Ojichan and O bachan (Gramps and Grams)

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Grandbabies

“Papaw/Memaw”, “Grandpa/Grandma”, “Nana/Papa”, “Earl/Ethel”…by whatever name you called them, many have memories of going to Grandma’s house or fishing with Grandpa.  They were there for wisdom and guidance, to spoil their grandkids, and provide a stable market for overalls and aprons. One thing to be said for Grandparents though, they are timeless.  They will always do a few things.

They always protect and admonish.  There is a chapter in David’s life that is particularly troubling.  His family is in shambles.  His eldest son Amnon (his mother was Ahinoam [2 Sam. 3.2]) raped his half-sister Tamar [2 Sam. 13].  It is not a high point in Scripture.  Absolam (his mother was Maakah [2 Sam. 3.3]) hears of this act by his half-brother upon his sister and is outraged.  He conspires a plan and waits.  Two years later (2 Sam. 13.23), Absalom killed Amnon in retribution.  David was furious over Amnon’s sin (2 Sam. 13.21) but he wept bitterly at the news that Amnon was dead and mourned for many days (13.36-37).  Absalom unsure of how his father, the King, would react, fled.  Who did he run too?  Talmai, son of Ammihud, the king of Geshur.  For three years, stayed in Geshur.  This is relevant to the conversation because of his mother’s heritage.  She had been the princess of Geshur, the daughter of Talmai.  He fled to his Grandpa.  Parents are the enforcers and discipliners; Grandparents keep Suzy-Q’s and Pepsi’s in the fridge.  Parent’s send you to your room and tell you to close your door; Grandparent’s keep the door open just to welcome you in.  Absolam proves one timeless fact about Grandparent’s: an unwavering belief that their grand-child is truly the best (as pointed out by their monogramed sweatshirts).

They have no expiration date.  Proverbs 17.6 reads: “Children’s children are a crown to the aged”  Crown [hb. ‘ataret] is actually the first word of the Hebrew sentence.  Hebrew isn’t as locked into sentence structure, especially in the Wisdom Books, as the English language is.  There is much more fluidity to be had in where words are placed in a sentence.  To emphasize the importance of a word, “crown” in this case, the writer will place it first in the thought.  Crowns are important.  The crown of the book of Proverbs displays its significance.  It is wisdom. Proverbs 4.7-9:

The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom.

Though it cost all you have, get understanding.

Cherish her, and she will exalt you;

embrace her, and she will honor you.

She will give you a garland to grace your head

and present you with a glorious crown.”

Since the purpose of the entire book is to “gain wisdom and understanding” (Proverbs 1.2), the importance of the crown is easily understood.  There is the “woman of noble character” in Proverbs.  She is a “crown”.  Proverbs 12.4:

“A wife of noble character is her husband’s crown,

but a disgraceful wife is like decay in his bones.”

Her worth is beyond compare in Proverbs.  There is wealth.  Again Solomon uses “crown” to start off this wisdom.  Crown begins the sentence that reads:

“The wealth of the wise is their crown,

but the folly of fools yields folly.” (Proverbs 14.24)

Wealth is the display of those who possess wisdom.  Crowns are gold. They’re precious. They’re valuable.  Literally, wealth.  Finally, that grey hair that adorns the elderly; it’s a crown.  Again Solomon starts the Proverb with the word “crown” as he writes:

“Gray hair is a crown of splendor;

it is attained in the way of righteousness.” (Proverbs 16.31)

Gray hair is a sign of wisdom.  A crown of survival.  Living long enough to attain a full head of gray hair, should be celebrated.

The importance of the crown motif in Proverbs can’t be undersold.  It’s a display of life well lived.  Which is why they put their Grandkids on display.  Before some guy in Japan decided to put a camera in his phone in 2000, every person born before then was subjected to a Grandmother who took way-to-many-pictures, with way-to-big-of-flash, with a zoom lens that may or may not be in focus.  But she was Grandma.  She was going to show off her grandkids.  My mother cherished pictures of her grandkids and would show them to any and everyone.  They were Her and Dad’s good life on display.  One of my greatest regrets and disappointments in life is that I couldn’t give them any.  I am the 4th generation “Gail” in the Long family and it will end with me.  They are crowned “grandparents” forever with Micaiah, Mia, Macy Jo, and Matthew because crowns don’t have expiration dates.

