Fatherhood’s Collapse, Love’s Destruction

Father in heaven! Draw our hearts to you so that our longing may be where our treasure is supposed to be.

―Søren Kierkegaard

Scripture: Psalm 105.5-6

Remember the wondrous works that he has done, his miracles, and the judgments he uttered, O offspring of Abraham, his servant, children of Jacob, his chosen ones!

Reflection: Fatherhood’s Collapse, Love’s Destruction
By Steven Dilla

There are few ways to understate the brokenness of fatherhood in our culture. The Washington Times reports that 11% of kids grew up in a home without a father in 1960. Today that number is over 33%. Princeton Historian Lawrence Tone observes:

The scale of marital breakdowns in the West since 1960 has no historical precedent that I know of. There has been nothing like it for the last 2,000 years, and probably longer.

Paternal absence is so high — near pandemic — that we have barely began a public conversation on quality or character of fathers. For many, it wasn’t a father’s absence, but the character and quality of his presence that left the deepest wounds.

While Scripture uses many images for God, few of them create the mixed emotions of talking about God as Father. The effects of this reaction cannot be underestimated. Our view of love is anemic because our view of fatherhood is so damaged. It is God’s fatherhood that gives the depth, intimacy, and love we desire most.

If God is only a teacher, we miss the relational depth we need. If he is only creator we lack intimacy with him (he is like a watchmaker). If he’s only a judge he can love the law, but isn’t required to love the one in his courtroom.

The Christian view of God as father does not simply take the characteristics of earthly fathers and polish them up a bit. God as our Father creates a new image of a good, true, and perfect Father.

But where is this fatherhood rooted? The Bible says God is love. Not just that he has love or shows love, but that his very nature is love. In this sense, 1 Corinthians 13 could be paraphrased:

Dad is patient. Dad is kind. Dad does not envy or boast. Dad is not arrogant. Dad is not rude. Dad does not insist on his own way. Dad is not irritable. Dad is not resentful. Dad does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Dad bears all things for his kids. Dad believes all things about his kids. Dad hopes all things for his kids. Dad endures all things for his kids. Dad’s love never ends.

Prayer: The Request for Presence 

“May God be merciful to us and bless us,* show us the light of his countenance and come to us.”

Excerpt From: Phyllis Tickle. “The Divine Hours (Volume One): Prayers for Summertime.”

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Full prayer available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
Deuteronomy 18 (Listen – 3:08)
Psalm 105 (Listen – 4:02)

 

Praying Through the Stress of Work

Prayer is but a sensible acknowledgment of our dependence on him to his glory. As he has made all things for his own glory, so he will be glorified and acknowledged by his creatures.

―Jonathan Edwards

Scripture: Psalm 104.1

Bless the Lord, O my soul!

Reflection: Praying Through the Stress of Work
By Steven Dilla

The beauty of the psalms is they are not simply inspiration and instruction, but example. In hearing and praying through the psalms we find spiritual vitality in a world austere to the divine.

The idea of commanding one’s soul to bless the Lord, as the Psalmist does five times in Psalms 103-104, can seem trite and overly emotional—but this is far from the holistic rejoicing the psalmist had in mind.

In his journals Jonathan Edwards reveals the way his spiritual life is burdened by stresses of his vocation. He creates space to recenter himself on Christ through the scriptures, prayer for others, and community. And in this, he rejoices in the joys of his Heavenly Father:

Tuesday, June 26. In the morning my desires seemed to rise, and ascend up freely to God. Was busy most of the day in translating prayers into the language of the Delaware Indians; met with great difficulty… But though I was much discouraged with the extreme difficulty of that work, God supported me; and especially in the evening gave me sweet refreshment.

In prayer my soul was enlarged, and my faith drawn into sensible exercise; was enabled to cry to God for [them]; and though the work of their conversion appeared impossible with man, yet with God I saw all things were possible.

My faith was much strengthened, by observing the wonderful assistance God afforded his servants Nehemiah and Ezra, in reforming his people, and re-establishing his ancient church.

