Tag Archives: Parenting

Seasons of Life

Seasons of Life (CaD 2 Ki 13) Wayfarer

Now Elisha had been suffering from the illness from which he died. Jehoash king of Israel went down to see him and wept over him.
2 Kings 13:14 (NIV)

As I have progressed in my life journey, the more aware I have become of the flow of seasons of life. From our current waypoint on the road of life, Wendy and I find ourselves in a season in which we are walking with parents and a grandparent as they walk ahead of us on life’s homestretch. We also have children on the road behind us in the busy years of establishing careers, parenting little children, and hanging on as life traverses the roller coaster peaks and valleys of adulthood.

When I was parenting our daughters, I endeavored to engage and enjoy every stage of their development. This meant embracing the ups and downs of diapers and Disney princesses, boy bands and body changes, hair days and horomones. Of course, I found some stages personally more enjoyable than others. Yet by choosing to embrace each stage of development, I learned to both love the journey in every season as well as appreciate more fully the women they’ve become.

Along the way, I’ve found that my spiritual journey also has its seasons. There have been seasons of tremendous spiritual growth when God seemed to be doing amazing things in my life all the time. There have been seasons that have felt like a trek through Death Valley when everything felt dry and I was desperate for an oasis. There have been seasons of planting, seasons of storms, seasons of wandering, seasons of change, and seasons of abundance.

Today’s chapter tells of the reigns of Kings Jehoahaz and Joash of the northern tribes of Israel. In the middle of the chapter, it mentions the prophet Elisha for the first time since back in the ninth chapter. Given the dates and the lengths of the reign of Israel’s kings, Elisha has not been part of the story for some 43 years.

I meditated on this in the quiet this morning. Through the days of Ahab and Jezebel, the prophets Elijah and Elisha were central figures in the story. They called down fire from heaven, raised the dead, performed breathtaking miracles, and were central players in the highest level of politics.

Then, with the end of Ahab and Jezebel’s dynasty, Elisha exits stage right and is not heard from again for over four decades when he is called back on stage for his death scene.

I have observed both in myself and in others, the expectation that life has some sort of predictable trajectory. There certainly are general stages of this life that most people experience with some broad commonalities. Within that, however, I’ve found there to be tremendous ebb and flow.

We forget that Jesus spent only three years in ministry. He spent thirty years in obscurity growing, learning, and then plying his father’s carpentry trade.

Moses spent 40 years as a shepherd before God called him to lead the Hebrews out of slavery.

Elisha and Elijah were raised up to be God’s mouthpiece during the reigns of Ahab, Jezebel, and their descendants. It was a period of some 36 years. Then Elisha disappears from the scene. Was God done with him? Certainly not. He simply entered a different season of life.

I’ve come to understand that part of the spiritual journey is embracing every season of that journey, just as I tried to embrace each season of our daughters’ development. There have been seasons of excitement and seasons of grind. There are seasons of mountaintop vistas and seasons of slogging through the desert. There have been seasons in the spotlight and seasons in the wings.

Two things I have done no matter the season in which I find myself:

First, I stick with my daily relational touchpoints with God and others. I spend time in the quiet. I read the Great Story. I have conversations with God. I stay connected with an inner circle of others with whom I share the journey.

Second, I constantly remind myself what the sage of Ecclesiastes wrote: “There is a season for every purpose under heaven.” If I can trust the Story and God’s purposes for me in it, then I can press on through each and every season knowing that it’s somehow preparing me for the next season.

If you know anyone who might be encouraged by today’s post, please share.

Today’s featured image was created with Wonder AI.

Influence

Influence (CaD 1 Ki 15) Wayfarer

[Abijah] committed all the sins his father had done before him.
1 Kings 15:3 (NIV)

Wendy and I have the joy of having our children and grandchildren stay with us for a few weeks. Because they currently live on the other side of the ocean, it’s always special to have this time together. The house is a mess, there’s lots of noise, and there’s a lot of activity. I love it.

Our grandson, Milo, turned five this past Sunday. It’s fascinating to watch his young personality emerge and develop. He feels big feels, and he expresses those emotions on a grand scale. He expresses things I would never expect from someone his age. I know many adults who are not as in tune with their feelings, nor can they express them the way five-year-old Milo does. I love watching him grow up and watching his parents deftly navigate the turbulent emotional waters. Their calm and peaceful influence is impressive to observe.

