My Son In The Sun

Just a couple of weeks ago, my family and I went to Florida. Obviously, part of that trip would include hanging out on the beach.

Well, here below is a picture of my three month old son chillin’ on the beach. Of course, we kept him out of the sun – in a baby tent in the shade. Hope you smile from this pic.

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Father of Your Son

caleb 170Being on holiday, I have had extra time to spend with my new little son, Caleb. Holding, talking with (well, he doesn’t talk back), rocking, observing every little nuance of his development, and much more.

I tell you, it’s quite interesting when you begin to see yourself in your son, even when he is only just coming up to three months old. First off, it starts with the closeness in our physical features. I did not realise how much he truly looked like I did when I was his age until we opened an old photo album at my parents house. It’s almost as if he at three months and me at three months are identical twins. And both of us looked so similar at only three weeks as well.

My own dad jokes at the tragedy of such likeness, but I think it quite amazing. My wife has just reminded me how happy she is that Caleb looks like me. The only thing is that Caleb has blue eyes and I have hazel eyes.

But also, even in that physical likeness, it’s not just staring at an old picture and seeing the similarity. It just happened today, on holiday in Florida, while starring at him in his rocking swing. Of course, I don’t really know all the details about myself at that age, but I have seen the pictures and videos. And I see the likeness. It reminds me of these words I read in Genesis:

When Adam had lived 130 years, he fathered a son in his own likeness, after his image, and named him Seth. (Genesis 5:3)

Thankfully, I fathered my first son at 30 instead of 130 years old.

In all this, my desire continues to grow for seeing him shaped into the son he should be. We gave him the middle name Benjamin as a prophetic statement, if you will, of the relationship I desired for us two to have together. I yearn to have a close relationship with him throughout our days together, starting now and up until I pass on.

But I also know there are things in me that I don’t want him to take up. I am looking to be changed myself, see God break those unwanted things, all to spare Caleb of experiencing them and embracing them himself. But I know that it won’t be perfect. I don’t say that in an overly negative and defeated sense. But I just know I live in this age, a fallen world where sin is real and many times it gets the best of me.

But, I also take comfort in knowing that I am the father of my son. Caleb is my son. He is in my likeness and in my image – a healthy thing, something God designed. But, as a son of the Father, I want to help teach my son how to be a son of the Father.

Our Father smiles at what he has done in making Caleb the son of Scott and Scott the father of Caleb. But, in all, I want to impart the heart of Father God to my son. And if I can do that, I know I will have done the greatest thing a father can do.

Thank you for such a son, Father.

A Theology of the Little Things

Our church, Cornerstone International, has recently begun a summer series in the book of 1 John. I had planned to kick off the study this past Sunday, 28 June, but had to hand over to another capable friend in the church due to the surprised early arrival of our son. Still, I have been reading and pondering the words in this first epistle of the ‘beloved disciple’, John. And, even more interesting is that, with the arrival of Caleb, God has already begun the teaching process in the first two weeks of his life, even using those ancient words of John.

Hey, could we expect anything less from our Father?!

So, what does 1 John and my son have to do with one another?

The passage that God has recently highlighted is the first verse of the whole letter:

That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life. (1 John 1:1)

When we read this verse, it probably triggers in our mind the very first words of John’s Gospel:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. (John 1:1)

Therefore, we can easily see that John is keen on communicating that Jesus is the one ‘from the beginning’. Such a statement is one of eternality. Jesus, the divine Word, was with God and was God from the beginning.

And, even more, John says He is the ‘word of life’. This phrase is beautiful in itself. But I’ve taken time to write about this title elsewhere, so I won’t spend time on it here.

Therefore, getting back to the intent of this post – how 1 John 1:1 relates to my son.

No, I am not trying to claim that my son is the divine one who existed from the beginning. I’m not that crazy! But what I am noting is how God has spoken to me through this one verse and connected it to the care of my own son.

I am simply amazed that John pointed out how he and the other disciples go to hear, see, look upon and touch the divine Son. Can you imagine this? If we really ponder this kind of statement, there might be a moment where we receive tingles down our spine. It seems that the twelve did not really grasp everything prior to Christ’s resurrection and pouring out of the Spirit, so I imagine that John was kind of pondering what they had been a part of and it absolutely blew Him away. He might even be thinking, ‘If only we had realised it when we were with him those few years.’

I mean, come on. This is the eternal Word existing from the beginning. And they got to hear Him, see Him and touch Him. It’s amazing that God would use such small intricate details in communicating Himself to humanity. But, for some, they believe that, if God is going to reveal Himself, it has to be in some esoteric, sixth sense, or out of body experience? That’s the really spiritual stuff, right?

