No One There, The Tomb Is Empty…

It had been an exhausting day for the master of the house. Being a prominent leader among the aristocracy of the Roman Empire he spent most of his time dealing with issues that required political debate. This day had been particularly draining because of the heated dispute with some prominent Jewish leaders. They wanted to put a man to death; not for justice but for political gain. It was now up to him to determine the ultimate fate of a man that faced a hideous death by Crucifixion. His final decision was….

Now exhausted from arguing, he was looking forward to a quiet evening at home and sharing a late afternoon meal with his family.

His servants, who were slaves, considered it a privilege to be under his rule. Even though he was demanding, he was also unusually fair, kind and considerate. He never beat, or as some had, even put to death a slave servant for a minor infraction of protocol. His thoughtfulness had gained the love, admiration and respect of his entire household. For under his rule they all felt safe and secure.

He no sooner sat down at the table than his slave servants hovered around him like worker bees attending to the needs of the queen bee. They catered to his every whim, making sure his plate was continually full of the finest food, and repeatedly refreshed his goblet with his favorite beverage.    

As the meal progressed, they stood silently off to the side, watching, waiting for the slightest jester or movement of his hand; it was then a slave servant would immediately respond. And of course, it was inevitable that a signal would be misinterpreted causing a moment of unimaginable stress…then the master of the house would erupt in roaring laughter which was contagious and filled the room with a light hearted atmosphere.

Now in the middle of dinner their master hesitated, he folded his napkin and without a word abruptly walked away from the table…all the slave servants stood there, silent, they did not move or budge an inch even though the master was gone.

Why you may wonder; why they hesitated to clean the table off and put the food away? The answer to that question is rather simple. It was a common custom, in those days, if the master of the house folded his napkin; it was a sign for the slave servants not to touch anything because he was going to return. Had he crumpled the napkin, this would indicate he was finished, and would not be coming back. It was then the slave servants went into action to immediately clear the table and put the remaining food away (or in some cases, the slave servants would share the remaining food among themselves).

Yes, it is an interesting bit of trivia. However, what relevance does it have for us today, if any? In addition, what does it have to do with Resurrection Sunday (Easter)?

Here is where the story takes on some very interesting and significant meaning.

It is a well-documented historical fact that Jesus lived. Only the most foolish and arrogant of scholars would deny His existence. Historians also acknowledge that He took a horrible beating (far, far more than what most people perceive). The Romans were experts at torture; after beating Him mercilessly they nailed Him to a cross to die a most hideous and agonizing death. He suffered beyond our comprehension until He gave up his life. One Roman soldier wanted to make sure Jesus was dead. He thrust his spear into the side of Jesus.

Upon His death He was then placed in a tomb…then the most amazing event occurred…three days later the tomb was found to be empty (He had risen)…well not completely empty…His disciples found what remained; the burial garment, and the napkin that had covered our Lord’s face. He had neatly and carefully folded and placed it where He had lain. Did you get that, Jesus neatly folded the napkin that covered His face. He quietly, in this case, made a profound statement, using the napkin as a symbol. He in essence was telling His disciples not to worry; He was coming back again…

As the servants of the master waited with eagerness for his return to the dinner table because he left the napkin folded. We too should with great and eager anticipation, as servants of our Lord, be waiting expectantly, knowing He will return as He has promised.

Our real and lasting hope, for the hope we have, is not a matter of “if”; it is a matter of “when”…This hope is not based on governments or world leaders to bring about peace (it will never happen). It is knowing the Lord will return and take control, replacing this world’s malignantly evil system, to bring lasting peace…the napkin has been folded, He will return.

His resurrection seals and is a guarantee, that He will fulfill His promise to us that someday soon we too shall receive the completeness of eternal life and share with Him in real and lasting peace; a life of joy and purpose without end.  

So the next time you sit down at a meal and see a folded napkin, let it be a reminder of what it can symbolize for us today…real and eternal hope in our Savior.