With today’s chapter, the author of Kings enters the back-and-forth reigns of the various kings of the Northern Kingdom of Israel and the Southern Kingdom of Judah. The author uses a repeated pattern. First, he identifies when the King ascended the throne in relation to who was on the throne in the other kingdom. Second, he establishes whether the King did good or evil in the eyes of the Lord based on his loyalty to God or pursuit of pagan religion and worship. There may be a mention of an important event during his reign (e.g. war or battle), or even a random trivial fact (e.g. King Asa’s feet were diseased in old age).

When I read this morning that Abijah, son of Jereboam, “committed all the sins his father had done before him,” I couldn’t help but conclude that he was “a chip off the old block.” Parents influence children. Children often do exactly what their parents model. Abijah did what his father did.

My thoughts in the quiet this morning are actually pretty simple. At this point on life’s road, parenting is more of an advisory position. That doesn’t mean, however, that I don’t have influence. Yesterday morning, Milo quietly opened the door to my office as I was reading and preparing to write my post. I beckoned for him to come and sit on my lap. Curious, he began asking me about the book I was reading and what I was doing in my office. I told him about my time in the quiet each morning reading, writing, and having conversations with God. He didn’t seem particularly interested in the details, which was fine. He was keenly interested to be on grandpa’s lap and get my assurance that I would be chasing him later in the day in a game we call “running around in a circle.” I assured him we would, and we did – multiple times.

Along my life journey, I’ve come to the realization that the influence I have on my children (and grandchildren) is in the person they see me being every day, over time along with the person I am with them in the relationship. They will have to make their own life choices. I will, however, give them a template to follow (or not follow) with my habits, my behaviors, my words, and my interactions with them.

If you know anyone who might be encouraged by today’s post, please share.

Blind Spots

Blind Spots (CaD 2 Sam 13) Wayfarer

When King David heard of all these things, he became very angry, but he would not punish his son Amnon, because he loved him, for he was his firstborn.
2 Samuel 13:21 (NSRV)

I have been doing leadership development with the management team of one department of a client this week. It’s been both fascinating and a lot of fun as I spent time with each team member, learned their Enneagram Type, shadowed them as they went about their job, and observed them coaching their team members. Today, I get to sit with the team and review my observation and recommendations. They are great people and have a lot of potential but they also have a lot of challenges both individually and collectively.

David was a great warrior, a great general, and a great leader of men. Evidence leads me to believe that he was not, however, a great husband or father. As we’ve read David’s story he has slowly been amassing wives like the spoils of war and the result was many children. But, an army of children does not an army make. A family system and the complex relationships between birth order and gender can be difficult enough for a monogamous, nuclear family. I can’t imagine the exponential complexities that emerge when you have eight wives, ten concubines, and children with almost all of them.

As I read through these chapters I’ve noticed that I never read of David telling his children “no” nor do I read of him disciplining them for their behavior. David appears to have even had a reputation among his offspring for not refusing their requests. David’s daughter, Tamar, tells her half-brother Amnon that if he simply asks Dad she’s sure he’ll let them get married. When Amnon rapes Tamar instead and then turns her away we hear of David’s anger, but he doesn’t do anything about disciplining his beloved firstborn son. When Tamar’s full brother Absalom plots to kill their half-brother Amnon in revenge, Absalom goes to David and presses good ol’ dad until David relents and sends all the brothers on Absalom’s little fratricidal sheep-shearing retreat.

David has a blind spot. He can lead an army to endless victories but his record as leader of a family is a tragic string of failures and defeats.

I cannot point at David without three fingers pointing back at me. We all have our blind spots. The managers I’ve been mentoring this week have been learning that their Enneagram Type reveals their tremendous strengths, but also their core fears and weaknesses. If they are going to succeed as a team, they will have to embrace both within themselves and their team members. Our greatest strengths have their corollary weaknesses. We cannot escape this reality, but we can escape being enslaved to it. What we can do is be honest about our blind spots. We can choose to shine a light on them and invest time and attention in addressing them. We can surround ourselves with others who will graciously help us see them, work through them, and who will patiently love us as we do.

 A Note to Readers
I’m taking a blogging sabbatical and will be re-publishing my chapter-a-day thoughts on David’s continued story in 2 Samuel while I’m take a little time off in order to focus on a few other priorities. Thanks for reading.
Today’s post was originally published in May 2014
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The featured image on today’s post was created with Wonder A.I.

If you know anyone who might be encouraged by today’s post, please share.

