May 2020 Scenes in the Midst of a Troubling Pandemic

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Last month I did a post in which I showed from a personal perspective what life was like during this pandemic in our little corner of the world. Little mercies seem bigger now (rainbows). Small freedoms loom larger (a ride to the lakeshore). Life has changed in many ways, and yet it is the same is some ways too.

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The one constant is our Creator and Redeemer, who remains on the throne and at the helm, governing this vast universe – from viruses to Venus and from migrating rose-breasted grosbeeks to lily-of-the-valley – in perfect wisdom and in infinite goodness – for the glory of His name, the coming of His Son, and the everlasting good of His saints.

 

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So enjoy these photos taken this month, as they tell of God’s mercies and goodness, in small things and great things.

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Online singspiration from Faith PRC’s sanctuary led by our pastor’s family –  a great blessing!

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First golf game of 2020 with my nearly 87-year old dad – what a treat!

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Sunday afternoon walks along the Grand River with some grandsons – special times!

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Of course, time with any of our grandchildren is special, especially these days.

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Including ice cream time – tailgate style!

 

A Word to Fathers on Father’s Day

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On this Sabbath Day, in which we give special remembrance to the calling and blessing of fathers, I call your attention to the Word of God in Psalm 103:13:  “Like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear him.”  This verse from the holy Scriptures goes right to the heart of what it means to be a father.  It expresses it in one word:  pity.  A father pities his children.

…Now, that truth of Jehovah’s fatherly pity must be seen in a Christian father.  For the pattern of all of our life is to be holy as God is holy, that is, to pattern our life after God.  For instance, in marriage we must live as God lives with His bride, the church.  Therefore, as fathers, we must seek to conform our earthly parenting and fathering to His heavenly fathering and parenting.  God says, “I have shown My pity to you as My son.  I am your perfect example.  As I have pitied, so you are to pity your children.”  You must cultivate a relationship with your children in which you seek to reflect the fatherly pity of God.

Yes, that means for sure that as a father you are called to meet their earthly needs.  You are to fill their bellies.  You are to clothe their backs.  You are to put a roof over their heads.  And, yes, leave them an inheritance.  But what a horrible thing if that is what fathering means to you—if it is nothing more than that—if you do not prayerfully create a climate of spiritual warmth in your home, of tenderness and pity and affection for your child.  You must be as God, filled with tender pity and affection and compassion in Christ for your child.  Do not say, “Oh, that pity stuff is for wimps.”  Oh, no.  As a father you are to reveal the pity of God.  That means that you must not allow coldness, distance, ill-will, resentment to be the atmosphere of your home.  If you allow that to be the atmosphere of your home between you and your child, if you are guilty of those things, if you are guilty of the abuse of your child, if you are guilty of harboring resentments and ill-will and distance and coldness toward them, you are being ungodly.  You are not as God!

This is the question with which we must confront ourselves as Christian fathers today:  Would you want God to be the kind of parent to you that you are to your children?  Fathers, you and I are confronted by that question today in God’s Word.  Would you want your children to conceive of God’s heart as they conceive of your heart?  That is serious business.  You say, “I never thought about that when I got married.  I never thought about that when I started to have children.  You mean to say to me, pastor, that all of my child’s concepts of God are also to be based upon what they see in me as a father?”  I answer you, “Yes.  That is the teaching of God’s Word.”  That is why we tremble.  That is why we need to be on our knees before God.  That is why we need the holy Scriptures.  That is why we need the faithful church of Jesus Christ to instruct us.  And that is why we need one another in the house of the Lord.  We must work together as men of God, that we might be fathers in Christ.

