Sapphire Sky

May 17, 2020

Choosing Joy

Filed under: encouragement, Life!, love, marriage and family, praise — Christ Ranger @ 9:32 pm

Shout for Joy the Lord all the earth! Ps. 100

“Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.”  Luke 2:10

I’ve always appreciated joyful people. They’re rare. People who regularly brighten a conversation, a room, a relationship. Joyful people are good to be around. We can all be joyful and encouraging at times, but I find it just as easy to be negative or simply apathetic or detached.  I don’t consider myself gloomy, but I also do not consider myself joyful.

God has been pricking my conscience the past year in this regard.  My lack of joy should bother me.

Is joy the most overlooked and underappreciated attribute and command of God? It’s so easy to turn God into a series of shall’s and shall nots, rules and ceremonies.  For me, it’s often easier to focus on the Passion of the Christ and His suffering than on the joy of His resurrection and what that portends for our future.  Really, though, it’s easier yet to focus on the things of this world which often grab the attentions of my heart.  The continual tyrannies of the moment seem designed to sap my strength and enthusiasm.  But when I think of what God wants from me, I think of communion with him, love, justice, grace, patience, charity, stewardship … .

But joy?  Over the years, I read the verses about joy, but not really.  My heart did not hear.

I never gave joy much thought, until the past six months.  In response to several specific prayer requests, God just kept bringing it up in my life, over and over again.  Multiple lessons in places far and wide. Even before the whole Covid19 debacle, God laid it on me repeatedly that joy is a choice, a choice God commands, like love. The Covid19 “events” have been an invitation to depression and anxiety. It is not a time for feeling joy.  These lessons in joy stand in contrast to circumstances in which we find ourselves.

Yet, First Century Rome was not a time or place for Christ followers to feel joy.  Prison, beatings, being human torches in Nero’s garden … .  And yet, there’s Paul voice, coming from a Roman prison in the midst of such misery, as he awaits his own execution: Rejoice in the Lord always, again I will say rejoice.. Phil. 4:4.  In the midst of true hardship, real deprivation and facing imminent death – rejoice, again I encourage you – REJOICE!

Like love, joy is both a feeling and a choice.  Sometimes it comes naturally, but for most of us, myself included, joy is not a natural, regular feeling.  It’s not that I don’t like joy, it’s just I’m satisfied with far less than true joy.  Comfort, security and routine suit me just fine, thank you.  C.S. Lewis captured it well when he said, “We are half hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us.  We are far too easily pleased.”

Joy is more than an antidote to depression.  Joy should be more than an occasional experience.  Like love, however, joy must be chosen, pursued and cultivated.  I recently shared with a group of dear brothers what God has been teaching me in this regard over the past several months, and a brother asked me to reduce it to writing to share.  So, here’s where I am and what God has me working on.

First, big hat tip acknowledgment.  My brother Pastor Travis gave a sermon during the great quarantine/house arrest that we watched on Facebook.  In fact, it was the first sermon by Travis that I’d been able to watch for at least a year.  It was on how to choose joy, which was one more of many many not subtle lessons on this topic from God. Perhaps because we have genetically similar brains, I liked his organization of the topic. So, the first three points are slavishly taken from Travis, however, not necessarily the subpoints (I only wrote down the three sermon points in my notes!).

FIRST and FOREMOST: CHOOSE GOD

Brother Lawrence reminds us in Practicing His Presence, “Our only business is to love and delight ourselves in God.”

God is the foundation of existence, of truth, and of meaning.  Without Him, we are afloat in a meaningless practically infinite void of space – both physically and morally.  Without God, we are no more than our experiences, for better or worse. Curiously assembled molecules on a blue dot in the middle of an empty, cold expanse. As Jesus taught, without Him, our castles are built on shifting sand.

God is our hope for eternity.  God gives us grace, when our nature warrants judgment. God gives us himself, the Spirit, for power and the fruits of the spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control. Gal. 5:22.  God is love.  He is never changing.  He authored our lives, our salvation, and our sanctification.  And gives us all of this and more, for free, as His gift.  All of which should lead us to the second point.

SECOND as a result of choosing God: CHOOSE WORSHIP

“The LORD is my strength and shield. I trust him with all my heart. He helps me, and my heart is filled with joy. I burst out in songs of thanksgiving.” Ps. 28:7

God revealed himself to us in time, and those revelations are recorded in Scripture.  As the last paragraph indicates, God warrants infinite worship.  He is truly Awesome. “Therefore, since we receive a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us show gratitude, by which we may offer to God an acceptable service with reverence and awe; for our God is a consuming fire.” Heb. 12:28-29.

If you do nothing else all day to nourish your spirit, praise God.  Praise Him for who he is. Praise Him for what he’s done and what he’s promised to do.  Praise Him for the creation around you.  Praise Him for making you and putting breath in your lungs and thoughts in your head. Praise Him for the people he’s put in your life, even the ones you might not be fond of.

