I'm Sorry?

Have the words, "I'm sorry," become so automatic that they no longer carry any weight?  From the moment we  learn to speak, our parents train us to utter those two words whenever they think we've wronged.  True to our training, many of us utter those words reflexively.  Look up the definition of apology in the dictionary and you may be surprised by the two primary definitions:

1: a formal justification : defense2: an admission of error or discourtesy accompanied by an expression of regret
While I'd like to believe that my apologies are in line with #2 (i.e. repentance), I instinctively feel the need to explain why I did what I did.  Most people who've been wronged wouldn't feel any better after receiving such an apology.  After all, you've hurt them.  Do they really want to hear why?

Why do we apologize anyways?  When we're taught to apologize as soon as we've been caught, we understand apologies to be a consequence.  When we're caught, we apologize.  If we don't apologize, the punishment will be more severe.  Hence, our goal is to avoid getting caught.  And, if we fail that, apologize so we suffer less punishment.  With that in mind, it makes sense that we launch into a defense and justification.

But inside, I think we all know that an apology should be less about justification and more about admitting error.  Apologies should be less about us and more about the person who's been harmed.  Whatever our intention, whatever our reason, our actions have caused harm.  When we aplogize, our first and foremost thought should be to make that person whole.

With our children, I no longer ask them to apologize.  Rather, I'll ask them to make it right.  That should include an apology but only as part of a larger act of making the harmed person whole.  Physical or emotional, the wound must be bandaged.  An emotional bandage requires an assurance that a lesson has been learned and the harm should not be repeated.

For many, this may seem rudimentary.  I would've thought so too.  I pray that when I harm someone, I don't do further damage with an apology that smacks of self-preservation rather than wronging a right.  For my children, I pray that I can be a godly example.

Why I Love Being a Father

"We never know the love of our parents for us until we have become parents."
-Henry Ward Beecher

While the Reverend Beecher may have been speaking of earthly parents, my love and appreciation for our Heavenly Father has grown in breadth and depth since becoming a father myself.  The analogy, I'm sure, has been made before, but I want to be careful and explicit when I make it here.  In saying that seeing my children has helped me to better understand how our Father in heaven sees us, I want to be careful that I'm not equating myself to God in any way.  However, I do believe there's something to be learned.  In understanding how a lot relates to a little, I can catch a glimpse of how infinity relates to a lot.

Taking Pride in Their Conduct
One of the great joys in parenting is receiving a compliment on our children.  To be more accurate, there's joy when our children is complimented for traits we value.  I can assure you that I'll be less than joyful to hear of our children's ingenuity in skirting rules (i.e. cheating).  The reason for this joy is completely egotistical as we interpret (whether it's intended or not) the compliment is to our ability in transferring our values to our children.

As Christians, we're God's ambassadors whether we like it or not.  Even when we feel we've been judged unfairly, our reaction to that injustice reflects on our Father in heaven.  When we are unnaturally loving and forgiving, God beams with joy (i.e. Glory!) as people have little choice but to credit Him.

Joy from Grace
Through a combination of money from chores/jobs, reward for good grades and gift money, Luke purchased his own iPod.  The satisfaction in having earned his new toy was clear on his face.  A few minutes later, that joy turned into a celebration when he realized that we'd added a couple of $.99 games.

Though we're happy to get the $99 we feel we deserve, it's that $1 we get for no good reason that puts us over the top.  The "trick" then is realizing that the less we view as "merited", the greater the opportunity for grace-induced joy.

What's Mercy without Justice?
One of the tenets in our home is that all choices have consequences.  To reinforce this lesson, we've tried to consistently apply punishment when poor/bad choices are made.  On occasion, when we've seen true regret, we've waived or shortened the punishment.  The look of gladness and relief tells us that they get it and the lesson won't be forgotten.

If you're new to church and didn't know better, you'd think there are two Gods with the way some of us talk about the God of the Old Testament versus the New.  We cannot truly appreciate God's love as demonstrated through forgiveness and forbearance unless we accept that justice will be served when the time is right

Some may wonder how I could get this far without talking the joys of seeing the world through children's eyes or celebrating all the milestones as our children mature.  How can I write about being a father without talking more about my children.  While there's certainly I treasure the opportunity to provide, protect and teach my children, I've realized that the greatest gift I can give them is a faithful walk with God.  So what I love about being a father is that they've pushed me to be more faithful, which, in turn, has helped me to become a better father.

Worshiping Like a High School Dance

Much of our worship is like a high school dance.  I look around and decide forms that are comfortable to me.  Should I raise my hands?  Should my arms be stretched taut to the sky or more subtly as if cradling a baby?  Dare I start swaying to the music or would that be too much like dancing!?  Judging for comfort often means that I don't dare stand out too much.  After all, there's a certain propriety that must be maintained, right?

We should all be blessed to witness unbridled worship.  A woman from our church is spending her summer serving in Kenya.  Through her, we catch a glimpse of the freedom in Christ manifested in song and dance.  Some may still question whether that form of worship is simply the norm in other cultures.  But if you've experienced it, you get the sense that they've tuned out the world.  Nobody is looking around to see if they're dancing to the same rhythm or if they're singing louder than their neighbors.  Their only concern is communing with God.

I share these thoughts not to be critical but out of grief.  Until we've experienced this form of worship, we haven't fully experienced the freedom that was purchased on the Cross.