What do you need to change in the new year?

by Jason M. Karampatsos, PhD

Happy New Year. As the Christmas season settles down we quickly turn our attention to the end of the year “best of” lists and begin thinking about what the new year holds. As one year gives way to the next it is all too easy to make simple comparisons and even begin to become anxious about the changes that may come with the new year.

We can even become nostalgic longing for the better days we remember from our past. Although the hope contained in the promise of a new year can, for some, contain limitless possibilities, yesterday had some comforts that tomorrow just can’t hold a candle to.

Remember when people used to take the time to write? I came across this quote, and I began to long for simpler times.

“The art of letter-writing is fast dying out…Now, however, we think we are too busy for such old-fashioned correspondence. We fire off a multitude of rapid and short notes, instead of sitting down to have a good talk over a real sheet of paper.”
—The Sunday Magazine, 1871

So, it seems, the internet did not destroy the art of written communication any more than a tweet or a text has. King Solomon once lamented, “There is nothing new under the sun.” (Ecclesiastes 1:9) He was right. “The good old days” have always appeared better, while our limited perspective creates a perception that things today are rapidly deteriorating.

The above quote from almost 150 years ago seems as if it could have been pulled from a blog or a conversation today. Perhaps there is some truth to it, but then again perhaps there is also as much misperception to it as well.

It is helpful, and I argue healthy, to not only study history but to learn from it. Learn more than just from the mistakes of the past so that we don’t repeat them, but learn from the past to see how much some of the same issues that we once struggled with we continue to struggle with.

In 1891 there was a claim that, “Intellectual laziness and the hurry of the age have produced a craving for literary nips. The [brain] has grown too weak for sustained thought. There never was an age in which so many people were able to write badly.” —Israel Zangwill

Complaints that world is devolving was not limited to our prose. Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook, and the like, have created a consumer culture that has been charged with no longer appreciating art in any lasting manner. We upload nearly 2 billion photos each and every day, but is this anything new?

I love this quote from 1892 decrying how quickly society goes on from one image to the next in their insatiable desire for new images. “The art of pure line engraving is dying out. We live at too fast a rate to allow for the preparation of such plates as our fathers appreciated. If a picture catches the public fancy, the public must have an etched or a photogravure copy of it within a month or two of its appearance, the days when engravers were wont to spend two or three years over a single plate are for ever gone.”

Sure, times have changed and not all for the better. To think that this is anything new is both inaccurate and an incomplete understating of history. We tend to look at our past through rose-colored lenses and often miss the beauty in today. Newer is not always better, but neither is the way things used to be inherently better. We need to approach life, circumstances, and each day of our relationships with an open and honest assessment of where we are today and where we want to be tomorrow.

There is health in asking God for discernment of where we need to grow and where we need to dig in our heels. The tabernacle gave way to the temple, the Old Covenant was completed in the New. Read through the book of Acts and you’ll see the early church struggled with change; truly nothing is new under the sun.

Whether you are a newlywed, a married couple going through empty nest or change of job, or circumstances in life are throwing you a curve ball and you need to figure out how to respond, take a step back and understand that, “The only thing that never changes is that everything changes.” —Louis L’Amour

Focus less on the change itself and how you are going to choose to respond. You might just find that things really aren’t that different if your perspective is that of healthy growth. In fact, you may end up changing more that the change that was stressing you out in the first place. Our girls still hand write letters to friends, at a Christmas party last night someone gave a box set of vinyl, God is still holy, and the world continues to spin in the same direction at just about the same rate of speed as it did back in 1871.

Focus on how you can improve your relationships, your communication skills and embrace enhancements in technology. I’m grateful it does not take years to see an image develop by an engraver, but I’m also grateful that I have thousands of photos of our kids over the past few years to enjoy. Perspective truly does have the power to shape and create our perception and the realities that follow. Choose to create a better reality and decide to make the best of what may come.

With the new year upon us, make a decision to take control of your perceptions and subjective reality and decide to question your limited and incomplete perspectives and see a much bigger picture. Choose to be a “better you” in the new year by changing more than just what you do, but how you see.