Turns out that worship is also FUN, especially when done with others and to music.  Indeed, even God sings! Zeph. 3:17.

Lift your face to the one, most high King of Creation, and sing praise. Your spirit will lift with your praises.

THIRD: CHOOSE GRATITUDE

“Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever!” Ps. 107:1

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” Phil. 4:6

“Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thes. 5:18

“And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” Col. 3:17

Before you ask God for anything, give him thanks.  If you are able to breath and form a thought, give thanks.  If you are able to lie your head down to sleep, give thanks. If you have water to drink, give thanks. Before you ask something from anyone, make sure you’ve expressed gratitude to and for them.

Make it a point to show those close to you appreciation every day. I’ve been married going on 27 years, and this past year, my wife and I made it a point to try and tell each other things we appreciated about each other. It’s a small thing, but it makes a difference, particularly over time. After years of being together, it’s easy to forget to articulate the many things we like about those close to us.

A life founded on God and centered on regular and deliberate worship and regular and deliberate gratitude, produces a life of joy.

FOURTH: MAKE AN EFFORT TO BE A JOY TO BE AROUND

Work for joy!

“Not that we lord it over your faith, but we work with you for your joy, because it is by faith you stand firm.” I Cor. 1:24. In this day of great concern over infections and social distancing, make it a goal to be a GOOD social infection: seek to bring joy, encourage worship and appreciation.

Foremost, choose the fellowship of believers. Give thanks and praise to God with other believers. Seek to surround yourself with people that put their faith in Christ and who also want to live lives of praise and gratitude. Historically, hermits are not known for being joyful spirits. Perhaps related, who you spend the most time with will be one of the biggest influences on who you become.

Of course, that works in reverse too. You can have a huge influence on who those closest to you become.

Be careful not to cop out of a relationship and say, “they’re just not joyful!”  Maybe you can help them turn it around.  Or maybe, consider whether you may have been part of the problem through commission or by omission?  Suffice it to say, I have been. As part of this journey of understanding the practice of joy, God laid it on my heart, what have you done to bring joy into your soul mate’s life? It was painful for me to realize, I was far too often part of the problem or by omission, i.e. missing in action regarding coming along my bride to encourage and help her. If you haven’t already, make it a point to pray, praise and give thanks with those closest to you and consider to what extent you are a source of encouragement and joy for them.

Choose to have fun with those close to you. If screens are a thing in your house, which is likely if you are in an American house with other people and even more likely if you are in a house by yourself, have screen-free times planned, scheduled and committed to during which you do something fun.  Play a game. Tell a story. Sing a song. Pop water balloons on each other’s heads. Whatever your people enjoy, do it.  Be deliberate.

Be deliberate in choosing God.  Nothing speaks to our priorities more than how we use our time. When you read the biographies of the great men and women of faith, you repeatedly see the same two things: they were ruthlessly committed to their time with God in scripture and to their time in prayer. And like Brother Lawrence, prayer need not be a formal, set aside time or place.  It is an ongoing, regular and real conversation with God.

This is where God has me now and as I am working on cultivating a spirit of joy.

Thank you for reading this. I hope you pursue and have a life filled with joy.  God bless!

 

 

 

March 18, 2016

4 things my little siblings have taught me

Filed under: adoption, Life!, love, marriage and family, Uncategorized — Christ Ranger @ 11:06 pm

Smelly shoes lined the floor. My bare feet stick to the dirty surface that hadn’t been swept since breakfast. As socks are always missing, they are a rare delicacy only to be enjoyed on speci…

Source: 4 things my little siblings have taught me

February 17, 2016

18 Months and Counting

Filed under: adoption, Life!, love, marriage and family — Christ Ranger @ 9:52 pm

Blessed be the name of the Lord
    from this time forth and forevermore!

Ps. 113:2

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On a recent trip to visit the Ark Encounter (it opens July 7, please buy tickets!) and Answers in Genesis, my friend Tim Dudley asked me why I had not blogged in about a year about our adoption. When I explained how busy I’d been, he gave me his trademark eye-roll and “Really? Too busy to write 500 words?”  (At the time, I didn’t realize that Tim hasn’t updated his blog in five years!) As usual, Tim was correct.

IMG_0022When we were first considering adopting six children; we went to the authoritative source on all things important – the blogosphere, and found several blogs written by families who had adopted large sibling groups. The sites were typically profuse regarding the decision to adopt, fluent regarding the initial stage, but then the posts became fewer and fewer between. That fueled my adoption paranoia: they started happy and optimistic, but then it went bad so they stopped blogging – didn’t want to share the horrors and strife that ensued. Or so I imagined from the darker crevices of my mind.