Michal in Perspective

Michal in Perspective (CaD 2 Sam 6) Wayfarer

When David returned home to bless his household, Michal daughter of Saul came out to meet him and said, “How the king of Israel has distinguished himself today, going around half-naked in full view of the slave girls of his servants as any vulgar fellow would!” 2 Samuel 6:20 (NIV)

Writing plays has been a great learning experience for me. One of the creative challenges that I’ve had to embrace is that every character in the play has a unique “voice” that comes from a back story the audience will never know or see. If I’m going to write a character well, then I have to understand that character’s story, person, and perspective. I’ve come to believe that I must truly love each character, even the unlovable ones if I am going to give them their true and authentic voice and words.

I’ve always said that God’s Message changes every time I read it not because it has changed but because I and my circumstances have changed since the last time I read it. As I read today’s chapter I suddenly realized that I was reading it through the eyes of a playwright. I’ve always read this chapter and focused on David’s “undignified” worship, but today I found myself focused on Michal’s rebuke of her husband. I’ve always read Michal’s words and thought, “Sheesh, what a wench!” This time through, however, my playwright’s brain began asking what was really going on between Michal and David. There’s a larger back story there that I have to consider. Michal and David seem to have been those people who had the seeds of affection doomed never to take root:

  • Michal had a young girl’s crush on the young stud warrior David.
  • Michal’s father sought to wed her to David, not because he wanted what was best for his daughter but because he saw she could be used as his pawn in a desire to follow the Michael Corleone playbook of “keep your friends close and your enemies closer.” Michal obviously was not well-loved by her father. He saw his daughter as a “snare” for his enemies.
  • Despite any teenage affections between them, David initially rebuffs being betrothed to her on the grounds he wasn’t worthy to marry the king’s daughter. I wonder how that made her feel?
  • Saul gives David a “price” of earning his betrothal to Michal by bringing him 100 Philistine foreskins (Gross, I know. It was a brutal time in history). Saul figured David would be killed in the attempt, but instead, David brings back two hundred Philistine foreskins to claim Michal. Pissed off and humiliated, Saul tries to assassinate David, but his newly betrothed wife Michal helps him escape out a window.
  • David flees the area for many years abandoning Michal in the home of her mentally ill father. Saul marries Michal off to another man.
  • Many years later David shows up as the conquering hero. In a relational and political power play, David demands Michal be returned to him. Michal is then ripped away from the man she had been married to and made a home with. She is forcibly taken to David. Her husband follows in tears begging that he not be separated from her. I wonder whom Michal truly loved? Was it her husband who was begging in tears not to lose her or the man who rejected and abandoned her and was now demanding her like she was a piece of impersonal property and a spoil of war?
  • We are told that Michal had no children until the day of her death. I am ashamed to confess that in my ignorance I have always seen this fact as some sort of divine punishment for Michal. I can’t see it that way now. I hurt for Michal and the difficult circumstances in which she was placed by her culture, her mentally ill father, and her betrothed young husband who treated her with indifference and contempt. As I begin to see what a messed-up family system David creates as a tragically flawed husband and father, I begin to contemplate if Michal’s barrenness may have ultimately been for the best.

Michal’s rebuke of David’s actions may have seemed inappropriate on the surface of things, but in the quiet this morning I see how they may have been motivated by feelings of abandonment, rejection, anger, and bitterness. Given the circumstance and the backstory, I see why there was so much conflict between the two of them. Their story is a tragedy. I wish David would have been man enough and loving enough to allow Michal to live out her life in peace with the only man in her life who ever really seemed to love her.

A Note to Readers
I’m taking a blogging sabbatical and will be re-publishing my chapter-a-day thoughts on David’s continued story in 2 Samuel while I’m take a little time off in order to focus on a few other priorities. Thanks for reading.
Today’s post was originally published in May 2014.

If you know anyone who might be encouraged by today’s post, please share.

Path and Purpose

Path and Purpose (CaD 1 Sam 20) Wayfarer

So Jonathan made a covenant with the house of David, saying, “May the Lord call David’s enemies to account.”

“As long as the son of Jesse lives on this earth, neither you nor your kingdom will be established. Now send someone to bring him to me, for he must die!”
1 Samuel 20:16, 31 (NIV)

Along my life journey, I’ve been aware of the paths on which I was led. God’s hand has guided my steps. In a few cases, the direction and guidance were as unmistakable as an exit sign on the interstate. In most cases, I was simply moving forward step-by-step, and it’s only in looking back that I realize that I was being led the entire time.

