Happy Passover, Happy Easter – My Redeemer Lives!

This week we remember and celebrate the amazing, awe-inspiring, redeeming love of God.  This week millions of Jews celebrate Passover, the day the Israelites were saved from the tenth plague in Egypt, as Jews sprinkled the blood of a sacrificed lamb on their doorpost and the angel of death passed over their households.  It is part of the larger story of God redeeming his people from bondage in Egypt and guiding them to the land he promised to them, flowing with milk and honey.  Just when they thought there was no hope for their situation, God sends a reluctant shepherd named Moses, performs a number of miracles, and even reveals himself to Moses so that Moses has enough faith for himself and all the Israelites to keep heading towards God’s promises. Passover was the precursor to Easter, celebrated this week by millions of Christians, when Jesus, the lamb of God, was sacrificed as atonement for our sins and raised from the dead on the third day.  Easter is also part of the larger story of God redeeming his people from bondage to sin, giving them his own Holy Spirit, and guiding them to a relationship with him, and eventually a heavenly promised land.

I am quite sure that God is in the business of redemption – 5,000 years ago, 2,000 years ago, and today.  And I am quite sure that God is our Redeemer, our Jehovah Gaal, not just in big ways, like Passover and Easter, but in our everyday lives.  In the words of Job, who went through more trials than most people can ever imagine, which were put to a popular song in the mid 1990’s thousands of years later, “I know my Redeemer lives!”

When medical situations seem impossible, when broken relationships seem like they can never be reconciled, when jobs seem to have no future, when evil people make our lives miserable with seemingly no way out – – that is when God is still working behind the scenes for our good to redeem us and guide us into a promised land of rest in Him.  All too often, however, we are like the Israelites who kept looking back to Egypt, rather than like Moses looking forward to a new life and rejoicing in their new freedom that God had miraculously wrestled from Pharoah.  All too often, we are like the Israelites who were frightened of the giants in the land, instead of resting on God’s promises that the land was already theirs, all they had to do was fight for it and God would give them victory.  All too often, we are like the Israelites and afraid of the unknown before us, instead of finding comfort in God’s promise “I am with you,” – which is all we really need to know.  And too often, we forget to ask God to bring his amazing grace and redemption, when He is just waiting for us to ask Him into our impossible situation so that He can work his miracles.

This Holy Week, my hope is that you will know that Jehovah Gaal has engraved your name on the palm of His hand (Isaiah 46:16), that He contends with those who contend with you (Isaiah 46:25), that there is nowhere that you can go where his Spirit won’t be with you (Psalm 139:7-12), that He guides you with His right hand and holds you fast as you navigate this life (Psalm 139:10), and most importantly, He is with you (Isaiah 41:10) and He is for you (Jeremiah 29:11) and He loves you with an everlasting love (Jeremiah 31:3).

Giving Thanks by Charlene Quint – The attitude of gratitude determines our altitude in life.

All within just this month, the Cubbies won the World Series, the political election is finally over, we have had the most brilliant tapestry of autumn colors in one of the warmest falls in history, and Thanksgiving is just around the corner.  There is so much to be thankful for!

I took this year to dive into an intensive study of the Old Testament.  There is a recurring theme:  just after God pulls off a jaw-dropping miracle for His people, instead of thanking Him, they forget what He just did, grumble about their current condition, and pull out a gold idol that they have made and worship it.  It’s mind-boggling.  I spent much of the time I was reading thinking “How ungrateful!  You’ve got a God who just sent ten plagues, brought you out of Egypt, and parted the Red Sea.  And now you make a cow out of gold – the very gold that God gave you from the Egyptians – and worship it.  Really??”

But somewhere around the book of Jeremiah, I heard that convicting voice of God: “Human nature hasn’t changed in the last few thousand years.  You do the same thing.”  Ouch.

Of course human nature is the same.  We see it in our own lives.  How many times do we give our children jaw-dropping gifts because we love them?  A new iPhone, a new computer, a new car, perhaps.   In return, parents simply hope to get a heartfelt “thank you”.   We don’t expect them to return the favor with a gift of equal size – we would never want our kids to “out give” us anyway.  But we would love it if they would simply spend more time with us, as a sign of their appreciation, and put some effort into deepening their relationship with us.  But, in the typical American family, parents get a perfunctory “thank you”.  Instead of showing an outpouring of appreciation and spending time with us, they spend all their time with their pals on their new iPhone or computer or riding around in their new car.  And within a few months, they are no longer satisfied, and want the latest model. The new toy that they now serve with their time and attention becomes the idol.

As an adult, I would like to think I am better than that.  But that’s not always true.  How many times has God given us amazing, jaw-dropping gifts just because he loves us?  A good education, a fulfilling job, a plum promotion, loving parents, a kind spouse, healthy kids, good health, miracle producing healthcare, a comfy house, a safe vacation, a car that works, supportive friends, a delicious meal, a TV that carries 500 channels, good neighbors, a caring church family, love letters from God (i.e. the Bible), fantastic sunsets, gorgeous sunrises, beautiful trees, quiet lakes, amazing gardens, pets that like us, a country that allows us to vote and changes leadership every four years without anarchy, interesting books, lifting music, a national transportation system that allows us to go cross-country, international plane travel that takes us to Paris and back in a day, electricity, running water, Hershey’s chocolate, deep dish pizza, cushy toilet paper . . . you get the idea.