Well, having ten kids, six of whom we were given custody of 18 months ago as part of the adoption process, I’ve become one of “them”: after an iIMG_8121nitial flurry of blogs, I recall blogging once in the past 18 months about our return from the airport from Latvia. Now I know what I had before only suspected – it isn’t a desire to hide the horrors of our situation. To the contrary, the Lord has more than answered our prayers and richly blessed our family, as I’ll explain more below. No, it’s just that 24 hours has become much shorter. On the rare events we have any available, uncommitted time at the end of a day – I like to spend it in some form of a semi-vegetative state.

So for those few and far in between who might be considering large group adoption from Latvia, I offer some observations in no particular order from our experience thus far, a few of which may translate to adoptions from orphanages in general:

  1. Our Latvian children loved Ketchup® and sour cream, on EVERYTHING. Now, after 18 months, they simply really like those on most things.
  2. Don’t sweat the small stuff and they’re all small.karate
  3. Make sure you like your dentist.  Lesley was there at least weekly for about six months.
  4. Karyn Purvis is a huge blessing and resource. Watch her videos and absolutely first thing read her book The Connected Child.
  5. Kids flourish quickly and learn English even faster.
  6. Sanctification.  I wrote previously about how adoption further personalized the Gospel for us.  As I explain further below, in the past year I’ve learned how it also furthers my sanctification.
  7. Everyone has their eyes on the stress of the new kids.  The stress from the changed family dynamics can be more difficult on your biological kids, particularly where the “new” kids outnumber the original kids.  The process was at least equally disruptive to both sets of kids, but nearly all the focus naturally goes to the new kids.
  8. Structure is king a.k.a. we’ve made rules for EVERYTHING! It started about day 3 when we were consuming more than a gallon of milk a day. First new rule: limits on milk consumption.soccer
  9. The common guidance we received was to cocoon our family for most of the first year.  We didn’t do that.  Instead, we signed the new kids up for the same sports our bio kids were doing, which meant a lot of soccer teams, year round swimming, gymnastics, music and martial arts.  It’s worked for us.  With seven boys under one roof and many kids 10 and under (then), the activities gave added structure and plenty of positive outlets for energy.
  10. Our kids have become good friends with each other.
  11. You quickly realize how much you taught your children from the youngest years when contrasted with a child who hasn’t had the same, consistent level of parental involvement.
  12. The second law of sockdynamics: socks trend towards total disappearance. If you think your socks don’t match now, just wait.  Our kids have turned a fashion into mismatched socks.  I also try to only buy black sports socks for my boys since they can be worn with everything and for all occasions and all fairly closely match each other. Lesley also bought laundry bags for each kid to put their socks into, zip shut and keep socks together through the wash dry cycle.  The bags quickly went the way of half the socks: disappeared.
  13. Life is loud at our house.  We live the definition of boys: noise that moves.
  14. All meat is “chicken.”
  15. There are a lot of cool people in the adoption community.Gremlin
  16. Americans are friendly. (Our new kids tell us this.)
  17. Feeding candy to our little new kids was like feeding Gremlins after midnight. For the first year, we purged high fructose corn syrup from our house and greatly limited candy and processed sugar consumption. We also fed them a lot of Omega 3.
  18. Everyone likes Nutella and it makes everything edible and makes anything a dessert.
  19. Christ has cared for us in so many ways through his church.
  20. There are so many special memories.

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So many special memories.

One of our children on their first day in a new Bible study class at church – each child had to tell the class something special about themselves.  Our child proudly told the class he had a Mom and Dad.  The teacher, not familiar with us, looked puzzled.

That same child, soon after arriving with us back to the States, now our child being adopted, was puzzled and perplexed one night at dinner.  He asked earnestly, “Why when we were hosted was everyone nice to us but now they’re not?” I asked him what he meant. He explained that when we hosted them, our biological son Sean of about the same age shared everything with him and was alway pleasant, but now he does not share as much and they sometimes fight when they play.  “Do you fight with Joshua and David [his biological brothers]?” I asked.  “Yes,” he answered, which I knew having seen it often.  “Well,” I explained, “when we hosted, you were a guest in our home.  We are pleasant and tolerant to guests because we know that at some point they are going to leave. That is what it means to be a guest. But you are no longer a guest here.  You are family and Sean is now your brother. Do you see the difference? You are no longer a guest; this is your home and you are family.”  You could see the lightbulb turn on in his young mind as his face  lit up.  He smiled and looked down at his plate so his brothers didn’t see the tears streaming down his cheeks.IMG_8617.JPG

More hugs and kisses now when I come home from work.

One child often voluntarily gets up early and make me an egg sandwich, exactly the way I like it, before I leave for work.

Homeschooling ten children has been quite a challenge, particularly when six of them barely spoke English. Our three youngest had not learned to read at all (even in Latvian) while in Latvia.   To help with the workload, we incentivized the big kids, particularly with teaching the little ones to read.  We had small rewards for different milestones, culminating with our grand prize: a trip to Disney when we felt they had mastered beginner reading by reading through the dozens of early reader Bob books.  All of the kids did a great job and they all learned to read far more quickly than we anticipated.