A strong sense of purpose is one of the tell-tale motivations of an Enneagram Type Four, so I get that I may sense it more deeply and recognize it more clearly than those who are motivated in other ways. I believe deeply that every life has purpose which may also be the reason I observe and consider the paths I see others taking.

I have always observed with fascination when children’s paths and purpose are placed upon them by parents and family. I have observed some individuals whose life was tyrannized by parents who demanded their children walk the path prescribed for them. It appears to be more common when family legacies, businesses, and kingdoms are involved and at stake. How fascinating it’s been to watch England’s Prince Harry try to separate from the royal family while living off the privilege of the very life he says he wants nothing to do with.

But those are the big examples. They come in quiet, everyday examples as well. I know at least one individual who was specifically raised to take over the family business, a fate for which he had no desire and for which he was never really suited. He eventually attempted to commit suicide.

What I found fascinating in today’s chapter was the motivations of father and son, Saul and Jonathan, which bring the story to a climactic event. King Saul is trying to have David killed, and he tells Jonathan that he’s doing it to preserve the throne and kingdom for Jonathan himself. And, I tend to believe that it’s more about Saul’s self-centered pride than it is about an altruistic desire for his son’s future. Jonathan, meanwhile, knows that his father is a poor leader, knows that David is God’s anointed, and appears to approach the situation with a desire for God’s purposes to prevail. Jonathan makes a covenant with “the house of David,” meaning that he is choosing loyalty to David and his descendants. He is abdicating any “right” to ascend his father’s throne.

This has me thinking back to my own path in life, and to my own choices as a parent. I’m blessed that my parents allowed me to choose my own way and placed little, or no, expectations on me (Thanks, Dad and Mom! I’m grateful.). Likewise, my heart’s desire for both Taylor and Madison was that they follow the path God had for each of them. I’ve always tried to provide guidance and wisdom, but I always believed that my role as a parent was to steward them to become the person God intended for them to be, not tyrannically demanding they become the person I envisioned or desired for them to be. I’ve discovered that entrusting my children to God doesn’t end with choosing a college or a major. It’s a life-long process.

In the quiet this morning, I am so respectful of the choice Jonathan made. Breaking with family, especially a son choosing against his own father, can be incredibly difficult. With the covenant he makes in today’s chapter, Jonathan seals his father’s fate, as well as his own, and his descendants. In so doing, he opens the path to God’s stated purposes and the eventual ascendence of David.

But the story isn’t finished. As I’ve experienced in my own life, sometimes God’s purposes take years to germinate, take root, and grow before the fruit appears. Saul is still on the throne. David is now headed into the wilderness, living life on the lam. God’s path almost always leads through the wilderness. I’m looking forward to following David and reminding myself why.

If you know anyone who might be encouraged by today’s post, please share.

The Valley and the Mountain

The Valley and the Mountain (CaD 1 Sam 1) Wayfarer

There is beauty and power in today's chapter that is easy to miss if you've never trekked through the Valley of Infertility. A chapter-a-day podcast from 1 Samuel 1. The text version may be found and shared at tomvanderwell.com. — Send in a voice message: https://anchor.fm/wayfarer-tom-vander-well/message Support this podcast: https://anchor.fm/wayfarer-tom-vander-well/support

Whenever the day came for Elkanah to sacrifice, he would give portions of the meat to his wife Peninnah and to all her sons and daughters. But to Hannah he gave a double portion because he loved her, and the Lord had closed her womb. Because the Lord had closed Hannah’s womb, her rival kept provoking her in order to irritate her. This went on year after year.
1 Samuel 1:4-7a (NIV)

When I was a young man, the opening chapters of 1 Samuel were all about the special circumstances surrounding the birth of Samuel. Samuel is important. Samuel is special, as was his birth. Samuel is the name of the book. Samuel was the last of the Hebrew Judges. Samuel established the Hebrew monarchy and crowned its first two kings. Samuel established the Prophetic tradition within the Hebrew monarchy. It was all about Samuel.

Then Wendy and I spent years on a journey through the Valley of Infertility.

I will never read the first chapter of 1 Samuel the same way.

There are things that couples experience on the infertility journey that are unlike anything else I’ve ever experienced in this life. I learned along the way that it is an incredibly nuanced experience based on multiple factors in that journey. It makes a difference whether a husband is truly all-in (physically, emotionally, spiritually) with his wife for the long haul. The fact that I’d been previously married and had experienced the pregnancy and birth of our daughters was a factor in the relational equation. It’s also a very different experience for those who walk through the Valley of Infertility and find the path that leads to the mountain top of pregnancy, childbirth, and parenthood compared to those whose journey languishes in the Valley of Infertility seemingly destined to never find the ever-desired pathway to that mountaintop.