The last timeless aspect of grandparents is their spiritual leadership.  It was my Grandmothers who took me to Church when I was younger: East Borough Presbyterian Church and Assumption Catholic Church.  Before my family began attending a Church regularly in 6th grade, it was my Great-Grandfather who diligently prayed for our family for many years.  Who would have thought that Dad is serving in leadership of a Church, Mom knew Jesus intimately before her passing, Steph is a Church planter in Japan, and I write these words with a placard on my door that reads: “Pastor”.  All thanks to a praying Grandpa Gail.  Psalm 128 is a song that is meant to be sung on the way to worship.  Jerusalem sat on the top of a hill.  Everyone was continually “going up” to Jerusalem to go to the Temple.  As they walked, they sang.

Blessed are all who fear the Lord,

who walk in obedience to him.

You will eat the fruit of your labor;

blessings and prosperity will be yours.

Your wife will be like a fruitful vine within your house;

your children will be like olive shoots around your table.

Yes, this will be the blessing for the man who fears the Lord.

May the Lord bless you from Zion;

may you see the prosperity of Jerusalem all the days of your life.

May you live to see your children’s children—peace be on Israel.

When leadership, especially spiritual leadership, was needed, it was the Grandparents who led the way.  During celebrations, like Passover, it was the Oldest male in the household that led the worship.  Psalm 128 shows that worship starts on the way to the Temple.  It depicts 3 generations: Mom and Pop (1-3); children (3); children’s children (8).  Whether the grandkids are on the scene or not is not clear, but they are definitely in the picture.  The moment my sister said “yes” to her husband, my mother and father began preparing for grandkids.

By whatever name they go by they are certainly vital to the lives of our families.

A Man after God’s Heart: The Women who Make the Man

 

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Three generations of women in my life.  Miss you Mom!

“Behind every successful rancher is a woman who works in town.”

One area in which our culture is at war is in the role of women in business, entertainment, leadership, and by proxy and spill-over, the church.  I am convinced that as long as you have leaders, women will have always have assumed a leadership role.

The greatest leader in the history of Israel was David.  He was the man, the leader, that all others would be measured against.  Despite his failures and short comings, Bathsheba and the Census, David would be the one every other king would be in the shadow of.  So much of David’s leadership can be looked at in view of the women in his life.  Sure there were more important people in his ministry who played much larger roles, but the women were a fascinating group.

His Great-Grandmother, Ruth was a widower.  She was not a prim and proper woman.  She was powerful and dangerous.  She knew what needed to be done and took initiative to do it.  It was Boaz job as the Kinsman redeemer to look after the family of which she was a part.  He wasn’t doing his job, so she arranged a circumstance in which he would take his rightful role in the family.  She did what she had to do, to get him to do what he was supposed to do.  Women, in today’s world, are too busy trying to be men, that they quit asking men to be men.  It’s not just a “today problem”.  In 1821, Sojourner Truth spoke these words: “…”  It was taken from a speech that argued that she was a powerful woman who was equal to any man.  She was tuff and she was strong.  She was powerful.  But she wasn’t a man.  Women have this power to bring out the best in men.  Some may do it with a challenge like Deborah (Judges 4-5).  Some may do it with seduction (Ruth).  Some may do it with service (Abigale in 1 Samuel 25).  Some may do it with beauty and intelligence (Esther).  The point is that as many different women as there are in this world, men will do that many different things to gain the respect of women.  Ruth was a challenger of Boaz and became the Great-grandmother of the King of Israel that the Jews still honor.  She is referred to by her husband as an “isha-chayil”, “a woman of noble character”.

His Mother was a believer.  There is no mention of her in any of the Annals of Israel; none in Samuel or Chronicles.  We know his father’s name was Jesse.  He is mentioned numerous times, but his mother is not.  I just assumed she was absentee.  But as I read through Psalms, she is mentioned.  She is not named.  Who exactly she was is a debate and study for another time.  Regardless, she is mentioned briefly in Psalms 86 and 116.  Each time it is the same wording.  She is known to have worshipped the Lord in faithfulness.  She worshipped the same “compassionate and gracious God that is slow to anger and abounding in love and faithfulness” that Moses did.  (Psalm 86.15-16)  Literally, ‘I am your servant, the son of your mother…” (Psalm 86.16; 116.16).  “Just as” in the most recent translation of the NIV, is added in for translation ease.  I do believe it is necessary and faithful to the text.  David’s mother was a follower of Yahweh.

