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Gifts From Dad That Money Can’t Buy

December 15, 2010 Family, Inspiration Comments

It’s Christmas time again.

Gift-giving is in the air and we all breathe it in most deeply this time of year.

When it comes to Christmas gifts for my daughters, it’s really quite simple for me: Debbie handles it–they’re girls and their mother is much more in tune than I with what to purchase.

And I love watching our girls open their gifts; Debbie is a master of giving them the kinds of gifts which unleash the purest kind of joy out of them.

Every year I marvel at Debbie’s gift-giving precision, which I had nothing to do with, and every year I remind myself of my contribution, which is the monetary investment for Debbie to work her “magic.”

Nonetheless, I’ve been thinking a lot about the gifts I give our daughters as a father. And not just the ones that cost money and are given on Christmas or some other special day, but rather more about the gifts I’m giving them with my life every day.

Fatherhood Is A Gift.

Fatherhood in general is one of the most understudied of all human relationships. Yet, research has clearly indicated that fathers have strong influences on their children’s overall emotional, social, spiritual, and intellectual development.

This just might be the best time of the year for us fathers to be reminded…

“The gifts we give our children every day, that might cost very little if anything at all financially, are the most valuable gifts we can give them overall.”

What gifts are you giving your children that money can’t buy?

Here’s a gifts list I’ve created for myself. It’s not exhaustive or in any order of importance, but I hope it will inspire other fathers to think about their own list.

Gifts From Dad That Money Can’t Buy.

  • Love God with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength.
  • Love others as myself
  • Love their mother
  • Have a sense of humor
  • Be a teacher more than a judge
  • Be a guide more than a boss
  • Be fully present when they need me
  • Listen at least as much as I talk
  • Don’t jump to conclusions
  • Following Christ as the absolute best possible way to live
  • Tell them the truth no matter what
  • Be flexible
  • Control anger
  • Invest in them—by spending time with them
  • Don’t be overly critical
  • A warm embrace
  • Be their biggest fan
  • Create memorable moments
  • Be quick to apologize when wrong
  • Frequently tell them “I love YOU!”
  • Seek the balance of justice and mercy
  • When they need discipline, carefully instruct and correct without humiliating, defeating, or being relationally invasive.

Reading Prayers To ‘Prime The Pump’

Reading the prayers of others is not something I experienced much in the tradition in which I grew up. In the Pentecostal church it was the new extraordinary experience of God’s Spirit in prayer that was emphasized.

To read someone else’s prayer seemed void of Spirit and even dead, ritualistic and meaningless; if a prayer really had value and significance the Spirit of God would give us our own words to pray and not someone else’s.

But sometimes we have the words to pray and at other times we do not. And sometimes we don’t even feel like praying at all.

I’ve learned that the words of a written prayer can very often help “prime the pump,” as Eugene Peterson puts it.

Written Prayers – Can They Actually Help Us To Pray?

I do believe so. Written prayers can be just what we need to get going and give us words to pray when we don’t seem to have any of our own.

When I discover a written prayer and it absolutely says, what I really want to say in that very moment, and it says it so beautifully, the very act of reading it can become an act of prayer itself.

And then I’ll think, “that’s a written prayer am I to be doing that?” The answer is yes. If the Holy Spirit helped that person to pray like that, why shouldn’t I also pray it too?

Do I have to be such an excessive individualist that I can’t bear the humility of learning from someone else?

There are all sorts of books of prayers and everyone should own at least one for those times when your “pump needs primed!” Here’s a prayer from one of my favorite prayer books by Richard Foster, Prayers From The Heart.

A Simple Prayer

I am, O God, a jumbled mass of motives.
 One moment I am adoring you, and the next I am shaking my fist at you. 
I vacillate between mounting hope, and deepening despair. 
I am full of faith, and full of doubt.
 I want the best for others, and am jealous when they get it. 
Even so, God, I will not run from your presence. Nor will I pretend to be what I am not. Thank you for accepting me with all my contradictions.
 Amen.

Finding Holiness In Life’s Struggle

Everyone has experienced some measure of struggle in life.

Many of us have matured enough to understand that growing in a struggle always involves a larger perspective of it–and rarely does anyone have that in the “heat” of the struggle.

Larger perspective comes only by humbling ourselves and allowing time to broaden our perspective.

Okay, so what do we do in-the-mean-time with time?

Pursue Holiness. It always brings about the larger, broader and more complete perspective. Holiness draws us nearer to God and opens our hearts and lives to a much BIGGER perspective.

Harold Kushner, in the Handbook For The Soul, gives us something to think about :

Everything that God has created is potentially holy, and our task as humans is to find that holiness in seemingly unholy situations. It’s easy to see God’s beauty in a glorious sunset or in ocean waves crashing on a beach. But can we find holiness in a struggle for life?”

