Payh Blog
8
Nov 17, 2011

Living Every Day With Death Looking Over Your Shoulder

Are you living every day with death looking over your shoulder?
Morbid! That is the sense one gets from this title. The young particularly think little, if at all, of death. Even vigorous middle age folks do not expect a fatal heart attack will strike in the next moment. The elderly know it is on its way; just not today. I have been doing my daily worship lately in a nice copy of the 1853 Book of Common Prayer of the Church of England. Every page of the text is encompassed with beautiful “illuminations from woodcuts by Durer, Holbein, and others in imitation of Queen Elizabeth’s (the 1st) Book of Christian prayers, to aid in devotion as one reads the Word and the collected prayers therein. One section of the book takes you through the Psalms in the course of a month, reading some on each day as Morning Prayer and others each evening as Evening Prayer. The illustrations around the text on every page immediately caught my eye. They are of individual people from every station, class, and age in life, of both sexes; and in each there is a skeleton, representing death, clinging to them, looking over their shoulder so to speak.
At first it is quite an unexpected sight. But it definitely gets you thinking biblically. The Word of God does not avoid the subject of death. In fact, its very purpose is to prepare one for death; even to explain why death is, what it is, and what to do about it. If death is such a prominent subject on practically every page of the Bible, why not visually illustrate it to vividly remind one of its nearness? Nevertheless, our fallen nature is to avoid the very thought of our death or a loved one’s in any way we can. Hence we surmise it is “morbid thinking, when it is actually righteous, truthful, sanctified thinking. When the Psalmist wrote about God, “He will preserve my going out and my coming in forevermore, he knew well it did not mean he or his would avoid the experience of death, or that tomorrow on this earth is promised any of us. The “sting of death of which the Scripture speaks encompasses a number of truths, one of which, it is a subject we steer clear of as we would an oncoming car, or falling off a cliff. We naturally avoid things that will hurt or damage our bodies or separate us from those we love and for whom we care; we are sure it will cause great pain (sting)! And death is, at least this side of the divide, in the estimation of most, painful!
Paul quoted a verse of Psalm 44 in Romans 8, “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered. This certainly speaks of dying to self so you might live now to Christ and serve others today for His sake. It also means that the thought of death in serving Christ and others, doing your duty as one whom Christ has purchased with His own blood, causes you to look death in the face without fear, no matter when God has planned it for you. And it means we are often to consider the potential nearness of our death, even as the Judge is near, right at your door (James 5:9). The intent is the powerful perspective of your death being near should cause you to daily reorder your priorities in a right direction, and live with those around you in an increasingly sanctified manner; being more intentional of soon standing in the presence of your Savior. Such thinking is not morbid! It is living in freedom; not fearing the bonds or the sting of death.


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Payh Blog
Graduation day
Nov 10, 2011

Exasperating Teenagers

The exasperating teen years, exasperating at least from parents’ perspective, was front and center in the October issue of National Geographic. Blazoned on its cover the title read: “The New Science of the Teenage Brain; but try as I might, reading the article several times, highlighting and mulling over the conclusions of the author, I frankly could not find anything NEW. Oh, there was new phraseology to describe teen behavior and brain development, scientific tests with correlating brain scans; but the exasperation still came down to something of which any bright observer of teens is well aware: peer pressure, risk taking, questioning of authority, impulsivity, reward over consequences, and the expected results from wise and unwise parental involvement or non-involvement, all clothed in new vocabulary and the positive assumptions of evolutionary natural selection. The spin was pretty much, “Don’t sweat it; their teenage brains are in the process of adapting in the transition from home to being on their own. I had hoped for far more, because observation, experience and history tell us far more is needed than teenage brains adapting on their own into successful, beneficial and responsible adults.
Perspectives like National Geographic’s which ignore the major element of sin and its inevitable results, while denying the existence of a Creator, seldom produce much in the way of helpful solutions to the human condition, much less prudent advice to the rollercoaster experience of accompanying children through the oft dreaded years of teenage-dom. I have found far more science and wisdom in understanding teenagers by observing a woman who has worked with many hundreds of teenage boys for 50 years and a much smaller number of teenage girls, but especially one strong willed one that qualifies her as an expert in both sexes. This strong-willed daughter is now a wise and beautiful mother with one teenager of her own and two more on the way.
Glenda Anderson Leonard has been looking teenage boys in the eye for half a century. They quickly realize they can’t con her as they have been able to do so well with other adults. But what is more they are just as quickly taken with the knowledge that she genuinely loves them as her sons, even while she does not mince words in speaking truth to their face, hoping to reach their heart. She is particularly knowledgeable of the makeup of a teenager and the changes going on in their mind and body; the temptations they face and the hopes they have. As a dear friend wrote us both this week, Christ calls us to focus primarily on the glory of each one made in His image, both to teach and to love, rather than always seeing them in the ruin that sin has perpetrated in their lives. Such can only be done with eyes of faith and actively, continuously integrating the mind of Christ into your own; for the ruin becomes so overwhelming in your own eyes that you forget the image of God in them that has not been completely obliterated by sin. Consider Christ with the Samaritan woman at the well, an ancient Elizabeth Taylor in marriage behavior; or the woman taken in the act of adultery; or the rough fishermen called to be disciples. He saw through the ruin to the glory. Glenda does that with these teenage young men, and the success of her commitment has been evident over these past five decades. Her formula summarized in her own words has been: Structure and discipline, plus love and commitment, with consistency, based on God’s Word.
The time put into your teenager or child is a measure of your love for them and your commitment to them; don’t say you love them when you barely take the time to have meaningful conversations with them on a regular basis. Structure, discipline, and consistency are all principles that ooze out of every page of Scripture. It cannot be done without putting time in two major places with consistency: into God’s Word and with God, and two, into the life, mind, and heart of your child or teenager. The reward is too awesome to measure; failure too devastating to contemplate. But God is too strong and willing not to call on for help.


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