Sadly, I admit that the first thing I have done when receiving a good gift is not always falling on my knees in thankfulness or spending more time with our heavenly Father who gives these gifts.  If we are honest, many times we forget to thank God for the very gifts that we have received in response to our fervent prayers, much less those gifts that he gives to us without our asking. We work to make money, and then then fret that no matter how much we have, it is not enough, rather than trusting him for His great provision.  So we work to make more.  And we forget to thank God who gives us the intellect, skills and ability to make the money, which then becomes our idol.  And how often, when we receive a good gift like a car or a house or a vacation home, do we grumble about it and spend inordinate amounts of time washing it, cleaning it, painting it, mowing it, weeding it, plowing it, furnishing it, repairing it, maintaining it, paying taxes on it, comparing it to what others have, and wanting a bigger, fancier one?  The very things that God has given us we complain about, and that which we have made with our hands – with God’s help – now rules over us, and becomes our idols.  And God, who, like any loving dad, desperately wants to spend time with us, is relegated to an hour on Sunday morning, if that much.

“Do you see how you are the same as the Israelites now?” the Lord put on my heart.

We can’t out give God, and He doesn’t even want us to try.  He loves to shower us with gifts simply because he loves us.  But I’m sure that He would love for us to go through our days seeing with fresh eyes all the good gifts He has given us, thanking Him with hearts brimming with gratitude, and spending some time getting to know Him better.

How much different our outlook would be if, when we did our household chores in preparation for the Thanksgiving holiday, we said something like, “Thank you, God, for the turkey I’m making and the dishes I’m washing and the silver I’m polishing and the laundry I’m cleaning and the floors I’m vacuuming.   Thank you for these dirty diapers and messy little fingers and crayon paintings on the walls.  Thank you for the relatives descending upon us. Thank you, Lord, for the weeds that I’m pulling and the grass that I’m mowing.   Because you gave me this beautiful, warm home and filled it with loved ones who have captured my heart, and love that feeds our souls, and good food that nourishes our bodies, and beautiful dishes that have been passed down for generations who remind us who we are, and lovely clothes that make us feel good, and handsome rugs on warm sturdy floors, and green lush grass to play in, and gardens that show off your love of color, and beauty, and variety and flowers. You have blessed me beyond measure and I am so grateful.”

Gratitude lifts our spirits, humbles our hearts, and changes our perspective to a more heavenly one.  The attitude of gratitude determines our altitude of life.

My resolution for Thanksgiving and beyond is to be more mindful of the infinite number of gifts of grace God showers on us, to be more intentional about thanking Him with a truly grateful heart, and to spend more time getting to know Abba, Father.  Won’t you join me in that resolution?

With all good wishes for a Thanksgiving filled with grateful hearts full of thanks and love.

Sola gratia,

Charlene Quint

Peace on the Eve of Election Day 2016 – by Charlene Quint

This is one of those elections that seems too fantastical to be true. It seems almost impossible what we have to choose from.  I thought about summing up our choices, but I really don’t want to receive nasty grams. Suffice to say, they both have their flaws.

For months we have heard vitriol and rhetoric from both sides of the aisle.  I have heard otherwise decent, good-hearted, God-fearing Americans who love their country, but seem to have no problem in vilifying others who support an opposing candidate.  The American Psychological Association in 2016 has actually come up with a new disorder called “Political Anxiety Disorder” based on the enormous amount of – you guessed it – political anxiety over the potential results of this election.

Let me add some perspective to this anxiety-laden evening.

Regardless of who we wake up to on Wednesday to find as our next president, God is still in control.  He is so much bigger than who we elect for the next four years, He is not limited to our poor choices, and He has a plan that He will carry out, with or without our help, and with or without our folly.  He spoke this world into being, and made humans out of dust.  When His people had given up hope, he sent an unlikely, exiled shepherd with a speech impediment to get his people out of slavery – and sent 10 plagues just to let them know who was in control.  When things seemed impossible and death certain, he parted the Red Sea for His people and they walked through unscathed, while Pharaoh’s army who followed all drowned – just to let them know who was in control.  He caused a virgin to have a baby, and started the biggest revolution the world has ever known, calling us to trade in our hate for love; our pride for humility; our selfishness for giving.  He used a rag-tag group of twelve, uneducated, selfish, impetuous, fearful men and transformed them into bold, courageous, humble, miracle workers who changed the world.  And when their leader Jesus died a criminal’s death, He raised him from the dead after three days – just to let us know He was still in control.

We might think that who we elect will limit us, but God puts governments in place and takes them down, he allows leaders to rule and removes them from office.  Thankfully, He is not limited by us or our choices.  He uses imperfect people to accomplish His goals – because that’s all He’s got to work with.  Abraham told others to sleep with his wife because he was afraid they would kill him, Jacob was deceitful, Moses was a murderer, King David was an adulterer and murderer, Solomon was a sex addict, Jonah refused to follow God’s orders until he got eaten by a fish, Rahab was a prostitute…the list goes on and on.

