A talk with my dad

I have been making myself too busy lately to stop and write, to stop and think. I think I’ve almost been avoiding coming here because I know there are some things I need to jot down, a story I need to tell, and a real-life issue I need to walk through.

So here I am.

I called my dad on Thanksgiving day morning. It’s the first time I’ve out of the blue called him since November 1, 2006, the day I left a message on his voice mail telling him I have decided to forgive him. The call went good; mainly just some chit chat, but maybe that’s what I’m needing from a parent figure instead of something deep right now. I suppose we can deal with the broken relationship later, or maybe talking has a way of doing that naturally. I don’t really know, I guess. More on that in a bit, with the other thing I want to write about.

I had asked for prayer for this conversation, and went into it and through it knowing some good friends had my back. Oh that is good to know. Friends here locally, and friends across the USA.

As we were talking, and getting near the end, I suppose, my Father stopped me dead in my tracks with a word from my dad. We were talking about church and what I’m doing there, he asked me if I was still a deacon, like I was when he left. I told him no, I’m helping lead our Sunday School ministry now, and it’s a much better fit. “Do you do a lot of teaching, then?” he asked. No not really. Well yes, but not consistently with the same group of people.

“Oh, ok,” he says, “because I think you would do a great job teaching teens.”

What the hell!???!?!?!??!?

Hope that language is not too offensive, but it was my gut reaction at that moment. Where did THAT come from? How does he know that’s such a big thing on my heart right now? And not only that, this is affirmation coming from a man of whom I remember most belittling comments, guilt-driving speach, and a hard, obstinate heart.

I don’t think he had any idea how what he’s just said pricked my heart, my very soul. The conversation ended shortly after that, and I talked to my wife a little bit about it. Where did he come up with that? Is he reading my blog? Is he talking with someone about me (who that would be a certainly haven’t a clue)?

Or was that my big F Father talking at that moment? I think it had to be. The Bible tells me time and time again that God uses people (even animals) unknowningly to communicate His message. But what would God be trying to tell me through this?

Perhaps it was a word of strength, an affirmation that I was walking the right path by making the decision to make that call. Perhaps it was a sign that my dad does have some sense left in him, and that forgiveness means admitting that, even when you still don’t have an explanation as to the big “why?” question your heart has been asking for years. Perhaps it was just… just… just me?

God, thank you for that moment. Your name is wonderful counselor, prince of peace, almighty God. You teach me things through the strangest circumstances, you awaken my soul in the darkest of nights, you restore me in the wildest of ways. Take this dialog I had with my earthly father, the man you put here to raise me, and use it somehow. Use it me to learn more about forgiveness, patience, and love. Use it in him to learn more about being forgiven, accepting reality, and being used by you.

So that’s that. I needed to recap that call, to take a few minutes to regroup, to think it through, and to really let it sink in. I found myself denying the message because of the messenger, but getting past that is so freeing.

Father, I love you. I need you. Take me, lead me, let me chase you.

Heading back to school

Going back to my high school’s FCA meeting this morning. The last time I went I think the message I got was, “You can do this.” I didn’t do anything special. I didn’t say anything in front of everybody. I didn’t lead anything. I didn’t get introduced. I just said “hi” to some people I knew (a teacher and a couple kids from church) and sat there and watched.

But I was there. Conquering that nervous feeling of going somewhere new, where you don’t know what to expect, has been a big barrier for me. When I did this a couple weeks ago I found myself sitting in the parking lot for 10 minutes, not really trying to think of a way out, but just… I don’t know… delaying? I don’t know if that’s the right word or not.

So today I’m going in with eyes wide open. I don’t know what’s going on this week, if it’ll be the same type of crowd or something a little different. And I guess…. now I can say that I don’t care.

For my own retrospecting, I’m gonna list a few fears I dealt with last time that, as I think about them today, are being wiped out of my head, both for this event and who knows, things to come.

