You Are Loved by Your Father

I am one of the lucky ones. My Daddy was the sweetest and best. He loved me and my brother unconditionally and provided security, wisdom, love, fun, memories, discipline, and counsel. He always urged me to follow Jesus and obey him above all others. Daddy was unselfish and taught us how to care for others by his example. He loved his extended family, his hometown and community, his church, and his business. He was loyal to all and committed to doing the right thing and urging others to do likewise. Daddy was not perfect; he had flaws and made mistakes, but I admired his honesty and integrity. He owned up to his weaknesses, knew how to say sorry, and always turned a mistake into an opportunity to learn a lesson and do better in the future. Those may have been the best lessons. My friends all loved him and wanted to sit by him and talk about boyfriends, big decisions they were pondering, and other life issues.

While others also had wonderful dads, many did not. Some fathers were absent, un-caring, selfish, unfaithful, and lots of other bad things. Those with a bad dad did not deserve that any more than those with a good dad deserved theirs. The dad we each got was out of our control. Good dads or bad dads are not earned by their children; to some extent it is just luck-of-the-draw. If you have a wonderful dad, be careful that you don’t think you are somehow better than someone whose dad is not so stellar. And on the other hand, if your dad has disappointed you over and over, do not feel responsible for his choices or doomed by them.

The best news ever is that we all have a Father who loves us beyond our comprehension. He is ready and waiting for all to receive him and experience the love and compassion and peace he has to offer. See the story of the prodigal son which depicts God’s love for us (Luke 15:11-24). He accepts us with our weaknesses, mistakes, and failures, and offers us a life free from the penalty of sin. This Father of all created the universe and all the beauty that we see in this world. He loved us enough to send his son, Jesus, to live on earth and to die to pay the price for our sin. While our sins may vary, the reality of a sin nature in each human being is undeniable. Our Father provided a solution to our sin; it is a free gift and he longs for each of us to accept it. God makes himself known, and down in our heart of hearts we all see and experience evidence of him: it is everywhere. If you seek him, you will find him!  “Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known.” (Jeremiah 33:3)  God’s offer to humanity is made possible by his amazing grace – unconditional love provided to those who do not deserve it.

Seek and you will find

Giving up control is hard for most of us, but it is worth it. My way or God’s way? It was a no-brainer from the start and I have never had a regret. In fact, the greatest freedom comes when we get ourselves off the throne of our lives and put God in his rightful place. God our Father is trustworthy and He is able to do in and through our lives so much more than we could ever do on our own. “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11)

If you had a good and godly dad, he made choices creating his own reputation; you have to make your own decisions that will impact your life and character. A good reputation is not inherited; each individual writes his/her own story. On the other hand, if you had a disappointing dad, that resulted from his decisions. As his child you have an opportunity to do better and make your story a great one. So will you assume you are “entitled” to a great life because your dad was who he was? Or will you be defeated and assume you can never become a good man because of your dad and the choices he made?

Satan will try to mess with you and play mind games with you. He will try to keep you from becoming all that God has in mind for you. Don’t let him bring you down. Turn to the loving Father who has your back; he will never leave you or forsake you.

Remember today and everyday – You are loved by your Father.

Blessed But Broken

FAMILY VACATION 2017 took place last week at Daytona Beach Shores, our every year place. Rob is now married to Rebeccah (1-15-17), Wes and Taylor are two and a half years married and going strong, and Mary Margaret invited her boyfriend, Jonathan, to join us and he seemed to survive the Collingsworth madness very well. It was a good week with lots of new memories made and lots of time to revisit memories made over all the vacations in this same spot. I am hoping “that time I fell into the hot tub” won’t be the most remembered and laughed at event of the week! They have all left now and I get to stay a few extra days to savor (and maybe recover) from all the high action of last week.

How do I feel?

Blessed… I am overcome with gratitude. JB has arranged his schedule and priorities to make this happen every year. While he is not really a beach person, he knows that I am, and he is willing to come and to use his creative ability with fun activities, mystery dinners, parties, etc.

