Never Say Never

Last night as I was wrapping presents way too late into the night, I had a moment of panic over the way too extravagant impact of gifts my children would be receiving today.  The white knuckled accountant in me began to feel angry that I hadn’t kept better track of all that we had purchased over the past month and the Pharisee in me began to lecture on the future implications of a Christmas morning filled with so much stuff.  I suddenly felt the shame of participating hook, line and sinker in the materialism of the season, the gluttonous and undisciplined pleasure indulgence.  Then the person and work of Jesus gave me that life saving slap of grace and reminder of the beauty of all that Christmas is with a stronger voice than all the others.

Taste and see that the LORD is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him. Psalm 34:8

As with all types of moral laws where I am naturally tempted to take one extreme or another, the person and work of Jesus offers me a third way.  Tasting and seeing that He is good does not offer an endorsement for a name it and claim it theology of health and wealth because that would require taking the verse completely out of the context of the entire story of redemption being told from Genesis to Revelation.  On the other end, it also repels the notion that true holiness is found in rugged stoicism and rejection of pleasure or the material world altogether.  The great chain of being is not actually biblical, no matter how noble it sounds.  Jesus became flesh and made His dwelling among us, God became man…this alone is an endorsement for His value of the material world.  He did not come to redeem merely ideologically or ethereally but the fullness of His creation.  Did all this go through my mind as I was wrapping presents?  No, but here is what did:  He gives us tastes of the good things to come so we can begin to grasp how very good He is and how very great His redemption is.

What this means practically is that I can stop the nervous rocking back and forth and leave the chorus of complaint about the materialism of the season as if the stuff is the worst opponent of God’s kingdom.  I know we can set our hearts on it more than God too easily, but His grace actually invites us into that experience of anticipation and delight, directed even at trampolines and iPod Touches, to help our hearts grasp just a sample of an even better anticipation and delight in being with Him.  He used a boat in a flood, a people wandering in the desert, a man in a whale finally communicating to those who until he arrived were not part of God’s family and many other tangible experiences to communicate the person and work of Jesus to His people throughout history.  He absolutely uses the material to help us grasp what is too wonderful for our minds to conceive.  It seems, at least for my heart, stinginess and cynicism are a far greater assailant to my faith than enjoying the whoops and hollars at the first sight of a material gift hoped for and received.

However, as it is written: “What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived”—    the things God has prepared for those who love him— 1 Cor. 2:9

God has been really showing me, lately, how I have forgotten to believe in the impossible.  For good reason, the reluctance come from the knowledge that not all the things I desire are for the good of His kingdom, that my sin is often far more involved than a desire for His glory and His honor, and then there is also the reality that in a fallen world, brokenness is often how this particular chapter leaves off without everything being tied up neatly on this side of Jesus’ return.  Those beloved of God still die of cancer, are left by their spouses, go into financial bankruptcy and struggle with mental illness.  But my response to the brokenness is to then view the world from sin’s limitations rather than God’s possibilities.  I quit using my imagination, leaving my prayer that “His Kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven” as merely words uttered without any genuine expectation that it will.

After a lovely morning of presents and feasting and family, we gathered to watch the DVD Chad had received in his stocking – Never Say Never:  The Justin Beiber Story.  Yes, that’s right, we did.  And guess what?  It was inspiring.  No matter how ridiculous the girls are or how Justin comes off in his photo shoots and sound bytes, his story is incredible.  From an early age, he was a performer within his own home, slowly taking his music to the streets of Canadian town where he belted out worship tunes that are familiar to all of us.  He’s been raised by adoring grandparents who still insist his room is cleaned before he goes to hang out with his best friends when back in town on tour.  His mom loves Jesus and is often the one leading the whole crew in prayer before his concerts, with prayers that sound as heart felt and focused on her Lord as those prayed in hospital rooms and in Bible studies.  The point is, no other musician has gone from home YouTube recordings to Madison Square Garden in a year and a half as he did.  His talent is real and admirable.