He even uses rulers who don’t even follow God to accomplish His goals.  He used King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon to fulfill His prophecies to Jeremiah and other prophets. He later used King Cyrus of Persia to allow the Israelites back to their land to rebuild the temple, and then used King Artaxerxes to allow Nehemiah to return to rebuild the wall around Jerusalem.   He used the persecution of Christians in the first century to spread the Gospel to the ends of the earth, and he used Paul’s time writing letters in first century prison cells to give us most of the New Testament.  His time frame is eternity, but ours is only about 80 years.  He has a much longer perspective than we do, so we don’t always appreciate how he works.  But we do know that no matter what the circumstances, He is always working for the good of those who love him.

He can change the hearts of evil people into good, kind hearts, but usually He chooses to let the evil ones remain evil.  When He does do the miraculous and changes a heart, He does so in a big way to make sure the person knows exactly who is in control.  He changed King Nebuchadnezzar’s heart.  But it took seven years of insanity, dreadlocks, and eating grass before he came to worship God, and then God restored his sanity – and his throne.  He changed Paul’s heart from one who persecuted Christians to the most active apostle and the most prolific writer of the New Testament – but it took blindness for three days and stern voice of rebuke on the road to Damascus.  As far as I can tell, he let the other truly evil ones in the Bible stay that way and eventually reap the consequences, just like he does today.

It’s always better to choose to be good rather than evil, but that doesn’t limit God.  He works well with Plan B, or C, or D….

Surely, if God can use Pharaoh, King Nebuchadnezzar, King Cyrus, King Artaxerxes, Paul, the disciples, and a whole host of other imperfect, broken people – not to mention you and me – to accomplish His goals and bring good to humankind, certainly He can use Hillary or Trump as well.

Peace – not political anxiety – be with you.

Motherhood – a Ph.D. in Learning to Love by Charlene Quint

I’m reading a book called “Love and War” by John and Stasi Eldredge with the not-so-unheard-of notion that we are put on this planet by the One Above to learn how to love.  However, our learning doesn’t take place in an academic setting.  In His wisdom, Our Creator knows that the best lessons are learned in the classroom of real life.  God gives us an advanced course in learning to love by putting us in families.  But, I am convinced that the Ph.D. in learning to love comes from motherhood.  In a home with children, love is learned and taught, trying and delightful, freely given and thankfully received.  And many times, the one thought to be the teacher becomes the student.

While we are teaching patience to our children, moms are also learning patience from our children – smiling through the crayons on the walls, the endless laundry, and the constant reminders to clean up – sometimes waiting for years to see the fruits of our labor in the character of our children.  Moms are where children learn about kindness – the people who leave the last piece of their favorite pie for others, and stay up until 3 am sewing the school play costume.  And sometimes our children teach us about kindness, like when we see them reach out to help the disabled student in their classroom and comfort a friend who has lost a parent.  When our children succeed in areas we have failed, moms delight in their success.  And though many mothers are highly successful in their careers and accomplishments, talents and achievements, children seldom know how amazing their mothers are beyond being able to make a great grilled cheese sandwich because moms seldom brag about themselves.  Moms teach manners, and please and thank you.  When little ones make mistakes, moms don’t embarrass or shame, but lovingly encourage them to do their best, give it another shot, and don’t give up.  Moms believe in their children, so that, someday, their children believe in themselves.  The wise mom takes the difficult high school years with a certain long-term perspective, holding the good in both hands, and throwing the chaff away into the wind to be forgotten to the ages. A mom instills right from wrong, truth from deceit, and justice from injustice in her children, and delights when she sees righteousness, truth and justice displayed, whether it is on the playground or in their first job interview.  A mama bear always protects her cubs when they are in danger, and continues to see the best shine through in them, even when it appears tarnished and needs some polishing. As one mother of faith once said, “I will hold a golden crown over his head, and continue to pray for him, and teach him, until he grows into it.”  We never give up on our kids.  We give them their roots to grow and, when the time is right (which is usually two years after they think they are ready), we give them wings to fly.  And we provide a safe nest to return to if the first flying lesson does not turn out quite as planned, so they can be encouraged and try again.

What moms do sounds a whole lot like the definition of love we find in 1 Corinthians:   “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”

Motherhood is not for the faint of heart, but an adventure filled with joys and tears, delights and adventure.  Nor does motherhood usually travel in a straight trajectory – it often takes twists and unexpected turns.   But be assured, along the way, both mothers and their children are learning to love from each other.  And the Giver of all Good Gifts has specifically chosen our families and given us both our mothers and our children to love … and to learn how to love.

