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Hand Over Hand

I can’t do this, Mom. It feels weird. It’s too hard.

I’ll help you, Son. I’ll hold your hand until you get the feel of it. Cursive is hard.

HoH It: If it’s good and new, and really hard to do.

It’s the most basic, for the most needy. It’s the highest degree of help and the least amount of independence. It’s what therapists and teachers do when there is no other way to progress.

My day job proves it. When success eludes a student tracing a shape or cutting a line, we guide that hand. We go Hand over Hand, or HoH for short.

My mom job confirms it. The way to get squashy spoons held by chubby hands into target mouths and little-boy hands connecting those tricky cursive loops is to hold those hands in ours.

A funny thing about cursive: you need to know cursive to write cursive. You can’t be linking and looping and curving one letter smooth into the next without unless you already know how form each letter and connect one to the next. Cursive is a catch-22.

Which explains why Gabe’s first couple cursive “can’s” looked more like “rln’s” than anything. And why “and” looked a whole lot like “onol” and he wanted to quit two minutes in.

And why he needed help.

A Way Through Our Catch-22


Someone said, “Repenting is siding with God against yourself.” That’s hard. About the hardest thing we’ll ever do, since when we first believed and a thousand times hence.

Repentance means dying to self. And dying, even little deaths, is no fun at all. It’s admitting specific wrongs-like gossiping, breaking my word, being harsh with the boys. And who likes to admit he was wrong?

In a chapter of Mere Christianity called “The Perfect Penitent,” C.S. Lewis our dilemma-why we so desperately need God’s hand guiding ours to turn it right and repent.

It is something much harder than merely eating humble pie. It means killing part of yourself, undergoing a kind of death. In fact it needs a good man to repent. And here comes the catch. Only a bad person needs to repent: only a good person can repent perfectly. The worse you are the more you need it and the less you can do it… 

It cannot happen. Very well, then, we must go through with it. But the same badness which makes us need it makes us unable to do it.  

Can we do it if God helps us? Yes, but what do we mean when we talk of God helping us? We mean God putting into us a bit of Himself, so to speak. He lends us a little of his reasoning powers and that’s how we think; He puts a little of His love into us and that is how we love one another.  

When you teach a child writing, you hold its hand while it forms the letters; that is, it forms the letters because you are forming them. We love and reason because God loves and reasons and holds our hand while we do.  

Repentance is a gift of God. But it’s also killing part of yourself. Thomas Brooks wrote, vividly, “Repentance is the vomit of the soul.” 
It’s doesn’t feel good. It feels weird. We need God’s hand over ours to do it. 

God Grants Repentance, He Provides This Lamb

When Peter told the Jerusalem church how God’s great grace reached even to the Gentiles, Dr. Luke recorded this reaction: They glorified God saying, “Then to the Gentiles also God has granted repentance that leads to life” (Acts 11:28). 
Matthew Henry wrote, “It’s not only his grace that accepts [our repentance], but his mighty grace that works it in us, that takes a way the heart of stone and gives us a heart of flesh. The sacrifice of God is a broken spirit; it is He that provides himself this lamb.”
It’s how I forgive and give up the last word, how I refrain from anger and the only possible way I can kill selfish me and repent. God helps me. I want to, but it’s too hard, I pray. 
And He puts a little of His reason and love in me and away we go. I admit the wrong, see how I offended God, change course, and turn to Christ. 
But it takes a good person to repent. And I’m not good. But in grace, He made a way through. Your right hand supported me, David said, and your gentleness made me great (Psalm 18:35b).

When Dependence Is A Good Thing

I don’t want to push the analogy too far. The boys don’t need me to feed them anymore. And with a little more practice, Gabe will master those looping letters. In this life on earth, growing up means less dependence on mom and dad. Independence is good. It’s maturity. 
But in the spiritual realm, it’s the opposite. We’ll never get so mature that we need God less. Instead, as we grow in faith, we become more and more dependent on our Heavenly Father. God designed it that way: He wants us to rely on Him.
Because feeling strong and independent, writes Jason Meyers leads to a cesspool of self-sufficiency and independence that leads us away from God. Feeling weak is the best garden for the flowering of dependence upon God’s sufficient grace. 
Spiritually, dependence is good. 
Since the hand that created the world (Acts 7:50) and feeds it good things (Psalm 104:28), that both saves the righteous (Psalm 138:7) and avenges the wicked (Deuteronomy 32:41) is the very same hand that holds all our times (Psalm 31:15) and even our breath (Daniel 5:23), we’d best have that hand guide ours. 
Then I put a loving-mom hand on Gabe’s little-man hand.
And hand over hand, away we wrote. 

I was brutish and ignorant; I was like a beast toward you.
Nevertheless, I am continually with you; 
You hold my right hand.
You guide me with your counsel, 
And afterward you will receive me to glory.
Psalm 73:22-24


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Dressing Up

Rather clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, 

and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature.  

Romans 13:14

Aahhhrrrgh! (Pronounced: MAD!)

The boys’ bikes were sprawled across the front sidewalk AGAIN. Three times in 30 minutes, we’d gone over bike parking protocol. But here they were AGAIN; obstacles to the front door during the birthday bash.

But, just as the words migrated from thought to tongue, I GOT DRESSED.

Don’t get me wrong, I was still in the fuchsia top and green skirt I wore to church. I mean- really dressed up:  I held my peace. It felt weird and unnatural, it did: putting off sword thrust words and putting on peace. A lot like the restrictive, itchy feeling I get when I let Jim get the last word in matrimonial tiff.

Fake it ’til you make it, my sister-in-law says.