Jason KarampatsosJason M. Karampatsos has a PhD in Pastoral Counseling from Loyola University Maryland examining the relationship between spirituality and marital satisfaction. He is the author of the upcoming book The Elephant in the Marriage: Discover what is trampling your marital satisfaction and how to enjoy a thriving marriage. Karampatsos is a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor and ordained minister who has been working with youth and families for nearly two decades. As a proud father of 3 and a husband for over 20 years, Karampatsos knows the joys that God intended the family to be. He has had a long history partnering with Safe Harbor Christian Counseling and currently serves as the Lead Pastor of New Life in Janesville, Wisconsin. For more information about Karampatsos, or his book, see his website www.June3rd.com.

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I believe Jesus can…turn your world upside down to put things in place.

by Jason M. Karampatsos, PhD

The shortest distance between two points is a straight line. Although that may hold true for two-dimensional objects, life has taught many of us that you can’t always get where you are going by following a straight line. As we look through the stories in the Bible, we find that very rarely do any of the stories in both the Old and New Testament include any straight lines. Sometimes the detours and chaos that ensue are due to sin, disobedience, or the lack of faith—think the Israelites wandering in the wilderness for 40 years for a trip they should have been able to complete in under 40 days—and sometimes there seems to be no easy explanation on why things had to turn out the way that they did.

Recently, my family has seen our entire world turned upside down. Ours has been a rather exciting journey that has come as the answer to many, many, many prayers, but it has turned our world upside down none the less. Perhaps I should be a little more specific for those of you who have not been following our journey on my blog (june3rd.com) or on Facebook (facebook.com/DrJasonKarampatsos). My wife, Jennifer, and I have not been praying that God would turn our world upside down, but knowing that is how God often works, it should not have come as a surprise when He chose to answer our prayers exactly that way.

Sure, it would have been simpler if God answered our prayers precisely as we prayed them. After all, who would know better than us what we need? Of course I joke, because so often we haven’t the faintest clue about what we need when we are asking God to meet our needs. Scripture reminds us that God’s perspective is so far above our understanding that we can’t even begin to comprehend it.

Why did Abraham and Sara have to wait so long to have children? Why did Joseph have to go through Potiphar’s house and prison to deliver his family during the great famine? Why did Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego have to be tossed into a fiery furnace if they were going to walk out unscathed? Why did Daniel have to spend a night in the lion’s den when even the king did not want him there? Great questions to which theologians can posit logical sounding and possibly even valid answers (see Gen 50:20), but remember, even after all of Job’s questioning, God’s response was, ‘Who are you to even be asking?’ While you and I may be able to offer God some suggestions and remind Him that there are shorter distances between two points, He would remind us that our ways are not His ways (Isaiah 55:8).

In addition to serving as a counselor and clinical supervisor for Safe Harbor Christian Counseling for close to a decade, I am an ordained minister and have served in the greater Baltimore/Washington D.C. area since 2005. It was about a year and a half ago that I felt that God was calling me to prepare for a ministerial transition and my wife and I began to prayerfully walk through that process with some trusted colleagues and friends. We had our ideas on how the transition should go and we diligently offered them to God in our daily prayer time. God, on the other hand, must have felt that our timeline was too neat and tidy and felt that we could use a little turning upside down.

There were several moments along the way, as we crisscrossed the country for interviews, that we felt the pressures of uncertainty concerning where we would be a year from now and when the transition might take place. We served at an amazing church located between the two beltways that was gracious and supportive during this season, but it was hard planning for what God had next when no one knew where we would be and when we would be transitioning. Once we shared what we were sensing from God with our children, then they too felt their world begin to turn upside down as they didn’t know when (or how) they would say good-bye to so many great friends. Our hearts and minds were torn between what God has for us and what God had for us.