For additional information about the freedom, security and hope found in Jesus please go to the Word of Grace Studies website at: wordofgracestudies.org. They offer real and lasting hope that is only found in as risen Savior, who is no longer on the cross or in the tomb; He is risen and now sits at the right hand of God the Father in Heaven interceding for you and me. As the Apostle Paul stated it so very clearly (1Corithians 15:1-4); if you believe Jesus died for your sins, was buried, and rose that third day…you will be saved.

From our home to yours; have a joyous celebration on Resurrection Sunday (Easter).

It’s All About Timing…

Decades before cell phones, and GPS for driving directions…

Working for a commercial pick up service had its challenges…It was a hot summer day (102 degrees) in late July when I abruptly stopped. In my haste to get through the heat of the day (the truck did not have air conditioning) I almost missed the address for my pick up.   It was a nice neighborhood with well manicured lawns. Each house was uniquely different with bushes that were precisely trimmed. It was almost as if there was a neighborhood competition for the most beautiful and unique landscape.

As I was walking back to my truck, a neighbor waved me over. I waved back indicating I would be right there after I placed the items I just picked up in my truck.

It was obvious he was in the middle of a re-landscape project; which included some new concrete work. He had the wooden boarders all in place and the gravel was laid, compacted and leveled. He was in the process of mixing the cement, sand, gravel and water in a large wheel barrel.

He started speaking to me in some very broken English with a strong European accent. There was some information he wanted but I could not quite understand what it was he needed. He kept pointing the concrete mixture in the wheel barrel and with various hand jesters to the prepared area….then walking on the gravel making more jesters to indicate his question or concern.

Finally I thought I understood what it was he was trying to communicate. He wanted to know how long after he poured the concrete could he walk on it. As a kid I spent several summers mixing concrete for my dad. He was building a concrete block retaining wall (over 100 feet long) and a patio. So I was well versed about mixing wheelbarrow loads of concrete.

Pointing to my watch and with a few hand jesters of my own, to informed him (since it was 100+ degrees out) four hours and he could cautiously walk on the concrete. He smiled appreciatively; as I left notice he was sitting in the shade of a nearby tree. Thought nothing of it until….

About four hours later as I made my last pickup for the day….suddenly I realized he was not asking how long before the concrete was safe to gently walk on; but how long should he leave the concrete in the wheelbarrow before he poured it on to the gravel…oops…and I told him four hours. By then it would be one hard concrete block that was dried in the wheelbarrow. It was no wonder he went to sit under the shade of the tree when I left him.

Since almost 55 years has now passed… he has probably told his grand children and great grandchildren the story about the crazy truck driver that convinced him to leave the concrete in the wheelbarrow for four hours before he tried to pour it….

Sometimes the best of intentions are not good enough…when we step into eternity God will not be concerned about our good intentions or deeds…the only question He will have is “What have you done with My Son?” Without His Son in the life of any individual, that person while alive physically, is spiritually dead. Only the Son can give you His life. As in all the challenges and obstacles of life, choose wisely, not only what you ask but whom you ask as well…the wrong answer, no matter how well intentioned just might be devastating; not only for now but for eternity as well.

A Mighty and Powerful Christmas

Without a doubt this has been a most difficult year. However as Christmas approaches, there is a sense and an anticipation of a renewed hope. For Christians this hope has an object; that being our Savior Jesus Christ. For the Christmas season reminds us of a promise now fulfilled and one that is yet to come when He returns.     

For the secular world it is also a most magical time of year.  

If you close your eyes and listen carefully you can almost hear the echo of laughter and joyful sounds of celebration as family and friends of years past   gathered joyfully around the Christmas tree…and we can now look forward to this same celebration that will soon be here.

Times are rapidly and socially changing. There is a considerable effort to change the greeting of “Merry Christmas” to a more secular and neutral “Happy Holiday’s”.

It is interesting to note that sometime around the 12th century the term “merry” had a very different meaning than it does today. Our ancestors knew what we have lost, and that is the very special meaning of the seasonal greeting “Merry Christmas”.