When I roll my eyes at the opening of presents or the musical dreams of my own children, I am not representing the heart of my heavenly Father but rather the bah humbug of my self-protective, self-reliant, short sighted and self-righteous inclinations.  I tend to only believe in what I can see or believe based upon what I see.  I don’t dream with my children if I don’t see how their hopes could possibly come true.  What if I began to ask God to take them places I can never get them? God is generous with His love and therefore in His provision.  His generous provision sometimes looks like a talking parrot toy and spy gear, trampolines and iPod Touches and sometimes more like a warm cup of coffee and real conversation, a hug that keeps you from totally falling down, a light in my eyes that is not coming from my circumstances or immediate future.  His goodness invites me to walk away from the accountant’s desk and take out the tight bun in my stoic hairdo and relax my fists.  His grace invites me to be honest about my dreams even as I lay them in His hands to take and do with them what He will.  His love, grace and goodness remind me to fix my eyes on an eternal reality which should color my present days rather than the reverse of this which is limiting His kingdom by my present sight.  Even better than Justin’s story, the person and work of Jesus remind me also to never say never.

But be glad and rejoice forever in what I will create, for I will create Jerusalem to be a delight and its people a joy.  I will rejoice over Jerusalem and take delight in my people; the sound of weeping and of crying will be heard in it no more. “Never again will there be in it an infant who lives but a few days, or an old man who does not live out his years; the one who dies at a hundred will be thought a mere child; the one who fails to reach a hundred will be considered accursed.  They will build houses and dwell in them; they will plant vineyards and eat their fruit.  No longer will they build houses and others live in them, or plant and others eat. For as the days of a tree, so will be the days of my people; my chosen ones will long enjoy the work of their hands.  They will not labor in vain, nor will they bear children doomed to misfortune; for they will be a people blessed by the LORD, they and their descendants with them.  Before they call I will answer; while they are still speaking I will hear.  The wolf and the lamb will feed together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox, and dust will be the serpent’s food.  They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain,” says the LORD.  Is. 65:18-25

A Place for My Hope

Its funny and a little typical that just after writing what I did on Saturday morning, I had this wonderful night of Christmas parties reconnecting with dearly loved old friends proving once again that God’s world is not as black and white nor is it as either/or as I often want it to be.  He doesn’t need for groups or types or individuals to be as clearly defined or distinguished as would make it easier on me.  In His economy, there aren’t “two different worlds”, just one over which He is King.  Martha Jane’s hair is just hair, a different color and texture than mine, but still just hair that grows out the top just like mine.  Its nothing to freak out over or in need of a “plan” as so many people wonder if I have.  I don’t.  People, at their core, are all the same fundamentally even if wonderfully varied in expression and participation in the community of God’s Kingdom.

Why, my soul, are you downcast?  Why so disturbed within me?  Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.  Psalm 42:5

I’ve felt a sadness since returning from Uganda, a sadness that has probably been around longer than Uganda but is closer to the surface, at least, now.  According to the order of this psalm, it would seem there is a connection between my downcast heart and its affections, its hopes.  My hope has been misplaced because it has not been directed toward my Savior and my God.

What does this even mean?  Just like my lack of plan for Martha Jane’s hair, I have no plan for setting my hope accurately and effectively in God.   Both to my frustration and honest relief, God has not given a detailed formula for this total change and transfer of affection, but I did discover some interesting synonyms for “hope”: acheivement, ambition, anticipation, aspiration, assumption, belief, concern, confidence, daydream, dependence, desire, endurance, expectation, fortune, gain, promise, reliance, reward, security, wish.  “A dream is a wish your heart makes when you’re fast asleep” is a verse from the song that Cinderella sings, I think.  What I daydream about tells me a great deal about what I am really wishing for or desiring which tells me where I think the reward or treasure might be buried.  It is this reward or treasure hunt that becomes my ambition, for which I anticipate even if the exact picture of what I anticipate is a bit fuzzy.  The bottom line is that my hope is a reliance on something that is promising fortune and the problem is that my daydreams are rarely God.

