Category Archives: Inspiration

My Two Most Popular Posts

When my son graduated from High School, I wrote him a letter, sharing my heart. When my daughter graduated, I did the same thing. Both letters were posted on this blog. Since 2012, those two posts have received 13,152 views. Every May, people from all over the world find these two letters! I’ve had a lot of fun watching that, and of course, I am proud of my son and my daughter. I am also proud of my ten year old but, thankfully, it’s not time for him to graduate yet.

Why do people find these letters? I think parents look for a way to put into words how they feel about their children. I have had people tell me that my two letters have done that for them.

So, got a graduation coming up? Here are the links to my two attempts at sharing my heart for my two graduates.

A Father’s Letter to His Graduating Son

A Father’s Letter to His Daughter Upon Her Graduation

Tagged , , , ,

Legitimacy

The following is an excerpt from Scott Fowler, Contending for the Habit of Daily Prayer. New York: Issachar Imprints. 2016.

There are two things we need to be comfortable with if we are to successfully cultivate a meaningful, dynamic prayer life. The first is ourselves—being comfortable in “our own skin” as they say. It may not make sense to everyone, but we have to allow ourselves legitimacy in prayer. True, we are imperfect and can point out all the ways in which we are inadequate and disqualified for prayer. But we have not been invited into the Secret Place because of our adequacy or qualifications! On the contrary, it is through the blood of Jesus and His utter qualification that we are allowed—No, invited! No, compelled to enter into the Most Holy Place!0578178761-smaller

Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water (Hebrews 10:19-22, NIV).

This means for us that, when we cry out to God we mustn’t shrink from the sound of our own voice because we are aware of our unworthiness, but instead allow ourselves to begin to say about ourselves what God says about us: that we are considered righteous through faith:

However, to the man who does not work but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness (Romans 4:5, NIV).

Second, it may be difficult for some to cultivate a meaningful, dynamic prayer life because their families are not prepared to lend them legitimacy in prayer. Our families have witnessed our shortcomings and failures and may take the lower road of judging us for what they have seen in us rather than for what God and His Word says is possible in us. For this reason, we should never present ourselves as being superior because we are pursuing prayer, but rather we should humbly acknowledge our inadequacies and hide completely behind God’s mercy and love. In the end, we must pursue God in the Secret Place regardless of others’ opinion of us!

Dr. Scott Fowler is the Pastor of Assimilation and Discipleship at Smithtown Gospel Tabernacle on Long Island.
Tagged , , ,

Answers on the Left, Waiting on the Right

"Praying Hands" (study for an Apostl...

“Praying Hands” (study for an Apostle figure of the “Heller” altar) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Something encouraging occurred to me some time ago concerning prayer.

There were two or three things I was intensely praying about, needing an answer. I watched as the Lord supplied all but one of those needs. Because the need that went “unmet” was so intense, it got nearly all of my focus and I began to struggle with why God had not answered. That led to questions. Guilt. The sense that I had perhaps done something wrong. I wasn’t focusing on what God had done, but what He had not done. Then an encouraging word occurred to my heart: How can I imagine that God is distant from me when I consider the unmet need, but near to me because of the prayers He did answer? God is not divided. He is not loving and kind on my left as He answers prayer, and then angry and rejecting on my right. If He has been near to me and answered prayer on my left, then I must allow that He is loving and attentive on my right as well, even though He has not yet answered those prayers or met those needs. If God is loving me on the left, He’s also loving me on the right!

So, live in the grace of God as you wait for answers, and as you wait, allow yourself to be encouraged when you remember what God has done. Look for the blessings He is showering on you right now and understand that His heart for you is the same whether He is pouring out blessings in some areas or asking you to wait in others.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , ,

In Plain English . . .

At a certain, specific moment in time, the Second Person of the Godhead, came down to earth and took on a human form and identity in order to reach the human race that had been lost due to sin. He did not “heist” a human body, but rather was born just like everyone else with at least one colossal exception: He had an earthly mother but no earthly father, since His Father was God.

At birth, He was given the name Jesus.  After living a sinless life, during which He performed many mighty miracles—the accounts of which, if written down, the world would not be able to contain according to John 21:25—He was crucified on a cross.  His death was planned and prophesied:  the ransom necessary to redeem all of mankind.

