great part of the process is His kindness leading us to repentance.

Repentance?

Isn’t that connected to an awareness of our sin? I mean, how can someone repent if they don’t actually think there is something in their life for which they need to regret, to be remorseful about, to wish were different in regard to their actions and/or character? I mean, are people who can only see their strengths ever going to repent?

No.

And that’s actually the human condition. We want to think better of ourselves than we are, but when we can’t avoid the problems, we tend to blame others. It’s society’s fault. I didn’t get a good education. My parents didn’t love me the way I needed them to. It was the snake who deceived me. The wife You gave me tempted me.

All those things are true or might be. But that doesn’t change the facts: whatever the conditions, we gave in and sinned. We made the decision to do what we knew we should not do. We stand guilty. Condemned.

And it is the kindness of God that brings us to that point. Kindness. Because once we’re aware of our need to repent, we can repent. We don’t need to hide any more, to blame others, to carry the guilt.

God’s kindness brings us to the place where we can deal with sin once and for all. Not through works we do. But by accepting the washing, the cleansing, the being made new provided by God.

God is actually kind in so many other ways. He is kind to give us friends and family, jobs and meaningful activity, churches and Bibles, homes and entertainment. But His kindness is greatest when it leads us to Him. Because nothing is more important. Our lives in the here and now are, as James says, a vapor. The Psalmist and Isaiah talk about our lives being like a flower—here today, and tomorrow gone with the wind or the scorching sun.

But only the here and now part. The eternal part of our lives stretches out before us. Nothing could be more important than that we live that eternal part with God our Savior. So how kind of God to invest so much into directing us to repentance for our sin.

He could ignore our need for repentance and make sure that these brief moments are nothing but pleasure-filled. I mean, it isn’t comfortable to think about our sin, to admit that we are the ones responsible, that we have gone our own way and ended up in a mess of our own making. But God’s kindness won’t let us delude ourselves into thinking that we’re OK in spite of our sin.

He is too kind to let us live in that delusion. He’d rather lead us to repentance.

Photo by Valeria Boltneva from Pexels

Published in: on November 5, 2018 at 5:10 pm  Comments Off on Gratitude, Day 3—The Kindness Of The Lord  
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Gratitude, Day 2—For The Beauty Of The Earth


As I said on Facebook today, the holiday that is getting squeezed out of existence is Thanksgiving. I want to keep the focus in November on what God has given, what I’m thankful for. So here’s the second installment in the Thankful series.

And today I’m mentioning something I think we can easily take for granted—the beauty of this home God has given us. I mean, all of it. Not the broken parts that sin has ruined, but the parts that allow us to see the beauty of God’s original design.

I’ll start with mountains because I love them so much. I don’t think there’s a better place in all the world than the land above timberline.

Maybe flatlanders don’t know that at a certain elevation, trees stop growing. That’s timberline. What does grow is grasses and wildflowers. But there’s also lots of rocks and glaciers and pools of icy blue or icy green water from melted snow. I’ve never, never seen anything so purely wild and beautiful.

But the ocean comes close. I love the ocean when there aren’t any people around. That’s usually in the winter or toward sunset.

And speaking of sunset, that’s another thing I am so grateful for—the colors of the sky. I love the oranges and pinks and yellows, but I also love the blue and whites and the black and dotted whites with the silver white peeking over the horizon. Yeah, I pretty much love the sky. Angry gray clouds are beautiful but so is misty fog.

But since I mentioned color, I’ll say, I’m really, really grateful for flowers and leaves that change colors. I mean, the wealth of color here is SoCal is off the chart. We have trees that blossom, bushes with flowers, and of course flowers themselves of every kind. Walking in SoCal is like walking in a rainbow.

So, yes, rainbows are certainly on the list of things for which I’m grateful. I mean, have you ever seen an ugly rainbow? Even a stubby piece of a rainbow is beautiful. The rainbows that come from the sun shining on the water spraying from a hose are beautiful. The prism rainbows flashing against a wall from a piece of jewelry are beautiful. Rainbows caught in the break of a wave, those are beautiful too.

But of course, saying rainbow makes me think of rain. I’m grateful for rain. So very grateful, and so longing to have a few days of much needed rain come our way. I don’t get to see it much any more except in pictures, but I also love snow. I mean, what renews the world better than a coat of new-fallen snow?

Obviously I’m not going into details about, say, the moon, or the beauty of the desert, which I rarely see, or any number of animals which are truly beautiful. The point is, I could put many, many more things on this list—things for which I’m grateful, and which illustrate just how beautiful this world is that God gave us to live in.

Above all, the beauty He created tells me a little about His own beauty. I’m grateful God showed us Himself through the beauty He created.

Published in: on November 2, 2018 at 5:01 pm  Comments (1)  
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