Happy Mother’s Day

Charlene Quint

Valentine’s Day Message – Chose Love

Valentine’s Day is just around the corner – a day that we put aside the normal routine and let the special people we love in our lives know that they are loved. One of the best descriptions of authentic love is that of St. Paul in his letter to the church in Corinth in ancient Greece. It is the standard by which real love is measured. I Corinthians 13 is read in many wedding ceremonies, is imprinted on many plaques, and has become known as “The Love Chapter.”
However, sometimes, when words become so familiar, they lose their impact on us. And, to an extent, I think this is the case with I Corinthians 13. We have heard it so many times, we tune it out thinking “I know that. I’ve heard it a million times. I’ve got it.”
And so, I am sharing today a paraphrase version of I Corinthians 13 by Christopher Page – one that spoke to me as to how we can incorporate this wonderful timeless passage into our every day, 21st century lives. Enjoy the read, and may we each chose to love and be loved not just on Valentine’s Day, but as a way of life.
Charlene Quint

I Corinthians 13 – A Paraphrase by Christopher Page
If I say all the right words, filled with sentiment and romance, but do not choose to behave in ways that demonstrate the practical action of my love for you, my words are empty and meaningless.
If I provide for you a lavish lifestyle and cater to your every need but do not choose to live in relationship to you in a way that is loving, I am not really in relationship with you at all. My behavior is just one more strategy to meet my own needs. Without love, I will always treat you as an object for my personal gratification.
If I sacrifice myself for you, appearing to give up my desires in service to you, but do this without love, no one gains anything. My actions are merely another form of self-indulgence.
Love chooses to be patient. This means I will stick with you even at those times when our relationship may be painful.
Love chooses to behave in ways that are kind. To be kind is to be generous towards you, making space for you to be the person you are, rather than demanding you be the person I might think I would like you to be.
When I choose to love you I will not indulge my petty emotions. I will choose to be gentle towards you and to let go of those small irritants upon which it is so easy to focus. We can all find them, if we look hard enough. But, clinging to an endless litany of little complaints will corrode the love in our relationship.
Love does not insist on winning. It is ready to let go, to surrender, to lay down the need to be right all the time. I will know I have chosen love when I am no longer determined to get my way.
Resentment and irritability are sure signs that I am walking away from love.
When I take delight in your failings and emphasize what I perceive to be your flaws, I have given up on love.
Love always seeks to see the truth, even when it may be painful.
There are times when love simply puts up with things as they are.
When I choose love I commit myself to trust you even when I feel as if your behaviour has let me down.
My love for you never gives up hoping we will continue to grow and prosper together.
Love is the ultimate power that generates and sustains life. It is the enduring force of the universe. It will never be defeated.
Everything else is temporary.
I know that I do not understand life fully. I understand neither myself nor you completely. There are so many ways in which my vision is inadequate. I am so often self-deceived.
We will only prosper in this relationship of love if we determine we will carry on together being as honest as we possibly can with ourselves and with one another. Anything less than this deep commitment to transparency and truthfulness is simply childish.
When I choose love, I choose to grow up into that fullness for which I know in my deepest being, I was created. I trust that as I stay open to love and to you, I will see more clearly and understand more accurately. One day I will see fully how love always wins.
The greatest things in my life are my choice to trust, my determination to look forward in hope, and my intention to behave in ways that nurture love. But the greatest thing of all is to choose consistently to live more fully a practical active life of love.

Comforting Others as God Comforts Us

Welcome to the first issue of Inspiration Breaks in 2016. For those who have been long-time “subscribers,” welcome back. For those who are new, Inspiration Breaks is an occasional blog of “chicken soup for the soul” that is designed to give inspiration, blessing, and encouragement for the busy, the harried, and the hurried. These can be easily read in under five minutes, thus they have been dubbed “Inspiration Breaks.” So sit back, grab a cup of coffee, and let the Spirit soak in to inspire, bless and encourage you.

Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings. And the God of all grace … after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm, and steadfast.” (1 Peter 5:8-10) “Praise be to God…, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.” (2 Cor 1:3,4).  For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Ephesians 2:10)

I have these verses cross-referenced in my Bible, because I think they need to be read together. We know that, as followers of God, sometimes it seems as if we have a target on our backs. No one gets through life unscathed. And whether our trials are the result of a natural disaster (tornadoes, floods, fires), health issues, our own sinful decisions, or someone else’s sinful decisions, we live in a broken world that will never be perfect this side of heaven. But these verses remind us of a few things we can count on in the midst of the trials: (1) we are not alone in our suffering, (2) they don’t last forever, (3) even though we might not feel it in the moment, when we look to Him, God uses trials to restore us and make us stronger, (4) God comforts us and (5) after He comforts us, He expects us to comfort others who are going through similar trials because we have a unique understanding of what they are going through.   And while God can use any method He wants to comfort us, restore us, and make us strong, I tend to believe that He uses the people that He puts in our lives – divine appointments I like to call them – to be His healing hands and feet on earth. And then He gives us the privilege to be His hands and feet to someone else.

While sometimes it may seem like life is one trial after another, a few stand out for me. One of my earlier trials came when, as a 14 year old, I was diagnosed with scoliosis and had to wear a very cumbersome and unsightly back brace for 2 ½ years. As a high school freshman with braces, no makeup (mom’s orders), hand-me-down clothes, orthopedic shoes (due to my flat feet), and now a back brace, I was perhaps one of the world’s ugliest ducklings. The day I got my back brace, I was in tears, but I asked the Lord “What do you want me to learn from this?” (And under my breath I was thinking “And make it quick!”) The next 2 ½ years was a time of enormous spiritual growth, as God put amazing people with spiritual maturity in my life and drew me closer to Him. And, as the only person in school with a back brace, it gave me a lifelong appreciation for the “odd man out.” As the girl now subject to cruel social ostracism, God opened my eyes to those who may not be in the “in” crowd. I vowed to always embrace those who may be a little different through no fault of their own and to make them feel welcome. You know who I mean: the only African-American lawyer in an all-white law firm, the person in the wheelchair in a group of able-bodied party-goers, the token senior citizen asked to a gathering because she is someone’s mother, the only child in a group of grown-ups, the new kid on the block. I can now look back and thank God for that back brace – for keeping me humble and for giving me a compassionate heart for others. I saved that old brace, which is now in the back of the crawl space, as a reminder of God’s grace in a trial.