Over the centuries, the English language, like all others, has evolved into what it is today. Phrases that were once popular are being replaced as the language evolves. So it is true with the word “Merry” in Merry Christmas.

We tend to relate this word as meaning happy or joyful. But is that what it actually meant when it was used in centuries past? The answer may surprise you…it did me.

It was a surprise if not a shock to learn that the word in the original English actually meant “mighty and powerful in substance or belief”. That is amazing!

In its truest sense, “Merry Christmas” means to have a mighty and powerful belief in a living Savior. The phrase is an acknowledgment that Jesus is the special and unique Son of God.

The correct usage of “merry” can even be found in songs such as: “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen”. This song reflects and acknowledges the mighty and powerful conviction in the birth of the King. When you consider the words of the song in the context of the original English language, you will see what it really portrays. Here is a paraphrase of this song: “Take Rest You Mighty and Powerful Gentlemen (Christians); resting in the fact that the Savior is here to free us from our fears and worries.

It is through Him we are being made “mighty” because of our belief and faith has an object, Jesus Christ Himself; we are made mighty and powerful in belief through Him.

The term “Gentlemen”, is an interesting for it depicts one’s nobility. It is not our nobility; it is His living in and through us today, this is what makes us noble. This is also a testament to His kindness, and love toward and for us. It is He that makes us noble in God’s sight…very awesome!

Marry is not just a religious “mighty and powerful”. For even in the secular world one can easily find this word used. Ever hear of the story of “Robin Hood and His Merry Men”? Merry is a direct reference to the fact they were “mighty” and “powerful” warriors…they were not to be messed with without consequences. They were greatly feared and even deeply respected by the king and his own (merry) powerful men.

Today when someone wishes you a “Merry Christmas”, take a moment to reflect on its meaning; that is a mighty, majestic, and powerful Savior has come.

It is from a joyful heart that Barbara and I send you Christmas greetings to you and your family…Have a Mighty, Powerful and Merry Christmas in Him!

Barbara and Bob Weyand

The fog was extremely dense…then the car died….

The fog was beginning to roll in as the five women were driving home down an isolated country road. They did not seem to mind or even really notice until they passed over a slight rise and drove down into what was now extremely dense fog. Their visibility suddenly dropped to less than 20 feet. They could barely see the highway in front of them.

As the driver began to slow the car, the engine began to make some very strange noises, and the car shuttered and shook. The engine sputtered then suddenly stopped running. The driver managed to safely coast the car to the side of the road. She then tried starting the car, over and over again until the battery completely gave out, it was now dead…

The five women got out of the car, one kicked the tires, it worked in the movies, but the car remained lifeless and still.

Raising the hood, they did not have a clue what they were looking at, so one of the women began to poke at it with a stick, hoping, in some magical way, it would help

So there they were, now well after midnight, alone an isolated, and not a car in sight. Since this happened long before, 20 years, cell phones were invented they had no way to contact someone for help…or did they? The nearest town was about 20 miles away; too far to walk…there they sat perplexed as to what they should do.

Their isolation and the eeriness of the fog overshadowed the excitement of the church convention they had attended earlier that day.  They knew no one from the conference would be traveling that same road.  

One of the women suggested they pray and ask for Divine help…the other four women thought it was a great idea…so they did.

They had no sooner finished when a car drove up, seemingly from nowhere, and parked behind their car. A well dress young man got out and asked if he could be of assistance. The three women were very grateful for his appearing and offer to help. They began to explain what had happened and how they found themselves stranded.

Walking over to the car he lifted the hood. It only took him a couple of moments before he found the problem, the distributor wire, slightly beaten and mangled, had come loose. This prevented the spark from reaching the engine. He quickly reattached the wire. Then he asked the driver to try again to start the car…turning the key and pressing on the starter button the engine came to life (even though the battery had been completely dead just moments before).

They thanked the young man profusely for helping them in a desperate time of need. They mentioned that after struggling for over an hour as to what they should do they decided to pray about the situation. They mentioned how strange it was that he suddenly arrived moments later…

He smiled at the women, and then with an intense look on his face asked…why did you wait so long before asking God for help? He then got in his car and disappeared into the foggy night.