I think I am looking for my treasure in some sort of defined sense of place and not just place in itself but settled sense of my own place in that place.  Really, my place in group, but group maybe being a set of concentric circles rather than just one isolated group.  At least three of those concentric circles would be: God’s Kingdom, my participation with one set of socioeconomically defined friends and my relationship to another socioeconomically defined group.  Clearly God’s Kingdom would be around the other to circles.  My heart is dreaming of a title or position or very clarified role which would explain how they all evidently work together and how my past is not separate my present and how they both come triumphantly together in my future.  Why does this even matter?  How has this become such an insidious obsession, central to my heart’s joy and descriptive of its downcast state?  I suppose, simply stated, that is the nature of all God replacements.

Watch out for those dogs, those evildoers, those mutilators of the flesh.  For it is we who are the circumcision, we who serve God by his Spirit, who boast in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the flesh—though I myself have reasons for such confidence.  If someone else thinks they have reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee;  as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for righteousness based on the law, faultless.  But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ.  What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. Phil. 3:2-9

I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.  I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength. Phil. 4:11-13

The deception sneaks in ever so cleverly, like the witch dressed merely as an apple peddler to trick Sleeping Beauty, or the snake in the Garden promising truly good things by toxic means.  Yet, it is the very same reality every single time: “everything will be right when…” and “my righteousness will come by…” and neither sentence ends with or is satisfied by the person and work of Jesus alone.  Of course I am rarely consciously thinking this way, but my downcast heart exposes itself nonetheless.  I am wiggly and squirmy and sad and uncertain about my role, my purpose, my value and worth and am thinking that those questions will be answered with a title found in concentric circles.

“Shout and be glad, Daughter Zion. For I am coming, and I will live among you,” declares the LORD.  “Many nations will be joined with the LORD in that day and will become my people. I will live among you and you will know that the LORD Almighty has sent me to you.”  Zech. 2:10-11

He is the center of all the circles.  The person and work of Jesus is the only titled One who bridges what looks to us as different worlds or distinct circles but to Him is all His Father’s world.  He makes those who are not His people, His people…and that is all there is.  He walks freely among His people, without consideration for background, education, skin color, accent, vocabulary, culture or tradition.  His devotion is to His Father, the fullness of His identity rests in the fullness of His Father not in the eyes or understanding of those He came to serve.  Because He is fully defined by His Father, His love for others can be generous and unrestrained.  As I identify more with Him than any group or community or cause opinion polling, I will find my hope resting in the righteousness of God, by faith, and that will be Good News.  He came to satisfy my hope as nothing else ever possibly can, and that is very Good News.

In him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in his holy name.  May your unfailing love be with us, LORD, even as we put our hope in you.  Psalm 33:21-22

From Nest to Flight

From my front porch, this morning, I got to visit with a new friend who hopes to move into our neighborhood soon.  He is coming from my same former “neighborhood”, in a manner of speaking…same schools, same places, same mapped out prescription for success and dignity.  At least initially, I have found someone walking in my shoes as closely as I have yet to find and it made me realize just how intensely I have been longing for that kind of understanding.

My world has changed so dramatically in the last two years, even though that change has been coming, in many ways, for a lifetime.  But in the past two years I have sort of “broken up” with the culture of my upbringing.  Its an amicable divorce, if we want to put it in those terms, but realistically, he’ll keep most of our friends and I’ll be developing an entirely new community.  This break up was inevitable, really, because we were both headed in such different directions.  Nonetheless, it is disorienting and a bit like a baby bird being tossed out of a nest to go survive in a totally unknown and unfamiliar new world.  It is scary.  It is lonely.  And other than the wind blowing, there is no clear map as to where we’re headed.  He got that in the divorce too.  I suppose this is what makes encountering another baby bird from the same nest feel so deeply comforting and encouraging.