IMG_5389.JPGThe trip to Disney was magical (and exhausting)!  We were thankful to have our good friends (and personal Disney experts), the Josephsons, with us.

Most importantly, the adoption of our children has brought us closer to our Father in heaven. We find God most when we come to the ends of ourselves.  Adoption brings me further outside myself and my natural limits, and thankfully beyond my abilities I find more of Christ and far less of me.  When I married my beautiful bride LesleIMG_4745.JPGy, there was a paradigm shift – living with and for someone beyond just myself.  I was not a Christian when I met Lesley so it was a paradigm shift.  Having children was another paradigm shift.  Not only did it deepen my comprehension of a deeper love (and a better understanding of the Gospel – the intimate, painful nature of a father sacrificing his son), but it also brought me into regular contact with my weaknesses and failings.  Parenting is good at that in my experience.  Adoption even more so.  I have found it somewhat ironic that “outsiders” sometimes tell us they see us as special servants because we adopted a group of kids.  Maybe that’s so, however, having ten kids has caused me to realize what a wretch I am in the flesh and how I am in need of a savior and in need of the strength of Christ in my daily walk.  It has been humbling.  Which is a good thing.PIX

If you are interested in hosting, see here, here (play the video!), and here. There are a lot of children out there yearning for a family, for a mother and father to love and protect them. If interested in adoption, see here. I encourage you login into these sites and view the pictures of the many children and read their stories.  If you are considering hosting or adoption, pray hard and trust God. It will not be easy, but you will be glad you did. He will provide.

God is great.

 

January 28, 2014

Ranger Christianity

Filed under: adoption, love, marriage and family, Ministry, theology, video — Christ Ranger @ 5:21 pm

Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?”  And I said, “Here am I. Send me!”  Isaiah 6:8

IMG_0106On the side of the church parking lot before a soccer game, Thea Lewis told me they will “rock your world” and implied we would never be the same again.  Sounded like a threat to me.  No. Thea assured that we would find ourselves most blessed.  I wasn’t entirely confident.  Thea and her large family have adopted multiples from overseas and are in the process of adopting another. She’s invested in the adoption community. She told me gritty, hard stories about the difficulties and pain of adoption. Her stories reflected what we heard from others that traveled down the adoption path: struggle, joy, pain, healing, brokeness, happiness, despair, lies, praise … drawing closer to the Lord.  We had committed to host six orphans from Eastern Europe over the holidays and I was scared.

DerekLoux Quote

Our oldest child of four, our 13-year-old daughter, kept asking us when we were going to stop talking about possibly maybe someday adopting or fostering or possibly doing something like that.  It’s time to stop talking and start doing she insisted. She gained access to the children “available” for hosting pages on the Open Hearts and Hands (“OHHC”) and New Horizons web pages and began emailing us pictures of available children from Eastern Europe looking for their “forever family.”  Soon, our other three children joined the search.  They happily offered that our hosting children for a month over the holidays would be their Christmas presents.

So we started reading the pages. Not surprisingly, it was heartbreaking surfing pages of pictures of orphans. Each picture carried a short caption giving insight into these children. Many expressed their desires for hosting – swim in a pool, learn how to pray and ride a roller-coaster were recurring themes.  My wife and I quickly began setting our rules and expectations: (more…)

April 5, 2013

Who is God?

Filed under: encouragement, love, Poem, video — Christ Ranger @ 6:12 pm

My poet, writer and friend David Ballard recently wrote the following painfully elegant poem about how we know much about God from where we find Him in our lives.

 

Who is God?
by David Ballard

God is tears in the dishwater
When you’re doubled over with hurt.
God is trauma in a wheelchair
Crippled from a war
No one else will serve.
God is aching feet
When there’s no other way to work.
God is blisters and callouses
When those who can won’t dig.
God is for those who know they’re small,
And He is really big.
God is in the details, each and every one.
God is love to spread till the sun flames out,
And we’re no longer having fun.
God is Spirit who draws us with the fragrance
Of His peace.
God is Son who shook the gates of hell
With a love that gave release.
God is God whose love and grace
Sent me to my knees.

January 7, 2013

HUGS (for Mom’s birthday)

Filed under: love, marriage and family, Poem — Christ Ranger @ 10:53 pm

Hugs
by Luke Biller

Honorable mother’s
Unconditional Love
God Loves you
So do we.

Aspiring writer ...

Aspiring writer …

March 20, 2011

Christian Marriage

Filed under: love, marriage and family — Christ Ranger @ 2:11 pm

Wives submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord … Husbands love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her … .  In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. Ep. 5:22, 25, 28

Let marriage be held in honor among all … Heb. 13:4

Love bears all things, … endures all things. 1 Cor. 13:7

A post I wrote last year about Christians and divorce receives the most traffic on this blog, thousands of hits.  See here.  It occurred to me recently that some of this traffic might be Christians struggling with thoughts of divorce and perhaps I should write some encouraging words about marriage, particularly about sustaining marriage through difficult times.  Thinking about this, I realized that most of the useful stuff I know about marriage I learned from others who shared with me and my wife marital truths from and premised in scripture.  Our learning started with lots of advise and insight on dispute resolution mechanisms from an Army chaplain prior to our military marriage (pre-marital counseling from the chaplain was mandatory), and our learning continues.