When I was in my early thirties, a fire took our house just two weeks before my first year law school finals, but everyone made it out safe. Again, I had one of those conversations with God. “Lord, you know that I gave this whole law career to you before I started law school to do whatever you needed me to do with a law degree. So, if you want me to get decent grades in law school, so I can get a decent job and do your work, you need to help out on these finals. Because, with no house and no clothes and my kids with my parents, I’m really not going to have enough time to study.” In a way that only God can do, He enabled me to make straight A’s that semester – I was so surprised that I even told the registrar she had made a mistake when she handed me my grade sheet and asked her to recheck it. But more importantly, through that trial, God made sure I got my priorities straight: stuff doesn’t matter, people do. And He had plans for that law degree. I had a plum appointment as a law clerk to a wonderful federal judge when I graduated, and then, for the next 15 years, God lined up a position close to home where I could raise my young children, work at a top Chicago-based law firm, teach and serve on the boards of faith-based institutions, mentor young people, and do pro bono legal work for a number of faith-based organizations. I can now look back and thank God for that fire – for reminding me that He is so big that even a house fire couldn’t destroy my grades, or the good works that He had planned in advance for me to do with a law degree.

Almost four years ago, I was forced to flee my home and found myself in need of trauma counseling and a safe place to live on an emergency basis, because my own home was no longer safe. God and I had one of those conversations, once again. “Lord, give me your peace, heal me, and tell me where you want me to go – oh, and make it very clear.” God again put amazing Spirit-filled people of faith in my path and drew me closer to Him. As promised in his Word, He has been healing, restoring, and strengthening me these past few years. And then He made his next assignment clear: to use my law degree to comfort others who are walking the same path through the same organizations who had helped me. And so, following God’s prompting, in 2015, I took extensive training to become a Certified Domestic Abuse Professional and, along with A Safe Place (a local shelter for women and children fleeing domestic abuse that is near and dear to my heart) started a support group for women in Lake Forest, IL. December 31 was my last day at Schiff Hardin as a corporate lawyer. Starting this January, I will be partnering with A Safe Place and Zacharias Center for Sexual Abuse Recovery (another place near and dear to me) to represent women in the courtroom escaping domestic abuse. This is outside my comfort zone. In fact, it is stepping directly into battle against the evil of domestic abuse – which is kept carefully hidden from public view – that is destroying families.   But I am counting on His promise that, as I step out in faith, His grace is sufficient and that I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

Many times, only those who have experienced something know what it’s like, and others, while perhaps well-meaning, simply do not understand. Still others choose to look the other way in indifference. Sadly, there are also those who, because of lack of discernment or their own defective moral compass, embrace the very ones who inflict abuse. Trials are usually a lonely place. Only those who have been in combat share the unique band of brotherhood. Only those who have survived cancer understand the battle against this unseen thief. Only those who have experienced domestic abuse understand the evil involved.

We each have our own stories in which God has comforted us in a trial, sent angels (many without wings) to be his hands and feet, and has drawn us closer to Him. As we look forward to 2016, I encourage each of us to look on our own unique life journeys and, after we are strengthened and restored as only our heavenly Father can do, find ways we can comfort others whom God puts in our paths who are going through similar trials. What a privilege it is that the God of the Universe asks us to partner with Him and be His hands and feet here on earth!

As always, you can reach me at charlene@blessingsframed.com.

May you walk in peace, love and joy in 2016 and beyond.

Charlene Quint

A Reflection on Fathers and their Blessings in our Lives

Father’s Day is upon us – a time to celebrate one of God’s greatest blessings in life: our earthly fathers.  Although we might not keep it in our conscious awareness at all times, fathers can and do have impact far beyond their lives, often for generations.  The blessings and teachings of a godly father not only extend to his children, but also to his grandchildren and great-grandchildren and beyond.  Wise fathers know that they are not just raising their kids, but are raising the grandparents of their great-great grandchildren.  It should come as no surprise, that some of the leaders in our country can trace their roots to notable leaders hundreds of years ago.  For example, actress Reese Witherspoon traces her ancestry back to Rev. Jonathon Witherspoon, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, and President of Princeton University (then known as the College of New Jersey).  He was a powerful thought leader who had tremendous influence over many of our founding fathers, particularly James Madison, who after graduation came back to Princeton to study another year under his leadership.