Act like success you’ll be. Play the part. Pretend like it fits.

We stood, saluting our veterans at the Memorial Day parade this morning. Some carried flags, others shuffled along barely keeping step. Most rode in shiny convertibles. All were in uniform. 
I bet each one remembers the first time he dressed in his Army green or Dress white.  And I bet the uniforms felt stiff and uncomfortable at first. They were dressing up. 
C. S. Lewis wrote Mere Christianity in 1943. It contains one of the best descriptions of Christian growth penned since Paul:

Whatever else you say, you will probably say the Lord’s prayer.  Its very first words are Our Father. Do you now see what those words mean?  They mean, quite frankly, that you are putting yourself in the place of a son of God.  To but it bluntly, you are dressing up as Christ. If you like, you are pretending…In a way, this dressing up as Christ is a piece of outrageous cheek. But the odd thing is that He has ordered us to do it.

Why? What is the good of pretending to be what you are not? Well, even on the human level, you know, there are two kinds of pretending.  The bad kind, where the pretense is there instead of the real thing; as when pretends he is going to help you instead of really helping you. But there is also a good kind, where the pretense leads up to the real thing.  

When you are not feeling particularly friendly but know you ought to be, the best thing you can do, very often, is to put on a friendly manner and behave as if you were a nicer person than you actually are.  And in a few minutes, as we have all noticed, you will be really feeling friendlier than you were.

Very often the only way to get a quality in reality is to start behaving as if you had it already. That is why children’s games are so important.  They are always pretending to be grown-ups-playing soldiers, playing shop. But all the time, they are hardening their muscles and sharpening their wits, so that the pretense of being grown-up helps them grow up in earnest.

Now, the moment you realize, “Here I am, dressing up as Christ,” it is extremely likely that you will see at once some way in which at that very moment the pretense could be made less of a pretense and more of a reality…Well, go and do it.

You see what is happening. The Christ Himself, the Son of God who is man (just like you) and God (just like His Father) is actually at your side and is already at that moment beginning to turn your pretense into a reality.  

C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, pp. 160-162 

It almost hurts; this putting on Christ, or maybe it’s the putting off the old self that’s so uncomfortable. Eustace was in pain when Aslan peeled away his dragon skin.

I dress up when I refrain from anger and turn from wrath. The clothes are stiff and itchy. Still, I act the part. I pretend to be adorned with a gentle, quiet spirit. 

And instead of an 80 dB

Boys, get over HEEERE this instant!  

 the dressed-up me, calmly calls, at maybe 40 dB:

Boys, would you please come help me move your bikes?

Pretense becoming reality. Faking it ’til we’re remade. In all things growing up into Christ.

Instead, speaking the truth in love we will in all things grow up 

into Him who is the head, that is, Christ. 

Ephesians 4:15

Justin Taylor offers a good, quick summary of the NT language of putting on and putting off.
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On Arrows and Portions

Mother, Mother, Watch and Pray

Mother! Mother! Watch and pray,

Fling not golden hours away!
Now or never, plant and sow,
Catch the morning’s earliest glow.

Mother! Mother! Guard the dew,
While it sparkles clear and true.
No delay! The scorching noon
May thy treasures reach too soon.

Mother! Point them to the sky,
Tell them of a loving eye,
That more tender is than thine,
And doth ever on them shine.

Mother! Lead them soon and late
To behold the golden gate;
When they long to enter there,
Lead them to the Lamb by prayer.

Mother, seize the precious hours,
While the dew is on thy flowers!
Life is such a fleeting thing,
Mother! Mother! Sow in spring.-Selected, “Verses of Virtue”

Counting down the minutes

In 53 minutes-but who’s counting?-Gabe’s school bus is due to return him at the end of our driveway.  The only day I’ve wanted to see him more was the day he was born.

This first day of school for Gabe distracted me. I meant to write about portions today.  As in Psalm 73:26:

My flesh and my heart may fail; but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion forever. 

And Psalm 16:5

The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup; you hold my lot.

Parenting can be one’s portion. But only for a little while. Child-rearing is a temporary assignment. Being a mom is a sweet, short season, but it shouldn’t be our biggest “portion,” the source of our identity and hope.

Is parenting your full and first portion?

Are your children your refuge, your identity, your strength? Does parenting more define you, or refine you?

My latest favorite 17th century Puritan is George Swinnock. In The Fading of the Flesh and the Flourish

 

ing of Faith, he urges moms like maybe you and like me with incredible candor to resist finding our portion in anything on earth. This would, I think, include your beloved children.

Swinnock was only 46 when he received his eternal portion. And I don’t even know if he was a father. Regardless, he speaks to my almost-bursting mother’s heart, even as I count down the 13 minutes before the bus returns my boys and I steal a hug from a brand new kindergartner, and, if I’m lucky his third grade brother.

The fuller the blossom, the sooner they shed.

Swinnock explains the finding our ultimate hope and joy in an earthly portion.

Earthly portions are like roses, in that the fuller they blossom, the sooner they shed. They are often misused through pride and wasted throughcarelessness…However, my portion will always be full (without diminution) and first (without alteration).  This God will be my God forever. He will be my guide and help unto death. Even death, which dissolves so many bonds and unties knots, will never separate me from my portion. On the contrary, it will give me a perfect and everlasting possession of it. 

Arrows in the hands of a warrior, are sons born in one’s youth.

That came to mind in the bittersweet walk alone from the bus stop this morning.

But then I remembered: Arrows leave the hand. They are not one’s portion. Arrows are meant to be shot forth. Seize the precious hours and watch them fly.

To kindergarten and beyond. God speed, my sons!