I was much assisted in prayer for dear christian friends, and for others that I apprehended to be Christ-less… [I] was enabled to be instant in prayer for them; and hoped that God would bow the heavens and come down for their salvation. It seemed to me there could be no impediment sufficient to obstruct that glorious work, seeing the living God, as I strongly hoped, was engaged for it.

I continued in a solemn frame, lifting up my heart to God for assistance and grace, that I might be more mortified to this present world, that my whole soul might be taken up continually in concern for the advancement of Christ’s kingdom: longed that God would purge me more, that I might be as a chosen vessel to bear his name among the heathens. Continued in this frame till I dropped asleep.

Prayer: The Greeting

Restore us, O God of hosts; show the light of your countenance, and we shall be saved. —Psalm 80.3

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Full prayer available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
Deuteronomy 17 (Listen – 3:24)
Psalm 104 (Listen – 3:37)

 

Hopes and Dreams

All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.

―J.R.R. Tolkien

Scripture: Psalm 100.1-2

Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth! Serve the Lord with gladness!

Reflection: Hopes and Dreams
By Steven Dilla

In the late 1860’s Charles Feltman replaced the pie wagon he had pushed through the sand on Coney Island for years with a new one that could serve his latest creation: sausage wrapped in a pastry bun.

People were skeptical of what would become known as the hot dog, but the idea took off and Feltman built a restaurant that expanded rapidly. The Coney Island History Project reports that Feltman’s, “covered a full city block and consisted of nine restaurants, a roller coaster, a carousel, a ballroom, an outdoor movie theater, a hotel, a beer garden, a bathhouse, a pavilion, a Tyrolean village, two enormous bars, and a maple garden.”

Even after his death in 1910, the restaurant continued to expand—with over five million patrons in 1923 alone. If ever there was an institution that looked like it could last it was the dime-a-hotdog restaurant that could serve 8,000 people at a time and sat not far from the beach and newly-opened subway. But in less than a decade the Great Depression set in and business dried up quickly. Feltman’s family was soon faced with the task of closing the venues and selling off the land.

We strap our hopes and dreams to what looks most successful and trustworthy. Yet ventures succeed and fail—taking entrepreneurs, investors, employees, and families along with them. Far too many people end up wrought with strife and brokenness because they invest everything they are into things which are exposed as unworthy.

Psalm 100 is the closing Psalm in a series of psalms (starting at Psalm 93) that renders praise to God because he is sufficiently worthy of our praise, affection, and hope. Those who praise God are full of joy because worship centers their life in God’s presence—and better is one day in his presence than thousands elsewhere.

Our work on this earth might carry on beyond our lives—a Coney Island man recently opened a Feltman’s pop up—and is worthy of our time and energy. At the same time, we should guard ourselves from allowing vocation and success to become the object of our affection or the source of our hope and joy.

Prayer: The Cry of the Church

Lord, have mercy on us. Christ, have mercy on us. Lord, have mercy on us.

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Full prayer available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
Deuteronomy 13-14 (Listen – 6:35)
Psalm 99-101 (Listen – 2:48)

This Weekend’s Readings
Deuteronomy 15 (Listen – 3:20) Psalm 102 (Listen – 2:45)
Deuteronomy 16 (Listen – 3:25) Psalm 103 (Listen – 2:07)

 

Grace Which Rises

He who supposes that Jesus Christ only lived and died and rose again in order to provide justification and forgiveness of sins for His people, has yet much to learn.

―J.C. Ryle

Scripture: Psalm 98.8-9

Let the rivers clap their hands; let the hills sing for joy together before the Lord, for he comes to judge the earth. He will judge the world with righteousness, and the peoples with equity.

Reflection: Grace Which Rises
By Augustine of Hippo (354-430 C.E.)