I believe that Jesus can, and often does, turn your world upside down to put things in place. I believe that Jesus loves us so much that He spares no expense for His children, and out of that abundance of love and compassion He knows what is best for us. Sure, it is easier to never spend a day on unemployment or to never spend an evening in an oncology ward, but sometimes God truly has greater purposes that we just do not see. Are there things within us that God needs to remove, or is there a powerful testimony or another life that we will come in contact with only if we are where God wants us at a particular place and point in time (see Esther 4:14)? Do you want to know the honest truth? Nobody knows, and we may never know this side of eternity.

It is still too soon to tell why God threw us a few curveballs along the way and made the “along the way” as long as He did, but there are a few things that we believe that we have learned along the way that might bring comfort, guidance, and peace for you the next time you find your world turned upside down for a season. I share these with you, not as one who has figured it all out, but as a fellow traveler who desperately wants to honor and please God with his life and to help others whom God has cross my path along the way.

God knows best. We have to believe this and never doubt it. I know how I like to order my hot chocolate at Starbucks, and I know what temperature I like the thermostat set at, but when it comes to what matters most we need to simply have faith that God knows best.

God knows you better. Again, you and I are capable of ordering our favorite drink, but God knows you in deep intimate ways that we will never comprehend during our short time here on earth. He made you, loves you, isn’t fooled by facades, and truly knows us for who we are.

God loves you. Not only does God know best, knows you the best, but He also loves you—might I add that He loves you the best too! Many of us have come to a realization that God has sent His one and only Son to die on the cross for us, but His love for us did not end there. He loves you today with an everlasting and unconditional love.

God has given you free will. This one is a bit tricky to understand. Why would someone who knows best hand over the decision-making process to someone who does not know best? Although I struggle to fully grasp this one at times, I do defer to principle #1: God knows best. With free will comes the chance to make mistakes, but it also gives us the chance to seek God’s will for our life. Thomas Merton once wrote, “…I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you.” The goal isn’t to be perfect, but to authentically strive to find God’s will for our lives and please Him in all of our decisions (including the decision to find His will for our lives).

God is not always to blame. Sometimes God turns our world upside down, and sometimes we do a fine job causing that all by ourselves. We need to be careful not to blame God for our mistakes. Perhaps you have heard the quote attributed to Abraham Lincoln, “He reminds me of the man who murdered both his parents, and then when sentence was about to be pronounced pleaded for mercy on the grounds that he was an orphan.” Perhaps this one point deserves its own blog entry, but suffice to say that we need discernment to know when we have gotten ourselves into trouble by our own actions and decisions.

God is a God of order. The natural state of the universe is towards decay and disorder, and the natural—or should that be supernatural—state of God is towards order and reconciliation. God is not going to turn your world upside down because He prefers chaos, but He will use the chaos to bring about order. I personally do not enjoy omelets, but if God wants an omelet in our lives then we need to be prepared for a few cracked eggs.

God will never leave you, nor forsake you. No matter how upside down your life becomes, or how long things remain upside done, you must remember at all times that God is still right there beside you. Save your energy from wondering where God is and focus on what He desires to do in and through you during this turbulent season.

The truth is we need to live by faith (Romans 1:17), we need to be obedient to God (1 Samuel 15:22), and we need to embrace God’s will and plan for our lives not because it makes sense but often in spite of it making any sense at all. As the aptly named hymn reminds us, ‘Trust and obey, for there’s no other way to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.”

My family is finally seeing life settle down a bit. We have sold our home, I was elected as the new lead pastor of New Life Assembly of God (nlag.net) in beautiful Janesville, Wisconsin, we have said farewell to the church family that has been such a part of our lives during this past season of ministry, and we bought a new home just down the street from the church. Well, more accurately, our offer on a new home has been accepted.

Technically, today as I write this blog entry we are enjoying 30 days of homelessness. As beautiful as the Outer Banks are, and as much as we are looking forward to spending some time visiting family, we all long for the steady rhythm of life to resume once we settle into our new home. Selling a home is ranked up there as one of the most stressful events in one’s life, add to that buying a home and living out of suitcases for a month and we are daily praying for God’s grace. We are learning to enjoy the journey and appreciate that God is not done with us yet. We marvel at His grace and unmerited favor and are prayerfully anticipating the next curveball that God will throw our way as he turns our life upside down to put things right in place.

