Family


When people ask me who or what inspires me, some of my first thoughts turn to Mother. There is just something utterly inspiring about a mother. In general, many people are inspired by the thought of mothers, if not by an actual mother. Mothers are there from the very beginning of a person’s life. They are present at the birth, present for the nurturing, present for the good times, present for the bad.

Often, we have been inspired by a mother-figure. In the Christian life, we are inspired, encouraged, and challenged by the life of the little nun who was known as Mother Teresa for all of the good she did in life, for the Christ-like example she lived, and for her ever-present smile.

Personally, I have been inspired by my own mother repeatedly. It was my mother’s influence that led me to believe in Christ as a little child. It was her commitment that helped me stick with it many times when I wanted to give up. I have also been inspired by the mother of my children (I call her my Blushing Bride). She is the epitome of love and devotion. She hurts when our children hurt, she cries when they cry, she laughs when they laugh, and she even finds time to correct them when they get out of line.

What is the best way to honor these inspirational ladies today on Mother’s Day? Lend a hand to someone in need; tell a friend about Jesus; walk with Jesus and share the love.

Happy Mother’s Day!

“I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, dwells in you as well.”  —Paul, 2 Timothy 1:5

My son is easily distracted. He is distracted when eating—by everything on the table, everyone in the room, and every sound that happens within earshot. Even more, he is a distracted walker. I often find myself holding more tightly to his hand and reminding him to watch where he is going when a school bus, or a friend, or a stranger happens by. More often than not he is looking to the side or behind him instead of paying attention with his eyes on his destination. The big problem with not looking where one is going is that it may cause the person in motion to run into another person, or perhaps a tree or pole that is in the path, or even step into a hole or obstacle that is in the way perhaps even suffering injury because of inattention.

Driving is also an example of the need to look ahead. Looking away from the road—to read, text, do your makeup, (you fill in the blank)—for even one second can have tragic results. So much disaster has been caused by distracted driving prompting many states to create motor vehicle laws to cover it—some general mentioning the sweeping category of “distracted driving”; while others are specifically dealing with our nation’s addiction to handheld electronic devices that we just can’t seem to put down.

Living the Christian life is just so. There are numerous things to distract the believer, a whole mountain of events, people, and places to get us off-track. Even so, it is important for the follower of Christ to, well, follow Christ. In order to do this we must face forward, pay attention to our Leader, and watch where we are going.

“One thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and reaching forward to what is ahead, I pursue as my goal the prize promised by God’s heavenly call in Christ Jesus.”  —Paul, Philippians 3:13b-14

Me with My Dad (Thomas Potter)

Too many times, I let days go by without being thankful to my father for the heritage he gave me. It would be appropriate today to send a message of gratitude his way, and I hope that you can be inspired by my words.

 

Dear Dad, thanks. Perhaps it’s not really enough to say just that simple word, but there are very few others that can fully harness the necessary sentiment. So, thanks.

Thanks for loving my mother for the godly woman she is, and treating her right. I learned how to be a true, honest, and loving husband by watching you.

Thanks for the years of discipline and teaching that you took with me and my siblings. We learned what a father should be just by being in your home.

Thanks for living faith out loud and unashamedly at home and in the world. Through your life, words and lifestyle I found a firm foundation of faith in Jesus Christ. I learned how to be active and faithful in my church. I learned that my best example of father may not really be you, but our mutual heavenly Father. So you taught me to say:

Dear Father in Heaven, Thanks. Thanks for life, for love, for all you are.

Today, I am thankful for my fathers—both earthly and Heavenly. I count it a privilege to know both well and intimately.

“As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear Him.”  (Psalms 103:13)

There is no greater thrill for a young father than to witness the birth of his firstborn child. Most will agree that they are not nearly so concerned with the gender of the child as they desire for the new baby to be healthy. What happens in the life of that young man is nothing short of miraculous. For the first time he begins to understand love. In that split second that the baby opens his/her mouth to grasp the first breath of unfiltered air and announce their displeasure with the new events that are taking place in his/her life, the father’s heart grows ten sizes. He expects it to explode from within his chest.

Perhaps the only thing to compare with this feeling is the repetition of the event with each new child that blesses his home.

That is how Christ feels about children. They are all precious to him. Regardless of their cultural or socio-economic background; regardless of their parents’ political persuasion; regardless of their need or lack of need, children are precious.

Let us keep that in mind when we love, train, correct, and encourage these building blocks of life and family. They are our children. They are precious.

“Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the sons born in one’s youth.” (Psalm 127:4)

Today is the day we have set aside in our culture to honor the one person in our lives that might be the most indispensable person we have ever known. As babies this person is more important than any other because she shows us nurture and care like none other—at least that’s how God designed things.

Personally, although my father was my pastor for as long as I could remember until I moved away to college (and even a few years after that), it was Mom who provided that gentle persuasion that ultimately led me to saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.

Who among us can really be: caregiver, provider, manager, coach, teacher, guide and confidant all rolled into one. I would like to take this moment to thank my mom for being the godly example that she has always been for me. I’d like to thank my childrens’ mom for keeping our ship afloat. I’d like to honor all who are, have been, or will be called “Mom” today.