That is why you need, as a man of God, a husband, father, to know more of your God—more and more of Him.  What will our children think of their heavenly Father?  Much of the answer is to be found in you, especially in those formative, pre-school years.  Oh, we are not perfect.  That is why repentance is so necessary in our lives before our children.  But, you see, if we resent those children; if in our frustration we slap them across the face; if we do not use wise, consistent, biblical discipline applied to the seat of their pants; if instead we rant and we yell and we call them names and we have no time for our kids — if that is the way we go about things and brush it off as insignificant and we go on in those patterns of life, then we are being ungodly.  What will that little boy, that little girl, think when you teach them to fold their hands and pray, “Our Father who art in heaven”?  How will they have the courage to look to heaven and believe that they are precious to their heavenly Father?  That means that you must rear your child conscientiously, principally, from the Word of God.  You must seek to be conformed to the pattern of your heavenly Father.

Taken from the message, “A Father’s Pity,” based on Psalm 103:13 and delivered on the Reformed Witness Hour program for June 15, 2014 by Rev. Carl Haak. You may find the audio version here.

Mother’s Day 2019: A Joyful Mother of Children

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Today we praise God for the gift of faithful, godly mothers in Israel. Christian husbands and fathers are called to rise up in the home and in the gates of Zion and praise them; children too (Prov.31:28). Today we do, not because the world has this day on its calendar, but because God’s Word calls us to honor our wives and mothers and because we delight to do that out of gratitude for who they are in Christ and for what they mean to our homes.

Our mothers need to hear this in today’s world of slighting and slamming our believing mothers for their sacrifice and service. To encourage and uplift them, we also post part of a Mother’s Day message Rev. C. Haak  delivered on the Reformed Witness Hour. It is based on Psalm 113:9 and titled “A Joyful Mother of Children.”

I quote part of the print version found here; if you want the audio, that may be found here. It would certainly bless your soul to listen to this message today or sometime this week.

People of God, daughters of God, the Word of God (God!) speaks of joyful mothers.  It is no myth.  God is speaking here of a joy that at bottom is nothing less than the joy of salvation, a joy in God, and a joy that God imparts to the experience of your heart as a Christian mother.  It is the joy of which Jesus spoke in John 15:  My joy, which no man can take from you.  A joy found in the knowledge that you are God’s servant, being used of Him in His kingdom—a joy that God gives to every believing mother today—every woman of God—a joy that is this, that God is your faithful God, who hath given to you a beautiful and a crucial task in His kingdom.  It is called “motherhood.”

        Our text is an example of the condescending goodness of God.  In Psalm 113 the psalmist is thinking of God in His glory and majesty.  “Who is like unto the Lord our God, who dwelleth on high, who humbleth himself to behold the things that are in heaven, and in the earth!” (vv. 5, 6).  So exalted that He must stoop down low to view the heavens!  He must bow to see the stars!  So glorious is God.

        But this God is not like the detached idols of the heathen, like the Greek gods.  Their majesty was seen in indifference.  No, for although He is high and cannot be added unto, yet verse 7 tells us that He delights to raise “up the poor out of the dust.”  The glorious God, the fullness of blessing in Himself, delights in blessing the lowly and the insignificant, the downcast and the despised.  And He delights especially in blessing His daughters, women, mothers, to make them joyful.

        Unmistakably and un-ashamedly, the Scriptures of God identify motherhood with joy.  “He maketh a joyful mother of children.”

        The word “joyful” refers to a great inward happiness, not necessarily to what we might call a bubbly, happy temperament, but to the possession of a great good—a good so great that it floods the heart and gives an abiding inward joy or satisfaction to one’s soul.  That is the meaning of joy in Scripture.

        Certainly we may show outward happiness.  But when the Scriptures speak of joy, they are referring to something within, something deep within, present even in the midst of grief, something, in fact, that grief causes to shine.  My soul, says David, “shall be joyful in the Lord.  I will rejoice in God all the day,” even in times of trial and gloom.  The picture, then, of this joy is that of the heart, of a restfulness and satisfaction of soul in God, an abiding joy possessed by every believing woman.  Sarah, Abraham’s wife, said, “God has made me to laugh.  All that hear me will laugh with me.”  Mary said, “My soul doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Savior.”  Hannah, in the Old Testament, said, “My heart rejoiceth in the Lord.”