The women were astonished by his question, and talked about it all the way home.

Sometimes we find ourselves in difficult and seemingly impossible situations…perhaps we also wait too long to ask God for help…He is always there eagerly waiting…He should not be our last resort, He should be the first one we turn to when faced with a situation beyond our ability to solve.

Family

She was alone and scared as she….

The year was 1960…the old man had been driving for more than 10 hours. It was time to find a place to pull over and camp for the night. He found the perfect spot just off the main highway. So the old man pulled over and parked his pickup with a camper.

The sun was just about set on that warm summer evening. He was sitting in his favorite lounge chair with his dog at his feet, and fixing some of his favorite campfire stew. The coffee was done so he poured himself a cup.

As he sat there making plans for his next days journey, he saw the young girl of about 15 approaching his campsite.

She was alone and looked a bit scared…she approached the old man cautiously…reluctantly she started a conversation. She tearfully told him she had just run away from home. Said her parents just did not understand her at all.

He could not help noticing that she was eyeing his pot of stew… she told him she was cold and hungry.

He went into the camper and brought her a warm blanket and draped it over her shoulders. Then he fixed her a generous plate of stew; they sat and talked for several hours…it was well after dark now…she said she needed to head down the road. It was obvious that she had no place to go…so he asked her if she would like to spend the night and get an early start the next morning.

She agreed. The old man setup a comfortable and safe place for her inside his camper. Once he got her settled in he went outside and slept in his sleeping bag under the canopy of stars.

The night passed quickly. The sun was now just beginning to peek above the distant horizon…it was going to be another beautiful day.

He had breakfast well under way when the young girl came out of the camper. As breakfast was ending he handed her a small twig of a branch and asked her to snap it…puzzled she did so without the slightest resistance or hesitation with a loud pop she snapped it in two. He told her, that is what it is like being alone in this world…he then handed her a bundle of six small twigs that he had bound together with some string. He asked her, now break these in the same manner…struggling has hard as she could she was not able to break any of the twigs in the bundle…he said this is like a family, a strong bond that cannot be easily broken.

He looked her square in the eyes, and with a compassionate smile; he told her, go home, talk to your parents they love you and are very worried about you…you are family. She gave him a smile and a hug and started back home…

Christians today that stand-alone can be defeated and broken…but when joined together as a family along with other believers in Christ they form a bundle, a bond, a family that cannot be broken.

The Challenge…

The old man was grossly deformed and twisted from the ravages of leprosy…

It was the spring of 1890. As he walked down the plank from the docked ship; he could not help but feel a twinge of uncertainty. He had prepared all his adult life for this moment, and now he was hesitant.

It had been along and stressful voyage traveling from South Carolina to the Hawaiian Island of Molokai and the area of Kalaupapa. This island was to be his new home for the next 40 to 50 years. It was not a place you would want to visit for it housed, actually imprisoned, Lepers. There was no cure for this disease so those infected individuals, both young and old, were quarantined on the island for life.

 He found himself surrounded by about 100 total strangers; they were all staring at him. He could see the obvious; their bodies were badly deformed and twisted from the ravages of the disease. You can imagine, he felt very alone, isolated and vulnerable. Many had lost fingers, toes, ears, nose, lips, some were partially blinded, and all were in various stages of the disease.  

Since he was healthy, some of the islanders held a certain amount of contempt toward him. They were both jealous and bitter.

He was there to replace the old pastor that had served these people for more than 50 years, and now was returning to the mainland to retire.

It was unfortunate that his arrival was several weeks after the old pastor had left. He never had the opportunity to meet him and to gain firsthand knowledge of the islanders. He would have like to have known more about the old pastors struggles as he presented Christ to these people.

So here he was, alone and in a hostile environment. As he scanned the curious crowd looking for a friendly face, an old man that was deformed and twisted from the ravages of leprosy stepped forward from the group. He introduced himself. He said the old pastor asked him to help the new arrival until he became adjusted to his new home and environment.