No. Frankly that doesn’t seem to be the pattern of how God works. He is an incarnational One, and this is true even prior to Christ. We see God’s presence in the angel of the Lord, the pillar of cloud by day and pillar of fire by night, the tabernacle and temple where God chose to dwell, and so many other ‘incarnational appearances’ of the Almighty. It seems that Scripture testifies that God wants to be with His people. Sure, such apperances are veiled. But that’s a good thing, since, if we saw Him in all His glory, we would keel over and die (check out Exodus 33:20). Yet, the final words of the Bible conclude that God’s consummating desire is that He dwell among His people (see Revelation 21:1-4).

And, so, God re-impressed upon my heart the reality that He is in the small things, even the smallest of the small. You wouldn’t think that such things as hearing, seeing or touching another would be important, but they are.

So, here I find myself listening to the gurgles and cries of my son, looking upon his face in wonderment, touching his soft skin, and I’m thinking, ‘If John was correct in those first words of his letter, then this stuff is really spiritual. This is truly divine.’

Now, contrary to such beautiful truth, I can easily find myself losing focus and forgetting about the wonderment of listening, looking upon and touching our son. Many times, I want to change his diaper rather quickly, breaking the previous time record. Or I hope it only takes 5 or 10 minutes to rock him to sleep this time, rather than have to walk around the entire apartment for a good 30 minutes. But such chips away at the divine blessing of being fully present with my son in all of my senses, enjoying the sounds, sights and touch of this little one.

Some theologians have noted that, in his letter, John might have been combating the early seeds of gnosticism. Such a dualistic philosophy desires to divide the material from the spiritual. Therefore, they were the greatest proponents of the sacred-secular split. God is all about the spiritual, but He is not too interested in the physical. And you can see how this philosophy has somewhat pervaded the church of the present day. But the opening words of John in his first epistle completely destroy such an unbiblical notion.

For God, there is no sacred-secular split. It all belongs to Him. As David poetically sang:

The earth is the LORD’s and the fullness thereof,
the world and those who dwell therein. (Psalm 24:1)

And Paul even tells us that all of creation will one day be redeemed (Romans 8:19-23). It’s not just about saving souls. It’s about the restoration of all things (see also Acts 3:19-21).

Therefore, from the great prophetic utterances and miraculous healings to the planting of flowers and rocking your baby to sleep, all such actions invite our God to present with us. And, the thing is, He is already in our midst. It’s just whether or not we are willing to recognise such.

I’m glad Jesus, the God-Man, let His followers listen to Him, look at Him and touch Him. And I am glad our Father still desires us today to be involved in the spiritual activity of using our five senses to His glory.

With the next diaper change, I don’t want it to be a task to quickly complete so I can get back to the more ‘important’ things, whatever that might mean. I want to learn to revel in the privilege of such a divine and spiritual activity. And, hey, if Caleb is truly a gift from God, and I believe he most certainly is, then changing diapers can only be a very spiritual and godly activity. And remember, even Jesus would have had dirtied his diapers since he was fully human. Just ask Mary.

Therefore, we can be encouraged that God really does enjoy interacting with us in our real human activities. There is nothing too small for God to utilise in revealing His glory and grace and beauty and power. So, let us celebrate the small and the ordinary, for they are just as spiritual as the list of other things on our minds. And I think John is reminding us of such in those introductory words to his first letter.

The Naming of Our Son

As I wrote in my last article, our first child was born to us on 21 June 2009, Father’s Day in both America and the UK (I’m from the US and my wife is from England).

His name: Caleb Benjamin Lencke.

It’s always interesting to hear how the naming of a child comes about. Some name their children with names that have been in the family for generations. Others name their children with a more unique and original sounding name, which can become fascinating. And, of course, there are a plethora of other reasons. None are invalid, but just a variety of ways we come to name our children.

I wanted to share how we came to the name our son Caleb Benjamin.

It was quite ironic that Cat and I always had a girl’s name in mind when it came to children. For some reason it was just a little easier. But with a boy’s name, it was much more difficult. It took us a few months to really come to a conclusion. I had prayed a few times that, if God had a specific name for our son, He would make that name known. Not to overspiritualise everything, but I simply desired to hear the heart of God for our son. The reason for this?

Well, in Biblical times, the naming of someone was quite important. One didn’t simply choose a name for the sake of choosing a name. There was a sort of prophetic significance being proclaimed as the child was donned with the particular name. We see this in the naming of Eve (Genesis 3:20), Cain (Genesis 4:1), Noah (Genesis 5:28-29), the renaming of Abraham (Genesis 17:5), and so forth and so on through Scripture.

Naming someone was important, because, as I said, it was a prophetic statement over the life of that person. The greatest example would probably be Jesus (or Yeshua in Hebrew). The name simply means, ‘Yahweh saves.’ And that is what Christ came to do – usher in the saving and redeeming kingdom rule of God amongst humanity so that they may be reconciled back to the Father. Hence, we refer to Jesus as Saviour.