        Let us get that into our heads and into our hearts for a moment.  God gives to you mothers an abiding, inward, imperishable joy—joy rooted in God and in His grace to you as His daughters.  Do not let the world squeeze you into its mold.  And if there is any area in which the world system is trying to do so, it is in the area of motherhood today.  There is a demonic, concerted attack on the dignity and glory of motherhood as created by God.  Books, TV talk shows, politics—all proclaim that motherhood, as we understand it, is really depressing.  A career is more important.  Motherhood, we are told, can be chosen today outside of marriage.  Why should an unmarried woman be denied this privilege?  Motherhood should not stand in the way of a career.  And if motherhood threatens to interrupt your plans, then the world says you may abort your child.  Sterile operating rooms in our country slaughter millions of children, of people.  And our generation, which in hypocrisy decries the holocaust of World War II and of Hiroshima and marches in protest against the death penalty, condones and defends and insists upon the slaughter of children.  Our generation is going to have to answer one day to the Almighty!  Motherhood—we are told that that is confining, degrading, restrictive, evil.

        Now listen.  All the people of God, listen!  I do not want you to miss this truth.  Scripture informs us of this truth:  Motherhood is a joy given of God.

Broken Pieces and the God Who Mends Them – Reformation21 *(Updated)

The book Broken Pieces has just been released and, when Westminster Seminary Bookstore had a good sale on it online, I purchased it for the seminary library, believing it would be of use for pastors and counselors who deal with various types of mental illness including schizophrenia.

Little did I know the book’s value and power. I did recognize the importance of the subject, and I did note the author – Simonetta Carr, a Reformed wife , mother, and author of several children’s books for the series “Christian Biographies for Young Readers.” But I had no idea of her intense, personal struggle with this mental illness in her son.

And I am thankful for the fine way in which pastor William Boekestein has called attention to her story of grief and grace in this brief review posted on Reformation21 website recently. I quote a portion of it for you here. And for those who can identify with this aspect of our brokenness, you will find help and hope.

Broken Pieces is one of the most courageous books I have ever read. Simonetta told me, “It hurt me to write it because I was reliving every moment.” I couldn’t have written it. I would have been too scared. But I am so glad Simonetta did. And perhaps now I am a little more ready to follow her lead in sharing some of my grief with other receivers.

One of my wife’s grandmothers had schizophrenia. During the last years of her life she broke off communication with us because we told her how much we loved her house; she thought we were trying to take it. We saw her only one time in the months before her death. She told us not to come. But we showed up at her front door, unannounced, with our charming two-year-old extended toward the door; a peace-offering no grandma could resist. She buckled, and let us in one last time. Schizophrenia made grandma unpredictable. The family genuinely feared that she would leave her entire estate to her dog. More seriously, her children grew up in a home with their mother institutionalized for long stretches. I wish Eva’s husband, children, and grandchildren had been able to read Broken Pieces.

I’m glad I have now. It was a painful crash-course in sympathetic, and persistent love; lessons I know I need to learn for trials that I cannot foresee. More than that, it is a portrait of living faith in a Savior whose grace is tailor-made for this broken world.

Broken Pieces is also surprisingly hopeful. Simonetta didn’t gauge the eternal destiny of her schizophrenic son by placing everything she knew about him on two sides of a scale; one side positive, and the other negative. The tangibly negative experiences would have been too heavy. Instead, she saw her son as entirely in Christ; in life and in death, in body and soul, in clarity and confusion. And Jesus was more than enough to rescue a man who was so deeply broken. Our family saw that too. Grandma’s schizophrenia scared us and her. But God also helped us to hope. After I read her Isaiah 53–being Jewish, this is a text from the “Bible” she was raised with–she responded: “That’s talking about Jesus. I believe in him!” We didn’t expect that response. But why not? We possess a shared history of God’s redemption of desperately lost people. We have received God’s record of mending, the backstory we all need as we share each other’s burdens.

