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.

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)

The Self-disclosure of God (Part 1)

untitledSelf-disclosure is one of God’s favorite things in the Old Testament.

Moses is shown “the Glory of the Lord” on Mt. Sinai. (Exodus 33.12ff.)  He is watching the power of God, the goodness of God, the glow of God.  He walked away radiated, with a glowing face. (Exodus 34.29)  What is most striking, is how God narrates the event.  God describes Himself like this:

The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness…(Exodus 34.6)

This proclamation of identity would stick with God throughout the Old Testament.  I had an identity once.  At a birthday party in 4th grade (I don’t even remember who it was for), I was reaching for something in the pool at a hotel.  The party was at ice cream and cake phase so I had already changed out of my swimming suit.  I fell into the pool with all my clothes on.  I never lived it down.  It came up in 2 different graduation speechs, favorite memories from school portions of yearbooks and school news papers, and one reunion.  I will always be the guy who fell in the pool with his clothes on.  God will carry this identity through all his dealings with man.

It’s fascinating, however, how this phrase is used.

It’s worshipful.  Psalm 145 uses this phrase like a link in a chain.  Each link is a different letter of the Hebrew alphabet.  Verse 1 begins with aleph.  Verse 2, with a bet and so on until verse 8 when chet is the letter that is the letter of focus.  The verse begins with the word “gracious” (chanoon).  It’s just another link in the chain of attributes describing God in this Psalm.  Count the “God is…” statements:

  • “Great is the Lord…” (3)
  • “The Lord is good to all…”(9)
  • “The Lord is trustworthy…” (13)
  • “The Lord is righteous…and faithful…”(17)
  • “The Lord is near…” (18)

David will extol and praise the Lord for all that He is. (145.2)  But it’s a bigger chain than that.  Psalm 145 is also a part of a chain that ends the book of Psalms. The last 5 Psalms all begin with the word “Praise” (hb. hallel).  In the Hebrew text, the Psalm titles are considered the first verse of the Psalm.  So Psalm 145 begins like this: hallelujah.  which translates to: “Praise the Lord”.

David loves this word.  Back in Psalm 103, he writes:

The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love. (Psalm 103.8)

Here he attributes it to Moses, but until he makes his own purposes for the verse known.  Six times in Psalm 103 he begins a sentence with hallelujah.  I guess if you get stuck on repeat, that’s a great word to get stuck on.  Both are Psalms of Praise.

There is another type of Psalm that David wrote.  It’s called a Psalm of Lament.  These are Psalms that are written from deep despair and anguish.  They deal with the dirty issues of life.  He writes in Psalm 86:

But you, Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God,
    slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness. (Psalm 86.15)

It’s honest.  David is piecing together a prayer of quotations from other places: Exodus 34, Psalms 25, 26, 27, and others.  He is lamenting his current predicament.  Which predicament that is exactly is undetermined.  Is it the pursuit of Saul?  Is it the isolation?  Is it the Philistines?  Time and location aside, David prays and worships.  This is the prayer of a desperate man.  The Psalm begins:

Hear me, Lord, and answer me,

   for I am poor and needy.

Guard my life, for I am faithful to you;

   save your servant who trusts in you.

You are my God; have mercy on me, Lord,

   for I call to you all day long. (Psalm 86.1-3)

and ends with this:

Turn to me and have mercy on me;

   show your strength in behalf of your servant;

save me, because I serve

   you just as my mother did.

Give me a sign of your goodness,

   that my enemies may see it and be put to shame,

   for you, Lord, have helped me and comforted me. (Psalm 86.16-17)

David is struggling to put together a few concepts and ideas.  The beginning and end of the Psalm is works-oriented: “save me because I served” (17), “guard me for I trust in you” (1).  In the middle, the Lord is a “gracious” and “compassionate” God.  It’s a question of justice.  Why are bad things happening to a good person?  He’s served and trusted, why are things going badly.  It is the exact opposite question posed in Jonah’s prayer.

Jonah 4 begins with Jonah in a bad place.  Verse 5 let’s the reader know that he went east of the city.  That’s code for “bad times”.  Anyone going east in the Bible is not having a good day.  So he is east.  And when he is east, he prays.

