Tag Archives: Family

Lay it Down

The Grapes of Wrath, film 1940

My family hails from Plant City. A town most known for its world famous Strawberry festival, found smack in the middle of the state of Florida. Like so many families during the depression, work became the destination. Wherever it could be found was wherever you would go. Leaving their home in South-Central Georgia, with 7 kids in tow, my family made the trek southward to Plant City, much like the Joads of Steinbeck’s
The Grapes of Wrath.

I know this… a man got to do what he got to do. – John Steinbeck

There comes a time when laying down your former life is the only choice you have. Whether the dust of Kansas, or the clay of Georgia, the search for something better forces us to lay down old ways, old habits, and old places.

When you lay it down, you let it die.

Out of death, comes the freshness of new life. Ash Wednesday and Lent signal our need to lay certain things down. To let them die, with the promise given us of picking up something far greater. A better life, in a better place. A place much closer to God’s kingdom than where we have come from.

They’s a time of change, an’ when that comes, dyin’ is a piece of all dyin’, and bearin’ is a piece of all bearin’, an’ bearin’ an’ dyin’ is two pieces of the same thing. An’ then things ain’t so lonely anymore. An’ then a hurt don’t hurt so bad. – John Steinbeck

What needs dyin’? Where in our lives do we find the things, the places, the darkness that needs letting go?

Jesus constantly asked his followers to see him as the resting place for their problems, their pain, and their burdens. On Jesus, our sin and brokenness, and all the ways we have tried to find happiness, go to die. We put them on him, and with him, they die.

28 Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. – Matthew 11:28-30

In his resurrection the freshness of new life lands in our hearts and gives us true rest. A glimpse of the promised land that all of us, the Joads and the Thompsons alike, are journeying towards this side of the Jordan.

Lay it down. Let it Die.

Lent Reading II :
Psalm 25:1-10, Mark 1:9-15, Acts 2

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On Becoming a Father

Oliver, my son, is due to be born in five days.

Waiting for your first child to be born is one of the strangest, most beautiful times I think anyone could experience. The overwhelming excitement enmeshed with the nervousness of knowing your life is about to wholly change, but not being sure just how. I can see the looks in the eyes of friends with children who must be secretly thinking, “This joker has no idea what’s about to hit him.”

I do think I realize how much our life is about to change.

Lately, I’ve been thinking about how I react to things. The circumstances that often make me happy. Why I react impatiently or angrily when something planned unravels. How I will feel when a son, my son, is placed in my arms for the very first time. Everyone to a man says that moment changes you.

I think about how I will react to my son in the coming years. In a recent conversation with my father, we talked about how fathers in an instant have to decide how to react to their child. With discipline, grace, affection, challenge. These split-second reactions can determine how a child sees the world. And then, I think about my father’s reactions to me over the years. He’s gotten it right almost always.

One time in particular, when things were spinning sideways for me and I needed a little bit of everything, he showed me grace in a way I had not yet experienced. The kind of grace that changes you.  The kind Anne Lamott tries to describe, “I do not understand the mystery of grace — only that it meets us where we are and does not leave us where it found us.”

I wonder, will I know the right moments to be strong? To lead? A child needs his father to lead, to make decisions, to challenge, and to discipline. How will I react to my son?

Gerard Manley Hopkins, a 19th century English Catholic priest and poet, wrote in what has become one of my favorite poems, “Easter Communion”:

“Your scarce-sheathed bones are weary bent:
Lo, God shall strengthen all the feeble knees.”

And so I wait for the birth of our son Oliver, readily admitting that my knees are weary and bent. Feeble at very best. As a Christian pastor I tell others this is the very place we must live our lives from. Weary and bent, with feeble knees laying down our pride and plans, and allowing God who because of the gift of His Son, become our Father. The one who always reacts rightly to his children.

It’s my time to believe it, with feeble knees. Here’s to getting it right half as often as my father did.

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