He goes on to say, ” The idea is to find some bit of holiness in everything…As long as we can find even a kernel of holiness in a situation, our soul will grow and feel cared for…”

It seems obvious to me: holiness not only leads us in the right direction through our struggle toward growth, but it also lifts us up high enough to clearly see God’s beauty and greater purpose in spite of it!

Can People Really Change The World?

November 10, 2010 Inspiration, Leadership, Love Comments

I’m growing every day to understand that the pure joy of being human is about seeing the world from the perspective of goodness and believing in that goodness to make a difference.

As I’ve been watching former president, George W. Bush, and his recent interviews with Matt Lauer this week, it has reminded me just how much the world has changed since 911.

It doesn’t seem right that al-Qaeda–an organization that is run out of caves in Pakistan–instilled a value system to such an evil degree that people would fly planes into US buildings killing thousands of innocent people, drastically changing the world forever.

People did influence change in this instance.

Would you agree that the actions of these few changed the way the entire world functions? A new era of human history opened up on September 11, 2001. Evil, fueled by hatred, was strong enough on this particular day to literally change the world.

This makes me think: What could we do with resources fueled not by hate but rather love?

Can people really change the world? And, if so, then how? Perhaps it starts with the simple understanding that love and hate are already changing the world by the good or evil which flows out of the hearts of ALL people every day.

People CAN’T change the world; that’s God’s work–although we do have a huge part in joining him on this project. But people DO choose to take part in changing the world by choosing…

love or hate

goodness or evil

life or death

hope or despair

and so on…

The world is more malleable than we can ever imagine and we all play a part in shaping it for good or evil. So, perhaps the simplest of wisdom here might just be to START by believing this is true!

Need examples?

  • al-Qaeda, Stalin & Hitler changed the world through hatred and unspeakable evil.
  • Mother Teresa, MLK Jr. & Jesus changed the world through selfless & sacrificial love.

May we never stop believing in a better world, because LOVE HAS made it possible!

Singers of the Human Spirit

Debbie and I just got tickets for the U2 360 tour in Nashville next July. It made me think of a post I did several years back of the impact U2′s music & vision for the world has had on me.

Singers of the Human Spirit: Repost from 2008…

It’s no secret to anyone who knows me that U2 is my favorite band. Their music has always had a way of inspiring me at a deeper place; it’s more then just great music or entertainment. Bono, U2′s lead singer, translates lyrically for me how I desire to see the world. With U2 there is always hope, transcendence, depth, and redemption.

Sometimes Christianity has been often more inclined to see the darkness in humanity rather than seeking out the good. The belief that humanity has fallen so far from God’s original intent, often causes us to forget that humanity is made in the image of God.

Bono inspires me because he doesn’t seem to be distracted in this. He carefully and passionately looks for the good; I love that! Bono, had these words to say about Billy Graham [another on my list of most inspiring people], Bono says…

“At a time when religion seems so often to get in the way of God’s work–with its shopping mall sales pitch and its bumper-sticker reductionism–I give thanks just for the sanity of Billy Graham, for that clear, empathetic voice…part poet, part preacher–a singer of the human spirit.”

Bono & Billy G… “singers of the human spirit!”

Make anyone else wanna’ sing? Me too!

Who Will Be The Pastor?

September 22, 2010 Inspiration, Leadership 2 Comments

I’ve been wrestling lately with my call of being a pastor of 22 years; not with God’s call of me personally to pastoral ministry, but rather my understanding of what a pastor is and what I should be growing into as one.

When I think about everything I should represent as a pastor but don’t–I’m concerned.

When I reflect on how some pastors pastor today in the church community at large–I’m concerned.

I’ve often wondered if God might not be concerned.

The following reflections of Eugene Peterson below “rocked me” a couple of days ago. It resonated deeply with me and articulates partly a concern I have: of what being a pastor actually should mean and what it has come to mean in our culture today.

“The world of religion generates a huge market for meeting all the needs that didn’t get met in the shopping mall. Pastor’s are conspicuous (not present in a place they should be) in this religion marketplace and are expected to come up with the products that give customer satisfaction.

We easily slip into the routines of merchandising moral advice and religious comfort. Before long we find that we are program directors in a flourishing business. We spend our time figuring out ways to attractively display god-products. We become skilled at pleasing the customer.

Before we realize what has happened, the mystery and love and majesty of God, to say nothing of the tender and delicate subtleties of souls, are obliterated by the noise and frenzy of the religious marketplace.

But then who is there who will say the name of God in such a way that the community can see him for who he is and not the packaged and priced version that meets consumer needs?

And who is there with the time to stand with men and women, adults and children in the places of confusion and blessing, darkness and light, hurt and healing long enough to discern the glory and salvation being worked out behind the scenes, under the surface.”

If we all get caught up in running the store, who will be the pastor?