You have searched me, LORD, and you know me.  You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar.  You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways.  Before a word is on my tongue you, LORD, know it completely.  You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me.  Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain.  Psalm 139:1-6

As strange and different as this uncharted world seems to me, God has it charted.  Not only does He have it designed, but He totally knows where I’ve been, what I’ve left and what those little deaths feel like.  Better than my potential new neighbor from the same nest, He hems me in behind and before.  I so want a friend, outside of my family, who understands the great loss and many losses I have felt in walking away from the reliable map which had always shown me where to go and ensured safe travel.  The person and work of Jesus has actually already offered Himself as that very knowing friend. He is beginning to remind me that out of these many deaths, He is providing just as many resurrections…or certainly will in time.  But I guess what is also true is that crucifixion is painful.

 I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.  Gal. 2:20

I first memorized this verse at a Young Life camp in high school.  I loved it.  It sounded so honorable and courageous.  It sounded adventurous and bold.  It sounded confident and strong.  It sounded holy and faithful.  I don’t think I really knew what “crucified” actually meant.  I don’t think I considered the ripping of tendons or the searing pain of a hammer driving a train track sized nail through bone.  I don’t think hundreds of splinters in bare and already burning flesh occurred to me.  I don’t think the struggle to breathe freely nor the raw feeling in a throat gasping for breath even entered my mind.  I don’t think the shame of physical nakedness or visible pain and vulnerability, the cruelty and loneliness of total abandonment and even mockery, or the despair which settles in as defeat is certain were even taken into consideration as I proclaimed that verse proudly.

I have been and am being crucified with Christ, and my crucifixion will never be as fully dark and painful as His was.  But death, no matter the size, is by nature life-sucking and grievous.  It is the “with Christ” that makes all the difference.  With Christ I suffer loss, but the loss of life is the passage to a “with Christ” new, abundant and permanently unbreakable life eternal.  The new creation exposes the first creation as merely a one dimensional magazine advertisement for the real thing.  I am invited to share in the pain of crucifixion so that I can share in the oxygen rich air of new life.

He knows the nest from which He has plucked me and identifies better than anyone with the losses I am feeling.  And then He invites me to begin identifying with Him in HIS resurrection LIFE.

but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength.  They will soar on wings like eagles;  Is. 40:31a

Settle Down and Settle In

On Monday morning, Martha Jane had another 1 year old friend over to play.  They were cute as can be together, except when I would hold one making the other cry or attend to the other, making the first one cry.  If I got too far away from them, there would be tears of panic.  So, finally, I discovered that I had them on the sofa with me and I stayed as still and calm as possible, smiles emerged.  I even sang some of my best preschool song solos, with hand motions, to keep them from remembering they might be sad.  I sat there, not cleaning the kitchen or checking on the older kids, and it was actually a really cool confinement.  In that moment, I realized nothing was falling apart for not being obsessively tended to and there was nothing I was delaying that couldn’t just as easily be done later.  But I also saw how very unnatural this kind of still and present-ness was for me.  I had to be forced to stay in one place and was amazed at how grateful I was for that.

It is not until the end of a week at the beach that we finally adjust to the rhythm of rest and are just beginning to really settle in and suddenly, it is time to go.  We always feel like a second week would really be what we need.  Similarly, when a new leader comes in or when an old leader institutes new ideas, it seems that it takes at least a second year before evaluation should be done. Perhaps another example was gleaned from hearing Francis Ford Coppola in person as he described his writing process.  He said he would never, ever proof read or even re-read his writing until he’d gotten at least 100 pages down in ink.  Otherwise, he said, he’d just keep re-writing the first five pages over and over.  Jumping from attempt to attempt, new application to newer application, new idea to newer idea, new routine to newer routine rarely works.  Like Francis Ford Coppola, I am tempted to obsessively attempt to perfect the same few pages, never making any real progress, when I refuse to slow down and settle in to the flow of the first thing.