The first chapter of Samuel is about a woman named Hannah who is on this journey through the Valley of Infertility and the particular nuances that were unique to her experience.

Polygamous marriages among Hebrew “commoners” was relatively rare in this period of history. One of the exceptions was when a man first marries a woman who turns out to be barren. Having children, especially sons, was so important to the perpetuation of families and culture in those days that a man who finds his wife to be barren would be encouraged to marry a second wife so as to bear him sons. It’s likely that this was Hannah’s reality. She was not only shamed that she could have no children but shamed that her husband married another woman to do what she could not.

Not only did her husband, Elkanah, marry another, but he also married a woman named Peninnah who saw Hannah as a female rival. Although Elkanah was empathetic and generous toward Hannah, he was never “all-in” with her. His loyalties would always be divided between her and Peninnah, and Peninnah had plenty of children with which to claim and maintain her favored status as the wife who gave him sons.

When Elkanah and his household go to Shiloh for the annual prescribed sacrifices it was a harvest festival celebrating God’s abundant provision of fertility via life, crops, and children. As if Hannah’s everyday experience wasn’t hell enough having “mean girl” Peninnah rubbing salt in the wound of Hannah’s infertility, attending a national festival of fertility and harvest would be like descending to an even deeper ring of hell.

At this point in today’s chapter, Hannah is an emotional and inconsolable wreck. With Peninnah and all her children standing behind Elkanah as a reminder of Hannah’s shame, Elkanah says to her “Aren’t I worth more to you than ten sons?”

Oh, you stupid, stupid man.

A husband who has walked with his wife through the Valley of Infertility knows that words must be chosen wisely when consoling your wife in her grief. In fact, it was in the Valley of Infertility that I learned to embrace the truth that sometimes there are no words. In the same way, there are no shortcuts to making the pain of infertility “all better.”

In this context, Hannah’s prayer and commitment to give her son to the Lord takes on a whole new level of meaning. After all those years in the Valley of Infertility, Hannah finds that pathway to the mountain top of pregnancy, childbirth, and motherhood. She should rightfully enjoy clinging to her boy and soak up the blessings of raising him along with the justice of being able to daily show him off to Peninnah and tell her to go take a long walk off a short pier.

But, Hannah doesn’t do that. She literally gives her son to the Lord, handing him over as a baby to be raised by the High Priest and the Levites in God’s tabernacle.

She becomes a foreshadow of what God will one day do when He “so loves the world that He gave His one-and-only Son.”

That is the beauty and power of today’s chapter.

It’s easy to miss if you’ve never trekked through the Valley of Infertility. Wendy and I never found that path to the mountain top of pregnancy and childbirth. We did, however, find a different path that led to a mountaintop called Joy. The view from there is pretty amazing.

If you know anyone who might be encouraged by today’s post, please share.

Life-Long Lessons

Life-Long Lessons (CaD Jos 7) Wayfarer

Israel has sinned; they have violated my covenant, which I commanded them to keep. They have taken some of the devoted things; they have stolen, they have lied, they have put them with their own possessions.
Joshua 7:11 (NIV)

There is a legendary family story that happened when our daughter, Madison, was only about four or five years old. On my way out of the house to run an errand, I heard our older daughter, Taylor, screaming in the backyard. I walked around the back of the house to see Madison hitting Taylor repeatedly on the head with a whiffle ball bat.

I yelled at Madison to stop and immediately scooped her up in my arms in parental frustration. I decided to put her in the car seat and give her a talking to while I ran my errand. I forcefully and sternly told her that hitting someone on the head with a baseball bat was a naughty thing that you should never do. From the car seat, Maddy softly said:

“But, daddy, how do you know?”

I told her that she could hurt someone by hitting them on the head with a baseball bat.

“But, daddy, how do you know?”

My already angry voice rose to a new decibel level, and I told her that I know because it has happened. I told her that people have died by getting hit in the head with a baseball bat!

“But, daddy, how do you know?”

Now I was really frustrated. “BECAUSE IT WAS IN THE NEWS!” I shouted at her.

Daddy?” Maddy asked.

“WHAT?!?!” I replied.

Grandma said you can’t believe everything you hear in the news.