After being in the tomb for three days, His body took on life again and resurrected.  After spending another forty days on the earth, during which time He taught His disciples and appeared to as many as five hundred at the same time (1 Corinthians 15:6), He ascended into Heaven in plain sight of His disciples just ten days before the Day of Pentecost. He is alive and sitting at the right hand of God the Father. He hears our prayers and He prays for us.

We expect to see Him for ourselves someday.  Of course, in death we expect to immediately leave this body and be in His presence, but, we also expect to see Him return in the air to rapture, or catch away, His church, and again to bring about judgment upon the earth at which time He will insert Himself into history again—the term “insert” used here only to help us grasp the concept since history is actually “His-story” and something He has always been a part of and actively involved in— this time to remain.

Ultimately, all creatures that have ever existed will acknowledge Him as Lord and will bow down before Him (Philippians 2:9-11)!  It is estimated that 107 billion people have thus far existed on the earth1—several billion less than that if you throw out evolutionary hallucinations— and Christians believe that none of them will go to heaven unless they have confessed Jesus Christ as Lord.

 

Notes

1 http://www.prb.org/Articles/2002/HowManyPeopleHaveEverLivedon Earth.aspx

 

Tagged , , , , , , , , ,

Meditation #17 By John Donne

John Donne, one of the most famous Metaphysica...

John Donne, one of the most famous Metaphysical Poets. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Perchance, he for whom this bell tolls may be so ill, as that he knows not it tolls for him; and perchance I may think myself so much better than I am, as that they who are about me, and see my state, may have caused it to toll for me, and I know not that. The church is catholic, universal, so are all her actions; all that she does belongs to all. When she baptizes a child, that action concerns me; for that child is thereby connected to that body which is my head too, and ingrafted into that body whereof I am a member. And when she buries a man, that action concerns me: all mankind is of one author, and is one volume; when one man dies, one chapter is not torn out of the book, but translated into a better language; and every chapter must be so translated; God employs several translators; some pieces are translated by age, some by sickness, some by war, some by justice; but God’s hand is in every translation, and his hand shall bind up all our scattered leaves again for that library where every book shall lie open to one another. As therefore the bell that rings to a sermon calls not upon the preacher only, but upon the congregation to come, so this bell calls us all; but how much more me, who am brought so near the door by this sickness.

There was a contention as far as a suit (in which both piety and dignity, religion and estimation, were mingled), which of the religious orders should ring to prayers first in the morning; and it was determined, that they should ring first that rose earliest. If we understand aright the dignity of this bell that tolls for our evening prayer, we would be glad to make it ours by rising early, in that application, that it might be ours as well as his, whose indeed it is.

The bell doth toll for him that thinks it doth; and though it intermit again, yet from that minute that this occasion wrought upon him, he is united to God. Who casts not up his eye to the sun when it rises? but who takes off his eye from a comet when that breaks out? Who bends not his ear to any bell which upon any occasion rings? but who can remove it from that bell which is passing a piece of himself out of this world?

No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend’s or of thine own were: any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.

Neither can we call this a begging of misery, or a borrowing of misery, as though we were not miserable enough of ourselves, but must fetch in more from the next house, in taking upon us the misery of our neighbours. Truly it were an excusable covetousness if we did, for affliction is a treasure, and scarce any man hath enough of it. No man hath affliction enough that is not matured and ripened by it, and made fit for God by that affliction. If a man carry treasure in bullion, or in a wedge of gold, and have none coined into current money, his treasure will not defray him as he travels. Tribulation is treasure in the nature of it, but it is not current money in the use of it, except we get nearer and nearer our home, heaven, by it. Another man may be sick too, and sick to death, and this affliction may lie in his bowels, as gold in a mine, and be of no use to him; but this bell, that tells me of his affliction, digs out and applies that gold to me: if by this consideration of another’s danger I take mine own into contemplation, and so secure myself, by making my recourse to my God, who is our only security.

Tagged , , , , , , , , ,

A Father’s Letter to His Daughter upon Her Graduation

To My Sweet Katie,

Though the feeling has swept over me many times already, it has not yet come to stay. That is, the realization that my little girl will soon be leaving me to go and pursue her dreams. Since I am convinced that your dreams have been birthed in you by God, I can only help you pursue them. Many times in the last year I earnestly cried out to God that He would make a way for you to pursue your dreams, which was tantamount to asking Him to make a way for you to leave me. So, I won’t ask you to stay here with me, though I wish you could!