I think somewhere deep down, I believe my salvation (not just the “getting into heaven” concept, but the true sense of rescue from strife and striving) is at the other end of my to do list, my achievement catalog or my community ties.  I frantically run from thing to thing because I feel, deep down, that I’m in a cosmic grocery store game show where I have a limited amount of time to fill my cart with as much as I can.  I continue to believe that satisfaction will come when my cart is full.  I continue to believe that peace is just within my reach, once I get all these loose ends tied up.  Proof of this is the fact that I feel anxious and irritable when each room of my house daily looks like I’ve never cleaned it, when I can’t list the tangible accomplishments of my children’s academics, when I can’t reliably return e-mails or phone calls or keep our budget straight, when I can’t provide a map of our family’s ten, five or even one year plan and so on.  The irritibility and stress indicate that I have an assumption that if each of these things were accomplished, then I would feel “good” or peaceful or restful or…justified.  Like the wealthy man who went away sad when Jesus challenged his heart’s allegiance, I too ultimately trust more in my accomplishments than His.  I am still more dependent upon my works to validate or commend me to others rather than the person and work of Jesus alone.

It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption.  1 Cor. 1:30

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. John 14:27

I am still looking for peace through my own righteousness, holiness and self-redeeming acts.  Because my image is so important to me, I cannot rest in His alone. Like a Christmas card I received this week where the family was not only dressed perfectly and in country club uniform, so to speak, but they were even all sitting perfectly in a perfect setting without wrinkle or even the baby smirking…I too want to be a perfect package.  I want to be admired and removed from any category of inferiority.  So when the reality of my days opposes this Christmas card-like packaging of  my home, my reliability, my parenting or teaching, my neighboring, my friending and even my desire not to leave the house with bags under my eyes and severe signs of aging in my only 37 year old face…I am left to frantically grab for fig leaves to cover it up, yell blaming accusations for these inadequacies, deny my shortcomings or dive for cover in the calming, slowing, strong, accomplished, completing, powerful, secure, peace infusing arms and lap of Jesus.

What if rather than quitting what seems like a miserably failing attempt at homeschooling, I settle in, give it 100 pages or another week, and quit evaluating it by the eyes of others?  What if rather than letting the unfinished tasks around my house determine my peace, I became able to enjoy the person in front of me until that visit was satisfactorily complete, like Mary chose wisely with Jesus?  What if in contrast to my impatient, hurried self I learn to play guitar because I start to believe the music at the other end is well worth the very long time it will take me to come close to any kind of musical accomplishment there?  What if my confidence in His love for and His pleasure with me because of all that He has completed and credited to me begins to override the condemning voices pointing out all that I haven’t done?  What if His voice begins to become louder and truer in my heart than all others, particularly my own merciless one?  How might I love others so much more lavishly from this position than one of hurried performance and perfectionist presentation?

Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”  When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth.  Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly I tell you, it is hard for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven.  Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”  When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished and asked, “Who then can be saved?”  Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”  Matt. 19:21-26


True Love and Kindness

While two days ago I had what I’d call a banner day, where each part of my day was satisfying and complete, yesterday was not so much.  At lunch, there was a moment where I had all three children (8,6 and 1) crying, loudly.  Way to go Mom.  Martha Jane wasn’t allowed to throw her food on the floor, Chad had to finish his school work (all one page of it) and Ellie, well, I can’t remember why she was crying but I think she got caught in the crossfires.  Those are the moments, even when I know my enforcement of expectations is reasonable, when I can’t help but feel like I’ve done something wrong because “right” doesn’t look like everyone crying in misery, does it?