Despite moving from the east coast for the first time in our lives and 20 plus years of marriage, I will continue to write for Safe Harbor’s blog and bi-weekly newsletter from Wisconsin. If this is your first newsletter, I invite you to subscribe and share this with someone you know who might be feeling their world turned upside down. In the meantime, I leave you with this short prayer.

PRAYER: “Oh lord, today may be easy, or it may be not. Today may make sense or feel like utter chaos. Give me discernment to know when it is an attack of the enemy or your perfect plan and to trust that my feet will land precisely where you desire them to as I trust and obey.”

Jason KarampatsosJason M. Karampatsos has a PhD in Pastoral Counseling from Loyola University Maryland examining the relationship between spirituality and marital satisfaction. He is the author of the upcoming book The Elephant in the Marriage: Discover what is trampling your marital satisfaction and how to enjoy a thriving marriage. Karampatsos is a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor and ordained minister who has been working with youth and families for nearly two decades. As a proud father of 3 and a husband for over 20 years, Karampatsos knows the joys that God intended the family to be. He has had a long history partnering with Safe Harbor Christian Counseling and currently serves as the Lead Pastor of New Life in Janesville, Wisconsin. For more information about Karampatsos, or his book, see his website www.June3rd.com.

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A Low View of Marriage

by Jason M. Karampatsos, PhD

O be careful little eyes what you see

O be careful little eyes what you see

For the Father up above

Is looking down in love

So, be careful little eyes what you see

Many of us remember that beloved children’s song that we possibly sang at Vacation Bible School or in Children’s Church growing up. The song goes on to encourage us to be careful what you hear, what your hands do, where your feet go, and so on. It would appear that all too many have not heeded that simple melodic warning.

In recent weeks, we have seen the national media whip itself up into a frenzy over the release of the personal information of over 30 million users of the Ashley Madison website. Early reports have included details on how many military and government email addresses were included in the data published on the dark web.

An analysis of the data revealed, in part, why so many Americans were so interested in the security breach of a Canadian company when it was discovered that there were only three U.S. zip codes that did not have any registered users for the website. You read that number correctly, out of the over 42,000 zip codes in America only three (two in Alaska and one in New Mexico) had no registered users for the website that helped married individuals arrange illicit affairs with other married individuals.

This might seem like a time for the church to rally together with one unified voice of condemnation against the dangers of the internet, the wickedness of the world and its sinful ways, and reassert itself as the moral authority on traditional marriage values, but there seems to be a problem. According to Christianity Today’s Ed Stetzer, as many as 400 pastors, deacons, elders and church staff members may resign (or have already had to resign) after being outed by the security breach and release of information.

There have already been a few notable names that have been disgraced publicly as their names have been discovered, more are sure to follow, but there is by no means any need for every church member across America to look suspectingly at their pastor next week as they stand behind the pulpit. But there is a need for you to be praying, to be ever vigilant, and to head the words of that children song and be careful.

I suspect Ashley Madison and websites like it may not ask for users to identify how frequently they attend church on the Sabbath, so there may be no way to scientifically analyze the released data, but there no doubt are many church goers who would even confidently call themselves Christians (i.e. Christ-like) on the list. I can comfortably make that assertion because I meet with married couples and individuals all week long and have been walking through the pain and wake of destruction that infidelity creates. There are a lot of ills and sins our society is wrestling with, one that is ravaging the Church like none other is a low view of marriage.

A.W. Tozer wrote, “The low view of God entertained almost universally among Christians is the cause of a hundred lesser evils everywhere among us.” I believe it would be equally safe to say that a low view of marriage is the cause of a hundred lesser evils everywhere among us. We can choose to view marriage from our perspective, or from the perspective of those around us, or we can choose to view and define marriage from God’s perspective.