 

Sadly, we are in the midst of a crisis of fatherhood in this country.  Many fathers don’t realize that they are called not just to provide food and clothes and education for their children, but to impart moral standards and raise the next generation of conscientious, informed citizens.  According to the National Fatherhood Initiative, the absence of involved fathers can be traced to a number of societal problems, including higher crime rate, higher drug and alcohol abuse, higher teenage pregnancy rates, higher school drop-out rates, higher runaway teen rates, higher poverty rates, and even higher obesity rates among children of non-involved fathers.  Unfortunately, many fathers simply don’t know or don’t care how important they are in the lives of their children and the mothers of their children.  Even more fathers don’t know or don’t care that, as Father Theodore Hesburgh, former President of Notre Dame, wisely said, “The best thing a father can do for his children is to love their mother.” 

 

Based upon my personal observations on Chicago’s North Shore, most fathers fall into generally one of four categories.  The “absentee father” is simply that – so self-centered and self-absorbed that he is absent and unsupportive of his children and their mother.  These children and their mothers suffer emotionally, physically, spiritually and financially. 

 

The next category is what I call the “Henry VIII father.”   Like Henry VIII, this father is self-centered, narcissistic and morally bankrupt – although he wants to present a successful, powerful image to the world.  He wants heirs to whom he can impart his kingdom – but wives, in his view, are expendable. This father often engages in secret affairs, pornography, excessive alcohol or drug use, excessive work hours as he chases the all-important dollar, demeaning those he views as inferior, and shady business dealings – all without caring how it affects his disposable wife, and without realizing how it affects his children.  When one wife no longer accepts this treatment for herself and her children, like Henry, he fabricates reasons to symbolically and publicly behead her, and unremorsefully moves on to the next conquest without a second thought, leaving a trail of destruction behind him.

 

The “lawnmower father” takes care of his own, but often at the expense of others.  His moral compass is skewed, and everything seems allowable as long as his family gets ahead.  As I recently overheard a teenager at a local coffee shop, “My dad doesn’t care if I cheat on tests if that will get me into Harvard.”

 

Thankfully, there is the category I call the “Hero.”  These are the few men that truly get it.  They know that fatherhood is a high calling of sacrificial leadership to their wife and children.  The hero father understands that godly leadership is not being a bully or using his family to serve him, but serving others by loving and honoring his wife and children, encouraging them to be their best, and ensuring everyone in his family feels safe, protected, and loved just as they are – not because they have met a performance standard.  He is a shelter from the storms not only for his own family, but for others whose lives he touches as well.  He is the rock on which his family leans for support.  He is emotionally and spiritually mature so that his wife does not feel like she is raising yet another child, and his children feel safe and secure under their godly role model.  When a matter arises with the children, his wife can confidently say to her children, “What would your father do?” as the standard of behavior they should adhere to.  He understands that the measure of a man is what he does when he thinks no one else is looking, and so he treats even the beggar on the street with kindness and refrains from engaging in anything that would dishonor himself, his wife or children. He teaches by example, not by lectures. His fatherly words of wisdom are written in the hearts and minds of his children, and these “Daddyisms” are passed on to the next generation, and the next.  In short, the hero father understands that he is the hands and feet of our Heavenly Father to his family and circle of influence here on earth.

 

And so, this Father’s Day, we celebrate the heroes, the ones who lives by a code of honor even when no one is looking, the ones who protect and provide and encourage and love even when it means a sacrifice, the ones on whose shoulders our families are built, the ones who stand in for our Heavenly Father here on earth.  And for these heroes, we say Thanks, Dad.

 

 

A Blessing For My Father

Thank you for being my Hero,

For teaching me Right from Wrong.

Thank you for always Protecting me

With your Embrace – both Loving and Strong.

 

Thank you for your timeless Wisdom

And not telling me how to live,

But Patiently teaching by your Example

Of living a Life Well-lived.

 

Thank you for your Gentle Guiding Hand

And always being Proud of me,

For showing me what Character looks like;

Kindness, Hard Work and Integrity.

 

Thank you for your Gift of Faith

And being a Righter of Wrongs.

And for Adventures, and Quests and Cowboys,

And being a Singer of Songs.

 

Thank you for always fixing things

From broken Hearts to broken Toy Trains,

Using skillful Hands and big Bear Hugs,

And Hammers and Levels and Planes.

 

My Greatest Gift has been you, Dad,

Chosen especially for me from Above;

An earthly Father – an endless Heart,

Reflecting my Heavenly Father’s endless Love.

Graduation Blessings – Gifts for Graduates

We are in the midst of graduation season.  A time of celebrating the accomplishment of a lofty goal, a time of looking back on years of hard work and sacrifice to achieve that goal,  a time of looking forward to the journey that lies ahead, and a time of embracing the challenges as part of that journey.   It is a time when strong emotions of excitement and anxiety mix together in anticipation and hope of the great unknown.