    I will see some people I know and not know what to say when they ask my why I’m here…. who cares? There was one girl from my church there, I think she’s a senior, and she spotted me from across the room and mouthed to me what I think was “what are you doing here?” with that big question look on her face… I don’t remember what I mouthed back, probably something dumb, because the answer is still, “I really don’t know.”

    I will be the only non-teacher or non-student in the building… who cares?

    I will not find where I’m supposed to go and will have to ask for help… who cares?

    I will see a teacher from 12 years ago and not know what to say… (this happened, and I really stumbled through it)… but now, I don’t care…

That is very weird. There are some things not on that list of fears that I am thinking of right now that I can’t figure out why I’m not afraid of. Well, maybe I can, but it’s not natural, I know that.

OH well… I must be off because it’s cold out and I’ll have to warm the car up before I get going.

Squirming

“When I passed by you and saw you squirming in your blood,
I said to you while you were in your blood,

‘Live!’

I said to you while you were in your blood,

‘Live!'”

Ezekiel 16

I have never read this chapter before. I mean really read. The first 14 verses speak of the condition God found us in – “squirming in our blood,” “thrown out into the open field,” and so on. God then speaks of what He did when He found us in this condition. He covered us. bathed us. He washed us. He anointed us. He clothes us. He wrapped us. He adorned us.

He made us HIS. He made us beautiful.


But alas, there’s a “big but” again in verse 15: “But you trusted in your beauty and played the harlot because of your fame.” We took all that God had given us, all that He had done for us out of mercy and grace, and turned it into something ugly, selfish, and pungent.

This is not just the story of Israel. This is the story of every human being who has ever walked this earth. You can go all the way back to Adam and Eve. And you can go all the way forward to me. There was a day when I was “squirming in my blood,” naked, cold, and empty. And God has made me beautiful. He has restored me. He made me His Child.

So the question is, what will I do with that beauty? I can tell you what I did with it. I did just what Israel did back thousands of years ago. I abused my gift. I abused the beauty God gave me and turned it into something for my own benefit, for my own pleasure, for my own gain.

Oh, how I love God’s word. In the midst of a moment of reflecting where we’ve come from, how rebellious we are on our own, even in the midst of God’s blessings… Soon after I read these verses in Ezekiel, I read Psalm 106. I love verse 44:

Nevertheless, He looked upon their distress
When He heard their cry;
And He remembered His covenant for their sake
and relented according to the greatness of His lovingkindness.
He also made them objects of compassion
In the presense of all their captors.

How far we have fallen as a people. How far I have fallen as an individual. And yet God is there, ready and waiting to restore me, standing on His toes, to personify it, almost anxiously waiting to hear me cry, “Help!” Help! What lovingkindness, what mercy, what grace. To receive what we least deserve from the One we have hurt the most. To receive restoration, clothing, and food from the One we have abhorred, betrayed, and denied.

The psalm sums up my response today.

Save us, O LORD our God,
And gather us from among the nations,
To give thanks to Thy holy name,
And glory in Thy praise.
Blessed be the LORD, the God of Israel,
From everlasting to everlasting.
And let all the people say, “Amen.”

Praise the LORD!

This is the message I long to share. To help others realize it’s not just our minds, our actions, that God is after. He is after our HEARTS. He wants us back! He wants to restore us, to lift us up, to exalt us, all for His glory. He wants to make us beautiful, full of worth, and useful on this earth. In fact, He already has. The potential in any one of us is tremendous, but again, the question is, what am I going to do with it? Am I going to use it for my own glory, for my own benefit, to meet the passions of my own self, or will I turn every blessing back to God, and say “Thanks be to HIM!” “Praise HIM!” “Exalt HIM!”

I stop now, Lord, and praise you. I worship you. I thank you. You are my Lord, my Savior, my God, and my Father. You love me, cherish me, and adore me. And I thank you. I give you this day, I give you my life. Take it, mold it, use it, for your glory.

Amen.