All marriages are not created equally. The traditional institution of marriage predates modern records and has been a part of most societies and cultures around the world throughout history. In the first century BC, Marcus Tullius Cicero said, “The first bond of society is marriage.” 1 In the United States of America, marriage has been seen historically as both a religious and legal union between a husband and wife.2, 3

In recent decades, the definition and understanding of marriage have been shifting in the eyes of many with an ever-increasing de-emphasis on marriage’s religious roots. Many of the world’s major religions that are practiced in the United States promote the lasting nature of marriage, and this de-emphasis on the pairing of religion and marriage has in part de-emphasized the lasting nature of marriage.

The traditional institution of marriage appears to be in decline in recent years, with nearly one-half of all first marriages ending in divorce.4 However, U. S. Census data from 2009 reports that divorce rates have declined over the last decade in part because many young couples are delaying marriage or forgoing it altogether.5 This trend in delaying or forgoing marriage extends further back than the past decade; in 1960, 68% of all twenty-somethings were married, compared to 28% in 2006. When asked, nearly four in ten survey respondents (39%) said that marriage is becoming obsolete, up from 28% in 1978.6

The suggestion has been made that a shift in the conceptualization of the understanding of marriage has even permeated the Church, as the divorce rate is the same or higher for those attending church as those outside of religious circles.7, 8 Men and women in Christian churches in America are remarrying at or about the same rate as those outside of the Church.

The lack of a distinction between those connected with organized religion and those unaffiliated with organized religion might then appear to be a breakdown in the observance of the teachings of Church doctrine, but it may also further represent a de-emphasis of pairing religion with the institution of marriage. Marriage can be viewed by many as a voluntary legal contract that can be broken under extreme circumstances and, in some cases, as a casual nonbinding agreement that either party can dissolve at his or her discretion.

In the United States, over 2.1 million couples made the decision to get married in 2011, and nearly one million of those marriages are projected to end in divorce.9 Although the past decade has seen a decrease in the divorce rate, between 1960 and 1980 there was an unprecedented rise in the number of divorces granted in the United States.10, 11, 12 Approximately 14% of the U.S. population 18 years old and older has been divorced—up from 5% in 1960—revealing an increasing population of Americans who have been divorced at least once.13

Deciding to end a marriage differs fundamentally from the decision to marry or to remain in a marriage, as it can be a unilateral decision. Both parties had to come together in agreement to enter into the bonds of marriage, but it requires the actions of only one to end the marriage.

And that is precisely what we have been seeing, one spouse deciding to not be careful where there eyes, hands, feet, and hearts go. So what should you do if you have found that your spouse has been unfaithful, or you find that you yourself have allowed things to get out of control? Pray, pray, pray, and then seek some help. You may have gotten yourself in this mess by your own actions and decisions, but you are going to need some help fighting your way out.

If you are reading this you are likely already familiar with resources like Safe Harbor Christian Counseling, City of Refuge, Emerge Ministries and other like spirited Christian ministries designed to help people get the help they need to live healthier, more God-honoring lives. If you need some help taking that first step and making the phone call, reach out to your pastor or another trusted Christian friend who can encourage you along the way.

Join the likes of Job who have said, “I made a covenant with my eyes not to look lustfully at a young woman.” (Job 31:1, NIV) and remember that the seventh commandment (Exodus 20:14) is still in full effect. This is not a season to be pointing fingers and casting stones, but to be praying and protecting ones own heart and marriage.

Life may be short (as the Ashley Madison slogan reminds us), but eternity is forever. Make the right choices while here on earth that will protect, defend, and preserve your marriage and leave a legacy of life instead of heartache and pain. Falling in love may have been the easy part; fighting for your marriage and your family will take some work, but trust me it is worth it.