Isn’t this what I said, Lord, when I was still at home?  That is what I tried to forestall by fleeing to Tarshish.   I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity. Now, Lord, take away my life, for it is better for me to die than to live.” (Jonah 4.2-3)

God did not destroy Nineveh for their sins and Jonah is upset.  It’s not that he has been tremendously faithful to God either; but it’s always easier to see the sin in others than in yourself.  Jonah laments about God’s justice.  Why do good things happen to bad people?  Jonah wants the Lord to know that he knew all along that this was going to happen.  So, in what I imagine would be a mocking tone, Jonah quotes Exodus 34.6 and part of verse 7.  Why is it mocking you may wonder?  Notice what Jonah leaves out at the junction of 6 and 7?  The “faithfulness” (’emet) of God.  In Jonah’s thinking: if God is for the Ninevites, He can be for Jonah/Israel.  Jonah is putting God perjury alert.  He is questioning God’s honesty…to be continued…

A Love for the Instruction Manual

How to life a horse with your pinkie! (From Mechanick Exercises by Joseph Moxon)
How to life a horse with your pinkie! (From Mechanick Exercises by Joseph Moxon)

An article in Popular Science caught my eye the other day. The subtitle read: “What does the disappearance of the common manual say about us?” The article by Mark Svenvold describes the demise of the instruction manual that accompanied items and projects throughout the centuries. According to Svenvold, it changed the destinies of people for centuries. Prior to the publication of Mechanick Exercises by Joseph Moxon, the first instruction manual of printing, people were born into families of guilds, whose destiny and profession were defined for them even before their birth: candle makers begat candlemakers, tentmakers begat tentmakers, farriers begat farriers. But with the introduction of the instruction manual suddenly there was a place for DIY projects. People could now learn on their own by reading, what it had previously took someone years of apprenticeship.

We now live in an era of diminishing instruction manuals. The iphone doesn’t even come with one. Outsourcing information is the way to go now. Help and instruction are built into the product. You can download fix it apps and call for tech support. This trend caused the author to ask: “Have we traded away something important, perhaps even defining, about ourselves—a sense of our own autonomy and control over our tools—for the dubious benefit of convenience?” The implications, observed by Svenvold, are that we as a people have traded ease of operation for freedom and knowledge. We traded in our self-reliance for simplicity and sadly enough I have succumb to it in my spiritual life and so has many other men.

My Grandfather refused to let my grandmother drive his brand new 1999 Dodge Dakota pickup until she read the manual cover to cover. He was a calculated man, who studied instruction manuals the way a rabbi studies Torah. He wouldn’t dare own a machine, tool, vehicle, or appliance without studying the manual. If only I had picked up that dedication in my spiritual life.

The life of the Church and the men who in habit it, if they are anything like mine, have left the manual by the wayside in the name of ease. I left scripture behind because Google and Tech support is that much simpler. Why study Proverbs when a Podcast is at my fingertips and John Ortberg, Jim Johnson, or Tim Keller can explain it to me?   Why read John when I can Google a verse? It so much easier to read a devotional than study my Bible; so much simpler to google a verse than study a passage; sign up for text message Bible verses than disicipline myself to read daily.   Svenvold was right on in his commentary that we have traded autonomy for simplicity because I have done the same thing in my spiritual life from time to time.

There is a bit of truth to the observation that we have forgotten study of scripture to the centrality of our spiritual life. Never would I suggest that technology is a bad thing, nor is scripture texts, verses of the day or devotionals, but I can tell you that my own spiritual life is often times starved because of a lean spiritual diet. “It’s a Christian book” or “He’s a Christian author” is often times my excuse for diving into a book and neglecting the reading of Scripture. I am suggesting the we, especially us men and leaders, devote ourselves to the study and ingestion of the manual that God has given us for this life. In the spirit that my Grandfather poured over his chainsaw, bench grinder, and TV remote manuals, we too should have the same passion for the Word of God. Assuredly, this is the passion that the Psalmist viewed of Scripture. A cursory reading of Psalm 119 shows a man that would never relinquish the word of God, the “manual for life”.

  • “I seek you wih all my heart; do not let me stray from your commands” (Psalm 119.10)
  • “My soul is consumed with longing for your laws at all times” (119.20)
  • “Your statuettes are my delight; they are my counselors” (119.24)
  • “I have chosen the way of truth; I have set my heart on your laws.” (119.30)
  • “Direct me in the path of your commands, for there I find delight.” (119.35)
  • “…I delight in your commands, for I love them.” (119.47)
  • “At midnight I rise to give you thanks for your righteous laws.” (119.62)
  • “The law from your mouth is more precious to me than thousands of pieces of silver and gold” (119.72)
  • “How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!” (119.103)

These are just from the first half of the Psalm. My prayer is that I may begin to love the instruction manual that God has given me for living this life. My prayer is that men and leaders will begin to read and study the manual for life that we have been entrusted with. I pray that it never becomes obsolete; that it never becomes forgotten and (presumed to be) irrelevant to life. For one thing I am certain, to dispense with the word of God would be far more serious than the manual for my chainsaw!