Father of the Bride

A Kairos Moment is Better than a Kodak Moment

Well, hello out there, “gentle reader.” Yep, it’s another issue of The Contender, and I certainly hope that it finds you living on the edge and “pushing the envelope” in terms of your faith. Where did that phrase come from? Perhaps a disgruntled postal worker? Anyway, it sure is stimulating to think that each day we can grow in trusting our “one Lord” and “one God” as we do our homework in the personal curriculum that they have for each of us. As we do, we each play our part in the Big Picture of His-story. What a privilege to be involved in “the best thing happening on the planet,” that is, the purposes of the Creator coming to pass.

Lately, I have been thinking and teaching a lot about the reciprocal relationship that each of us has with the Lord Jesus and our heavenly Father. God’s purposes will not come to pass in my life if I do not obey Him. Each moment, it is my responsibility to educate my conscience (renew my mind) according to His unwavering standard of truth that I find in His written Word. As I do, He will provide me with opportunity after opportunity to step out in faith toward other people.

The KJV often uses the idiom “walk” in reference to living life. For example, Ephesians 4:1 exhorts us to “walk” worthy of our calling set forth in Chapters 1, 2 and 3. Modern versions like the NIV recognize the idiom and render it “live a life” worthy of the calling. In the above paragraph, I spoke of “stepping out” in faith. Is that not “walking”? Life is made up of a series of “steps,” consecutive choices, and the choices we make, one by one, determine our future “location.” Galatians 6:10 shows us this principle: “Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people…” The Greek word for “opportunity” is kairos, which means “a particular moment,” that is, the right time. A kairos moment is even better than a Kodak moment.

And, as I said, God will provide us opportunity after opportunity. That means that “opportunities pass.” Absolutely. Each of us can look back on our lives, the steps we have taken to this point, and identify moments when we acted in faith on God’s direction, and moments when we failed to do so. The sum total of those momentary choices has brought each of us to wherever we are today on our personal path of righteousness. For me, such a reflective look backward is bittersweet. I am remorseful about my wrong choices, and filled with gratitude to God for Him honoring my right choices and “mopping up” after my wrong ones.

The good news is that because of God’s redemptive love, I can recognize my wrong choices, analyze them according to His Word, repent (turn around), receive forgiveness, learn something and keep going. Because of the “sin that dwells within us,” each of us must recognize and embrace the above process if we are ever to become like the Lord Jesus Christ, which, of course, is to be our goal. The more we do, the more we grow. On this past September 25, I was faced head-on with the last 29 years of my life. How so? Because my precious daughter, Christine, was married that day to Billy Norton. What follows here are some “reflections of a dad,” and I trust that what I share will in some way touch your heart.

FATHER OF THE BRIDE

There I was–standing at one end of a big, white tent, wearing my just-let-out tuxedo, a la Steve Martin. At the far end of the tent, through a gauntlet of wedding guests, stood five beautiful women (resplendent in the dresses Christine found for them for a total of $162), two other beautiful women (Billy’s two sisters, who together were his “best man”) and three men (in overpriced rental tuxes). In the middle stood a bald man wearing an earring and a stern, black robe (ministerial, not bath). When Christine told me she was getting married, and I asked her who she was having do the ceremony, she said, “I love you as a minister, but I love you more as my dad, and I just want you to be my dad that day. We’re going to have someone else do the wedding.”

That turned out to be a good idea, because had I done it, I would have had to focus on the responsibilities, at the expense of appropriately emoting all over the place. So, as I stood there, emoting all over myself, beside me stood a gorgeous woman in a $1250 Lord & Taylor wedding dress that God provided her for $66! (I remembered her first outfit–a little yellow thing with a goofy matching bonnet–in which we brought her home from the hospital one day after her birth). In the crook of my right arm was a hand, one that I remember holding for the first time when it easily fit within my palm. In a few moments, the man of her dreams would place a ring on it, and a new chapter in her life would begin.

And what a life it has been so far! The wedding audience was dotted with people Christine has deeply touched in elementary school, high school, college, and two grad schools in New York, Kansas, Virginia, and Spain, and jobs in Texas, New Jersey, Minnesota and Chicago. There were people she met at Christian Educational Services activities where she taught and prophesied, and people from various other places God has taken her thus far in her relatively brief life. As I stood there beside her, looking at only a small representation of the number of lives she has affected around the world, I was flooded with thanksgiving to the God and Lord who have stood on either side of her and brought her through some very tough times, both in her personal life and in the work she has chosen–counseling juvenile delinquents and their parents, often in wilderness settings.

My gratitude to God was only enhanced by my agonizing recognition of my grievous parental failures with my only child. In the first row sat her wonderful mother, from whom I was divorced nearly six years ago. I have had to account for failing to provide my daughter with the example of a husband loving his wife as Christ loved the Church, and for the repercussions of that failure in Christine’s life, which I know have been very real. I also grieve my emotional absence in her life as she was growing up, and the pain it caused her, both in the moment and later on. But I have recognized God’s hand of grace and mercy on her life, and on our relationship, and I cannot praise Him enough for the love we now share. I realize that it will take on a different form now that she has officially “left her father and mother” and is cleaving unto Billy (does this mean I get the Mastercard back?), and I look forward to being there for her, and for him, in whatever way is appropriate.

Although I have spent a great deal of time away from Christine even when she was growing up, God has graciously given us countless memorable times together. I think that, in the past seven plus years since she graduated from Kansas University, I have probably gotten to spend more time with her than most dads would have been able to, and many of these times have been in the context of ministering together, both overseas and around the USA. One of the greatest things we have always shared is laughter, and not just because her dad is arguably the world’s funniest person. She herself is relatively humorous.