Jason KarampatsosJason M. Karampatsos has a PhD in Pastoral Counseling from Loyola University Maryland examining the relationship between spirituality and marital satisfaction. He is the author of the upcoming book The Elephant in the Marriage: Discover what is trampling your marital satisfaction and how to enjoy a thriving marriage. Karampatsos is a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor and ordained minister who has been working with youth and families for nearly two decades. As a proud father of 3 and a husband for over 20 years, Karampatsos knows the joys that God intended the family to be. He has had a long history partnering with Safe Harbor Christian Counseling and currently serves as the Lead Pastor of New Life in Janesville, Wisconsin. For more information about Karampatsos, or his book, see his website www.June3rd.com.

Sources:

  1. The original complete quote is, “prima societas in ipso conjugio est; proxima in liberis; deinde una domus, communia omnia” which translates as, “The first bond of society is marriage; the next, our children; then the whole family and all things in common”. Marcus Tullius Cicero (106 BC – 43 BC): Influential Roman philosopher, politician, lawyer, and public speaker.
  2. Bromley, D. G. (1997). 1994 Presidential address remembering the future: A Sociological narrative of crisis episodes, collective action, culture workers, and counter movements. Sociology of Religion, 58, 105-140. Available from http://socrel.oxfordjournals.org
  3. Ripley, J. S., Worthington, E. L., Jr., Bromley, D., & Kemper, S. D. (2005). Covenantal and contractual values in marriage: Marital values orientation toward wedlock or self-actualization (marital VOWS) scale. Personal Relationships, 12, 317-336. doi:10.1111/j.1475-6811.2005.00118.x
  4. Olson, D. H., & DeFrain, J. (1997). Marriage and the family: Diversity and strengths.(2nd Ed.) Mountain View, CA: Mayfield Publishing.
  5. Kreider, R. M., & Ellis, R. (2011). Number, timing and duration of marriages and divorces: 2009. Current Population Reports (Census Bureau Publication P70-125). Washington, DC: U.S. Census Bureau. Retrieved from http://www.census.gov/prod/2011pubs/p70-125.pdf
  6. Pew Research Center Social and Demographic Trends (2010). The decline of Marriage and rise of new families. Pew Research Center. Retrieved from http://www.pewsocialtrends.org/ 2010/11/18/the-decline-of-marriage-and-rise-of-new-families/
  7. Barna, G. (1993). The future of the American family. Chicago: Moody Press.
  8. Barna Group (2008). New marriage and divorce statistics released. Retrieved from http://www.barna.org/barna-update/article/15-familykids/42-new-marriage-and-divorce-statistics-released
  9. Tejada-Vera, B., & Sutton, P. D. (2010) Births, marriages, divorces, and deaths: Provisional data for 2009. National Vital Statistics Reports, 58(25) 1-6. Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov
  10. Kreider, R. M., & Fields, J. M. (2001). Number, timing and duration of marriages and divorces: Fall 1996. Current Population Reports (Census Bureau Publication No. P70-80). Washington DC: U.S. Census Bureau. Retrieved from http://www.census.gov/prod/2002pubs/p70-80.pdf
  11. Pew Research Center Social and Demographic Trends (2010). The decline of Marriage and rise of new families. Pew Research Center. Retrieved from http://www.pewsocialtrends.org/ 2010/11/18/the-decline-of-marriage-and-rise-of-new-families/
  12. Pinsof, W. M. (2002). The death of ’till death us do part’: The transformation of pair-bonding in the 20th century. Family Process, 41, 135-157. doi:10.1111/j.1545-5300.2002.41202.x
  13. Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life (2008). U.S. religious landscape survey. Pew Research Center. Retrieved from religions.pewforum.org/reports
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To Shoot Par

by Jason M. Karampatsos, PhD

What does “to shoot par” mean for you? I learned this weekend that it all depends on who you spend time with. I enjoy the game of golf, and I have strengthened many of friendships on the links. I initially took up the game of golf—while in high school as something I could do with my future wife (and then girlfriend)—and it has become a hobby of mine long after my wife’s interest in the game has faded. I have never been particularly good at the game of golf. In high school, I would frequent a par 3 course back in New England and would regularly shoot a mix of birdies, pars, and bogey (and double bogey) ending a quick 9 holes around par. If you are a golfer of any level you know that is “on par” with a good day of miniature golf. Recently I had written to some new friends that I shot par a few times last year leading to some miscommunication and a learning experience for me. I have golfed with some good golfers, but most of them are in the same league as me. We golf for fun, and aren’t framing any of our score cards. For golfers, real golfers, when they hear the phrase shot par a few times they understand that to mean that, over the course of a full 18 holes, they are a zero handicap, usually shooting 72.

