You Are Beautiful!

I love doing weddings, I love that moment when I am standing at the alter with the groom and the bride maDanielle Unity candlekes that appearance at the far end of the aisle and meets the eyes of the groom for the first time since donning her gown. At that moment there is no one else in the world and he has never seen anything more beautiful as she slowly works her way up to him in that brilliant white gown specially fitted to her and chosen with great care to enhance her beauty. And the brides hair, her glory, all done up, framing eyes that sparkle as she sees his reaction and knows that this is the day— the day he will take her as his wife.

I love that moment because I know that at that moment she is perfect in his sight— in fact, she is more than perfect, she is pure, she is lovely— she is loved.

 

When that bride is also your daughter it’s especially poignant. All three of my daughters have gotten married in recent years and all three of my daughters are loved, by their husbands, by me and many others.

I have a cherished picture of my youngest daughter— one of several sitting  on my desk— it’s her next to her husband just after they have lit their unity candles at the altar. To me this is a perfect picture of a perfect girl on a perfect day. Would she say that she is perfect?—no, and I know that she’s not, but that does not diminish the feelings I have when I see this picture in the slightest. Here she is in her pure white gown all made up for her groom, the day all of her life to this point has been leading up to, and if her husband has half a brain and a set of eyes, he is relishing this day and wondering how he ever got so lucky.

All he sees on this day is perfection, all I see when I look at this picture, when I see her now, or any of my daughters— is perfection— I see someone I love intensely.

Among those pictures there is one of my granddaughter sitting in her father’s lap. I love this picture because I know how much her daddy loves her, and how much she loves him. I want her to be completely surrounded by love. To know that love and to never doubt that love; from her dad, her mother, her grandparents, from me, and from her God.

When I see this picture I see a perfect child— is she? Probably not, but that’s what I see.

As far as I’m concerned, I have three perfect daughters and three perfect grandchildren. I want more than anything for them to know love, to feel and move, to be encouraged and strengthened, to be secure in that love. That love from me, from their parents, from future spouses…

Picture this:
Think about how much you love your child, your grandchild. Picture them in your mind.  Could anything dissuade you from that love? Of course not!  Even the thought rankles you doesn’t it? No one could persuade you to  think of them as anything less than absolutely beautiful.

Now, grasp that intense feeling of jealous love you feel for that child, maybe that spouse, grasp the power of that emotion, your hearts longing for them to know your love, to feel your love, in return for the joy they give you just for being who they are, perfect pure and lovely.

Take that intense love that comes to you when you see them, when you see their picture, even the picture in your mind— now take that love and without anything getting in the way— put yourself in the place of the person you are picturing and transpose yourself with the Lord.   Imagine you are the Lord and that person you love so intensely is you.

That is how your heavenly Father sees you. That is how much your Father loves you, and even more. Seriously— you are all children of God through faith— why do we struggle so with imagining God loving us with anything less than the same intensity that we love our children?

So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, 27 for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise. Gal 3

He does! In Christ Jesus we are all children of God

You want your children, your grandchildren to know your love, to bask in your love, to be secure in your love, yet we think that we, as God’s children, clothed in the beautiful wedding gown of righteousness, baptized into Christ, that somehow we have to earn our Father’s love, that we are just not worthy, that we cannot be loved on the level we want to be loved.

The inability to grasp that concept, to accept that love— that’s why we have no emotional and spiritual security, that’s why the church is so dysfunctional and neurotic.   To be loved is to be emotionally stable, spiritually healthy.  The child who does not have love, unconditional, discernable, demonstrative, love on a regular basis from a parent— and you all know this— any child who does not know that they are loved will become a messed up adult who will struggle for the rest of their lives with one issue after another. I have spent my entire adult life ministering to those kids and those adults. If you are not clothed in love —you are clothed in dysfunction.

The only way to overcome that, any of that, is to accept, to believe and know that you are loved by God. Why, oh why, would we think that God is in the business of raising an emotionally unhealthy church? One who has to earn his love, who is afraid to come to him and just say— Daddy, can I sit on your lap?

Our health, our healing, our strength, our desire to live this life, to be good people, to share love— it all stems from knowing that we are loved— from being accepted, loved unconditionally by our God

You are loved. Bask in that knowledge— you are loved beyond compare, beyond comprehension— you are perfect and beautiful— you are the pure bride of Christ, you are the beloved child of God the Father. Your picture sits on his desk

Know that you are righteous; clothe yourself in righteousness, bask in its comfort, knowing that you are beautiful.

-Dan Swaningson

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The Bully

Standing up

“‘If you can’?vikings hat” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for one who believes.”