This brought a sigh of relief to the new pastor. As they walked to his new residence, which was a simple and plain hut, the pastor asked his new friend to tell him his story and how he became a Christian.

The old man smiled as best he could. It was about 50 years ago when the pastor arrived…he was not greeted with warmth and kindness, but rather suspicion and even hatred for he was not like them; diseased, discouraged and depressed…and even oppressed as prisoners. The pastor was alive, healthy and full of excitement.

The old man said this made him mad; he had no right to come to this island as a healthy person…no right at all!

He came over to me and I spit on him…he came the next day and I cursed him to his face. He came the next day and I physically beat him…he came the next…the next…the next…It took a while but his message about The Savior and His love began to trouble me…eventually what he said made sense. In time, I became a Christian…by now tears were streaming down his cheeks.

The young pastor wide-eyed with amazement gave the old man a hug…then asked him, how long did the process take; going from hate and anger to accepting The Christ? Was it a week or two or perhaps a month?

The old man smiled at the pastor. He said the old pastor came every day, and took the abuse, for…he hesitated as he saw the expression of anticipation on the young pastors face…he came every day for twelve years before I finally accepted the message for salvation (1Cor 15:1-4).

The young pastor was overwhelmed with the thought of the old pastor coming every day; every day for twelve years taking the abuse because he cared…his face showed his astonishment…

Are you praying for someone special, friend, immediate family or relative, and not seeing the results you think you should? God may have a far different timeline than you. Never give up, never feel that God is not listening….Our place is to present our heartfelt needs and desires to God; then trust Him to work it out in His time and in His way. We can rest assured He not only hears us, but just as important He will respond…now that is so very cool!

The Furnace Filter

There were tears welling up in his eyes as he began to…

It is that fun time we all look forward to….just about as much fun as doing income taxes…the pain of changing the furnace and AC filter. The system filter for my unit is located up in the attic….groan. This is a cramped and very small crawl space; since it was summer, it was extremely hot.

Nevertheless, it had been two years since the last change (which I did not do), so there was no way out… only up…up the ladder.

Once in the attic getting to the filter was an additional challenge. It was, naturally, located in the worst possible place. To get to it required crawling on hands and knees; no room to stand up. With a great deal of mumbling, I finally was able to locate and remove it.

I took the necessary measurements. Then it was off to Home Depot for a new replacement filter.

It was a quick stop. They sold me the filter I needed and I was back home in about 30 minutes. My kind of shopping, get in, find what you want and get out! Well, almost because the filter was $36.00, far more expensive than what I thought.

So back up into the attic I went, gently dragging the new filter behind me. What’s this! It was a 1/2 inch too thick. It would not fit in the designated slot in spite of trying to manipulate it into place! Most annoyed I crawled back out and checked the measurements listed on the box, Yes indeed, the box read the right size, but the filter was 1/2 inch thicker than the box said.

You guessed right, I was now extremely irritated and frustrated.

I had Enough of Home Depot! I called Jerry’s Home Improvement Center. I talked to Andy and explained what I needed. He assured me they had the right filter, and furthermore, it was down isle B6. I confirmed the isle number before ending our conversation…did not need another disaster purchasing the wrong filter.

Arriving at Jerry’s, I went right to aisle B6, and guess what, wrong aisle, no furnace filters! So I decided to go around and down aisle A6, hoping to find someone to help me. As I turned the corner, I saw an employee, Bill. He was stacking the shelves with some new inventory. I asked him about the filter, and would he help me find the right one. As it turned out, he did not work for Jerry’s but was a factory rep.; he was only there for a couple of hours before moving on to his next assignment. However, he said he would be happy to help me locate the proper filter.

Down to the end of the aisle A6 we found where the filters were located on an upper shelf.  Unfortunately, for me, in my haste to get the job done, I forgot to bring my glasses. I asked if he would retrieve the right filter since I could not clearly see the numbers. I apologized for being a nuisance and explained that over the past 18 months, I had 16 eye surgeries, and had forgotten my glasses.  