Source: Broken Pieces and the God Who Mends Them – Reformation21

Since this original post, I also received notice of an interview that “Redeemed Reader” did with the author. Find that at this link.

Merry and Blessed Christmas 2018!

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From our home to yours, we wish all our family, friends, and readers a merry and blessed Christmas Day 2018! May the peace and joy of our Savior Jesus Christ be yours today and in the New Year.

In late September we were blessed with grandchild number 12 (Gale Owen, on grandma’s lap). And we are expecting number 13 in late January from our son and daughter-in-law in Arizona. We are thankful for the goodness of God’s covenant and for His mercy to us in all our circumstances.

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Have a beautiful and blessed day celebrating and worshiping the Christ born in Bethlehem, now exalted on high in glory, and soon returning in power with final salvation for all His own.

The Christmas gospel from the perspective of Hebrews 2:

But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man.

10 For it became him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings.

11 For both he that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one: for which cause he is not ashamed to call them brethren,

12 Saying, I will declare thy name unto my brethren, in the midst of the church will I sing praise unto thee.

13 And again, I will put my trust in him. And again, Behold I and the children which God hath given me.

14 Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil;

15 And deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.

16 For verily he took not on him the nature of angels; but he took on him the seed of Abraham.

17 Wherefore in all things it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people.

18 For in that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succour them that are tempted.

Adoption Isn’t Charity—It’s War – R. Moore

A little while ago while sorting through today’s emails, I learned it is National Adoption Day. It was Crossway publishers who pointed me to that fact, in an email highlighting some new articles published on it’s website.

Perhaps, like me (ordinarily), you might be tempted to pass over a highlighted article on adoption, and just delete the email and move on to the next. But if you have an adopted child in your immediate family (as we do), you stop and pay attention. Because you realize how significant one adoption is. And how special one adopted grandson is.

The same is true if there is an adoption in your broader family (as there is in ours and will be soon again), in your church family (as there is in ours at Faith PRC), and among your friends (as we too have). And when you hear the testimony of an adopted son about his Christian father and the influence he had on this son throughout his life (as we heard from a dear cousin last night at a very special family reunion), then you realize the power and blessedness of earthly adoption by Christian couples and families.

A gift from God our Father to His children. A means of grace. Yes, in the life of one lost soul. Multiplied thousands of times, one soul at a time, from all over the world, including nearby neighborhoods. Taken in by love, surrounded by love, raised in love, and pointed to true love. God’s, in Jesus. So that that adopted child comes to know and embrace and confess that divine love. And rejoices (glories!) in what God has done. For him! For her! And believing parents and siblings cry with joy, and treasure God’s work.

And then you better understand the picture of a higher, greater, deeper reality – what the Sovereign of salvation has done for you (for me!), another lost orphan in this cruel world of sin and darkness. You see, you and I were abandoned by the Prince of this world (a pretentious but pernicious father!) who promised us everything but left us nothing – destitute, deserted – in reality, dead.

But that Father on the heavenly throne looked on you and me with the eyes of love (because His heart was so full of it for you!), took us up His arms and placed us in His only-begotten, beloved Son, through Whom He bought us and took us home (O, what a family He has!). And then He took the Spirit of His Son and sent Him to change us from dead sinners into living children of the Father, from utterly destitute into the richest sons and daughters in the world, and in the world to come.

Deserted no more, we have fellowship with the Father, in the Son, through the Spirit, and belong to the biggest and best family in the world (the church of Jesus Christ)! It is the grandest adoption of all! If you doubt it, read Ephesians 1-3 again. And fall to the ground in praise of that glorious grace.

And then think about what that earthly picture can mean in a Christian family and church family. And ponder its implications for us.

