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Ella’s First Day of Kindergarten

DSC01184 I’ve been saying for weeks now that I’m totally okay with Ella starting Kindergarten. Today was the day. We arrived in plenty of time to fight the terrible traffic mess that had gathered in front of the schools (someone thought it would be really bright to place two elementary schools right next to each other on a neighborhood street). We found a parking place and took a deep breath. Ella did great all the way into the classroom and over to her seat. Then the tough moment came…

We had to leave. You’ll notice in the photo that Ella’s hands are on her ears. This has been her sign of trepidation for quite some time. We’re not sure what she’s hearing, but we’re sure she doesn’t want to hear any more of it! As Angie and I headed across the classroom and out the door, Ella turned her head away from everyone else and began to cry softly. She wouldn’t call out, as that might attract attention. She just cried.

Now I have to tell you the strange part of what I’ve been feeling since that moment. I’ve been divided in half. On the one hand, I think this is a very important step for her. She’s been painfully shy and quite fearful of uncertain situations, but life is full of uncertainties. She’s going to be meeting new people in every class and at every job for the rest of her life. She’s going to have to face new challenges and learn to stand up and speak up when the time comes. I was shy too, just like Ella. It never got easy, but interacting with others is just what we do from now until the grave.

Then, there was the other side of me. For a brief moment, homeschooling crossed my mind, not for any spiritual or religious reasons but only because home is the one place where we can shield her from anything of which she will ever be afraid. Bugs and bees are outside the door, people and academic challenges await her at school. Bullies and boyfriends will be her lot as she grows through the grade levels. All of this terrifies me just a bit, as the Daddy whose little girl needs my protection.

Somewhere in the middle is perhaps the place where our hearts ought to lie. We must love them, and release them. We must prepare them for evil, and shelter them from it. We must make home heaven for them, and launch them into the real world. Our hearts should break over our children’s fears, but we are right to let them go, to force them to face each next step. Life is really made of those steps.

As for me, I’m okay. As for Ella, I’m pretty sure it will be several weeks before she adjusts, if not several school years. As for Momma, I admire her more today than ever as a Mom, and as a little girl in a grown up body who doesn’t want to be left alone. Here I am, one guy placed on this earth to protect two precious girls, a Momma and her daughter. I suppose my only recourse is to depend fully upon the grace of our magnificent God to carry me and my family along. Maybe Ella might catch that vision, and find her fears released as she learns to trust the Father more each day.

I have work to accomplish today, but I can’t wait for 3:00 to come!

The Rush of Summer

Isn’t summer supposed to be our vacation from the busyness of life? This summer, for the Cox family, is flying right by in a whirlwind of activity. We’ve traveled to see family in three different states (Missouri and Georgia for Angie, Kentucky for me). We’re getting ready to spend a week at church camp. And then, it will be time for Angie to return to work, for me to get busy with a new church year, and for Ella to begin Kindergarten.

In the midst of being busy in these bigger ways, I’ve also found ministry to families and needs to be rather pressing lately. My phones are ringing off the hook and I’ve done more “people work” in the last few weeks than ever before. I have mixed feelings about this. On the one hand, I’m very thankful to be needed, to be used in God’s hands, and to watch God at work in people’s lives. On the other hand, I hate what Satan is doing to the people around me that I love so dearly. It has certainly caused me to have an appreciative perspective on my own life. God has been so gracious and merciful to me, especially when I’ve least deserved it!

I will also say that the pressing nature of many of the issues I deal with drive me to my knees. I feel the continual need to remain constant in prayer so that my own spirit is not dragged down by the multitude of problems in the world. Depravity, and its results, can be draining on our frail emotions and if we aren’t careful, we’ll be tempted to despair. But then there is that verse in Romans 8:37, “Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.” More than conquerors, winners, valiant victors in the war called life. And why? Because Jesus died and rose again!

Graduation Day

DSC01030Today was kind of tough… for Momma anyway. We saw our little girl “walk the line” to graduate from Preschool. The theme was What A Wonderful World, which all nineteen graduates sang together. They actually played Pomp and Circumstance as they marched in. She got a diploma and an award for Developing the Most in Confidence throughout the year. We’re so proud!