My wife and I recently celebrated our 18th anniversary so our marriage has “matured” to a young adulthood of sorts.  We’ve been married long enough that we can look back and figure out some stuff we did wrong and some stuff we did (and will hopefully continue to do) well and what works.  So we put down a “top 10” to do list for a healthy marriage.  Several of these overlap.  And no, my wife did not ghost write this; she’s just further along the path on most these virtues and techniques than me!  We are both fellow journyers with many of you on the marital road. Arrival is on the other side of the divide.  Please feel free to share any encouraging words or advice about marriage in the comments …  Here goes:

1.  Purpose. Remind yourself daily of the Biblical purpose for marriage. Although I’m blessed to find happiness in my spouse, the purpose of Christian marriage isn’t happiness; the purpose is to become more like Christ.  This does not mean Christian marriage isn’t intended to romantic or pleasurable, quite the contrary, God is love and in Christ is eternal satisfaction for those who pursue him. Pursue Christ first, and everything else starts falling into place.  The presence of Christ in us should become increasingly noticeable the better someone knows us.  No one is closer than our spouse, whom scripture describes as our same flesh.  Our marriages should be the starting point for lives of grace, love and service.  Both submit to Christ.  The Bible calls on the wife to submit to the husband and the husband to love his wife as Christ loved the church.  Christ was nailed to the cross for the church.  For more on this point, read the excellent book by Gary Thomas, Sacred Marriage.

2. Priority.  A simple tool to practice living like Christ: put yourself last.  Put J.O.Y. priorities in your marriage – look to serve Jesus, Others, then Yourself, in that order.

3. Love.  Love is a feeling and a verb.  So even if you don’t feel lovey, we’re called to do love.  Christ likely didn’t feel in love when being beaten and nailed to the cross.  In fact, he was quite open about not wanting to drink from that cup of misery. Yet out of the action of love for us, he did it.  I am certain he was not feeling giddy and “feeling in love” when they drove the spikes through his hands and feet, yet it was love and obedience to the Father’s will that held him there. The sacrament of marriage continually requires the Christian application of selfless love and obedience to God.  In marriage, two become one.  There is no better place to regularly practice and witness the presence or absence of Christ-like love.  With unconditional love, the marital union blossoms with commitment, trust, happiness, and peace.  Without it, the relationship and spouse withers.  Sadly, many couples endure dead relationships.  Just do love.

4. Knowledge. Know how to love your spouse.  One of the biggest revelations to me, after we’d been married for over ten years, was that love has its own languages.  Plural.  I had no idea.  I thought there was one love language – the one I spoke and understood.  I had often felt kinda rejected when my sweet wife didn’t seem to hear or speak my language.  Come to find out, I had no clue how to speak her love language.  I’ve since come to learn and appreciate that we each feel and convey love quite differently.  Dr. Gary Chapman, whom we discovered through our church, explained the 5 dominant love languages people speak and understand.  There are explanations and free tests at his website here and his bestselling book The 5 Love Languages is a must read if you’re not familiar with these concepts – a must read for marital bliss (see also Dr. Chapman’s book on the same topic for parenting here).  Most of us respond to and naturally understand just one of these languages.  My wife and I had entirely different languages – what an eye opener and blessing to discover.  This is one thing I wish we had learned at the outset of marriage.

5. Dare to be intimate.  The Bible advises spouses to not deny themselves to the other.  There’s an obvious and sometimes neglected sexual side to this affirmative duty.  There is also a spiritual and emotional side.  There is much said and written about sex in marriage.  It’s obviously an important component that we’re directed to not neglect.  Enough is not, however, said about the necessity for intimacy beyond sex, and this is far more challenging for most of us.  It’s often easier to share our bodies than our feelings.  Spiritually, it’s easier to pray alone or superficially than to close hands together and bare your soul before God, together, in prayer.  Candor and prayer.  Help each other to dare to bare more than just your bodies.

6. Prime Time. The Army chaplain told us to “hold our fire” until “prime time.”  This was excellent advise.  The time to raise a disputed issue is not when our spouse first walks in the door.  Give each other time to unwind from the day and recuperate.  “Prime time” for TV is also a prime time to engage our own biggest issues, after we’ve had a time to settle down from the days activities.