For me, shooting par simply means that on a single hole I managed to not lose my ball and sink the ball in 3 or 4 strokes. I can usually manage that a few times an outing, but the double bogey and snowmen (8) catch up to me. The very definition of a phrase can be subjectively applied based upon the circle of friends you spend time with, where you live, or your life experiences. Sitting in traffic, having a tough day at work, and the weather being hot outside are all relative terms for those who live in the country (or city), work as a librarian (or serve in the military), or live in the north east (or deep south). This also reminded me that just as iron sharpens iron, the higher the caliber of “iron” you spend time with the sharper you will be able to become. I am going to continue to golf with the same circle of friends, but in other areas of life I will be ever more mindful that I am spending time with those who define goals and objectives by a higher standard.

In areas of integrity, our relationship with God, our spouse, and our children we ought not allow ourselves to grade on a curve. We ought to strive for the highest goals and strictest definition of what it means to be a Christian, a good spouse, or a loving parent. Just because you may know some people who struggle more than you ought not be an excuse you allow yourself to use to lower your standards. You can take a mulligan in golf, but not in life. As C.T. Studd famously penned, “Only one life, ’twill soon be past, Only what’s done for Christ will last.”

Jason KarampatsosJason M. Karampatsos has a PhD in Pastoral Counseling from Loyola University Maryland examining the relationship between spirituality and marital satisfaction. He is the author of the upcoming book The Elephant in the Marriage: Discover what is trampling your marital satisfaction and how to enjoy a thriving marriage. Karampatsos is a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor and ordained minister who has been working with youth and families for nearly two decades. As a proud father of 3 and a husband for over 20 years, Karampatsos knows the joys that God intended the family to be. He has had a long history partnering with Safe Harbor Christian Counseling and currently serves as the Lead Pastor of New Life in Janesville, Wisconsin. For more information about Karampatsos, or his book, see his website www.June3rd.com.

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Didn’t See Him

by Jason M. Karampatsos, PhD

Most of us have a routine in the morning—mine begins with waking up at 5:30, spending time with God, and ends with me grabbing a dress shirt on my way out the door around 8:15. There are a lot of variables in between the alarm clock and me reaching for my car keys, the biggest of which is when our three kids decide to wake up.

There was a long stretch where our son would come downstairs before 7:00 am, and I would put on an episode of Blues Clues as I would sit with him and read or return here to my desk to write with my office door left ajar, so that I could watch him watch his morning show. It has been a long time since he was the first one awake. Now his older sisters are the first ones downstairs after their alarm goes off sending them to do their morning devotions before they can read their latest American Girl or Nancy Drew chapter books. This particular day was the first day of summer vacation, and even though their alarms have been silenced until the fall, they began the day just like any other weekday.

It was 8:12, and our oldest asked if we could go for a bike ride this morning. I told her that I needed to leave in just a few minutes, but that we could tomorrow (if she woke up earlier) or Friday any time in the morning. After a few minutes of talking with my wife and our two girls, I ran upstairs, sprinted across my bedroom, grabbed a still-lightly-starched dress shirt from my closet and began to button it as I walked down the stairs for another quick farewell and then out the door. It was now after 8:15 and, as so happens a few times a month, I did not get to say good morning and farewell to our 5 year old son.

On those occasional mornings that our pre-k son is sleeping in when I’m off to the office, we try and Skype or FaceTime sometime after our staff prayer and brief devotion time. Today I got the call as I was driving into the office. Now, mind you, my commute is all of 1.6 miles. I do have 3 red lights to cross, so my commuting time fluctuates between 6 and 8 minutes, but it is a quick drive regardless. On the other end of the phone was my wife, Jennifer, sitting with our son who was still crying.