Russell Moore has some things for us to think about in that Crossway article for National Adoption Day. Yes, he may write from a theological perspective different from our Reformed, covenantal perspective. But he writes as a Christian man and as a saved-by-grace sinner who knows what earthly adoption means because of his heavenly one. So, listen and learn from what he says. He don’t have to agree with everything. Just take the heart of it. Because that comes from the heart of our Father above.

Here is part of what Moore writes; find the rest at the link below.

The gospel of Jesus Christ means our families and churches ought to be at the forefront of the adoption of orphans close to home and around the world. As we become more attuned to the gospel, we’ll have more of a burden for orphans. As we become more adoption friendly, we’ll be better able to understand the gospel. We are being called to look forward to an adoptive missional church. I want to call us all to consider how encouraging adoption—whether we adopt or whether we help others adopt—can help us peer into the ancient mystery of our faith in Christ and can help us restore the fracturing unity and the atrophied mission of our congregations.

It is one thing when the culture doesn’t “get” adoption. What else could one expect when all of life is seen as the quest of “selfish genes” for survival? It is one thing when the culture doesn’t “get” adoption and so speaks of buying a cat as “adopting” a pet. But when those who follow Christ think the same way, we betray that we miss something crucial about our own salvation.

Adoption is not just about couples who want children—or who want more children. Adoption is about an entire culture within our churches, a culture that sees adoption as part of our Great Commission mandate and as a sign of the gospel itself.

Source: Adoption Isn’t Charity—It’s War | Crossway Articles

A Tribute to Our Sacrificing Mothers: The Altar of Motherhood – W. Wangerin, Jr.

Ah, Mother, every summer since then I have thought of you and all of your sisters through the ages. I see you, darling, distinctly – as in a vision. I see deep, and I see this: that once there lay in the precinct of many mothers’ souls some precious personal thing. Some talent, some private dream. The characteristic by which they defined their selves and their purpose for being. To write? Maybe. To run a marathon? Or to run a company? Yes. Yes.

But then the baby came home, and then you and others like you made a terrible, terribly lovely choice. You reached into your soul and withdrew that precious thing and lifted it up before your breast and began to walk. Deliberate and utterly beautiful, you strode to the altar of love for this child and placed there the talent, the dream, some core part of your particular self – and in order to mother another, you released it. There came for you a moment of conscious, sacred sacrifice. In that moment the self of yourself became a smoke, and the smoke went up to heaven as a perpetual prayer for the sake of your children.

And when it was voluntary, it was no less than divine. Never, never let anyone force such a gift from any woman! – for then it is not sacrifice at all. It is oppression.

But never, either, dear children, take such an extraordinary love for granted. It is holy. For this, in the face of such women, is the mind of Christ, who emptied himself for us. And then again, for us.

Ah, Mother, I am so slow to know, but now I know – and out of the knowledge wherewith my own children have burdened me I thank you. From an overflowing heart, I thank you, Mother, for your motherhood.

little-lamb-wangerinTaken from chapter 17, “The Altar of Motherhood,” of Walter Wangerin Jr.’s Little Lamb, Who Made Thee? A Book about Children and Parents  (Zondervan, 1993; reprinted in 2004).

This comes at the end of the author’s story of his struggle to care for the household after he and his wife reversed roles for a time (including a summer when he about went crazy!). He had begun his writing career and she returned temporarily to working full time to help support the family. They both found out this could not last, prompting him to praise his own mother and his wife for their sacrificial labor in the home.

Which brings to mind my own dear mother and my own dear wife and the sacrifices they made for me and my siblings and for our children, respectively. From “an overflowing heart” I also thank you, precious mothers for your motherhood.

“They took their Baby B to the steadfast arms of the Father so that whatever happened, the love of God would hold it.” ~ W. Wangerin, Jr.

little-lamb-wangerinI mentioned last week that one of the books I took along on vacation for continued reading was Little Lamb, Who Made Thee? A Book about Children and Parents  by Walter Wangerin, Jr. (Zondervan, 1993; reprinted in 2004). While reading a couple more sections, I came on some great quotes. I shared one last week; tonight I give you another.