So many times, as you were growing up, I took the time to stop and remind myself that the day would come when I would find myself missing you— the little girl who would sing around the house or make some of the worst noises anyone has ever heard; the teenager who delighted in picking at me just to get a reaction; the girl who at times would be so desperately hungry but completely unable to describe what she was hungry for; the one who, when she was little, imagined a back yard carnival that we simply could not live up to; the one who has been such a friend to me! And now that time has come. Oh, I know you will be back for summers and holidays and special occasions, but a visit home will never be enough for me! But once you have gone out into the wide world I know you will never be content just to watch television with me on a Friday night. But, once you have really experienced the wide world, it will probably be just the medicine you need. I will be right here waiting for you!

Earlier this year, when we were all walking through what seemed to be the loss of your dream to go to college in the way you had planned, I found myself in your room thinking about all those people who, if they only knew you like I did, would clamor to give you all the scholarships you needed. While there, I saw the handwritten notes stuck to the wall arrayed around the mirror in your bedroom; notes you had written to encourage yourself in the Lord, expressing your desires for Him and for His call on your life, and of Scriptures that had become most important to you. That’s when I realized, even more than I had, that your love of God was real and that your commitment to His purpose in your life was sincere and that you deserved to have your dreams come true. The notes weren’t hung there for show. They were just the outflow of your joy and anticipation; the reflection of high hopes and dreams. Just notes written by someone who had caught a glimpse of what is possible in this world and who was not waiting on others to motivate her to reach for those dreams! In that moment I admired you all over again and wanted so much to make all of your dreams come true. I wanted to step in and show people, “See, this is my daughter! She is genuine and deserves a chance to take her place alongside others of her generation as she offers her life and times to God!” Then, God answered our prayers and made a way where there didn’t seem to be one! A way for you to follow Him even more intentionally! A way for you to—leave me! Bittersweet.

My dear Katie, I appreciate your integrity and your passion. I am convinced that you really do love Jesus. And I have confidence in you. And though it may add pressure to you in some way, I admit that I expect great things from you! Not great as defined by a fallen world drunk on its own materialism, but great in terms of other, deeper things. I expect you to live truthfully. I expect you to face your imperfections head-on and allow the grace of God to guide you through the changes that invariably need to be made in all of us. I expect you to be real in your relationships. I expect you to live in the light of eternity. I expect you to call home. A lot!

I do have some regrets. Sometimes I have worried that I did not show you enough affection. Maybe I should have held your hands more. Maybe I should have put my arms around you more. If nothing else, these regrets are a reflection that whatever affection I did show, it was only a small part of what I have always profoundly felt for you! I hope you are at least sure of that.

I am not really ready for this. Not yet. It is encouraging to remember that you are not going to the moon, just college. But I know how things work and I know that Robert Frost was right in The Road Not Taken when he said, “Way leads on to way.” But always remember: the path that leads you away from home can be travelled home again. And even though very soon you will be spending most of your time away from me, it will be the rare hour that passes and does not witness my thoughts and prayers for you.

It’s just that you have been with me practically every moment for all these years! And now, once you take this step, that stage in both of our lives, in the life of our family, will be over and it will never be just like it has been ever again! I know it is a normal, healthy step that must eventually be taken by all of us. I took it. But I can’t let it happen without paying respect to the blessing God has given me in my children—in you!

With all my love,

Your Father

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The path that leads you away from home . . .

All the years come suddenly to this moment and we are proud, we are thankful, we are emotional, we are nostalgic.  And there is the dawning realization that every step you take from this day forward will be pregnant with the possibility that your path could take you further away from us than we are comfortable with.

Many times as you were growing up we had to choose parenthood over friendship in order to give you direction and leadership. Sometimes that choice was hard and left us feeling lonely, but we would do it all over again!

We tried to teach you countless lessons: say you’re sorry when you should; work at staying close to those you love; live everyday as though it were your last; take the time to appreciate the blessings in your life today, especially the people. We taught you that these are the good old days! And we taught you about Jesus. Above all else, remember what we taught you about Jesus!

For now, we are beginning to let you go, though not entirely; never entirely. But always remember: the path that leads you away from home can be travelled home again. And as long as we are alive on this earth we will be here for you, as we always have been. But should you ever look up to find us gone, just know that we are with Him. So, walk in faith and we will all be together again. But for now we are here, and it is time for you to spread your wings and begin to fly. Not too far at first, but, over time, farther and farther, ever so certainly, until you find your place in this world.