Ironically, just as I finished typing this, our adult daughter Madison called me. That stubborn, willful little child bent on vigorously defending her act of assault and battery on her big sister grew into a lovely, well-behaved adult. But that was the point of my sometimes being a stern and disciplinary parent. A four-year-old doesn’t always understand the larger implications of their actions and, if I want them to learn some of the basic behavioral rules of life, I had to demonstrate the hard side of love.

In yesterday’s post, I mentioned that what God is doing with the Hebrew tribes is showing them a different way. Ultimately, God reveals this eternal vision through Jesus and His followers. Everything and everyone is connected in love that can’t be explained or understood in human terms. Everything that flowed from the Creator flows back to the Creator and the only word we have for it is holy, and that human term doesn’t do it justice.

I’ve come to believe that the entire Great Story is like one lifetime. From humanity’s birth in Genesis to our death and resurrection in Revelation. As I read Joshua, I have to remember that humanity is in the toddler stage of history and God is trying to explain some basic rules of Life to His children. God is saying,

“Everything in this world that you think is yours actually belongs to me. I love you and will gladly share all good things with you. but first, you have to give up any claim on it. Oh, and realize that when you act disobediently out of pride and selfishness it negatively affects everyone in the family, including me. It’s all connected.”

In today’s chapter, God deals pretty harshly with a man from the tribe of Judah who disobeyed God’s command and took plunder for himself and then hid it in his tent. That was the way all the other human tribes operated. Conquest was about plunder, power, and pillaging. “I’m teaching my children a different way. It’s something you don’t quite comprehend at this age, but someday you will grow to understand.”

In the quiet this morning, I find myself thinking about my own failures and shortcomings in terms of how they affect everything and everyone to whom I’m connected. I enjoy the vantage point of living in the adult era of human history, but I observe we’re still struggling to fully understand the way Jesus came to teach us we’re all connected, and how we treat one another is how we treat God. I’m still learning the lesson. The way I think, behave, and relate affects the whole. I’m still working on it, and I’ll continue to do so until the end, just as humanity does the same thing on a larger scale. The promise is that I will one day fully experience what God has been trying to reveal to us.

Until then, I press on one day at a time, endeavoring to follow the way Jesus shows me. One day, I’ll experience it fully.

If you know anyone who might be encouraged by today’s post, please share.

#3: Blind Spots

Note: I’m on a holiday hiatus through January 9, 2022. While I’m away, I thought it would be fun to reblog the top 15 chapter-a-day posts (according to number of views) from the past 15 years. Cheers!

Originally published May 15, 2014

When King David heard of all these things, he became very angry, but he would not punish his son Amnon, because he loved him, for he was his firstborn.
2 Samuel 13:21 (NSRV)

David was a great warrior, a great general, and a great leader of men. Evidence leads me to believe that he was not, however, a great husband or father. As we’ve read David’s story he has slowly been amassing wives like the spoils of war and the result was many children. But, an army of children do not an army make. A family system and the complex relationships between birth order and gender can be difficult enough for a monogamous, nuclear family. I can’t imagine the exponential complexities that emerge when you have eight wives, ten concubines and children with most all of them.

As I read through these chapters I’ve noticed that we never see David telling his children “no” nor do we see him discipline them for their behavior. David appears to have even had a reputation among his offspring of not refusing their requests. David’s daughter, Tamar, tells her half brother Amnon that if he simply asks Dad she’s sure he’ll let them get married. When Amnon rapes Tamar instead and then turns her away we hear of David’s anger, but he doesn’t do anything about disciplining his beloved first born son. When Tamar’s full brother Absalom plots to kill their half brother Amnon in revenge, Absalom goes to David and presses good ol’ dad until David relents and sends all the brothers on Absalom’s little fratricidal sheep-shearing retreat.

David has a blind spot. He can lead an army to endless victories but his record as leader of a family is a tragic string of failures and defeats.

I cannot point at David without three fingers pointing back at me. We all have our blind spots. Our greatest strengths have their corollary weaknesses. We cannot escape this reality, but we can escape being enslaved to it. What we can do is be honest about our blind spots. We can choose to shine a light of our time and attention to addressing them. We can surround ourselves with others who will graciously help us see them, work through them, and who will patiently love us as we do.

Today’s chapter seems perfectly timed as I’ve been made painfully aware of a blind spot in my life. If you’re reading this, and are a person who prays, please say a prayer for me as I address it.

If you know anyone who might be encouraged by today’s post, please share.