24 Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” Mark 9

Faith is a many complicated thing; complicated and sometimes incomprehensible— like that sentence— and the scriptures have much to say about it. I think sometimes faith is just being strong enough, angry enough, and brave enough to fight, to say; “Enough is enough, I am done allowing myself to be pushed around anymore!”

This is going to sound like a story I stole straight from the Movie; A Christmas Story, but like all of my stories, it is 100% true and accurate— at least according to my memory.

Last week I told you about how I cracked the windshield on our Moto-Ski  snowmobile with my Minnesota Vikings stocking cap clad head. That reminded me of another story involving that hat. Actually I wore that hat a lot since, like I told you, winters in Minnesota lasted a long time.

When I was in the fourth grade  I usually walked home from school, Garfield elementary in Cloquet MN. It seemed like a long way but I suppose it was a half mile or so. This year the walk seemed especially long because some kids decided it would be fun to follow me home every day and throw snowballs at me every chance they got. If there wasn’t enough good snowball making snow, rocks would work just as well.

There were three of them— I didn’t even know them, we weren’t in the same class and I have no idea why they didn’t like me— they were just bullies looking for sport I suppose. And I was the lucky winner. This wasn’t unusual actually. I was always big for my age and all throughout school if anyone wanted to prove they were tough the quickest way to do it was to pick on the big guy. I never had any desire to get into fights and I was usually good with my words so I didn’t have to— most of the time.

My mother and I had even gone to the principal’s office together a couple of weeks earlier, meeting with these boys there but he hadn’t taken it seriously and refused to do anything, this only emboldened the boys and made things worse.

I don t remember how long this went on but one day I decided enough was enough and rather than running, ducking or even trying to ignore the taunts and the rocks I decided to make a stand. So as the boys were feeling a little braver and getting closer to me I turned aside from my usual route and stopped in the middle of an empty lot and let them close in on me.

I don’t remember what was said but they obviously thought they were pretty tough. It was obvious which one was the ring leader and which ones were the toadies, toadies only repeat what they hear the ring leader say. As the head bully got in my face I grabbed him and threw him to the ground and sat on his chest pinning his arms with my knees. I’ll never forget the look of utter astonishment and fear on his face as I looked down on him with my best young barbarian glare of death while I raised a clenched fist menacingly over my head while realizing that I could now pound his face to a pulp if I so desired.

But I didn’t— just seeing the look on his face and hearing him scream like a little girl was enough. Those screams were mostly for help from his minions who were standing on either side of us looking just as shocked. I started getting a little nervous when he started yelling for his toadies to hit me in the head with a rock as I was just sitting there relishing the moment. Either minion one and minion two couldn’t find a sufficient rock- or they just didn’t have it in them to bash me in the head- but they decided it was sufficient to snatch my prized Vikings stocking cap off my head and run.

This actually worked because I jumped up and went after them leaving whimpering Bully boy to run home to mommy.

When I got home my mother wanted to know where my hat was so I told her what had happened. I told her that I had handled it but I really wanted to get my hat back. I had no doubt that my hat would end up at bully boy’s house so I talked my mother into going over there with me to demand my hat back. That wasn’t a pleasant experience either as we found out why Bully boy was so ornery, he got it from his mother.

Long story short we got my hat back and I changed schools a week later, even though I had put an end to the problem, it was time for a change of scenery. My work was done here.

Thots

Bullies are nothing but cowards that just need to be faced down.

As children of God and citizens of heaven we need to have that same mentality when it comes to the ruler of this present world, the enemy of our souls. Sometimes faith is facing the enemy, facing the challenge before us even though we aren’t sure of the outcome.

I didn’t know if I was going to win that fight, but I knew it was a fight that had to be fought and that even if I lost I had stood my ground.

There was a man in Jesus’ day who had lost his son to a bully, the enemy of our souls himself. He decided one day it was time to put an end to it and brought his son to Jesus. Even though his faith was lacking, as we saw in our opening verse,  he knew the one he was bringing him to was able. He had enough faith, and courage, to bring his boy to Jesus. He stood up to the enemy, and the enemy fled.

You deaf and mute spirit,” he (Jesus) said, “I command you, come out of him and never enter him again.” Mark 9:25

The enemy fled and he even got his hat…I mean, his son back!

 

The Moto-Ski

I now live in Montana and I spent most of my childhood years in Minnesota, so I am definitely a child of the frozen North. For the first ten years of my life we lived in Cloquet, a little town just west of Duluth and Lake Superior. We got snow— lots of snow, lake effect snow. Ice skating, ice fishing, hockey, sledding and snowmobiles— that’s how you passed the winter months in small town Minnesota.

And we did have snowmobiles, a couple of old Skidoos and the latest addition— my step dad’s pride and joy—a brand new Moto -Ski. We had a huge back yard full of pine trees, and real close by was a huge vacant lot. When I was eight or nine years old I was trusted to take the snowmobiles through the back yard, and down a short back road to an empty field nearby where we could rip around on the sleds and just have a ball.