His Wife, Abigail, was a righteous woman.  Prior to her relationship with David, she served both him and her husband with honor.  She was faithful in her service.  When David and his men needed sustenance, her husband, Nabal, refused to help.  She took it upon herself to serve and help David in his time of despair.  He needed sustenance and she cooked.  He needed reminding of God’s plan and she guided.  He needed a woman, she was there.  Eventually it all worked in accordance with God’s plan and they ended up married after Nabal’s death. (1 Samuel 25) Proverbs 11.16 says:

A kindhearted woman gains honor, but ruthless men gain only wealth.”

His Wife, Bathsheba, bore him a child named Solomon. Though David and Bathsheba’s time began in “not-so-good-circumstances”, they would finish well. She would be one of the five women that Matthew mentions in his genealogy of Jesus (Matthew 1.6).  She isn’t named, but she is still there as “Uriah’s wife”.  That has to say something about her importance.  Solomon would become the wisest king to have ruled Israel.  He would be just and fair.  Eventually he would succumb to greed, idol worship, and other sins.  He took many foreign wives and concubines. His sin was numerous, but he would still author many great proverbs of wisdom.

His daughter Tamar, whose mother was Maakah, the princess of Geshur, is the only one of David’s daughters to be mentioned in the Bible.  She has two words that describer in her short story: beautiful and desolate. Her story is tragic; but, culturally relevant today.  She was raped by her half-brother Amnon (2 Samuel 13.26).  Amnon refused to marry her and sent her away with extreme hatred.  She moved in with her full brother Absalom, despite his poor advice: “Don’t take this to heart” (2 Samuel 13.20)  In a world where 1 in 2 women will be sexually abused in their lifetime and only 31% get reported, Tamar has a familiar story.  When David hears of this, he is furious.  The Hebrew is charah meod.  “Very angry” is how it is most often translated.  Charah is anger ready to act.  I have written about it elsewhere, so there is no reason to dwell on it here; but, I will point out that these two words are paired together only 6 times in the Bible.  They are found in Genesis 4.5, Genesis 34.7, 1 Samuel 11.6, 2 Sam 12.5, 2 Samuel 13.21, and 2 Chron 25.10.  For a moment I would like to look at 2 of these from 2 Samuel.  The second on is found in this story of Tamar.  The first is found in Nathan’s confrontation.  David sinned with Bathsheba (2 Samuel 11).  Nine months later, Nathan confronts him about his sin by telling him a story of two shepherds.  One has great flocks and herds; the other only has one lamb.  This little lamb was “like a daughter to him” (2 Samuel 12.3).  When a traveler came to the rich man he took the sheep from the poor man to feed him.  “David burned with anger [charah + meod]” (2 Samuel 12.5) and pronounced a sentence upon the rich man.  Then Nathan turned the story on him: “You are that man!” (2 Samuel 12.7) Literally the Hebrew reads: “You the man [‘attah hais’]”  So David is the man who has take what is not his.  He has taken someone’s daughter.  Now in 2 Samuel 13, his own daughter has been taken.  David is “furious [charah meod]” (2 Samuel 13.21).  He feels the same emotion as he did towards the rich man in the previous chapter.

Great-Great-Great-Great-Great Grand-daughter Jehosheba, faced a crisis.  Her brother, Ahaziah the King of Judah was murdered by Jehu (2 Kings 9.27ff.).  Athaliah, Amaziah’s mother, upon hearing of Ahaziah’s death, assumed the role of King of Judah.  In doing so she tried to destroy the royal family (2 Samuel 11.1)  Jehosheba thwarted her plan by taking Ahaziah’s son, Joash, and hiding him in the Temple for 6 years, away from Athaliah’s wrath (2 Kings 11.3).  He would be crowned King (2 Kings 11.12) and Athaliah killed (2 Kings 11.16), all at the ripe old age of 7, because of Jehosheba.

Finally, his Great42-grand-daughter, Mary, would be the one who would fulfill God’s promise to this world (Luke 1.26-38).  She carried Jesus in her womb for 9 months and brought the Messiah into this world (Matthew 1.18ff.; Luke 2).  She was just another generation of women in David’s lineage who played a central role in God’s promise.