7. First Person.  That same Army chaplain also advised us that when we “open fire” against the other, to do it in the first person tense.  Speak from the perspective of how the accused issue affected you.  Instead of saying, “You were wrong in how you talked to me,” try “The way you talked to me made me feel like [fill in the blank].  I was really hurt, embarrassed, etc.”  Explaining how someone’s actions made you feel or otherwise affected you makes the same point as attacking the accused action/flaw, but it’s far less antagonistic.  This technique works. (My wife has shared a lot of such “feelings” with me …)

8. Peers. Hang out with people who support and encourage your faith and believe passionately in marriage.  Hanging out with single friends at the singles club is a recipe for disaster, for even the best marriages.  Equally dangerous, be discerning in your “friendships.”  Most affairs don’t originate in clubs.  They start with emotional bonds formed around the water cooler or community events.  Spiritual bonds can be a significant trap for those in ministry. Be careful with whom you grow close ties.

9.  Patience.  Marriage isn’t about “helping” your spouse improve, changing their minds, or winning arguments or anything else about the other.  Wrong paradigm. See number 1 above.  If you want to change something about your spouse, spend a lot of time praying about it and for them before even raising the issue, unless, of course it’s a clear spelled out in scripture sin issue.  Even then, particularly then, pray even more.

10.  Forgive.  Love keeps no record of wrongs.  Live grace.

Related articles: Sacrificial Love by Matthew White; Marriage Gems by Lori Lowe; Is Religion an Answer? Marriage, Fatherhood, and the Male Problematic by W. Bradford Wilcox;  Why Monogamy Matters by Ross Douthat; Marriage as Witness to the Culture by JC Sanders.

February 16, 2011

Merciless progression of time

Filed under: love, marriage and family — Christ Ranger @ 6:12 pm

Love makes us sensitive us to so many things we would otherwise miss.  Ann Voskamp elegantly shares this point today, writing about the convergence of time, love, pain and trust.  Ms. Voskamp captures the heightened and painful sense of time passing when we’re deeply in love, in this case, the deepest love most of us experience, the love for our children.  She shares her struggles over the inability to slow it all down, and where she finds peace in the struggle.

God who is the spring of the river of life, He has plans, places, purposes that time’s current will carry these children to — off to destinations, to new skin, to kingdom dreams.

The water cycle streams: from Him, through Him and to Him are all things.

See The Way a Mother Can Make Peace with Time

December 23, 2010

The present of presence

Filed under: love, marriage and family — Christ Ranger @ 10:44 am

Love Post

We have a tendency of busying ourselves with the business of being busy.

Smart phones, tablets, computers of every incarnation, et al. fill our every moment with distractions. Despite all these ways of connecting, we still have a lingering desire to connect with others that remains unsatisfied.

Lately, I have fallen prey to the same. Last night, we were finishing up decorating the Christmas tree, and I was busying myself with my latest obsession on the computer. Despite familial beckoning (my daughter physically grabbing my arm), I remained wired to the computer but disconnected from the family.

In hindsight, the older I get, the more I realize the moral for being is connecting with others. More often than not that means being physically and mentally present. Being on the computer or watching TV in the same room doesn’t qualify.

How do you truly connect then, in a meaningful way? I’ve often wondered.

You hear popular notions of connecting, but the one definition that holds me captive each time I read it is I Corinthians 13.

David Ballard

November 14, 2010

Lost Love

Filed under: Atheism, agnostic, evolution, etc., love — Christ Ranger @ 7:47 pm

Who trusted God was love indeed
And love Creation’s final law
Tho’ Nature, red in tooth and claw
With ravine, shriek’d against his creed
     Alfred Lord Tennyson, In Memoriam A. H. H. (Canto 56), 1850

We do not find comfort in nor do we long for struggle.  Our humane spirit finds no joy in imposing death on others or in the killing of life simply for the pleasure of asserting our superiority.  While nature is red in tooth and claw, death and violence affect us negatively.  If struggle is the fuel of the evolutionary engine, and evolution is our mother and creator, we should find some form of comfort in the struggle.  Indeed, according to evolutionary theory, we are the result and pinnacle of millions of years of struggle and death carving out and forming life.  Yet, as the alleged favored children of this process, we do not favor, appreciate, or find comfort in the supposed forces of evolutionary advancement.

The front-runner in a marathon, or in any race, finds a comfort and synchronicity when participating in the event.  In contrast, those at the other end of the event, the stragglers and “losers” in the event are rarely in a comfort zone; they rarely feel on top of the circumstances of the event. The stragglers and strugglers rarely appreciate and find comfort in their circumstance. In the evolutionary theory of origins, we are the front-runner in the struggle of life.  We are the most adept and sophisticated life form.  As the evolutionary front-runner, we should find some form of comfort in the “rules” of evolution.  We should feel a certain comfort in death and struggle, or at the very least, we should accept and appreciate blood and struggle as the necessary element of creation and strength.  Instead, we generally revolt against such attributes.  Death and struggle do not comfort us; they do not feel natural.  Scripture teaches us quite to the contrary, that death is an “enemy.” (1 Cor. 15:26) We build museums and monuments to motivate ourselves to resist such brutalities as Nazism and Communism. The brutal Spartan ethos is the rare exception, not the rule.

