Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Hugging as Spiritual Warfare

Last week our denominational state paper ran an artilce of mine by this title. Here is the article:

I am a hugger and come from a line of established huggers. My dad was open with his affection to me and the rest of my family. He was practically an official ‘hugger’ at our church, and I can remember him kidding about that often. I also remember well working with another man in the church on our “Fix-It Squad,” doing household chores for our widows and shut-ins. He was clearly a ‘man’s man’ and was open with his affection and forthright on the value of hugging.

So, with that background it is no surprise that hugging my own children is so common to me that I almost do not notice it. I really never paused to reflect on why I hugged them. When I think of it I realize that primarily I hug them so often because I enjoy it so. I love my children and rejoice to demonstrate that. To give and receive these tangible expressions is for me a natural habit and a great joy.

Over the last year or so, however, I have reflected more on the value of this expression of affection to my children. This was prompted by pastoral work with people who are emotionally damaged. While talking with a dear brother who was struggling deeply with homosexuality, I was struck by his comment that he had never heard his father tell him that he loved him. Another man in the same situation related how he never remembered receiving affection from his father and had practically no positive memories of times with his father. People in other situations, wrestling with different problems, when baring their souls have often referred to the lack of affection in their families.

These negative experiences do not, of course, excuse sinful behavior. But these testimonies have reminded me of the value and importance of the hugs I give my children. One evening, in the midst of a time when I was walking with a church member through some dark days of struggle with homosexuality, I was holding my infant son, hugging him and preparing to lay him down to sleep. In that moment as I prayed for him, I realized afresh, that by hugging him I was investing in his soul. I was preparing him to face the onslaught of the enemy in days ahead. Spiritual warfare is often used to refer to glamorous or even odd things. But, in the truest since, I was at that moment waging war for my boy’s soul by investing in one more incident which is building up a general sense of belonging and strong, pure affection from his father. He will not remember that hug, but all these hugs will shape the general context of his early memories. I was, in however a small way, helping him to have a paradigm for a Father who loves him and also corrects him. In that moment I was making my corrective discipline more effective by reinforcing that it comes from a context of love.

This thought has encouraged and challenged me. It has sent me forth in greater diligence in loving my family. So, fathers, let us take up our ‘arms’, wrap them around our children and wage war for their souls by embracing them.


Thursday, November 12, 2009

New Book on Augustine for Children

Simonetta Carr, whose book on Calvin I have commented on previously, has now completed a similar book on Augustine. It looks good I look forward to seeing it when it is relased later this month.

Hardback, 64 pages

Page size: 8 x 10 inches

Retail Price: $18.00

ISBN 978-1-60178-073-7

Here are some of the endorsements:

“A splendid way to introduce children—and adults too—to one of the most influential Christians who ever lived.”

Phillip S. Cary, Scholar in Residence at the Templeton Honors College at Eastern University, and author of several books on Augustine

“Few figures in Western history are as important as Augustine. He is one of the early church fathers to whom the Reformers rightly looked as an inspiration for their theology and piety in many respects but he is more than that. He is an old and dear friend. Simonetta Carr has produced a clear, readable introduction to the life and work of this great Christian and our old friend.”

R. Scott Clark, Professor of Church History and Historical Theology at Westminster Seminary California

“Simonetta Carr offers a sympathetic, whirlwind tour of the life, times, and beliefs of Augustine of Hippo, one of the most important and long-loved figures for Western Christianity. Maps, illustrations, timelines, and photos engage the imagination at a pace that will hold the interest of young readers.”

Brandon and Mindy Withrow, authors of the popular church history series for children, History Lives


Thursday, November 05, 2009

Horton on Home & Church

I just came across this quote posted by my friend Justin Wainscott. I thought it followed well my post on the importance of stories. We parents must orient our lives and families so as to show our children that God’s story is the central realities of our lives thus showing them the way to follow.

homes and churches are the only institutions in which our children will learn to find themselves in God's story. When they are united more by the trends of pop culture than by the faith and practice of the whole church in all times and places, our youth become victims of our sloth. We should not be surprised that over half of those reared in evangelical homes and churches today do not join or even attend a church regularly when they go off to college. If we are going to see our children grow up into Christ instead of abandoning the church, our
spiritual life at home and in the church must incorporate them into the teaching and fellowship of the apostolic faith. They can find "ministry opportunities" through United Way, the Peace Corps, or Habitat for Humanity. They can find friends at the fraternity or sorority. They can find intellectual stimulation in class. And they can find a sense of meaning and purpose in their vocations. If their home churches exchanged the ministry of preaching and teaching the apostles' doctrine for a variety of ministries and activities that they could find legitimate versions of in the world, then it is difficult to come up with a reasonable answer when they ask, "Why do I need the church?"

--Michael Horton, The Gospel-Driven Life: Being Good News People in a Bad News World

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Wednesday, November 04, 2009

The Fortifying Value of Stories

I have been quite behind in posting for a number of reasons including the fact that we have been reading the Lord of the Rings books which are taking considerably longer than many others we have read! Just last night we read the following portion from The Two Towers. I am struck by how often in great stories the authors portray their characters drawing strength and wisdom from the stories they have heard since childhood (the same thing occurs in Lewis’ Narnia stories).

Stories are important for life- not just for children but adults as well. It is important to hear and learn good stories in childhood precisely so that you can draw upon them when you are grown. It is important to realize you are a part of a story and to see parallels between your story and the great stories of old. We all crave a narrative to be a part of, a plot to participate in, knowing that it is going somewhere and means something. The Biblical story gives us that, and all the great stories of human creation are great precisely because they mirror that Biblical narrative in some way.

Bolster your soul and the souls of your children by giving them good stories.

“The brave things in the old tales and songs, Mr. Frodo: adventures, as I used to call them. I used to think that they were things the wonderful folk of the stories went out and looked for, because they wanted them, because they were exciting and life was a bit dull, a kind of a sport, as you might say. But that's not the way of it with the tales that really mattered, or the ones that stay in the mind. Folk seem to have been just landed in them, usually — their paths were laid that way, as you put it. But I expect they had lots of chances, like us, of turning back, only they didn't. And if they had, we shouldn't know, because they'd have been forgotten. We hear about those as just went on — and not all to a good end, mind you; at least not to what folk inside a story and not outside it call a good end. You know, coming home, and finding things all right, though not quite the same — like old Mr. Bilbo. But those aren't always the best tales to hear, though they may be the best tales to get landed in! I wonder what sort of a tale we've fallen into?'

‘I wonder,' said Frodo. 'But I don't know. And that's the way of a real tale. Take any one that you're fond of. You may know, or guess, what kind of a tale it is, happy-ending or sad-ending, but the people in it don't know. And you don't want them to.’

'No, sir, of course not. …Why, to think of it, we're in the same tale still! It's going on. Don't the great tales never end?'

'No, they never end as tales,' said Frodo. 'But the people in them come, and go when their part's ended. Our part will end later — or sooner.' ...

[Sam speaking] Still, I wonder if we shall ever be put into songs or tales. We’re in one, of course; but I mean: put into words, you know, told by the fireside, or read out of a great big book with red and black letters, years and years afterwards. And people will say: "Let's hear about Frodo and the Ring!" And they'll say: "Yes, that's one of my favourite stories. Frodo was very brave, wasn't he, dad?" "Yes, my boy, the famousest of the hobbits, and that's saying a lot."

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