The Power of Pointing

6th in a series of 6

It’s important to demonstrate to our children how to be, and how things work, and what things are. We always set an example to our children, and we need to explain the world to them — point them in the way they should go.

“It’s not nice to point.”
– Mama

It’s important for a father to draw his children’s attention to things outside themselves. That’s why, with all due respect to Mama, it’s OK to point. I think she’ll understand.

The lines that follow are from Wendell Berry’s The Hidden Wound. First, Berry is describing Aunt Georgie, an influential figure from his childhood:

She was always showing you something: a plant, a bloom, a tomato, an egg, an herb, a sprig of greens. Suddenly you saw it as she saw it – vivid, useful, free of all the chances against it, a blessing – and it entered shadowless into your mind.1

Berry talks also about his grandfather, pointing out hired hand Nick Watkins:

He admired him…and was always pointing him out to me as an example: “Look a yonder how old Nick sets up to drive his mules. Look how he takes hold of the lines. Remember that, and you’ll know something.”2

Berry was graced to have grown up in a world populated by phrases like “Look a yonder” and “Look how” and “Do you see that tomato?” He lived a life in the present that was sculpted by the power of pointing to the past. There are many who describe Wendell Berry and his writings with one word: wise.

Fathers, the power to point is accessible to us in two ways. We’ve got to look first and then have the presence of mind to point it out to those entrusted to us. This doesn’t happen overnight; it’s a gradual learning, especially if you did not have an Aunt Georgie or Grandfather Berry in your life. But just because something is gradual doesn’t mean it’s impractical or unattainable.

So first we’ve got to be looking ourselves. Are you aware of your surroundings? Do you pay attention to things outside of yourself? Are those railroad crossing instructions – Stop. Look. Listen. – a routine part of your day? Living this kind of a life involves slowing down. There’s no way around it. Now if you’re like me, you’ve already got lots of people telling you to slow down and savor life. Most days that seems utterly impossible; there is so much good to do for those we love. But if you’re like me, then you also know the truth of the saying that “good is often the enemy of great.”

Fathers, we’ll blink and they’ll be graduating from college, walking down aisles and stepping into marriage, welcoming their own children home from the maternity wing. Sunrise, sunset. It goes so fast. The lyrics to Harry Chapin’s Cat’s in the Cradle should haunt us all; our children might grow up to be “just like me.” If you’re going to slow down, then carpe diem; today’s the day to begin. Don’t run yellow lights. Turn off e-mail on the weekends. Whatever you need to do, do it.

I firmly believe the last thing a father needs these days is another voice yelling, “You’re not doing enough!” Some days we don’t have time; some weeks we’re gone on business trips; some moments we miss things right in front of our noses. What’s a father to do?

If you noticed, the showing/pointing people in Berry’s life were not always his father. Berry’s grandfather filled that role at times, as did his Aunt Georgie. I, in no way, want to diminish the power that you have as a dad in pointing out people and places to your children. I hope you won’t diminish it either. At the same time, I want to encourage you to make certain that your children spend time in the presence of others you know that possess the power of pointing. I’m not sure it always takes a village, but there are days when a Grandfather Berry or an Aunt Georgie are indispensable to our children remembering and learning and knowing.

Gentlemen, you don’t always have to do it yourself. I just want to point that out.

Copyright © 2008 John Blase

1Wendell Berry, The Hidden Wound. North Point Press, San Francisco, 1989, p. 73.
2Wendell Berry, The Hidden Wound. North Point Press, San Francisco, 1989, p. 23.

Running With Endurance

Hebrews 12:1-3

Nobody wakes up on the morning of a marathon and suddenly decides, Hey, I think I’ll go down and run the race today. Long-distance running requires training, and lots of it. The typical marathon runner spends months preparing for the race. He pulls himself out of bed early and hits the street. Focusing on his goal, he pushes through physical and mental exhaustion. He watches what he eats, gets plenty of sleep, and runs—regularly. The main goal of all of this training is to build endurance. While not easy, the discipline is essential to running 26.2 miles.