Angie handles moments like these with a mothering sadness. Her little girl will never graduate from Preschool again. I, on the other hand, handle things a bit differently. While Mamma shed a few tears, I was frustrated that the camera wasn’t working quite right. For me, it’s just one more step toward adulthood, which is the goal. I know that the time will fly and I’ll be crying at her wedding far too soon. Nevertheless, I tend to look forward to each next occasion while Angie wants to hang on to her little girl.

One thing I know, I’m going to enjoy another graduation someday. I’m not referring to Ella’s High School graduation, though I know I’ll enjoy that too, but the day I “walk the line” at the judgment seat of Christ. On the one hand, I view that day with trepidation – there is so much more to be done here in this life. On the other hand, I can’t wait for the eternal reward God has promised to all who place their faith squarely in Him alone.

Our little baby is all grown up… or at least about to head for kindergarten, but I feel that we have so much work to do. If she’s out of the house by eighteen, then we only have fourteen more years to prepare her heart to be forever sensitive to the Savior’s voice. We want to pray her into the family of God, model a genuine love for Jesus, and watch as she surrenders herself to His will daily. May God so prepare us for our graduation day!

What A Wonderful World

At our wedding, Angie and I chose to have Louie Armstrong’s song played… What a Wonderful World. In light of yesterday’s shootings, and so many other monumental tragedies in recent years, is it really a wonderful world? We were driving to Fort Smith yesterday for the annual meeting of the BMA of America and were reflecting on some of the tragedies that have taken place at this same time of the year such as the Oklahoma City bombing (April, 1995), the Waco compound burning (April, 1993), and Columbine (April, 1999). Each of these tragedies evoked emotions of fear and trepidation about living in this present world.

Our daughter begins kindergarten this fall. She’s nearly five years old and we’re already speculating about the nature of the world in which she will grow up and go through school. The news media tackles subjects like campus security and the psychological reasons behind such an awful rampage. But the secular media can never fully comprehend the nature of human depravity. Evil men will do evil things, no matter our level of security. If not on a campus, then in a restaurant, an airport, or a World Trade Center. Is this really a wonderful world?

There are natural and supernatural factors that can only be seen through a God-centered world view. The depravity of man runs deep in the heart. Evil abounds in humankind and murder, war, and bloodshed will continue as long as lost mankind has some dominion over this present realm. Further, Satan is labeled in Scripture as the “prince of the power of the air… the god of this world.” We who live on earth, live in a time and place where darkness has dominion. Is it really a wonderful world?

My answer, surprisingly, is yes. Why? Because it is in this present realm that God is actively working to extend His saving and healing grace to a lost and depraved people. It is here that God moves. It was into this humanity that Jesus, the light, came into the world. The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. God’s glory was put on display through the life of Jesus Christ, through His atoning death, and through His miraculous resurrection. Do we live in a wonderful world? Only insomuch as Jesus makes the difference.

Last night, we were ministered to by a wonderful gospel singer who performed the old song Beulah Land. I love the lines… “Beulah land, I’m longing for thee, and someday on thee I’ll stand…” Our world, inundated with pain and loss and suffering, is merely a waiting room, a practice run, an incubation chamber for eternity. For those who believe in Jesus Christ as Savior, heaven is our real home. Hell awaits those who reject His free offer of grace.

Amazingly, we cannot forget that it is this world which will someday be renovated by fire. This world will be redeemed. It currently groans with birth pains, waiting to be delivered from its depraved lostness. It’s a wonderful world, plagued by the inherent sinfulness of humankind. It’s wracked with pain and evil. Yet everything on God’s time line is moving toward a great and triumphant finality. Jesus will rule and reign.

Our hearts are gripped, in times like this, with uncertainty and fear. Then Scripture speaks on behalf of its divine author… “For God hath not given us a spirit of fear; but of power, and of love and of a sound mind.” (2 Timothy 1:7) “Casting all your care upon him, for he careth for you.” (1 Peter 5:7) “Be careful (anxious) for nothing; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7)

Is this world your home, or do you seek a city to come, a home not made with human hands preserved in the eternities for you? Jesus Christ came to be the light and hope of a lost and dark world. He came to offer you peace, pardon, and eternal life if you’ll only trust fully in Him, even in the world’s darkest moments. More is to come. Scripture foretells that times will wax worse and worse. Yet Jesus’ hand is always extended toward you. Embrace Him who is ready to embrace you, and enjoy the unspeakable peace and confidence of God.