Recently, I attended the commencement of the university on whose board I sit and where I teach a business law class.  It is one of my favorite days of the year, and perhaps the only time I see an entire gymnasium full of people who are still smiling ear to ear after an hour or so of sitting, simply because of the pure joy of seeing a loved one accomplish a major milestone.  As a Christian university and seminary, there are many who will head out to the mission field to become pastors and missionaries, counselors and therapists, educators and even accountants.  Indeed, I have learned over the years that the mission field is anywhere God puts us and our calling is to do His will in whatever field He has gifted us in.   Many will return to their countries of origin – places like South Korea, Nigeria, Indonesia, Columbia, the Middle East and Brazil – to set up orphanages, establish schools, help the poor and AIDS widows and orphans,  and plant churches in what can only be called hostile environments.  As the young man who addressed his own Class of 2015 wisely proclaimed, the road ahead of them will be significantly harder than the road behind.  They will need perseverance, wisdom, divine guidance, and a strong faith in our loving heavenly Father to overcome the trials and challenges that none of us are immune to in this life. 

As it was for many of us, ahead for most of them is not only a career for which they have attended years of schooling to equipment themselves, but also marriage with all its joys and challenges, in-laws (with all their joys and challenges), children with runny noses and skinned knees, new homes with leaky roofs, businesses that may succeed or fail, jobs that will run their course, colleagues that may or may not be co-operative, friendships that may last a lifetime or just a season, medical issues ranging from new glasses to broken bones, and a host of other life experiences for which there is no formal training. 

At their age, I often wished there was an operating manual for life, an expert to consult for all the things I didn’t learn in school, and shot of courage I could have when facing foreboding obstacles.  And then I discovered there is an Operating Manual, but I just hadn’t read it very thoroughly – having skipped over most of Old Testament and having made just a cursory review of the New Testament.  And there is an Expert, but I just didn’t know Him all that well and, frankly, even when I did consult Him, I didn’t follow His advice all that much.  And there is a burst of courage – and strength and boldness, but it is much more effective when it lives in you in Spirit, than when you drink it from a glass.   

And so, for these new graduates, I wish them not only blessings, prosperity and success in their chosen field, but also the wisdom that comes only from knowing the Operating Manual; the love that comes only from knowing the Expert and author of the Operating Manual; and the courage and strength and boldness that only comes from the Spirit living in them.    

And when the storms of life inevitably blow, I wish that they hold steadfast in the storm; I wish that they would know who they are; but more importantly, I wish that they would know whose they are: sons and daughters of a Heavenly King who is able to give them wisdom beyond measure, love overflowing, and more than enough courage, strength and boldness they will need for their journey. 

 

A Graduation Blessing

As you go forth from this day, may you be strong and bold.

May Christ’s Spirit dwell within you, as with the mighty saints of old.

As you embark upon your journey, as the road opens at your feet,

May the blessings of heaven rain on you, as the course set before you, you complete.

May you be strong and courageous, may you banish all doubt and fear

For the Lord your God is with you, whether you travel far or near.

May you seek first the Lord, may you give the Lord your best.

May He direct your paths and crown your efforts with success.

May Jehovah guide your passage and be a lamp unto your way.

May His Spirit be upon you and His Wisdom ever-present stay.

May Love, Joy, Peace and Kindness be your guide.

May Patience, Gentleness and Goodness protect you from foolish pride.

May you guard your affections, may you wisely entrust your heart.

May you choose your companions carefully, true friendship may you impart.

Fearfully and wonderfully God made you – a Masterpiece, a Treasure!

May you use your gifts in fulfilling work, may your joy be without measure.

May you wisely choose your path upon which the great saints have trod.

May you do Justice, may you love Mercy, and may you walk humbly with your God.

                                                                                                                                                                                      -Charlene D. Quint ©

Saint Patrick’s Day Prayer

Saint Patrick’s Day seems to be a jovial yearly ritual when a great number of people claim to be Irish (even a wee bit) and exuberantly celebrate their heritage with a pint or two of Ireland’s finest ale.  I’m not sure if I have any Irish blood in me (although that doesn’t stop me from celebrating), but I do appreciate Saint Patrick and the missionary work he did in fifth century Ireland.  One of the pieces of literature that I most admire, commonly known as Saint Patrick’s Breastplate, was written by the saint some 1,600 years ago.  It is a daily prayer that the saint wrote and, as legend goes, put on his breastplate – the forerunner to the modern day flak jacket.  While the prayer seems a bit lengthy to put on a breastplate, perhaps the name “breastplate” is a literary description that is symbolic of the physical breastplate of protective gear worn into battle.  Given the battles that life can throw at us, nothing can be more comforting than to have a shield of Divine Protection around us to keep at bay the fiery arrows of the enemy.   

I love the imagery that Saint Patrick portrays of God surrounding us with his Presence as we go about our day.  And I love the idea of “binding” ourselves to him, as He binds himself to us.  The dictionary tells us that bind means to fasten or secure with a tight band or bond. In the world of chemistry, chemical binding is the process in which atoms or molecules become intertwined such that their prior individual characteristics no longer exist, replaced by the  new characteristics of the new substance. When hydrogen and oxygen are bound together as H2O, neither the characteristics of hydrogen nor the characteristics of oxygen continue to exist, but instead, the new substance, water, has completely different characteristics. I like to think that when God gets ahold of us, when we bind ourselves to him, we become a new substance with a new character, and therefore we possess new characteristics that are different and more God-like than our old ones.

 

Like the Armor of God that Paul implores us to put on in Ephesians, perhaps a daily dose of Saint Patrick’s Breastplate is just what we need to start our day.  While the original verse is quite lengthy (and thus a bit difficult to memorize), it was my inspiration for “A Morning Prayer.”