We have a few family-favorite games to play around the house. Nerf Battles are one of our favorite ways to start the day, the 5 of us enjoy Scrabble a little more than it is probably cool to admit, and a quick impromptu game of hide-and-go-seek works any time of day. We had just watched The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe a few nights ago, re-piquing our interest in hide-and-go-seek, and unbeknownst to me our son had tiptoed out of his bedroom and slipped into our bed while I was downstairs.

He knew where he could find me and decided to wait where he could be guaranteed a few quick uninterrupted moments with his dad. I can only imagine the smirk that must have been on his face with the brilliance of his plan that quickly crumbled into the tears and sorrow that I could feel on the other end of my phone call. I switched the voice call to FaceTime and could see with my own eyes just how heartbroken our little boy had become.

“You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” —Jeremiah 19:13, NIV

The context of that passage is certainly a little different, but it is a verse that has been on my heart all morning. No parent likes to see their children cry, and the tears weigh extra heavy upon your spirit when you know that you contributed in turning joy into sorrow. In my defense, I didn’t know he was hiding there. I didn’t know, I didn’t look, I was too busy heading out the door to stop and see what unexpected gift may be waiting for me.

I hadn’t done anything special that morning to deserve his waiting for me, I had not earned his love, his playful spirit, and his decision to wait for me to spend time with him. It was the first thing in the morning, and I was on his mind, and he wanted to begin the day by sharing it with me.

You know exactly where I am going with this by now. Sure, my son’s name is Christian, but let’s swap him out of the parable for a moment and imagine God waiting at the foot of your bed first thing in the morning. God hadn’t just woken up, for He never sleeps, which means that He has been waiting, and waiting, and waiting all that much longer for time with you. He knows your routine and knows where He can find you and decides to wait where He could be guaranteed a few quick uninterrupted moments with His child. But you do not see Him.

He waits, patiently I might add, but all too often He is not found. He waits, but we don’t look, don’t see, and don’t find Him. We carry on with our busy lives and wonder why we are not seeing answers to our prayers, and often it is because we just are not looking.

I have written extensively about the impact of our perspectives (both incomplete and inaccurate at times) and how they shape our perceptions. Our perceptions are our subjective interpretations of the world around us. Our perceptions are our reality; whether they are based in Real reality or not. For my son, at that moment his reality included a father who walked by him and chose not to acknowledge him, and it crushed his spirit. But what about the role of God in our lives? Are we making time and room for Him and then wondering why we don’t experience Him like we had longed for? Are we not seeking Him and call Him distant because we are not finding him.

I chose to sit in the back seat next to my son when Jennifer picked me for lunch just to spend a few minutes in closer proximity to my son. I wanted him to know how much he is loved, and for him that includes quality time spent close together. We also sat right next to each other at lunch, I helped him get his food at the lunch buffet and was very intentional to communicate in my words and actions that I sought him, and I found him…that I see him and love him.

Today I encourage you to join me in spending time close to God, giving Him your undivided attention. Let God know that you sought Him out with all of your heart; He has already promised that you would find Him. And when you find Him your tears, your fears, and your concerns will all fade away as your perceptions are challenged by the perceptive and clarity that can only come in the presence of God. Life will still have its challenges, but you’ll know that you will never have to face them alone.

Jason KarampatsosJason M. Karampatsos has a PhD in Pastoral Counseling from Loyola University Maryland examining the relationship between spirituality and marital satisfaction. He is the author of the upcoming book The Elephant in the Marriage: Discover what is trampling your marital satisfaction and how to enjoy a thriving marriage. Karampatsos is a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor and ordained minister who has been working with youth and families for nearly two decades. As a proud father of 3 and a husband for over 20 years, Karampatsos knows the joys that God intended the family to be. He has had a long history partnering with Safe Harbor Christian Counseling and currently serves as the Lead Pastor of New Life in Janesville, Wisconsin. For more information about Karampatsos, or his book, see his website www.June3rd.com.

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