Generational Impact

Generational Impact (CaD Gen 43) Wayfarer

Then Judah said to Israel his father, “Send the boy along with me and we will go at once, so that we and you and our children may live and not die. I myself will guarantee his safety; you can hold me personally responsible for him. If I do not bring him back to you and set him here before you, I will bear the blame before you all my life.
Genesis 43:8-9 (NIV)

As I mentioned in a post last week, I consciously spent several years investigating my family history. The quest was motivated by a desire to understand the family systems from which I descended and how they may have influenced my own family system, my childhood, and the person I’ve become. One of the things that I discovered in my quest was the fact that decisions can have a far-reaching, generational impact.

My maternal great-grandfather committed suicide. The story goes that he had been diagnosed with Tuberculosis which was a death sentence at the time. The family suspected that he killed himself to spare them the agony and financial burden of his care. My grandfather was the eldest of three children and his mother sent him to be raised by her parents while she retained the younger two. My grandfather’s stories of life with his strict, disciplinarian grandparents were mostly unpleasant. It was not a fun life, but he learned the value of hard work and was taught strong values. He also had an uncle, a Methodist minister, who took him under his wing and planted seeds of faith in him. His brother and sister, on the other hand, were left under the care of a desperate woman who became a gold-digger, worked on the riverboats, went through a series of failed marriages. Her children’s lives would become equally broken and tragic.

My paternal great-grandfather came to America from the Netherlands. He owned a hardware store in Rock Valley, Iowa and his eldest two sons were partners in the business. My grandfather and his sister were younger siblings who desperately wanted to be part of the family business but were shut out. Since the family business was not an option, my grandfather decided to go to college. He went into education and was a career educator.

As I look back, I can trace the events of my grandfather’s stories to my own life. Had my grandfather not have been farmed out to his grandparents and taught strict lessons of hard work, discipline, and spiritual values, my mother would not have been the person she was and those life lessons would not have been passed down. Had my grandfather not gone into education, I’m not sure how much education would have been valued in my own family. I’m not sure my siblings and I would have had the life journeys we’ve had or would have the careers we’ve each chosen. I even discovered, unexpectedly, that my love of theatre may have had its roots in my Grandpa Vander Well’s college years at Central College.

In today’s chapter, there’s a subtle shift in the storyline that is lost on most readers, and few see the generational impact that the events will have on the history of the world. Desperate for more food to ensure their survival, Israel tells his sons to go buy more grain in Egypt. But Joseph told them not to return without their youngest brother, Benjamin. Judah steps up to take personal responsibility for Benjamin’s safety. From this point in the story, Judah becomes the leader and spokesman for the brothers. Judah is fourth-born, but his elder brothers Reuben, Simeon, and Levi had been involved in sexual scandal and had instigated the bloody massacre of Shechem that brought disgrace to the family and threatened their survival.

Hundreds of years later, the twelve tribes would be settled in the Promised Land. The tribe of Judah would emerge as the leading tribe. It was from the tribe of Judah that King David would emerge along with the capital city of Jerusalem, the temple of Solomon, and the dynasty from which the Messiah would be born. When the nation eventually splits in bloody civil war, ten tribes would break away and reject the Davidic line of succession. Two tribes would remain allied in maintaining the Davidic line in the belief that the words of the prophets would be fulfilled and a Messiah would someday spring from it. Those two tribes were Judah and Benjamin, the very brother whom Judah swore to be responsible for in today’s chapter.

In the quiet this morning, I can’t help but think about the decisions we make in our lives that will have a generational impact on our descendants. I can see the past and how it’s affected my own life. It’s harder to imagine how my own choices and decisions will affect my great-grandchildren and great-grandnephews and great-grandnieces. I am reminded why God continually reminds us to love our children, to teach them God’s ways, and not to exasperate them. And, why God tells children to honor their parents. For good or for ill, we are part of one another’s stories and the stories of generations who will come after. While I have no control over those who came before me nor do I control those who will come after me, I do have control of my own story and my own family relationships on this journey. I best consider what I do with those relationships wisely.

If you know anyone who might be encouraged by today’s post, please share.

A Different Playbook

A Different Playbook (CaD Mk 3) Wayfarer

Then the Pharisees went out and began to plot with the Herodians how they might kill Jesus.
Mark 3:6 (NIV)

As a student of history, I’ve observed that much of history is about those in power, how they came to power, how their power was threatened or taken away. It always makes for a good story, as Shakespeare well knew. The Bard mined a lot of historical leaders and events to write plays that are still being ceaselessly produced today.