Every time I got on the Snowmobiles several neighborhood kids would end up lined up in our back yard waiting for me to give them rides, I was usually pulling a sled that could haul a few kids, it looked like a converted dog sled— lots of fun. But sometimes it got a little annoying— having all these kids clamoring for rides.

So on one of the rounds as I was coming down the trail that wound through the trees in our back yard and saw the pile of kids waiting for a ride, I decided to be ornery and veered off the trail to avoid them and circled back through the trees. I gunned it and plowed through the low hanging snow covered branches of one the beautiful pine trees in our yard and suddenly came to a thudding stop. I had run smack into the very solid trunk of the tree, jamming my knees into the engine compartment and cracking the windshield with my Minnesota Vikings stocking cap covered head— plenty of protection for a hard headed Swede…

Anyway— the pain I felt was nothing compared to the fear I suddenly felt— I was driving the new 1970 Moto-Ski!– the one with the state of the art metal flake gold fiberglass body. Luckily it had a big metal bumper around the front which saved the fiberglass but left a big tree shaped dent in the chrome bumper.

My stepdad was none too pleased to say the least. My plea that I couldn’t see the trunk was not a real good excuse— pretty much all trees have a solid trunk no matter how light and fluffy the snow covered branches might look, otherwise they would never withstand the storms or bear up under the snow.

Thots

We, who have put our faith in Christ, who have been washed in the blood of the Lamb are clothed in brilliant beauty, we don’t often see it, especially  not on ourselves because we get caught up looking at the dead dry stuff underneath. I remember one summer at that same house we spent many days raking up all the dead pine needles that had fallen under those massive pine trees, wheelbarrow after wheelbarrow full, until we had an enormous pile of dry needles.

But that didn’t mean the trees weren’t healthy— those dead needles were falling off to make room for new ones, a kind of  natural pruning. You are always being pruned, until we go home we will always be dealing with things that need to die and make room for new life. But what we need to recognize is that, what our Heavenly Father sees is a beautiful sturdy child of the promise.  A redeemed son or daughter glistening with brilliance like a a at sunrise the morning after a storm has broken, beautiful and sturdy, able to bear up in large part because you have weathered many storms, but stunningly beautiful because the Lord has graced you with that beauty.

You are stunningly beautiful to the Lord and a lot stronger than you ever realize— at least until you’re plowed into. We’ve all been plowed into far too many times— but here’s the point; you are beautiful you are strong, you are loved by the Father.

For all those who believe, the Lord doesn’t look at you and see someone who has failed miserably in keeping all his commandments, he doesn’t see someone who needs a good thumping or a heaping helping of shame. He is  no longer judging you by the law— he is looking into your heart where there is beauty and life— where there is Jesus, clothing you with a beautiful white mantle, a mantle protecting a solid heart empowered by his Spirit and strengthened by standing strong through the storms of life while clinging to him.

26 So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, 27 for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise. Gal 3

The Bride

To the Father we are his child, to Jesus we are his bride. We are the bride of Christ. A bride traditionally wears white, beautiful and pure but also often engendering an appearance of frailty and delicateness. But more often than not, the woman clothed in that shroud of beauty and gentleness has the heart of a lioness. Strong, independent and confidant. At least she is if her father did his job in raising her right. Because in Christ: There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female…

We all need to be confident, secure in who we are and confidant  in our righteousness. Our righteousness is a beautiful white robe that surrounds us, covers us, comforts us and houses a solid core, an oak of righteousness. – Is 61:3

I believe the Lord would have you hear this: Know that you are righteous; clothe yourself in righteousness, bask in its comfort, knowing that you are beautiful.

 

 

Hope For Families

Hello freinds

Welcome to my new blog site. This is a new venture for me but I am excited to have a new venue to share the hope and freedom I have found in my Savior and the practical helps I have gleaned and am still learning on the grand adventure we call life, particularly as regards family relationships.

The focus and intent of this blog will be to encourage you in being the best Father, Mother, grandparent, sister, brother, fiancée or hoping to be, that you can be. To discover the incredible truths and wisdom tucked away in the love letter we have received from our Father God- the Holy Bilble. But don’t get nervous or tune out here- my advice and sharing is always well grounded in the practical nitty gritty day to day of life with both feet firmly planted on terra firmma (did I spell that right?) I love to tell stories and you will find yourself laughing and being challenged at the same time.

Any way, be blessed and know that you are loved.

I will do my best to make this a weekly blog so look for me around Saturday afternoon, (after I get my sermon written!)

who am I?

Pastor Dan Swaningson, Hope Chapel Red Lodge MT

Author of To My Girls and Hope For Families