Many memories are etched upon my mind, but one I will never forget was at a Christian Educational Services weekend in San Francisco when Eldridge Cleaver, the former radical activist in the 60’s, now deceased, was there. He had been scheduled to speak, and in preparation for meeting him, Christine read his famous book, Soul On Ice. When he came, he was pretty messed up, and we mutually decided it was not best for him to share. Christine’s heart really went out to him, and on Saturday night during the “call out” prophecies, she came on stage to give him a word from the Lord. I stood beside her as she took the little tape recorder from me, put one foot forward toward where he sat and, with tears streaming down her face, “leaned into” an awesome prophecy that he called a “bullseye” and carried with him for the next year, playing it for many people who knew him.

I have no doubt that the Word of God, which was sown into Christine’s heart from birth, is what has enabled her to become one of the most authentic, loving and powerful Christians that I have ever known. Growing up in ministry, she had a tough row to hoe, but early on she locked her heart into the heart of her Lord and never let go.

As I said, Christine has for quite a few years worked with young people, and her ministry with them is supernaturally energized. Several years ago, we had her share with the parents in our local fellowship some things about raising children. That was another time of assessment for me as I sat in the back listening to her and, as it were, checking off, “I didn’t do that, I didn’t do that…” One thing she said that night was, “My dad did a lot of things wrong while I was growing up, but one thing he did right was to account for them to me.” She went on to admonish the parents to remember that their children, no matter their age, are people too, and to deal with them accordingly, employing godly principles such as admitting their own mistakes and asking forgiveness.

One thing I get to do quite often is to stay with families in their homes. Teenagers don’t like me being on the phone so much, and most of the children think I’m weird, but the young people and I usually have a good time together. I really love kids, and I get to observe much interaction between them and their parents. Please permit me, in winding up this column, to wax parentally in regard to some things that have been on my heart in regard to raising children.

Deuteronomy 6:4-7 is a section of the Word that I have often shared when I was asked to dedicate children. It shows that the reason why God made the earthly family the basic unit of society is so that dad and mom can live the Word day by day in front of their children, taking advantage of every opportunity to teach it to them in word and in deed. Who better to do this, especially within the context of family life with its pertinent dynamics? These verses make it clear that the Word must first be in the hearts of the parents. Together, a husband and wife are to exemplify both the “fatherly” and the “motherly” characteristics of God to their children, thus giving them a complete picture of His heart.

If you are a parent, how are you doing? I ask that because the Enemy is doing a good job of bombarding your children from every angle with ideas, framed in words, that are contrary to the Word of God. How will they recognize these attacks unless you aggressively teach them the truth?

POKEMON

In that regard, let me tell you about a recent incident when I was in someone’s home, and her eight year old daughter enthusiastically showed me her Pokemon cards. Although it is apparently sweeping America and Japan, where it originated, I had never heard of Pokemon, but within about a minute of looking at all the different creatures, or whatever they are, I told the child, “These are devilish. Look at them, that’s not what little animals that God made look like. These are distortions, and they’re all about violence.” She didn’t get it in the few moments we had then, and afterward I told her mom that if I were she, I’d get all the Pokemon junk out of the house.

When I got home, I looked into the Pokemon phenomenon, and found out that the word is a shortening of “pocket monsters.” Its roots are in Eastern mysticism and witchcraft, and if you are a parent, a grandparent, an uncle or aunt, I recommend that you definitely be informed about Pokemon. It started as a Nintendo Game Boy program, and now it’s a cartoon, comic book series, videos and a trading card set of 150 different demonic creatures. I have also seen advertisements for a Pokemon movie, which will no doubt be released before Christmas to inspire much Pokemon gift giving.

Well, what if your child has Pokemon stuff and doesn’t want to part with it? For a Christian, parenting according to the Word, the answer is, “Too bad.” That’s not all the answer, because teaching is also involved, but it illustrates the godly principle that you, not your children, lead your family. The way you lead is by following the Lord Jesus Christ, that is, obeying what the Word of God says in regard to parenting, whether or not your children like it. Remember that your children were born as little “natural men” with no idea what is going on, and an inherent tendency toward selfishness, pride, spiritual stupidity, etc., etc. They need you to “witness” to them, by your lifestyle and by systematic teaching of the principles of life found in God’s Word. If you have, to date, failed to do this like you should have, you can change, confident that the Lord Jesus and God, your father, will do all they can to help you. They have a greater investment in your children than you do, and love them more than you do. What comfort that is to a parent.

Christian children also need fellowship with other Christian children, just like their parents do with other Christian parents. I’m talking about fellowship with people who believe the truth of the Word in regard to its basic, vital issues. Children need to learn early on that there is an absolute standard for life—God’s Word. They need to understand that the point of life is to love God and Jesus and communicate the truth to those who do not know it. They need to grow up recognizing that they are “on a mission from God.” Have your children heard you witness the Word to anyone lately? These may seem like hard questions, but they are ones each of us must ask ourselves day by day if we are to properly steward the precious heritage that is our children. The majority of my opportunities to do so with Christine have passed, but I know that I will always be her father, and she will always be my daughter. For that, I thank God with all my heart.

And so, with my vision of the scene before me blurred by my tears, Christine and I stepped “out of the blocks” and began the long walk down the aisle. Honestly, I don’t remember much of what I saw during those 40 yards or so, but I was so proud to have that woman on my arm, and I thought of a conversation we have had more than once:

I: “Christine, when I grow up, I want to be like you.”
She: “When will that be?”
I: “Not soon.”

OK, I gotta go take back my Pokemon comic books and use that Mastercard to pay for the tent. See you in church, in the air or on the edge.

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