Women are often maligned in church today.  They are pushed to the side or shoved into a corner.  Their gifts are over shadowed, and their service is unappreciated.  David’s kingdom and his legacy was greatly influenced by women.   To eliminate or ignore them from David’s story would eliminate David.  Had Ruth not taken initiative, there would be no David.  Had there been no Bathsheba, there would be no Solomon and the outrage over Tamar probably not as severe.

Thank God for the women in life that make men.  Grandmothers, mothers, daughters, and wives…you are needed, powerful, and gifted.  Thank you.

Miss you Mom!

Camp Awards

MV5BMzM4NDA5MzMyMF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwNTE2Mjc2MQ@@._V1_CR0,30,250,141_AL_UX477_CR0,0,477,268_AL_.jpgSitting in the back of the chapel watching the students perform skits with Ensley, two thoughts crossed my mind:

  1. There is a lot of messed up theology that comes through a middle school Bible skit.
  2. There should be Oscars given out for great performances…

Which led us to this conclusion:  the last night of camp should be awards night for counselors to recieve and bestie awards.

We did the same thing in college for our dorm.  We called them “Willie awards” after Williamson Dorm.  Some of the great ones were:

  • “The Bert and Ernie Award” which was given to the odd couple of room mates.
  • “The Hibernation Award” for that guy in the dorms that no one knew because he never left his room.
  • “The Napoleon and Pedro Award” is self explanatory.  My roommte Angel Garcia and I won this one.
  • “The I-can-get-a-strike-but-cant-get-a-date Award” was given to me because I was a good bowler and not so good with women.

Most of the awards were jokes; but some were real serious.  Brian Clark reminded me that he was Williamson “Man of the Year.”  This is the same man who has an entire “Appreciation Date devoted to him.  Just like the “camper of the week” or “walk the talk Buckle”; Man of the Year is an honor.

Back to camp.  As we sat on the back row, we thought camp awards should be a thing.

Here are some of the awards we came up with:

  • “Most camp Girlfriends” An award for the boy who has dated 7 goes in 3 days…none of which he will ever hear from after Friday.
  • “No shower; No Problem”  For the kid who believes that demon possession begins with showering.  He hasn’t showered all week and has no plans too.  Not to be confused with:
  • “Captain America award” A few years back I spoke at a camp and met a kid on night 1 who was wearing a Captain America t-shirt.  It was the same one he wore all week.  He had a duffel bag full of clothes but only wanted to wear the one shirt.
  • “The Cheerleader” she/He is now a middleschooler who grew up in children’ church.  Now they are worshipping at Jr. High camp and have an action for every word of every song and uses her training to try to get everyone in camp to do the motions.  She will fail…but now she has an award for her efforts.
  • “Best head-shot” You don’t want it to happen; but you don’t want to miss it if it does.  Some kid will take a basketball to the face during knockout, a dodgeball to the head during a game, or a tether ball to the chin.  If you’re gonna feel pain, you might as well get an award.

So alongside your “campers of the week” are your less decorated campers.  They need awards to aspire to.

I was never going to be Willy man of the Year, but I can be Napoleon Dynamite.  I was never going to be camper of the week, but I only wore 1 pair of shorts as a 3rd grader at camp.  I was Captain America.

What other awards can you think of?

Hats

Grandpa used to tell me that there were 2 types of hats: “winter” hats and “summer” hats.  Winter hats had cloth all around them; summer ones had the mesh.  I thought he was making it up.  Sure enough these are universal terms…leave it to me to question the wisdom.

There are more than just 2 types of course.  Cowboy hats (straw for the spring/summer; felt for fall/winter; palm leaf for a Kenny Chesney concert); stocking hats; welders caps; pirate hats…the list could go on and on.  The hat fits the job being done.  What hat you have on is important.

“You are a man of many hats” so the saying goes and nothing is more true of men.

CaptureThis came across my twitter feed minutes ago.

Trust me, I understand that women have the same deal going.  The job description of a Mom is endless and often times overbearing.  What hats women wear are too numerous to count.  But here in lies the difference, women hats are all viewed the same.  If they are changing the oil in the car; it is viewed in a caring and nurturing manner.  If they are changing a diaper; it is viewed in a caring and nurturing manner.  A woman, regardless of whether they have children or not, are viewed the same way.

Men on the other hand are not.