Then last night, Ellie was on about her third melt down of the early evening, each time less and less reasonable to me and each time related to not getting as much of something as she felt she deserved.  I had just proudly handed her a cup of blackberries with whipped cream piled as high as I’ve ever offered my children, handing Chad a similar one, and she burst into tears because Chad’s had more in her estimation.  That was it.  No dessert for her.  This of course was the death blow to her evening and once we were able to sit and talk about it, her complaint was piercing.  Chad disobeyed just an hour earlier and ended up getting what I had first said he couldn’t and the same thing happened with him on this other day in relation to this other thing.  In other words, I was not treating them equally and in so doing, communicating unequal kindness and love to them.

Jesus said to her, “Mary.”  She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means “Teacher”).   Jesus said, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” John 20:16-17Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.” Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!” John 20:27-28

Here were two different people who were both equally loved by Jesus but treated differently.  Thomas was encouraged to touch, feel and grab hold of Jesus.  Mary was told not to do so.  It wasn’t because one was female and the other male.  Thomas’ faith needed to grab hold while Jesus knew that Mary’s faith needed to let Him go.  Their heart issues were different, their relationships with Jesus were different and their needs were different.  As Ellie and I talked about this, we named individuals we knew who had jobs and were out of jobs, who were battling cancer and surviving cancer, who were living in large homes and surviving in orphanages.  Does God loves these separate people unequally?  Of course not.  But does He do different things with those He loves dearly?  Undeniably.  Is this favoritism?  If so, He is violating His own command that His children not show favoritism.

What I’ve been struck with is that somewhere along the way “fair” took on a higher value than loving personally and uniquely.  If I parent Chad, Ellie and Martha Jane exactly the same or in a way they would call “fair”, I would be missing at least one of their hearts completely and probably all of their hearts at least partially.  The older brother and prodigal son were tempted by very different things, were attracted to very different idols and were motivated by different things.  The older brother resented the celebration of the younger brother because he assumed he was more deserving, was entitled and had not been given what he had rightfully earned.  His self-righteousness and self-centeredness and total lack of self awareness of the ongoing generosity of his father toward him were no less problematic than his younger brother’s rebellion.  His younger brother just had the new advantage of realizing his father’s mercy and lavish love while the older brother was still blind to it.  They needed to be addressed differently as their self-reliance manifested itself in different ways.  The dangers they were each drawn to were different and required different approaches.  A burn injury and a deep splinter will be treated differently, but both need healing.  Kindness and love are not always expressed in equal fashion even if they themselves are equal.  Fair and kind are not synonyms and what terrible medical practice it would be if all were treated exactly the same for the sake of fairness.

But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day.  The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.  2 Peter 3:8-9

God is not panicked over different story lines for each of His children because He knows that He is working all things for their good and for His glory.  He knew that Joseph’s story line would result in both (good and glory) even when Joseph himself, sitting falsely accused in prison after being unjustly sold as a slave by his brothers, may not have been so certain.  The Israelites did not always feel remembered or blessed as they wandered without a home for centuries or were captives in foreign lands, but their storyline ends with an ultimate Son of God through whom all are brought home for good.  Paul gave his life in obedience to Jesus’ redemptive work, which resulted in imprisonment, ship wrecks and eventually death.  Everyone crying at once feels terrible, but does not mean God has taken a wrong step or done something wrong.  The excruciating death of Jesus on the cross was the means of abundant life in a more permanent way than the ark provided salvation through the flood’s judgment.  God’s love is consistent with boats in terrifying, stormy waters.  God’s love is not diminished by the lack of understanding of His children.  God’s love is committed to the health, restoration and abundant life of His children – a far better goal than fairness or simply being perceived as the nice guy all the time.

God’s love is so intimately personal rather than institutionally uniform.  He is more committed to bringing abundant life than to His reputation of one who is “fair”.  May this kind of unwavering love for me by my Father begin to transform my parenting int that of one with greater love for my children’s abundant life than concern for my reputation before them at all moments of the day.  That would be true love and kindness.