 

A Morning Prayer

 

Good morning, Lord!

Father, Son and Holy Spirit,

Blessed Trinity;

Your still small voice – today may I hear it,

May I live in light of eternity.

Be with me today, Lord,

As I bind myself to you.

May your Word be my sword,

Surround me with you.

Christ, be with me and within me.

Go behind me and before me.

Walk beside me and win me,

Comfort me and restore me.

Christ, go beneath me and above me.

Be with me in quiet and in danger.

Reign in the hearts of those who love me.

Love be in the words of friend and stranger.

Good morning, Lord!

I know you are with me today,

As you bind yourself to me –

Guiding my path, lighting my way,

Surrounding me with the Trinity.

 

A blessed Saint Patrick’s Day to you and yours. 

Charlene

Valentine’s Day Prayer – Love Extravagantly

This Saturday on Valentine’s Day we take a pause from our busy schedules and make special efforts to cherish those we cherish, treasure those we treasure, and love those we love.  Whether it’s a romantic dinner with your sweetheart, or heart-shaped chocolate chip pancakes with your kiddos, we take a little extra time and money to say “I love you.  I value you.  You are a gift to me that I treasure.”

Although volumes of books, thousands of songs, and a good amount of letters have been devoted to the notion of love, the definition of love remains a bit elusive.  As one famous judge has said about another rather elusive concept, “I don’t know the definition, but I know it when I see it.”  

Love is not the ooey gooey feeling we get when we are with a lover, although that can be a nice side effect of love.  We all have disagreements and sometimes may be downright unhappy with a lover, but that doesn’t mean we don’t love them.  And it’s not the warm fuzzy feeling we get when we are in the bosom of our family, although that’s a nice side effect too.  Just because we are frustrated with our teenager and are not feeling particularly warm and fuzzy does not mean that we don’t love them either.  Although we generally think of being gentle and agreeable as loving, sometimes love requires us to confront another person whose behavior or attitude are unacceptable and destructive to himself or others. 

The best definition I have heard recently is the short definition put forth by social activist and fellow board member of the Au Sable Institute, Ben Lowe.   In his book “Doing Good Without Giving Up,” Ben reminds us that love “lies at the very heart of who we are called to be and what we are called to do. . . . Love is more than a good feeling; it’s a commitment to seek the welfare of others, even those who are hard to love, and even when love involves sacrifice.”

In I Corinthians 13, also known as the Love Chapter, Paul gives us a pretty good description of what God considers love.  (And really, isn’t His the only opinion that counts anyway?)  It’s a great barometer to determine if the relationship we are in is based on love, or something masquerading as love.  In The Message translation, Paul encourages us to not love others half-heartedly, or just enough to keep them from leaving – but intentionally.  Indeed, Paul encourages us to love extravagantly.  What a great word!  In other words, love with everything you’ve got.  Love each other . . . .  like Jesus loves us.  And when each of us are intentional about loving extravagantly, I think God’s gift to us is to let us have just a little foretaste of what heaven is going to be like.

In honor of Valentine’s Day, I took a look at the Love Chapter and tried to imagine what that kind of love would look like in a marriage or between sweethearts.  How could we ask the Lord to help us love the special person in our life this way?  This is my prayer — to remind us to treasure the gift who is our sweetheart, to cherish the one we cherish, and to love not just ordinarily – but extravagantly:

 

Love Extravagantly

 

Let us outdo each other in kindness.

Let our hearts be forever thankful for the gift from God

That we have in each other.

 

Let us cherish our moments together and waste not one.

Let us treasure each other as one who is

Wondrously and wonderfully made.

 

Let us be a blessing overflowing to one another.

Let us encourage each other so that our souls can soar.

Let us inspire each other to be better than ever thought possible.

 

Let us be better together than apart.

Let us lead each other closer to God as daily we become more like Him.

Let us protect the hearts that we have entrusted to each other.

 

Let us be gracious, abiding securely in each other’s unending grace.

Let us laugh in the rain, dance in the sun,

And cling closely in the storms.

 

Let our tango be playful and passionate, sweet and tender,

Gentle and kind, faithful and true.

Let us come back to each other,

To our safe place in the eye of the storm.

 

Let us give rather than take, seek to serve rather than be served,

Bring joy rather than sorrow, and seek peace rather than disharmony.

Let us give of ourselves freely and completely with nothing held back.

 

And when have come to the end of our days which God has ordained,

Let us know that we have loved – and have been loved – extravagantly.

Charlene Quint

 

 

p.s.  I am pleased to announce the release of my most recent book “Blessings, Prayers, and Heart Songs.”  It is available at bookstores everywhere and on Amazon.com.  It makes a lovely and romantic Valentine’s Day present.  I will have a special Valentine’s Day book signing at Lake Forest Bookstore in historic Market Square, Lake Forest, IL at 1 p.m. this Saturday, February 14.  Please stop by, have a cup of coffee, and say hello!

To help others who are recovering from domestic abuse, 100% of the author proceeds of this event will be donated to A Safe Place, a local shelter for women and children who are recovering from domestic abuse.