He asked about the surgeries…I talked with him about the challenges during those 18 months. It was difficult to maintain my faith and trust in the only real source of hope. I told him I was not concerned, frustrated yes, because I knew it would all work out. I could see that he was carefully considering what I said. There were tears welling up in his eyes, and his voice cracking slightly, when he told me his wife had just died the day before. He said he felt very lost and alone. He thanked me for the words of encouragement and hope.

With the filter in hand, I thanked him for his help and kind patience. He thanked me once again for listening to him and for the encouragement. With that, we parted ways.

As I was walking toward my truck, I began to think about what had just taken place. Getting in the truck, I sat there reflecting on the events of the past two hours…something amazing had just taken place…

Here is what I discovered:

If I had put off changing the filter for another day, which I wanted to do, I would never have met Bill. He was only at Jerry’s for two hours that day…the exact time I came by.

If Home Depot had sold me the right filter, I would not have met Bill.

While at Jerry’s if I had gone to aisle A6 instead of B6, I would have found the filter (without my glasses it would have been difficult but not impossible) then I would not have met Bill.

If after going down aisle B6 and turning down aisle A6, had I not been very frustrated, I would not have asked Bill for help.

If I had not forgotten my glasses, I would have been able to read the size on the box easily. I never would have talked to Bill about my eye surgeries; and shared faith, hope and trust during this most difficult and horrific time. I would never have known the tragic event of his life, and the encouragement he needed.

Then I thought how amazing, kind and compassionate the God we worship is. He turned my frustration into a most beautiful moment to help a complete stranger. He allowed me to give some encouragement to Bill who at that moment in his life needed assurance of Gods’ love for him. God’s grace is total and awesome! He does work in some of the most unexpected ways.

I did not preach to Bill. I simply shared with and assured him that everything would be OK. I related to him how over the previous 18 months God took me from being legally blind to where I now can see very well with glasses. And how the Doctor concluded, to his amazement, it was indeed a miracle.

He began to see the hand of God working in his life as well. It was there all the time; he simply did not recognize it. He face changed and he began to smile.

And yes, the filter fit perfectly; what’s more, it only cost me $12.00!

Changing the filter will always be a constant reminder to me of just how awesome our God is. Could it be He is allowing you to go through a difficult time today so, at a time of His choosing, you can be a source of encouragement to someone else…I just wonder…  

The Lie

She looked straight into my eyes….

Summer time, when the days and evenings are warm. It is a time for various activities, adventures and fun…But there are some that are questionable, and even dangerous…especially for a young 9 year old girl.

Children at that tender age are gullible and naive. That does not make them bad or stupid. Simply they think they are invincible. They do not have enough experience to make sound value judgments. They invariably think they know everything, which in itself is a dangerous illusion that can have serious and undesirable results.

On this particular summer morning, while talking to my daughter about her involvement in a questionable activity the previous day, she looked straight into my eyes and lied. This actually surprised me because had she told the truth, even though I disagreed with her action; yes, I would have been disappointed but certainly not angry or vengeful.

Maybe it was the fact that she did not want to disappoint us that motivated her, or perhaps it was the embarrassment about being caught in a lie. At this point, it did not matter; the fact is she lied.

Once confronted that her attempt at deception was obvious and that it did not work; tears began to well up in her eyes. She knew the hammer was about to fall and she was in serious trouble…the question remained in her mind what was going to happen next, and what would be the result of her actions.

To simply dismiss the lie as a “phase” she was going through was not an option.

I could sense she was sorry for what she did, not because she had been caught, but because she truly understood the emotional damage she did to our relationship…our trust in her had been betrayed. She knew that trusting her again would be difficult, and in her mind probably impossible. This bothered her greatly, one could see the anxiety and stress in her body language.

Her mind circled back to the question of what I was going to do…so I asked her if she should be punished…the tearful reply, as she lowered her eyes,  came yes. Pausing for a moment, I asked what she thought would be an appropriate form of punishment, and what she thought was fair…surprisingly she came up with a number of options; all of which were more severe than I would have actually required.