Mary Margaret is doing so well in her career. She has great friends and takes full advantage of living in Nashville, enjoying musical and sporting events. She travels all over the country and uses her gifts of teaching and mentoring so many. WOW, I am a proud Mama.

Rob and Rebeccah live in Ft. Worth and both have great jobs – he, as Communications Director at Criswell College in Dallas, and she, as a Pediatric Cardiac Care Nurse at Cook Children’s Hospital in Ft. Worth. They are a perfect match for each other and bring out the best in each other. My heart is full.

Wes and Taylor enjoy life in Lexington, KY. He does what he loves everyday in his work –  designing and installing audio, video, and lighting systems in churches and training people on how to use these. Taylor is the queen of hospitality and all things crafty. They have company over regularly and lead a small group. They make me laugh and smile everyday.

The temptation…

So, yes, I am blessed. The temptation, and it is real, is to take credit for the good choices and the good places our kids are right now. But, oh, how well I know that I am broken and I cannot take credit for any good in my children. And even if I did, would I also be willing to take credit for the terrible messes they have made over the years? And there have been some messes from all of us in this family….

The brokenness that I recognize and choose to admit is my sinful nature. I scare myself with some of the thoughts that go through my mind. I know for sure, those who know me best know, and God certainly knows I have natural tendencies that are totally not acceptable. These come from my heart that is sinful and full of pride and deceit. In relating to JB and our children it is tempting to push for what I want and to expect them to pursue the things I want them to pursue. And, trust me, what I want for myself and for others has often led to disasters. Too often when I have related, responded, and reacted to others based on my personal perspective, things have blown up in one way or another. The concept of “doing it my way” is not one I would recommend to anyone.

Lord, you are my only hope!

When Mary Margaret was in elementary school, we butted heads much of the time (while my Mama smiled). I recognized that stubborn, independent streak in her because it was like looking in a mirror. One day, in utter frustration, I said out loud, “Lord, You are my only hope!”  That is about the smartest thing I have ever said. God began to reveal to me one day at a time that He really is my only hope – for me and for the others in our family. I got to witness first-hand as God got ahold of Mary Margaret’s heart and He began to do in her what I could never do!  Any good in that child today totally goes to God’s credit.

The same goes for the boys. The more we entrusted them to God and pointed them to Him for counsel and direction, the more we saw Him working things out in and through them.

That’s not to say all has been smooth sailing. We have our ups and downs but God is good and He is always for our good. He gives us hope on our very worst days and He can work wonders and miracles when we choose to trust him and surrender to him. It is a daily choice.

Bad news… Good news

Bad news:  Brokenness is a given, and I can’t escape it on my own.

Good news:  Admitting my brokenness and the fact that I need help is such a relief. It is freeing and takes away much anxiety.

Bad news:  It is frustrating that I can’t fix it and no other person or things of this world can either.

Good news: The grace of God is real and is available; Jesus is the answer for my brokenness. He paid the price for my sin. For those who admit their need and accept his gift, He will provide a new heart and life direction.

Bad news: Life will be tough. Sickness, consequences, tragedies, disappointments are part of life in this broken world.

Good news: Jesus will be with his followers and give us grace, strength, courage, direction, and peace in the midst of life as it happens. So, even though life is tough we can be assured always that God is good.

Life is tough but God is good.

I have no desire to take credit for any good God is doing in our family right now. To Him be the glory and the praise for what He can do when any one takes him at his word and surrenders control to him.

Though I am broken I am grateful to God that I also am blessed.

My Heart Hurts

My heart is heavy and hurting today. A dear friend has died and it came way too soon. On Thursday evening I learned that Michelle had just gone onto hospice care. Friday morning I packed my bag and was about to pull out of the garage when her husband called to say she had died. I stayed home and have grieved and thought a lot the last few days about life and death and the choices we all make.