With all that Mom does and all the potential that is there, I think that it is no coincidence that in the English language “mom” upside down is “wow!”

“Her children arise up, and call her blessed.” (Proverbs 31:28a)

Christmas is just around the corner, and so we have dusted off our growing stack of manger scenes. I think I’d leave them up all year long if I thought I’d get away with it. I started a collection years ago (when it was still just me and Jesus) with the Italian fabrication company that makes Fonatanini decorations. On most (with the exception of only a few) years I add another villager or shepherd or angel to gather ’round the manger. It’s a beautiful, growing Christmas decoration with a lot of sentimental and traditional value to me.

In addition, we have a variety of children’s nativities—including the VeggieTales® singing one (with parts missing and Family Life’s “What God Wantsfor Christmas” devotional nativity. We have a world of manger scenes (literally): one from Prague that has seen better days, one from Kyrgistan (Kyrgizia) made out of felt, one from Africa (a gift from my Mother-by-Law), one from Poland made out of corn husks and cloth, a martrushka (nesting doll) version we picked up in Ukraine, one carved into a tree ornament from Middle Eastern olive wood. But I must admit my favorite is the one my Blushing Bride purchased as a gift for me as she was leaving Egypt in order to become my Blushing Bride. I’ve posted pictures and commentary about this Egyptian Nativity previously here and here. (If you read the different posts you’ll see two different angles from which to view the ideas.) So, posting about my Nativity with the “extra Jesus” is becoming another tradition for me.

I love this manger scene best for a couple of reasons: (1) it is one of the first gifts I received from my Lovely Bride. She took time to know that I am a Christmas fanatic, that I love depictions of the Nativity, and she took time to find this in the marketplace of Egypt in the middle of August! (2) I also, love this manger scene because it helps me to focus on Jesus. After all, isn’t that what we should be focusing on during this special holiday celebration? Not just Jesus, but more Jesus. It isn’t “another” Jesus, but some “extra” Jesus. I don’t know about you, but I find that I can always use a little more Jesus. And not just at Christmastime.
Oh, and by the way—when you find that you have some extra Jesus, you can share Him with others. I’ve discovered that when I share a little Jesus with those around me, the little faith that I have in Jesus becomes a little more Jesus in me.

Have a Christmas that is filled with extra Jesus!

 

When the kiddos and the Blushing Bride have a long weekend, we like to take advantage. This week they all had Friday off (as well as today–Columbus Day holiday), so we made plans to do a quick overnight camping trip. Yes, it is coming on Fall so the weather would be cooler, but the kids have been wanting to go, and we had the time. We found a nice family campground in Champaign, IL, where University of Illinois is located with several free museums housed  there.

We visited the John Phillip Sousa Center of American Music. The band director in charge not only showed us several antique instruments–including one from the American Civil War–but he also showed us some of the parts from “Stars and Stripes” in Sousa’s own hand! Then he made a copy of the 2nd clarinet part and gave it to our oldest daughter who is a beginning clarinet virtuoso. We then visited the Spurlock Museum and visited ancient cultures from Rome and Greece to Cherokee. It was great–Family time, God is good.

We arrived at the campground and the rain let up. So, the owner of the campground upgraded our tent site to an RV site (no charge) so we would not get as wet, and we got the tents up before more rain came. Nice people who take care of you, God is good.

We did get the fire going and had some supper topped off with s’mores and the kids decided to go on into the tents. H and I were enjoying the fire (even in a little drizzle) when another camper strolled by and commented on our pioneer spirit–really camping with the forecast as it was. Turns out he was a recently retired Pentecostal minister who along with his wife are taking about three months to travel ’round the country in an RV to encourage pastors. Blessing of prayer, a time in their motor home for popcorn and hot chocolate for the children (accompanied by games with a real-life, natural grandma)–New friends and blessings, God is good!

On our way home, the real adventure began. The van started running hot–really hot. Flashing lights and warning signs and–do you really think this van will make it the two-hour drive home? We found an open auto shop where they were willing to work us in for an oil change to take care of the problem. Several minutes later the oil change changed into a broken water pump–can’t get to it until Monday. The owner of the shop rented us another van to get home (all weekend, only charged for one day). Understanding businessmen, God is good.

Because today was also a school holiday, we all returned to get the van (and return the rental). After paying the bill and trading vehicles, we headed back home. We made it the one mile to the interstate before the lights started flashing and warnings began to shout–overheat, too hot, too hot, too hot. We called the shop and returned. Water pump turns into either blown head gasket or cracked head–either of which would cost more than the van is worth to repair. And now you’re wondering how to say, “God is good” in the situation as it is now–we need to replace the van (the broken one is still two hours away, but we did make it home–thanks to available and loving church members), but God is good!

He’s good because God is always good. He is especially good now because we can rely more heavily on Him as He continues to lead us, love us, and want us.

So, yes. God is good . . . all the time!

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