The God of the Bible is love.  God is love.  Did love create us, or are we the byproduct of struggle and death?  Of course, scripture speaks clearly on this.  So too does our nature. Our hearts and souls long and fight for love.  Unless we’ve been tragically broken, we find no solace in death or in pain or brutality.  Instead of being at peace with the alleged engines of evolution, our hearts and souls revolt and protest against death and struggle.   We find our strongest motivations and comfort in love, which is close to an antecedent of the supposed creative forces of evolution.  Perhaps the single greatest force in an individual’s life, outside forces of nature, is the power of love. 

Nothing has a greater impact on the formation of a person than love applied or misapplied during childhood.  Love motivates people to give up their lives, both figuratively and literally, for others.  Love of country, of an idea, and of another are the single greatest motivating factor of human existence.  Love and its derivatives of empathy and compassion are generally admired by all people over all times. There are occasions throughout history where civilizations have eschewed these virtues, but we remember these civilizations for their barbarity.

The human sensitivity and proclivity toward love, while perfectly consistent with the God revealed throughout the Bible, is wholly inconsistent with the evolutionary narrative.  It is love, not death, that drives and motivates us.  It was love, not the struggle for life, that made us.

Indeed, as scripture teaches, love is a stronger force than death.  In the body of Christ, love literally overcame the grave.  Even in our common existence, we see evidence of love being a more compelling force than death.  There is hardly a decent parent that would not immediately forfeit his or her life for their children.  Every day, our service members give up their lives for each other and for their country.  Firemen and police officers routinely put themselves in harm’s way so that others may be safe, many regularly forfeiting their lives for others.  This is mankind made in the image of God, an image of mankind that all decent humans hold dear to their hearts and celebrate.  Such a selfless, sacrificing person and ethos, this imago dei, is antithetical to the theoretical man of evolution. 

Years ago, I read of a study on divorce that revealed that the death of a spouse took less of a toll (more…)

July 22, 2010

Unnatural

Filed under: Atheism, agnostic, evolution, etc., love — Christ Ranger @ 7:57 pm

I mentioned in a comment to a post below how I work with a number of ministries and regularly review third-party internet postings about/to particular Christian ministries.  There is one consistent theme – the more a ministry adheres publicly to fundamental, Biblical teaching, the more vitriolic and spiteful and numerous are the online postings.  They are often vulgar, grotesque, and insulting.  It’s not enough to disagree with our Christian beliefs or even enough to do so in a vulgar and insulting manner.  No, as often as not, they misrepresent or twist basic beliefs or actions.  Certainly some of such misstatements are the product of ignorance, but the pattern is so consistent and prevalent that I suspect much if not most of it is deliberate and malicious.

I want to argue.  Indeed, at times I would like to grab the scoffers and mockers by the throat and give a good squeeze, but that would be denying the fundamental virtue of a life lived in Christ.  At times like that, I find it difficult to willfully follow the teachings of my Lord Jesus Christ.  The insults and arguments don’t bother me too much, however, it’s how I’m supposed to respond that bothers me.  We are called to love and to pray for the scoffers and mockers.  It was for the lost and depraved that Christ died.  It is to the lost that Christ sends us.  In their anger and hatred of Christianity they are to be pitied for not only do they ignore Christ’s warnings to the peril of their eternity, they live now with their face turned away from their Creator, the God of all the heavens and Earth who loves them.  They’re missing out on living a life buoyed by the Holy Spirit, supported by the love of Christ, and living with a hope for eternity.

God give me the strength to love and pray for those who mock and scoff at the faith I’ve put in your Word.

June 20, 2010

Happy Father’s Day

Filed under: love, marriage and family — Christ Ranger @ 10:13 pm

Praise God for the blessing of fathers and fatherhood.

Looking back, I always thought John Wayne movies were interesting, but didn’t really understand why so many people were so impressed by the John Wayne character.  Years later, likely at some point when I was in the Army infantry, I realized my father was a whole lot like John Wayne– he was (and is) true grit, day in and day out.  If he was the talkative big word type, he would have taught us to say “perseverance.”  I thank God for my father and the fundamentally “male” things he always sought to instill in me and my siblings.

If I only had a dime for every time he said as a matter of course, “No Whiners” and “Quit Whining”, which worked as an answer to many questions and situations, particularly questions where there was no answer.  There were myriad subsets of the “no whining” theme as well.  Some were fairly creative.  An “I’m hungry” spoken between meals would almost automatically elicit, “Go knock your chin against the table and you won’t feel so hungry any more.”  If it didn’t involve arterial blood or bone protruding from the skin, the answer was typically “Quit your belly-aching.” 

When I went out for freshman football, I asked my dad for help in practicing tackling.  He grew up in Germany playing another type of football.  We went in the backyard where we figured the best practice would be for him to charge at me head on with the football, kinda like a goal line stand, but without helmet or pads.  I learned three things: why football players wear pads, particularly helmets; what it’s like to lose a head on collision, and how fleeting consciousness can be. 