This situation came about, as I was getting ready to go to work. I told her she was not to go out at all, or to play with her friends. She was to stay at home and help her mom clean house, and make cookies later that day…see smiled excitedly because she loved making cookies. I further explained that after dinner we would sit down and talk about her punishment. Her eyes widened as I explained that I wanted her to think about her actions and the results she faced as she went throughout her day. No I was not trying to be cruel or sadistic, but rather had a plan in mind, as you will soon read.

Dinner was good; the cookies for desert were awesome! Now was the time to sit down with our daughter and resolve her dilemma…and to determine a fair form of punishment.

I spent a little time explaining to her how damaging and dangerous lies can be…gave several illustrations of people that died because they believed in lies; and of powerful nations that believed and were destroyed because of them. Lies are powerful and have frightening results.

I told her I knew she was sorry, and she was; that I knew she would not lie to me again…(to my knowledge, she never did).

I wanted her to understand that as her parents we were also the guardians of her well being and safety. Because of her disobedience I had every right, and a responsibility to administer punishment…she tearfully acknowledged the truth and consequences that she faced.

Here is what I decided to do. I began to explain to her that we talked about the problem enough; it was time to talk about the solution. I wanted her to understand a very important principle so I began by telling her about “grace”, that is unmerited and undeserved pardon and forgiveness. The greatest example of these is the love of the Father for us. Even to the point where God allowed His one and only special and unique Son, Jesus, to be put to death in our stead, even though we deserved it…all because we like Eve chose to believe the lie that Satan told…you don’t need God in your life, you can figure things out for yourself.

That is exactly what our daughter was trying to do, trying to work around us to get her way even though the result would be disastrous. Then I talked to her about “compassion”; God sees us for what we are and loves us in spite of it all. Then we talked about “understanding” that she needed to come to a mature realization what she had done, why she had done it, and the consequences of the end result.  

Then we talked about “mercy”…overlooking what she had done in spite of the fact she did not deserve it, or in any way did she, nor could she earn it.

Her eyes widened, still not exactly sure what I was going to do. I told her I was going to extend to her grace, mercy, compassion, and forgiveness…I was not going to hold what she had done against her in any way; or punish her for her poor decision and actions. I would never refer back to this incident to use it against her in the future. Just as God when He forgives us, He does it completely…or as someone in the past said, He drops it into the deepest part of the sea of His remembrance, never, ever to bring it up again.

I asked her to remember this lesson as she continued her journey through life. For eventually someone, maybe one of her sisters will lie to her causing great pain and distress.  I asked that she remember what she had learned about grace, mercy, compassion and forgiveness. That is, she should consider applying it to others, whether they deserve it or not.

With that said, she smiled and gave me a big hug and happily walked away…only time would tell if she really got the message…and for us today as well, only time will tell if we as mature adults really get the message to extend the love of Christ to others as they offend us.

Fireside Chat

fireside

Her eyes widened; the expression on her face became intense….

It was a cold wintery day. Looking outside through the window you could see all the trees and shrubs glistened in the sunlight with a fresh coating of snow from the night before. We had almost 10 inches by morning. It was the kind of day that is was nice to have nothing to do that required going out into the cold.

Later on, after dinner, I went into the family room to add more logs to the fireplace. The previous logs had now become just red-hot coals.

As I was relaxing and sitting there watching the flames dance on the newly placed logs; enjoying the peace and quiet, except for the fire causing a crackling and popping sound; something unexpected was about to take place…

One of my daughters, of which there are three, quietly came in and sat down next to me. As we both were enjoying the serenity of the moment she turned to me and said, “Daddy” (now that is a name that will melt the heart of any father). I would like to start daughterto single date (now that is a statement that will stop the heart of a father); she was just 13; a very bright and intelligent child. However, she was overly trusting and very naïve. Her naivety was a genuine cause for concern.