Remember how you used to ask us to watch you as you were playing games, performing tricks, singing songs? That’s what little children do. Well, even though you stopped asking, we never stopped watching, and we are watching now: so proud, so excited, full of rejoicing over your life and all that is to come!

 

By Scott Fowler, adapted from, A Father’s Letter to His Graduating Son

Tagged , , , , , ,

“Batter my heart, three-personed God”

Appreciating these words from John Donne’s Holy Sonnets, XIV

Batter my heart, three-person’d God ; for you
As yet but knock ; breathe, shine, and seek to mend ;
That I may rise, and stand, o’erthrow me, and bend
Your force, to break, blow, burn, and make me new.
I, like an usurp’d town, to another due,
Labour to admit you, but O, to no end.
Reason, your viceroy in me, me should defend,
But is captived, and proves weak or untrue.
Yet dearly I love you, and would be loved fain,
But am betroth’d unto your enemy ;
Divorce me, untie, or break that knot again,
Take me to you, imprison me, for I,
Except you enthrall me, never shall be free,
Nor ever chaste, except you ravish me.

Source:
Donne, John. Poems of John Donne. vol I.
E. K. Chambers, ed.
London: Lawrence & Bullen, 1896. 165.


Tagged , ,

Between Real and Ideal

The existence of the ideal is evidence of its possibility.

Ever been inspired by a movie because of the values it portrayed? The story was challenging and beautiful, moving and uplifting. Then you come back to “reality” and realize that the players are just actors, the movie is based on a novel, and you realize that it is just a story. This self-inflicted “balance” between idealism and reality is aided by our own exposure to shattered dreams, burst bubbles, and unmet expectations. It’s what Rod Tidwell (from the movie Jerry Maguire) meant when, referring to single moms considering a new relationship, he said:

“They’ve been to the circus, you know what I’m saying? They’ve been to the puppet show and they’ve seen the strings.”

We face this type of exposure to reality all the time. In fact, it begins to seem that everything and everyone has a seamy underside;1 a corrupt core predisposed to dishonesty and fraud. We learn to protect ourselves from getting hurt again. We adjust our expectations of people when we hear that a pastor or a politician has committed adultery, a friend has been busted in an internet scam, or we observe every-day, garden variety hypocrisy in people we know. By the time we “grow up,” we have been conditioned to temper idealism with “reality.” We assume that anything that appears genuinely good or honorable must have “strings” somewhere. We begin to consider as true Dr. Greg House’s axiom: “Everybody lies!”2 But, I am not ready to be done with idealism.

Leave it to Beaver

The premise of the book, The Way We Never Were,3 is that nostalgic reminiscences of, say, the 1950s are unrealistic. There were no Leave it to Beaver households. It was all Hollywood hype. I wasn’t alive in the 50s so I don’t know what it was really like, but I want to argue the following point: If I can imagine a story with values in which all the characters operate with integrity and depth and idealism, isn’t that proof to some degree that such a thing is possible? The fact that you can be moved by the dramatization of such values is the evidence that you can be inspired to imitate such idealism. And isn’t it true that nestled within our protests against the atrocities of character seen in everyday life is actually the call to live the ideal?

God’s Ideal

Now, cut to Scripture as our example of idealistic living. The Bible is full of high ideals that God clearly expects us to pursue. I have met people who feel that even the call to live according to Scripture is unreasonable! To think this way is to completely miss the power of God’s grace and God’s Word. It is possible to do right. It is possible to think clean thoughts. It is possible to envision people who interact with integrity and honor. It is possible to be a person who interacts with others with integrity and honor.

Such living demands that we focus not on the evil inclinations that bombard us but on the example of Jesus “who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God (Hebrews 12:2b).” That is, instead of focusing on the seamy underside of things and giving place to our own propensity to imagine evil, we instead pursue the right path. But how? This is the point of grace. We have been given the power to live differently; on a higher plane!

Paul said, “Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord (Romans 7:24b-25a)!” We have been rescued from a worldly reality and called to higher things!

1 The word seamy is literally referring to the exposure of the rough seems of a garment turned inside out. So, in the context of idealism, it is a picture of being presented with something that appears perfect but upon inspection is proven to be imperfect.

2 Greg House is a fictional character on the television series House, M.D. which aired on Fox for eight seasons.

3 Stephanie Coontz, (Basic Books: 1992). A prequel to this book is The Way We Really Are upon which the front cover depicts a single parent families, a mixed race parented family, and a same-sex parented family.

 

Tagged , , , , , , , ,