-Eugene Peterson, Living the Message, Sept. 20th


Rest For The Soul. Really?

Been wrestling with this since my last post a few days ago…

28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me,  for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”

Rest for our souls? Really? How do we experience it, and, what might that actually mean?

I’d love for it to mean…

  • freedom from every fear
  • the supply of every need we might have
  • the fulfillment of every good desire

But, HOW Jesus? I don’t fully “get it,” but I do want to!

Could it be the HOW Jesus?” is blocking me from fully “getting it?”

Perhaps what I really want is to be in control. Then I can just order my own version of rest with ‘the formula.’ “I’d rather just hold it for myself–as opposed to being dependent upon you for it–if I’m being really honest, Jesus.”

Wait. Is the only way to “get it” participation in the invitation to “Come To Jesus”? Could it be entire surrender to Christ is the HOW Jesus?” of perfect rest?

Is that “getting it?”: giving up one’s whole life to Him, for him alone to rule and order?

Sometimes I think I’d rather have some kind of impersonal [scientific, theological, or philosophical] information from Jesus, rather than rest from Jesus’ very own presence in my life; doesn’t HE control that and Not Me!?

“We don’t live our lives by information; we live them in relationships in the context of a personal God who cannot be reduced to formula or definition.” Eugene Peterson

So, enduring rest for the soul ["and fully getting it"] can only be found in enduring nearness to Christ.

We will know it only as we continually draw nearer to Him!

Absolute Surrender

In a time when religious systems, piously and presumptuously, have nailed-down promising prescriptions to live in God’s blessing, I find the simplicity of the following statement amazingly refreshing and the ultimate foundation for God’s blessing:

the condition of God’s blessing is Absolute Surrender of ALL into HIS HANDS!” –Andrew Murray

If we want God’s lasting blessing in our lives, it must start with giving ourselves [thoughts, attitudes, actions, relationships, vocations, hopes, disappointments, etc.] wholly and entirely to God to work in and through. God seems to care for those things that are wholly devoted to him.

I’ve been wrestling with how much of my life, and in my own work and pastoral ministry, I’ve done in the spirit of the flesh and in the power of self–not intentionally and not even completely knowingly; but all so subtly and painfully. Failure for a Christian is to live outside of God’s best intention and purpose for our lives, which just might involve too much self-effort on our part.

Could it be our greatest failure is that we too often are trying to do in our own strength what Christ alone can do in us?

Remember this: for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose. –Phillipians 2:13

Consider praying this: “Lord, is there anything in me that is not according to Your will, that has not been ordered by You, or that is not entirely given up to You?

That’s the kind of absolute surrender that leads us to God’s true blessing!


Singers of the Human Spirit

It’s no secret that U2 is my favorite band. Their music has always had a way of inspiring me at a deeper place; it’s more then just great music or entertainment. Bono, U2′s lead singer, translates lyrically for me how I want to see the world. With U2 there is always hope, transcendence, depth, and redemption.

Sometimes Christianity has been often more inclined to see the darkness in humanity rather then seek out the good. The belief that humanity has fallen so far from God’s original intent, often causes us to forget that humanity is made in the image of God.

Bono inspires me because he doesn’t seem to be distracted in this. He carefully and passionately looks for the good; I love that! Bono, had these words to say about Billy Graham [another on my list of most inspiring people], Bono says…

“At a time when religion seems so often to get in the way of God’s work–with its shopping mall sales pitch and its bumpersticker reductionism–I give thanks just for the sanity of Billy Graham, for that clear, empathetic voice…part poet, part preacher–a singer of the human spirit.”

Bono & Billy G, Singers of the Human Spirit. Make anyone else wanna’ sing? Me too!

True Greatness

I love to study people and discover a element of greatness that might be in them. Everyone one of us, every human being on this planet, has been given a capacity for greatness from our maker.  I’ve also discovered that people use that greatness in differing ways. I usually simplify the differing uses of greatness down to one of two categories:

  • Greatness that only benefits themselves.
  • Greatness that benefits others and the world around them.          

I read this morning in a William Barclay devotional, about the measure of truly great men and women. It really got me thinking, perhaps it will you too. Here were some of his thoughts on truly great people:

  • always thoughtful
  • never finds it safe to judge others by externals only
  • shows grace in both giving and receiving
  • does not think of his place or prestige
  • only little people think of how great they are
  • only unimportant people think of how important they are
  • no task that helps someone else is ever below their dignity

Welcome

The world God created is good. He created all people in his image and no amount of darkness or sin can ever fully erase God's original imprint. So, we should choose to look for God's goodness everywhere and in everyone!

About George Stull

Pastor, teacher, father and husband who believes the world is more malleable than we think and we can all help bend it into a better shape. www.hopepark.com




How can we find our way through any darkness? By making the light a little brighter!

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