Like Spring [Poem by Mom]

Georgia vines cover our backyard like love covers a multitude of sins. At least that is the natural order of things—with the vines, as well as with true love.

We are slowly learning about southern biology. My wife’s daily devotional times are suffering thanks to the babbling birds boldly blaring their boom boxes behind our brick abode. I’m noticing—I think, I hope—that Georgia grass grows just a bit more gradually than Iowa varieties.

I might be wrong. Either way, I know that my love should look more like Iowa grass and Georgia vines, and that forgiveness should grow more quickly in wounds of my heart.

Mom talks about these things in the poem she shares this month. If you are struggling to forgive, or surprised by your own capacity to hate, then may her words give you fresh courage.

Mom’s poem is old—first written when I was only eight. (I recall the geological events she describes from the time, but was blissfully unaware as a boy of the concurrent ecclesiological disruptions motivating her poem.) Mom has written a new introduction to her old poem. But first, here is the poem. Enjoy!


Photo Credit: Dainis Matisons via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: Dainis Matisons via Compfight cc

LIKE SPRING

How persistent Spring is,
Untiring in her zeal
To carpet all that’s barren,
To beautify and heal.

Even into gashes
That man has blasted out,
Peninsulas are greening
And tiny islands sprout.

How forgiving Spring is
Of winter’s wasting shocks;
Ferns trail her every footstep
And moss adorns the rocks.

Oh, if man would mellow,
Forgive as joyously,
And seek to heal old wound scars
As conscientiously.

—Elaine Gingrich, January 1982/1985. Published in Ontario Informer, 1985.


Ken and I have been marking Bible courses for prison inmates for over twenty years. The very first lesson in the first Gospel Echoes Team course asks the student to name the most forgiving person that he knows other than God. Another question I marked last night: “What have you observed in Jesus’ relationships that could help you get along better with others?” The inmate responded with “Forgiveness is key.”

Forgiveness! This theme appears again and again in the inmates’ responses and comments and prayer requests. “Pray that my family, my wife, my children will forgive me.” “ Pray that I can forgive myself.” “I am finding it easier to forgive those who have hurt me.” “Studying these courses is helping me to forgive others.”

One student had wanted his life to end but reading the Bible showed him that he could turn his life around. He asked forgiveness of God and his loved ones and was finally able to forgive his girlfriend who left him while he was in jail. Forgiveness is transformative.

We all know forgiveness is not essential only for prison inmates. The scars that I write about in this poem have nothing to do with crime or incarceration. Sadly many Christians live imprisoned far too long in the grips of unforgiveness and bitterness. No wonder the epistles command us over and over to be tenderhearted, to forgive as Christ forgave us, and to return good for evil.

“Like Spring” was written after a discouraging season in church life. Differing opinions on church affiliation had caused our beloved pastor to move on. A few members moved away. Ken wondered why he was building our new home. The images for the poem grew out of the road construction occurring that summer past our property. The cottage trail winding between the northern lakes was redirected, blasted through the rocky hill between our circle drive. Several times rock-drilling and blasting sent us out of our trailer home to safety, and the dust and rumble of huge dump trucks and power shovels entertained my three young sons who had a front rock seat to all the action.

It was the next spring, as I walked and prayed, that I was amazed to see how soon the barren disturbed patches of earth and crevices in the rocks were again sprouting with new growth and green beauty. But then, of course, Christ is the giver of life, of new life, in nature and in human hearts. And God is love and has called us to love and forgive as He does, to join Him in the ministry of reconciliation. I think of a simple poem I wrote in my teens: “Hating Those Who Hate.”

HATING THOSE WHO HATE

The times when I most see the need
To love mankind,
I feel like driving this great truth
Into man’s mind.

The passion of this growing lack
Of love grips me.
I see it is our foremost great
Necessity.

And yet the times my being throbs
With pain at hate
Is when my heart most tends to hate
Those men who hate.

You cannot hope to help someone
You do not love—
The only answer to this need
Comes from above.

Yes, God’s way and nature’s way is better.

—Elaine Gingrich, May 26, 2016


For the rest of the poems in this monthly series, see here.

And if you enjoyed this poem, leave a comment here for Mom, or send her an email at MomsEmailAddressImage.php.  Thanks!


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12 Ways to Provoke Your Children to Anger (Lou Priolo)

Where your children angry today? If so, did you stop to ask why? In your search for a solution, did you consider that you may be part of the problem?

Unfortunately, parents and children often make life much harder for each other than it would need be otherwise. I know what it is like. All too easily our homes degenerate into mutual-maddening societies, where the words exchanged sound little better than the trash talk of opposing sports teams or presidential candidates.