This one is from Part II of the book, where the author relates the raising of his own family while serving as a Lutheran pastor. In one of his churches Wangerin served as the godfather of a boy whom he calls “Baby B” (for Brandon – the chapter title is “I Love Thee, Baby B”). The boy became ill and crippled due to a tumor near his thighbone. While the parents and congregation were anxiously waiting for the biopsy and then the surgery, they joined  in prayer together for the child. Especially the parents.

Writes Wangerin:

You have bold parents, B. They are patient and faithful. Their patience may – as with silly physicians and sillier children – come sometimes to an end. But never their faith.

They said to the doctor, ‘Yes, schedule a biopsy. Schedule a biopsy. But we, in the meantime – we will pray for our son.’

We all prayed for you, then, Brandon Michael Piper. You won’t remember. But the aunts and the uncles, your parents and grandparents and godparents and the whole congregation of Grace commended to heaven both your big name and your little leg.

It is at this point that Wangerin has some marvelous thoughts on the nature of prayer for a sick child – thoughts that are applicable to all our trials.

Someone worried about the intensity of your parents’ praying. He said, ‘But what if the boy’s too sick? What if he doesn’t get well? Doesn’t it scare you that you might lose your faith if God doesn’t answer the prayer?’

But your parents said, ‘We will pray for our son.’

You see, Brandon, this was their faith: not that they felt God had to heal you on account of prayer, but rather that they wanted never to stand apart from God, especially not now. Yes, they were scared for you. But they were never, never scared of God, nor ever scared to lose God. They took their Baby B to the steadfast arms of the Father so that whatever happened, the love of God would hold it. Might there be a healing? Then give glory to God. Must there be a worse hurt? Then let the dear Lord strengthen everyone when strength would be most needed.

Their prayer was meant neither as a demand nor as magic, neither an ultimatum nor manipulation of the Deity. It was love. It was their highest expression of faith – not faith in your healing, Brandon (though they yearned that) but faith in God.

Which leads him to conclude with these words:

This is an important distinction which, in the future, you must remember. Your parents’ faith did not depend upon God’s ‘correct’ answer to their prayer. Instead, the reality of their prayer depended upon their faith. With prayer they encircled you as tightly as you do hug my neck on Sunday mornings – and behold: that circle of faith was the arm of the Almighty. [pp.83-84]

“…Struck dumb by the impossible beauty” of God’s grace – W. Wangerin, Jr.

little-lamb-wangerinOne of the books I took along on vacation last week to continue reading was Little Lamb, Who Made Thee? A Book about Children and Parents  by Walter Wangerin, Jr. (Zondervan, 1993; reprinted in 2004. Mine is a first ed., hardcover).

As I have mentioned here before, Wangerin is one of my favorite Christian (Lutheran) authors. He has a way with words – sometimes humorous but always serious – as well as keen insights into the historic Christian faith and life. I came across some gems last week and decided to share a few of them here with you.

The first is taken from a chapter with the title “How Precious Did That Grace Appear,” which you may recognize as taken from the hymn “Amazing Grace.” As Wangerin describes his Lutheran confirmation ceremony (similar to our profession of faith), which involved answering questions about the Christian faith in front of the congregation (based on the Bible and the catechism of Luther), he relates the wonder of the truth of God’s saving grace – a blessed reality he came to experience more fully as he matured.

He tells of how he answered publicly and with conviction the question of his pastor “What is grace?” by quoting Eph. 2:8-9. But then, powerfully, he says this about the nature of the grace he just confessed:

I was a smart kid.

And yet I did not really know what I was talking about. I had just accomplished this most difficult task. I did it. Therefore, although I could speak well and wisely of grace, that was in itself the problem which condemned me: I could speak of grace, even glibly and casually. I was not struck dumb by the impossible beauty of the thing. I was not overwhelmed by the absolute absurdity, the flat illogic, the utter conundrum of this act of God.

