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December 12th- Crayon Masterpieces

“And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord."” (Luke 1:17)


My work bag is overflowing.


No, not with work, but with crayon-filled masterpieces.crayons

Some time back, I began taping up my children's artwork on the walls of my office. There are race cars from my oldest son, Picaso-esq villages from my middle son, and lots and lots of coloring pages from my four-year-old daughter.


They love to come to my office and see their pictures up on my walls. And while they all love it, my daughter is the most passionate.


Every time she colors a picture (and she colors lots of pictures), she asks me to take it to work and put it up on the wall. Hence, my work bag is overflowing.


There is an analogy there, I think.

Work is important. And, if we aren't careful, it can easily dictate (and dominate) the hours of our days. I know. Lately, I have “important” work to get finished and I have been working like a marathon runner, i.e. non-stop.


But, what work is really the most important?


Time goes so quickly. All too soon there will be no more coloring pages. In just the blink of an eye, the little-girl who wants my every attention will be more concerned with text-messages and boyfriends.


December 15th- The Center Room

“All the believers were together and had everything in common.” (Acts 2:44)


Today, allow me to start off with a story I shared to open Chapter Seven of my book The Lost Heart of Discipline.


Lost Heart

“While our special-needs campers drifted to sleep, we migrated to the center room. There we would sit together, and talk into the night. Ironically, after spending the day focused on kids, our conversations still revolved around them.


We would recount the funny stories, like Donald helping himself to the food scrapped off everyone's plate or Angie's latest tribute to the music of “Weird Al” Yankovic. But we would also share the hard stories, like Michael “the pincher” who had hurt others so many times that he had to be sent home or Jonathan whose parents brought him to camp with a communication device that we knew he was too severe to use.

Looking back, I think we talked about the campers for one simple reason, we had to.


Serving in a special needs cabin at a YMCA summer camp was hard work, and we needed to decompress. It was hard to help a twenty-year-old “child” take a shower. It was hard to be kind when a nine-year-old began cursing at you for no apparent reason. It was hard to be patient when another camper asked you to watch them jump off the diving board, for the twentieth time.


And, most of all, it was hard to see, and to consider, the pain of lives “born broken.” So we talked each night, and it renewed us, just enough to do it all again the next morning.”


November 25th-Alice

“These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the door-frames of your houses and on your gates.” (Deuteronomy 6:6-9)


By every account he was a great man.


Teddy Roosevelt was extremely well-educated; having a life-long appetite for learning. He was brave; having served as the commander of the Rough Riders during the Spanish American War. And, he dared to achieve great things; such as the creation of the Panama Canal.AliceRoosevelt

One of the hallmarks of Roosevelt's career was his belief in righteousness. America should do the right thing. This sense of righteousness was the compass that guided him throughout his political and personal career.


However, Roosevelt was not a religious man, and his foundation for righteousness had no basis in God.


So, Roosevelt spent his days fighting for righteousness. Yet, what about his children. Roosevelt's oldest daughter was named Alice. She was the daughter of Roosevelt's first wife who died while Alice was a small child. And, as Edmund Morris explains, Alice did not quite understand Teddy's moral compass.


(The background for Morris' comments is the escalating crisis in Europe that would result in World War One.)


“Of all Roosevelt's children, Alice was the one most drawn to the furor teutonicus, the German war rage that had been suppressed for so long. As a little girl, she had listened to recitations of the Nibelungenlied at her father's knee, and reveled in the violent parts.


December 2nd- The Great Fairy Tale

“Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him.” (Revelation 22:1-3)


J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings trilogy is a masterpiece.Lord of the Rings

As you probably know, it is the story of Frodo Baggins, and his dear friend Samwise, placed in the center of a quest of epic proportions.


The entire fate of Middle-Earth depends upon them destroying the ring of power in the fires of Mordor. Of course, the fires of Mordor lie within the realm of the most dominant force of evil imaginable, Lord Sauron.


Obviously, the odds of their success are quite poor.

The Lord of the Rings is a masterpiece not just of literary quality, but in my opinion, for another reason as well. It captures the essence of life and the spiritual battle of good verses evil better than any work I've ever read.


Recently, I found some remarks from Tolkien on the idea of the fairy tale, and it explains, I think, the particular insight which allowed him to create such an epic work.


“(The fairy tale) does not deny the existence of...sorrow and failure: the possibility of these is necessary to the joy of deliverance; it denies (in the face of much evidence, if you will) universal final defeat..., giving a fleeting glimpse of Joy, Joy beyond the walls of the world, as poignant as grief.


It is the mark of the good fairy-story, of the higher or more complete kind, that however wild its events, however fantastic or terrible the adventures, it can give to child or man that hears it, when the 'turn' comes, a catch of the breath, a beat and lifting of the heart, near to (or indeed accompanied by) tears, as keen as that given by any form of literary art.”


There it is. The secret to the brilliance behind The Lord of the Rings. It is a fairy-tale that says, “in the end good wins,” without denying the existence of sorrow and failure.


Does this sound familiar? It should.


November 19th- Praying To A Loving Father

If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!” (Matthew 7:11)


For today's devotion I'd like to talk about prayer, and I'd like to return to my first book The Lost Heart of Discipline.


Lost Heart

Fatherhood has taught me a great deal about prayer. Now, I better understand what Jesus meant when he said, “If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!”


I am a sinner; the constant demands of parenthood have shown me that. Yet I love to give gifts to my children. I delight in their delight. So if this is my response, God, the perfect father, must love to answer our prayers more than we can imagine. If I enjoy giving, his joy must have no bounds.


Of course, I don't always give my children what they want. For instance, my oldest son loves to help me with home improvement projects. Recently he asked if he could help me put in a new garbage disposal. “Uh, thanks bud,” I replied, “but I don’t think you are quite big enough for this one.”