Since Scripture compares the Christian life to a race, we can assume that endurance is essential for our success as well. And what builds spiritual stamina? The apostle James points out that dealing with trials strengthens us. In fact, in James 1:2-3, he even tells us to welcome difficulties because “the testing of your faith produces endurance.”

He is talking about the inner strength that allows us to face any difficulty without quitting. A runner needs such strength for a race. So even though the training hurts, he conditions his body to be able to reach the finish line. For believers, the process is similar, except that our training comes through trials. As we face different challenges in the power of the Spirit, God builds us up more and more.

Are you facing a hardship today? God wants you to trust Him and then ask yourself, Am I willing to go through this intense workout today in order to win the race tomorrow?

The Self Life

“O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” (Romans 7:24)

This despondent cry follows Paul’s disturbing monologue on the inner strife between his two natures (Romans 7:13-24). Here the apostle describes the conflict that goes on in the life of every Christian, until the self-life is completely subjugated and the will of Christ reigns supreme. The ascendancy of self is indicated in these verses by the fact that the personal pronouns “I,” “me,” “my” are used no less than 35 times in verses 15-24 alone as Paul records his inner thoughts and feelings (e.g., “that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I”—v. 15). Such a testimony is pervaded with introspection, relating everything to self instead of to Christ. No wonder the conclusion is so miserable: “O wretched man that I am!”

Unfortunately, this is the status of most Christians whose interests are almost completely self-centered. Most Christian books and sermons are designed to appeal to such personal interests, and the explosive modern growth of Christian professional “counseling” likewise reflects the existence of multitudes of self-centered Christians.

But the happy and useful Christian is the one whose concerns and activities center around others and who earnestly seeks to follow and honor Christ and His Word. And this is exactly the conclusion to which the apostle Paul comes in his melancholy soliloquy. “Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” he cries. Immediately the answer comes: “I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 7:24-25).

We do still have to battle the old nature, but in Christ we have both the incentive and power to “put off the old man with his deeds” (Colossians 3:9) and to “put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness” (Ephesians 4:24). HMM

He will teach us, of His ways, and we will walk in His paths

That which I see not teach Thou me: if I have done iniquity, I will do it no more.—Job 34:32.
He will teach us, of His ways, and we will walk in His paths.— Isaiah 2:3.

YES, take my heart, and in it rule,
Direct it as it pleaseth Thee,
I will be silent in Thy school,
And learn whate’er Thou teachest me.
GERHARD TERSTEEGEN.

PEOPLE cannot become perfect by dint of hearing or reading about perfection. The chief thing is not to listen to yourself, but silently to listen to God. Talk little and do much, without caring to be seen. God will teach you more than all the most experienced persons or the most spiritual books can do. You already know a great deal more than you practice. You do not need the acquirement of fresh knowledge half so much as to put in practice that which you already possess. FRANCOIS DE LA MOTHE FÉNELON.

To speak with the tongues of men or angels on religious matters, is a much less thing than to know how to stay the mind upon God, and abide with Him in the closet of our hearts, observing, loving, adoring, and obeying His holy power within us. WILLIAM LAW.

Gold tried in the fire

Gold tried in the fire. Revelation 3:18

There is no man that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my sake, and the gospel’s, but he shall receive an hundredfold now in this time, houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions; and in the world to come eternal life.

Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you. —Now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations: that the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ.

The God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you. —In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.

Mark 10:29,30. 1 Peter 4:12. 1 Peter 1:6,7. 1 Peter 5:10. John 16:33.

Holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord

Holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord. Hebrews 2:14

Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. — There shall in no wise enter into it any thing that defileth. — There is no spot in thee.

Ye shall be holy: for I the LORD your God am holy. — As obedient children, not fashioning yourselves according to the former lusts in your ignorance: but as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy. And if ye call on the Father, who without respect of persons judgeth according to every man’s work, pass the time of your sojourning here in fear. — Put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and … put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness. — He hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should he holy and without blame before him in love.

John 3:3. Revelation 21:27. Song of Songs 4:7. Leviticus 19:2. 1 Peter 1:14-17. Ephesians 4:22-24. Ephesians 1:4.