In a recent study, two groups of people were given a list of the same traits (i.e. “caring”; “aggressive”; “confident”).  One group labeled the traits ‘positive’ and ‘negative’.  The other group was asked to rate how much of the trait was shown in men, women, mom’s, and dad’s.  Two conclusions were revealed:

  1. Men had the most negative traits attached to them in the study.
  2. The deviation between men and dad’s was far greater than that between Mom and woman.

So men are bad and father’s are good?  At least that is how this study concludes people’s views.  It’s like trying to wear two hat’s though.

To be a father is to be a man.

Wounded father’s raise wounded men as John Eldredge’s book Wild at Heart reminds us.

Capture“Every boy, in his journey to become a man, takes an arrow in the center of his heart, in the place of his strength. Because the wound is rarely discussed and even more rarely healed, every man carries a wound. And the wound is nearly always given by his father.” (62)

 

CaptureIf the gap in how men and father’s are viewed widens, then fatherhood will become more like motherhood.  Let me explain.  In his book, No More Christian Nice Guy, Paul Coughlin conducts a similar experiment with his readers.  Two columns of traits are given and asked which ones apply to Jesus.  The exercise is to show how Jesus is portrayed as a meek and mild…dare to be said “feminized” man.  But a case study of Jesus full identity would lead another direction to a dangerous and confrontational Savior.  The same has been done for Dad’s at Church and in Society.

CaptureThis is why in David Morrow’s words: “Men Hate Going to Church”.  Churches knock all the danger, excitement, and passion out of the Gospel to keep it safe and grounded.

One of the worst things that can happen to Fatherhood would be to lose the very meaning of being a man.  Unifying the two, fatherhood and manhood, is the only way to raise a family.  Healthy women/wives/mothers; healthy sons; and healthy daughters.  Hat’s off to the men leading families with their heart!

Lord, who may dwell in your sacred tent?
Who may live on your holy mountain?
The one whose walk is blameless,
who does what is righteous,
who speaks the truth from their heart;
whose tongue utters no slander,
who does no wrong to a neighbor,
and casts no slur on others;
who despises a vile person
but honors those who fear the Lord;
who keeps an oath even when it hurts,
and does not change their mind;
who lends money to the poor without interest;
who does not accept a bribe against the innocent.

Whoever does these things will never be shaken. (Psalm 15)

Still Waters

photoHe says, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” Psalms 46.10

Can’t think of a more needed verse today.

The first word of this verse is “relax.

Let Elohim be Elohim.

Write relax on your hand and know…

Church as Family (Mark 3:31-35)

Some good thoughts in light of recent activities

Blogging the Lectionary

Who are your people? Some people have a “crew,” others an “entourage,” while some might call it a “clique.” Your people may be your family, they may be your close group of friends. You may be linked to your people by blood, by similar interests or work. Whatever the case is, we all have “our people,” those we trust, confide in, lean on and have each other’s backs. Introverted or extroverted, rural or urban, male or female, we all need a people to be a part of for an emotionally healthy life.

Jesus Christ turns who “our people” are on its head. This shouldn’t surprise us because Jesus basically turns all our basic assumptions upside-down. In Mark 3:31-32, Jesus’ people are trying to calm him down. “His mother and his brothers came; and standing outside, they sent to him and called him. A crowd was sitting around him; and…

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Reflections on an Oil Change

FB_IMG_1528596041568I cleaned up the house.  Then I did a load of laundry.  Then I went to the office for a couple hours.  Then I changed the oil in my truck.

It was the first time I have been under a truck since the last time I was literally under a truck.  The first time since my accident.  It was also the first time since then that I have found a feeling of achievement or accomplishment since then.

In the soul of man lies a question.  It responds throughout his life.  The question is: “am I capable?”  Not ” m I capable to kill a deer with my bare hands or build a survival shelter?”  Though these maybe questions some keen have.  No the question is: “am I capable?  Am I useful?”

10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. Ephesians 2.10

It isn’t as if women don’t struggle with purpose, but I don’t think they do to the degree men do because of their natural disposition to working together and partnership.  They are more about the journey than the destination.  Men have a propensity toward competition and care more about the results than the path taken to achieve them.

This is one reason churches struggle with men.  When the Church has no clear goal and no defined purpose, the men themselves feel porposeless within it.

Love the smell of 10w-40.