Dads, the responsibility for our homes begins with us. Paul gave first-century fathers advice that we can’t afford to ignore today:

Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. (Eph. 6:4)

How might I provoke my children to anger? Last spring I attended a homeschool convention talk by Lou Priolo where he answered this question. Today I found my notes from that talk. Parenting isn’t typical content for this blog, but I thought I’d adapt his thoughts here so I can toss my paper notes.

Here are twelve ways we dads (and moms) can provoke our children to anger:

  1. Lack marital harmony with your spouse. (Priolo noted that only marriage partners, not children, are described as being “one flesh”—literally, “one person.” Our children are not “one flesh” with us, and our relationship with them is not designed to be as permanent or intimate as our relationship with our spouse. This leads to the next point.)
  2. Establish and maintain a child-centered home. Allow your children to interrupt, manipulate, dictate the schedule, take precedence over your spouse, demand time and attention, speak to you as to a peer, and require coddling to come out of a bad mood.
  3. Model sinful anger. Show your children what real anger looks like. When life feels out of control, regain control by bitter cuts or dramatic explosions.
  4. Discipline in anger. Discipline to meet your own needs, not your child’s needs.
  5. Discipline inconsistently. Discipline (or don’t) for different reasons on different days—or differently than your spouse.
  6. Have double standards. Expect your children to do as you say, not as you do.
  7. Be legalistic. Raise man’s commands to the level of God’s commands. Fail to distinguish between God’s law (biblically directed rules such as honesty and love) and parental law (biblically derived rules such as curfews or table manners). Don’t allow your children to ever appeal your parental rules—after all, they can’t appeal God’s rules, right?
  8. Never admit you are wrong. Don’t be open to reason (James 3:17). Stick to your guns and never change course.
  9. Have unrealistic expectations. Expect children to want to do what is right all the time, not just do right even when they don’t want to. Expect unregenerate teenagers to act as Christians. Emphasize achievement over character, and perfection over confession.
  10. Abuse your children physically. Be like Balaam: Don’t worry about collecting all the data first. Just strike out of embarrassment, and don’t worry if you lose control.
  11. Scold them. You want to break their spirits, crush their pride.
  12. Train them with worldly methodologies that are inconsistent with God’s word. Talk lots about “the Lord,” but parent based on the “discipline and instruction” of people who don’t know or care about the Lord.

Come to think of it, many of these points are also relevant for others, such as church leaders. May God help us to bring peace to those who depend on our care, not provoke them to anger.

Thanks for reading! Add your insights in the comments below.


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Spring Leaves in Rain [Poem by Mom]

Mom’s poem this month is too good to miss, even if I’ve left it for the last day of the month. The poem grows from the image of “spring leaves in rain.” So I’ll surround it with photos of life outside our Iowa windows on this rainy spring day.

cowsdeck

“If haply…

cowbackground

they might feel after him,…

cowleaves

and find him,…

playset

though he be not far from every one of us.”
—Acts 17:27 (KJV)


SPRING LEAVES IN RAIN
(
Acts 17:27 KJV, Prov. 11:28 NLT)

Spring leaves in rain nourish me—
More skin than paper
They hang in soft folds
Of translucent baby green—
The colour of hope,
Draped like a lady’s delicate fan
From the old maple’s branches
Waiting to catch the breeze.
Pulsing with the potential
Of butterfly wings emerging
Flawless and limp
The doeskin softness fits with ease,
An almost transparent glove
Over my hand.
I trace the flow of life:
Liquid-sunshine slips
Through yellow-green veins
From stiff stem to tender leaf tips,
Through sturdy midrib lanes
To fragile feathering netted threads,
To waiting capillaries in weathered skin
To the deep veins feeding my hungry heart,
Blending with my warm blood life-red
To visit every cell that craves a reason to live.

Spring leaves in rain comfort me—
The softness is something I can grow into—
The feel of hope,
A kid-leather glove
Hiding my scarred skin
With a layer as vulnerable as love.
I would hold life as a pale young leaf,
As tender and unguarded,
As knowing as they are, as free of grief—
Fearing neither tear nor fall,
Knowing next year’s leaf already waits—
Winter bud of determination,
The Creator’s caring provision
For life’s scars and seasons.
I too can survive and reappear
Soft as a baby’s cheek,
Demanding no reasons;
Feeling after Him,
And finding Him, not far away, but near;
Tracing the abiding flow of life-sap—
The Sonshine in my veins—
From source to need,
As godly as a growing leaf.
             

—Elaine Gingrich, June 10, 2013/ February 2015


roadcorner

“The godly flourish…

wetleaves

like leaves in spring.”
—Proverbs 11:28 (NLT)


For the rest of the poems in this monthly series, see here.

And if you enjoyed this poem, leave a comment here for Mom, or send her an email at MomsEmailAddressImage.php.  Thanks!


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