Her question was not unexpected, nonetheless it was still startling; almost took my breath away. At 13 she did not have any idea concerning the hidden dangers of single dating. To her it was magical and enticing…

Many parents would just simply say “NO!” Then when asked, “why not”, would more than likely say, “Because I said so!” That kind of a reply is never a solution. Often this type of an answer leads into anger, harsh words and tears!

I decided to take a different approach…the fire had burned the previous logs down to where they were red hot coals; which radiated warmth as well as intense heat. I asked my young daughter to please pick up one of the hot coals and give it to me; I would really like to have one. The request brought an immediate response, NO Daddy! When I asked her why not, it brought an direct and intense, because they would burn me.

This opened the door of opportunity for my intended discussion…then I asked, if I told a two year old to pick up the red-hot coal, would they do so? She thought for a moment, then answered yes, they probably would. Then I asked why? Because they do not know hot coals will burn them came her reply.

That is right I told her. So what is the difference between you and a child of two? She said I know the hot coals will burn me. This led to a further discussion…we talked about “knowledge”, knowing what a fire is; we talked about “understanding” that a fire can cause severe burns, and even lead to death; we talked about “wisdom”; knowing not to touch, the hot coals or you will pay a painful price!

Her eyes widened. I could tell she was deep in thought; thinking about what I said…babies do not have the understanding or wisdom to avoid pain…she did. I made it appear as if this were her discovery; to her it was exciting …her conversation became bubbly.

Next, I guided the discussion, and we talked about “maturity”. It is a process just takes time and experience. There were no shortcuts. The conversation further discussed two basic ways to gain useful and practical insight that can lead to maturing. One is based on personal experience. Learning from both positive and negative situations, and how to handle them. The other was to learn from the experiences of others; to hear about their mistakes and what to avoid. She was already aware of some wrong choices she made, as well as positive ones. So this made a great deal of sense to her…but could she, would she apply this to dating?

I mentioned to her that she has two choices. One was to trust in the judgment of her mom and I (who dearly loved her). The other was to trust in her friends (whose motives are ones based on selfish interests). We would give her advice based on protecting her; making sure her experiences were safe and fun…on the other hand, I explained that her friends would try to talk her into grabbing one red-hot coal.

I asked her if that made sense. Her eyes widened; the expression on her face became intense. One could almost see the gears of intellect crunching out the answer as her mind processed the information.

As she was thinking, I suggested that going out with a group, for now, was a far better solution. She could have fun without the inherent dangers of single dating.

Her eyes began to sparkle; she said she thought a group environment would work well for now…

All went well for the remainder of the year…However, as expected, the following year the question of single dating came up again.

This time my approach was slightly different. I reminded her of our previous discussion about the hot coals…she replied that she was more mature now and thought she wanted to start single dating. So I told her she could, but only if her perspective date agreed to meet with me first (I knew what the outcome would be..and I was right)…she giggled a bit and said she would extend the invitation and requirement to a boy she had her eye on.

To her surprise (not to me), he refused to come. Several others asked her for a date. However as soon as they learned the condition of the predate meeting, they quickly retreated. Finally, one young man, he was two years older, agreed to meet with me…and so he did.

boyNow this meeting was not an inquisition. With my daughter present, I treated him with dignity and respect. I tried (it took a great deal of effort) to engage him in conversation about his interests, school; his plans for a career or college. Tried talking about current events, sports…he was nice enough but frankly, he was…

After he left, my daughter turned to me and with the strangest look on her face said, “He is brain dead isn’t he?!”…I simply smiled. She was enamored by his good looks; our conversation demonstrated there was very little more. What was important, the wisdom of the situation gave her the insight; he was not a good choice…

She learned to look beyond just good looks. She also learned how important it is to look for character and honesty before accepting any invitation for a date. She began to see we truly had her best interest at heart. We were not trying to keep her from dating; but only from situations that might prove to be harmful.

She was nearly 18 before she finally reached the point to where she began to single date. By then she had the wisdom and maturity to handle the situation with grace and tact; to have fun without putting herself in dangerous setting.

Sometimes being a parent is fun while guiding a child through the minefield of life.