One of the themes that runs through both history and our classic literature is that of holding on to power. I find it to be a very human thing. Once I have power, I don’t want to let go of it. This is not just true of politicians who rig the system to ensure they remain in control, or business leaders who cling to their corner office, but it’s also true of parenting. For almost two decades I am essentially ruler and lord with total authority over this child. Then I’m suddenly supposed to just “let go” of my power and authority and let her run her own life when she might make some crazy life decision? Yikes!

As I read today’s chapter, I couldn’t help but see the continued development of conflict that Mark is revealing in the text. Those representatives of the powerful religious institution who were indignant with Jesus’ teaching in yesterday’s chapter, are finding Jesus to be a growing threat to their power in today’s chapter.

Jesus’ popularity is rising off of the charts. His name is trending throughout the region, even in Jerusalem where the earthly powers of politics, commerce, and religion reign. Crowds are traveling to Galilee to see this rising star. And the people who are flocking to Him are the crowds, the masses, commoners, the sick, the poor, the simpletons in fly-over country, the deplorables.

The stakes have grown. The power brokers and their minions are no longer just watching, they are plotting:

“Some of them were looking for a reason to accuse Jesus…” (vs. 2)

Once again, Jesus thwarts their monopolistic, religious control by healing someone on the Sabbath. The crowds are cheering. This Nazarene upstart could turn the crowds against them. Mobs, protests, and violence in the streets could be the result, and that’s a threat to our power. Something must be done, and Mark tells us that something interesting happens:

“Then the Pharisees went out and began to plot with the Herodians how they might kill Jesus.” (vs. 6)

The Pharisees were religious power brokers who publicly condemned the Roman Empire who was in control of the region. The Herodians (followers of local King Herod) were local political power brokers who did business with Rome in order to get lucrative Roman contracts and Roman authority to wield local political control. These two groups publicly hated one another, and in the media they had nothing good to say about one another. However, history reveals time and time again that in the playbook of the Kingdoms of this World “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.”

Welcome to the smoke-filled back room. Have a seat. We’re just getting started. What are we to do with this “Jesus problem?”

Jesus, meanwhile, has other problems. The crowds are pressing in to the point of almost being out of control. The line of people wanting to be healed is endless. They’re coming from all over. Where are all these people going to stay? What are they going to eat? The locals are complaining about their quiet little towns being overrun with foreigners. The markets are sold out of everything!

And then Jesus’ own mother and brothers show up. They’re scared. Jesus is making powerful enemies. They are feeling the pressure themselves. Is it possible that an elder from the local synagogue was urged by higher-ups to pay Mary a friendly visit? I can imagine it…

“Mary, this isn’t good. Your boy has a good heart. I know he means well, but he’s going to get himself in big trouble with the Sanhedrin, with Herodians, and you don’t want the Romans to get involved. This could look really bad for your family. You’re a widow. Jesus is your oldest boy. He’s responsible to take care of you and instead he’s running around creating trouble for you and your family. We think it best that you talk to him. Be a good mother. Talk some sense into your boy.”

When his family heard about this, they went to take charge of him, for they said, “He is out of his mind.” (vs. 21)

Next comes the spin campaign, and those in power know how to spin a narrative. It doesn’t have to be true. It just has to come from a seemingly “reliable” and authoritative source. It has be sensational, it has to be easily repeatable, and it has to create fear and doubt in the minds of the public.

 And the teachers of the law who came down from Jerusalem said, “He is possessed by Beelzebul! By the prince of demons he is driving out demons.” (vs. 22)

In the quiet this morning, I find myself thinking that the more things change, the more they stay the same in the Kingdoms of this World and their playbook.

And Jesus’ response to all this? He sticks to His core message: “The Kingdom of God is here, and it’s not like the Kingdoms of this world”. He continues to heal, He feeds, He tells stories, and He escapes the crowds to be alone for periods of time. He refuses to bow to pressure from the envoys of worldly power. He even refuses to bow to pressure from his own mother.

Poor Mary. It’s hard to let go of authority of your adult child when He can make crazy life decisions that affect the whole family. I think it’s lovely that as Jesus hung on the cross one of the last things He did was to see to it that His friend John would care for His earthly mother.

The further I get on my own life journey, I find myself seeing the Kingdoms of this World with greater clarity on all levels. As that happens, I hear the Spirit calling me to understand that being an Ambassador of the Kingdom of God on earth means living in the World, but following a different playbook.