In regards to the first name of our son, most would be aware that Caleb was somewhat of a significant figure in the Old Testament times. He did not reach the recognition of a Noah, Abraham or Moses, but he had a unique role amongst God’s people after their miraculous exodus from Egypt.

We are first introduced to Caleb in Numbers 13 and 14. Numbers is not the most prolific of texts in the Bible, meaning we would rather read the Gospels, or Psalms, or Romans, etc. But I think the overall message of Numbers is a very relevant statement for the church today. But that is for another article sometime down the line.

But while Caleb was introduced in Numbers, my main recollection was of what happened near the end of his life mid-way through the book of Joshua. I had remembered Caleb as a strong man all the way to the end of his life. Matter of fact, he and Joshua were the only two from the older generation that had come out of Egypt who were allowed to enter the Promised Land of Canaan (see Numbers 14:30). Everyone else had died out in their 40-year wanderings in the wilderness, a judgment from God for their continual hard-hearted disbelief and complaining.

So being one of only two from the original group that was able to receive the promises of God, I had remembered him as a strong and faithful man even to end of his days. And this is confirmed in Joshua 14:6-15. Specifically, I was re-reading the story this morning and found these words quite encouraging:

10 And now, behold, the LORD has kept me alive, just as he said, these forty-five years since the time that the LORD spoke this word to Moses, while Israel walked in the wilderness. And now, behold, I am this day eighty-five years old. 11 I am still as strong today as I was in the day that Moses sent me; my strength now is as my strength was then, for war and for going and coming. (Joshua 14:10-11)

 

And it was that last part of vs11 that had stayed with me: ‘my strength now is as my strength was then.’ Here was an 85-year old man still going strong in God, a man still persevering to the end. That is what I had remembered most about Caleb. And, therefore, in naming our son Caleb, I was making a declaration over his life that he would be one that would persevere and stay strong in God even to the end, all by the grace and strength of the intimate and Almighty One.

But recently, I have been reading through the book of Numbers, which is, as I said, where we are actually introduced to Caleb. In Numbers 13, we read that the LORD had commanded Moses to send twelve spies into the land of Canaan, the Promised Land, to survey the land in preparation for entering it. After this 40-day excursion, the twelve spies returned to give a report to the people of Israel. Ten of the spies confirmed it was a really good land (flowing with milk and honey), but this was overshadowed by their report that there were some serious obstacles in regards to the people who presently occupied the land. Thus, they were gripped with fear and they were unable to believe that they could successfully take what God had promised to them. (I sense another article/sermon here, but on we go…)

After the negative response of the ten of these spies, we read these subsequent words about Caleb:

But Caleb quieted the people before Moses and said, “Let us go up at once and occupy it, for we are well able to overcome it.” (Numbers 13:30)

 

When I read those words of Caleb, my heart lept with joy. I was holding my son, who was in a deep sleep, while I was reading this passage. First of all, Caleb quieted the people. This brought to mind a man of grace and wisdom, seeing he was able to quiet a very large group of people. But, even more, I prayed over him that he would be one that would always know that, in God, ‘we are well able to overcome it.’

This simple phrase also brings to mind the well-known passage of the New Testament:

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. (Romans 8:37)

 

Therefore, I was declaring these words of Caleb over our son. In Christ, our son is to overcome in all adversity. As Paul stated, we are a people that are more than conquerors.

Finally, I was also strongly encouraged by these words about Caleb as found just one chapter later in Numbers 14:

But my servant Caleb, because he has a different spirit and has followed me fully, I will bring into the land into which he went, and his descendants shall possess it. (Numbers 14:24)

These were the words that had caught my wife’s eyes, that Caleb had a different spirit. Caleb was marked by a spirit after the heart of God, willing to follow His heart fully. This could really only be imparted by the Spirit of God.

And so I was also able to pray these words over my son as he lay asleep in my arms yesterday, that he would be one of a different spirit. When others do not see a way forward, he would see a way forward in God. When other people react in ungodly ways, he would respond with godly wisdom and grace. When others are pursuing those things that are not of the kingdom of God, he would be marked by that different spirit to passionately seek first the kingdom and its righteousness (Matthew 6:33).

Lastly, how did we come about the name Benjamin?

This also is a very well known name, in the Scriptures and in general life. Each of us probably know five different Benjamins (or Ben for short). But the reason why this name was chosen is that the literal translation of the Hebrew name is ‘son of the right hand’. In Hebrew, Ben means ‘son of’ and yamin mean ‘right hand’.

Therefore, this was a declaration about the relationship that would exist between myself and my son. He would be the son of the (or my) right hand. I want to build towards a close, intimate, fatherly relationship with my son. I want our relationship to consist of sharing life together, sharing conversation, sharing fun times, sharing hard times, sharing laughs, sharing tears, sharing guy times, and so much more. Thus, Caleb Benjamin was to be the son of my right hand.