Soon thereafter my dad was hired as my highschool’s first varsity soccer coach.  I eventually switched from football to soccer.  Growing up through grade school, like most other kids, I thought my dad was a giant. Smelly at times, but still, a strong giant and hands made of iron.  By my senior year in high school, I had by then several years of being taller than him — nearly 8 inches taller, though I’m not sure I weighed much more.  Toward the end of my senior year of soccer, when Dad entered the fray of a varsity scrimmage playing for a shorthanded opposing side, I thought I could bump or check him off the ball.  I knew my height would give me leverage and I made some boisterous claim as I rushed in to bounce Dad off the ball.  I did have leverage, for a moment, and quickly learned two things: a hip check does nothing to impede an elbow upwardly swinging at a high rate of speed, and despite the coolness of the then ever-present Michael Jordan tongue wag, having your tongue between your teeth and hanging out of your mouth was a bad idea in contact sports when someone else’s elbow shuts your mouth.  He kept the soccer ball and I lost whatever propensity I might have developed for trash talking.

I remember my Dad working 55 hours a week in a tool and die shop my entire time growing up, with two weeks vacation each year.  I had no idea what that meant until I tried it for one summer.  That summer of labor guaranteed that I would graduate from college.  I also learned from observation the true grit necessary to be a blue-collar worker for decades.

He’s not afraid to let you know that blood flows thicker than water and that family always comes first. I only saw him fight once.  When I was a trouble making teenager with a drivers license, one of my friends in the back seat apparently looked cross-eyed at another car.  The car followed me home and a very large, belligerent man jumped out and began shoving us around, apparently looking for a fight.  If he didn’t outweigh me and my two friends collectively, it was close.  He was big and fortunately loud.  Within seconds, my Dad was outside.  He explained that I was his son and politely asked the man to leave.  Unfortunately for himself, the big man declined the invitation and instead become more belligerent as he advanced upon my much shorter father.  That lasted less than a minute before his attitude drastically changed and he retreated to his car to hastily depart, apparently unappreciative for the flavor of my father’s knuckles at high rates of speed. 

My Dad was 5′ 9″.  He claims that he’s now 5′ 8″, but I think that’s a bit of a stretch.  He’s lost over an inch.  And that happened fairly quickly.  In his 50s, he was practicing motocross with my youngest brother.  He overshot a jump at too high a speed on his KX500.  Actually he overshot the landing — and came down on the back side of a hill instead of on the top.  His back wheel floated out too far in front so he landed on the back of the motorcyle with the 225 pound bike on top of himself.  I wasn’t there.  As I recall it, my little brother didn’t have his driver’s license yet and Dad didn’t want him to worry, so he eventually got back on his feet.  Drove his bike back to his truck.  Loaded it and my brother’s bike and drove a good distance home.  The next day, when the excruciating pain hadn’t subsided, he went to the doctor to find out he shattered a vertebrae.  He’s shorter now.  True grit.

I remember being the tallest kid in my class but being a fairly rotten basketball player.  I remember playing basketball with my Dad, who was also a much shorter fairly rotten basketball player.  I took a shot that was so far off the mark, I had to tell you it was a shot and not an arm spasm that inadvertently shot the ball into space.  I also remember how, after Dad finished laughing and I continued to glower, he used that time to laugh and teach me the importance in life of not taking yourself too seriously and being able to laugh at yourself.  Of course, I had a lot of source material, still do, and it was a valuable lesson I never forgot.

There are so many things I remember about my Dad teaching me about life.  Hardly none of it was scripted or didactic lessons, instead, they were lessons, mostly spontaneous, derived from living life and spending time together.  The best communication he showed was the time he took to be with and around us.  Dad was always there when we needed him and still is. 

True grit.  True lessons.  True love.

Thanks Dad.

Praise God for fathers who invest themselves in the lives of their children.

March 11, 2010

Is there anything more wonderful than …

Filed under: encouragement, love — Christ Ranger @ 10:02 pm

God’s love? 

He loved and knew you before he created you , before he created time. 

To a rebellious people who rejected him and killed his prophets, he bled and died to satisfy judgment and to preserve his holiness.  To those that reject his sacrifice, he still causes the sun to shine upon them and the rains to raise their crops.  He calls them through his faulty saints, his word, the majesty of his creation, and the force of conscience. 

He loves us patiently and is slow to anger.  He calls us to return his love and devotion and to love each other selflessly.  Though he is the ageless, almighty, creator of all things seen and unseen, he humbled himself to be born a child to a peasant couple in a backwater province on the outskirt of the Roman empire.  To make sure we didn’t miss the point, he was born among the squalor of livestock, with no servants, not even a bed. Instead of a king, to the world he appeared a bastard child.  He demonstrated what it means to humble oneself for purposes of serving and loving those that do not deserve it.  He calls us to demonstrate that same love in all areas of our lives and to all people. 

By this all will know (more…)

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