Observe heaven: everywhere on every side it covers the earth. Men sin beneath heaven: they do all evil deeds beneath the heaven; yet they are covered by the heaven. From heaven is light for the eyes, and air, and breath, and rain upon the earth for the sake of its fruits, and all mercy.

Take away the aid of heaven from the earth: it will fail at once. As then the protection of heaven abides upon the earth, so does the Lord’s protection abide upon them that fear Him. You fear God, His protection is above thee. But perhaps you are scourged, and believe that God has forsaken you. God has only forsaken you if the protection of heaven has forsaken the earth.

When sin is remitted, your sins fall, your grace rises; your sins are as it were on the decline, your grace which frees you on the rise. You should look to the rising, and turn away from the setting.

Turn away from your sins, turn unto the grace of God; when your sins fall, you rise and profit. This is the grace which rises unto us: both our sins fall forever, and grace abides forever.

Who but Christ has prepared His throne in heaven? He who descended and ascended, He who died, and rose from the dead, He who lifted up to heaven the manhood He had assumed, hath Himself prepared His throne in heaven.

The throne is the seat of the Judge: observe therefore you who hear, that “He has prepared His throne in heaven.… The kingdom is the Lord’s, and He shall be the Governor among the people. “And His kingdom shall rule over all.”

And why? God is the Judge. “In every place of His dominion: bless thou the Lord, O my soul!” From blessing we set out, to blessing let us return, in blessing let us reign.

Prayer: The Request for Presence 

“Send out your light and your truth, that they may lead me, and bring me to your holy hill and to your dwelling; That I may go to the altar of God, to the God of my joy and gladness;* and on the harp I will give thanks to you, O God my God. —Psalm 43.3-4

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Full prayer available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
Deuteronomy 12 (Listen – 5:11)
Psalm 97-98 (Listen – 2:19)

 

The Weight of the World

If we have no peace it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.

―Mother Teresa

Scripture: Psalm 95:3-4

For the LORD is a great God, and a great King above all gods. In his hand are the depths of the earth; the heights of the mountains are his also.

Reflection: The Weight of the World
By Steven Dilla

It may be partially as survival mechanism, but urbanites find near-perverse delight in the idiosyncrasies of city life. Pastor Taylor Field of Graffiti Church in Manhattan recently shared one of his favorite urban contrasts, found in a 7 ton bronze statue of the god Atlas. Although immense, and depicted with defined muscle, the figure of Atlas strains under the weight of the world, which rests on his shoulders.

Because it is placed outside one of the entrances to Rockefeller Center, the 45 foot tall statue seems dwarfed by the scale of the buildings which surround it. Writing for The New Yorker, Adam Gopnik observes, “The tall building is the symbol of all that we hope for—height, reach, power, and a revolving restaurant with a long wine list — and all that we cower beneath.”

Gopnik explains the ornate design of Rockefeller Center and its impressive artwork: “It was not that Rockefeller, in a burst of civic generosity, decided to go all out. It was that everyone then was expected to go all out… All the things that make Rockefeller Center immediately winning–the statues of Prometheus and Atlas, the molded glass bas-reliefs–were just part of what you were expected to do.” Expectations can be immensely heavy. We often find ourselves, like Atlas, crushed by the weight of the world.

Tucked humbly behind the altar inside St. Patrick’s Cathedral—just a few hundred feet from Rockefeller’s statue of Atlas on Fifth Avenue—is a significantly smaller statue of Jesus. The Christ stands, but a child, effortlessly holding the world in the palm of his hand.

The Psalmist writes, “In his hand are the depths of the earth; the heights of the mountains are his also. …Oh come, let us worship and bow down.” The best reason to find ourselves kneeling is not because we’re buckling under the weight of the world, but because we’re falling in worship and submission to the one who holds it effortlessly in his hands.

Prayer: The Request for Presence

Come to me speedily, O God. You are my helper and my deliverer; Lord, do not tarry. —Psalm 70.5-6

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Full prayer available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
Deuteronomy 11 (Listen – 4:38)
Psalm 95-96 (Listen – 2:37)

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