Grace should not be.

In fact, by every moral and human right, grace cannot be.

Nevertheless, it is.

And without it, we die.

One ought to lay one’s hand upon one’s mouth in the presence of such a thaumaturge [that’s a great Greek-origin word to look up!] and answer nothing. One ought to confess that he has spoken without knowledge, that he has uttered things too wonderful for him, and so repent in dust and ashes.

But I was self-important in those days. I had not actually experienced love when I knew I didn’t deserve it.

Doctrine may teach us the definitions of our faith’s most fundamental truths; but the truths themselves elude us until we meet them ourselves and experience them: meet them, greet them, and find ourselves to be borne aloft by them. Then we know what hitherto we’d only learned by rote.

Wangerin is a faithful Christian husband and father and I highly recommend this book about his own godly rearing as a child and then his experience as a parent raising his own children. You will laugh and you will cry, but most of all you will grow in the knowledge and experience of that “precious grace” of our perfect Father.

 

I have another gem for you – this time about praying for a sick child. Marvelous!

Reading Aloud to Young Children Has Benefits for Behavior and Attention – The New York Times

The New York Times recently posted this article online and it was picked up by some of the book and reading news sources I receive, which immediately caught my attention. While it is not anything new, it confirms once more what other studies have proved – that reading to children at an early age is a tremendous benefit to their psychological, emotional, and educational development. And we would add, of course, that when God’s Word and other good Christian literature are read to them, their spiritual development is enhanced.

The article begins by pointing to the results of another new study that found the great benefits of reading to very young children:

It’s a truism in child development that the very young learn through relationships and back-and-forth interactions, including the interactions that occur when parents read to their children. A new study provides evidence of just how sustained an impact reading and playing with young children can have, shaping their social and emotional development in ways that go far beyond helping them learn language and early literacy skills. The parent-child-book moment even has the potential to help curb problem behaviors like aggression, hyperactivity and difficulty with attention, a new study has found.

“We think of reading in lots of different ways, but I don’t know that we think of reading this way,” said Dr. Alan Mendelsohn, an associate professor of pediatrics at New York University School of Medicine, who is the principal investigator of the study, “Reading Aloud, Play and Social-Emotional Development,” published in the journal Pediatrics.

After covering the special program that teaches parents during pediatric primary care visits how to be involved in their children’s lives through reading and playing, the article concludes with these additional thoughts:

But all parents should appreciate the ways that reading and playing can shape cognitive as well as social and emotional development, and the power of parental attention to help children flourish. Dr. Weisleder said that in reading and playing, children can encounter situations a little more challenging than what they usually come across in everyday life, and adults can help them think about how to manage those situations.

“Maybe engaging in more reading and play both directly reduces kids’ behavior problems because they’re happier and also makes parents enjoy their child more and view that relationship more positively,” she said.

Reading aloud and playing imaginative games may offer special social and emotional opportunities, Dr. Mendelsohn said. “We think when parents read with their children more, when they play with their children more, the children have an opportunity to think about characters, to think about the feelings of those characters,” he said. “They learn to use words to describe feelings that are otherwise difficult and this enables them to better control their behavior when they have challenging feelings like anger or sadness.”

“The key take-home message to me is that when parents read and play with their children when their children are very young — we’re talking about birth to 3 year olds — it has really large impacts on their children’s behavior,” Dr. Mendelsohn said. And this is not just about families at risk. “All families need to know when they read, when they play with their children, they’re helping them learn to control their own behavior,” he said, so that they will come to school able to manage the business of paying attention and learning.

This “truism” is worth remembering in our own homes as well. I hope we are exposing our children to good literature at an early age and giving them the thrill of seeing and hearing words and experiences expressed in the world of books. The benefits are well documented.