Michelle and I shared an apartment while in graduate school in Ft. Worth. She was pursuing a doctorate in organ and I, a masters in Christian education. Our personalities were quite different; she was the artist and I was the nuts and bolts type. We were our own version of The Odd Couple. In spite of the differences, we shared our interests, learned from each other, and made great roommates, becoming dear friends. The memories we made are funny and significant and precious.

When my grandmother died it was hard to return to Ft. Worth; I was under a dark cloud of grief for the rest of the semester. Michelle was thoughtful, kind, helpful, and patient with me; I have never forgotten that. When we spent a weekend with her parents, who were lovely people, she got me out of the house and drove me straight to a coffee shop each morning because her parents did not drink coffee and she knew I had to have it. Michelle played the organ in chapel. I am still traumatized remembering the time she talked me into playing a duet with her.

I married when I was 30; Michelle married in her early 40’s. She and Jim have lived in Memphis all these years and they have two girls, both in college now. She homeschooled her girls and continued to play the organ at her church, right up until a few weeks ago.

When she was diagnosed with cancer a few years ago, it was like a kick in the gut to me. We all hate the word cancer, and when it hits someone close to us, it becomes much more heinous. Of course my first thought was, “Why Michelle?” She was such a sweet individual and kind to everyone (even while being passively strong-willed and a steel magnolia under her sweetness). Why her?  And then my mind went down the trail of “she doesn’t deserve this” and I could come up with a whole list of people who “deserve” it more. The truth is, life does not come to us based on what we deserve.

Michelle went through her treatments and returned to a state of good health. I was hopeful this was for the long term. Less than two years ago I spoke at a retreat in the Memphis area. Michelle came and we had such a good time catching up and sharing all that was going on in our families. We took a fun trip down memory lane.

A few months ago her cancer returned and this time it did not respond to treatments. I wanted to go stand in front of this steam roller and throw up my arms and yell “STOP!”  Michelle and I exchanged texts and cards and one precious phone visit that I will always remember. And now she is gone.

To absorb this, survive this, and find joy in the midst of heartache, my mind goes here….

  •  We don’t get what we deserve. Life doesn’t work like that. Sometimes bad things happen to good people and bad people seem to get off easy. On another day we will explore the fact that most of us realize we don’t want to get what we deserve.
  • Life happens to all of us and it is how we respond that makes the difference. Michelle did not want to die at 63 but she told me if God allowed this she would be okay with it; she just asked that I pray for her husband and girls.
  • Peace that passes understanding is not just a poetic phrase. Philippians 4:4-7 clearly describes what we have witnessed and experienced in this situation. Look it up, read it, meditate on it. We don’t rejoice in the bad things that come our way; but we can rejoice that  God is with us and will give us what we need moment by moment.
  • God is God and we are not. There are some things we may never understand but allowing God to be God and accepting that I am not leads to peace and contentment that I am not capable of alone.
  • Life is short; I don’t want to waste any minutes of the time God allows me on this earth. None of us knows how much longer we have to live on earth.

Finally, we all have a choice. Eternity is a for-sure and we each get to choose where we will spend it. I find it odd that at most funerals you hear people say, “He/she is in a better place,” but so often there is nothing on which that is based. According to the Bible, which has stood the test of time as the Word of God, eternity is hell for those who have rejected Jesus and it is heaven for those who have accepted Him. I beg you to trust God, accept the gift of eternal life with him in heaven made possible through Jesus. In addition to eternity, a relationship with Jesus provides peace in the midst of the storms and strength to carry on through whatever life hurls your way in the here and now.

Michelle knew Jesus, lived her life well, and now she is in heaven forever. I trust Jesus to comfort her husband, her girls, her sister and all the rest of her family and friends during these days of adjustment. The joy that comes in the morning is the assurance we have that we will see her again.

Let’s take a moment and evaluate our lives . . . are we prepared to live our lives fully right now and ready to face eternity when our time comes?

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