So this is what we have prayed, even prophesied, over our son. We are exited to see this little one formed into the image of Jesus through the whole journey of life. This will by no means be ‘easy’, but it will definitely be life-changing. I can only imagine that we will learn so much about God’s father-love through the raising of our son. In the end, God might teach us more through our son than He will ever use us to teach Caleb. And I will be ok with that. But it will be an epic experience for all.

We are truly elated to begin this journey with Caleb Benjamin Lencke.

Caleb Benjamin Lencke

To all family and friends (and passers-by to The Prodigal Thought):

We wanted to officially announce the birth of our son, Caleb Benjamin Lencke. He was born on 21 June 2009 at 2.07pm (14.07), weighing 3.24 kgs (7.14 lbs) and 49 cm (19.3 in) in length.

Though the Belgian Father’s Day was on 14 June, the American and British Father’s Day was on 21 June. Thus, here was quite a Father’s Day gift for me (and Cat and I’s fathers). The whole process was quite a quick one when it was all said and done.I will share the story below.

Around 3.00am this past Sunday morning, Cat awoke to the realisation that she was having contractions, or at least she thought she was. The reason there was hesitation is that they were not very painful. Cat was aware that they were no longer the Braxton Hicks contractions of having the uterus tighten. These were much more distinct. They were coming every 10 minutes and lasting about 40 seconds each time. Yet, as I mentioned, she was a bit confused as to whether they were ‘real’ contractions since they were not very painful. There was only just some amount of discomfort.

At 7.00am, Cat climbed back in bed, though it was just about time for me to awake. As I was stirring, she turned to me and said something to the effect of, ‘I just want you to know that I am having slight contractions, so today could be the day.’

I don’t even remember what I thought. I guess I was still in a sleepy stupor. But I am sure I gave some lovely encouragement. Ah, yes, I did encourage her to just wait and see how things progress that morning. But we did decide she would stay home and I would go on to be with the church. Still, all the while, I was considering a Plan B in the back of my mind, just in case. And I did let her know that she was more than welcome to text me anytime during the morning and that I would be willing to walk out and come get her at any point.

Well, famous last words I guess…

Once we began our Sunday gathering at 11.30am, I did let the church know that, ‘All signs pointed to me becoming a dad on either that day or the next.’ But I definitely thought I would make it through to 1.00pm when our gathering officially ended. Yet, it was not to be.

We had just finished our corporate time of worship in song and I began to review what we had looked at last week from the Word. I then had someone read the main Scripture text for that day’s message (Matthew 5:13-16). After it was read, I immediately felt a vibration in my pocket. I announced to all, ‘This could be my wife. I told her she could text me at any point this morning.’

When I pulled out my phone and looked at it, I saw that there were two messages. I thought that was a bit odd. But I also know that if a message is too lengthy, it will come as two text messages. So I thought maybe it was a longer text. But then I knew Cat wouldn’t be sending long love letters via mobile phone. Thus, I was a little perplexed.

I opened the first text, it said: ‘You might need to come back.’

I opened the second text, it said: ‘Come back.’

The first text had come five minutes earlier, but I had only felt the vibration on the second text, which was the one that really mattered. Praise God I felt the second text. [Scott begins to hide from all other women and close his ears to any harsh words that would be sent my way…]. He was in control.

I, thus, realised I needed to go. But I kind of stood there like a deer in headlights. I froze. I knew I needed to go, but I was also trying to think if there was anything I needed to grab before I left. Is there anything important in this building that I desperately needed to bring with me, I though to myself?

In that minute of ‘hesitation’, a few people started to say, ‘Scott, you should go.’ And I even think my friend, Pieter Bester, stood up and was about to offer to go get Cat for me. I will ask Pieter later. Again, I knew I needed to head out, but I was just slightly overwhelmed.

As I began to make my exit one of the ladies in our congregation said, ‘You might want to call Cat and let her know you are on the way.’ I was going to do so, but I still kept going through my mind about things I needed to get from the church building before heading out.

Thus, after grabbing all that I could possibly remember, I headed out the door and phoned Cat to say I would be there in 5 minutes. Thankfully the church building is not far from our home. When I arrived, I headed up the stairs to our third floor apartment. As I entered through the door, Cat was in the midst of one of the painful labour contractions.

Now to recap what had happened before I returned home:

As I said, Cat felt she would probably give birth on that day, Sunday. So she began to do a little more ‘nesting’ around the house, which consisted of hanging some pictures in the nursery room and getting a few final things together. [Again, Scott ducks any harsh comments coming his way…]. Hey, it wasn’t my fault she was hanging pictures. Anyways, moving on…

One of the things we learned in our birthing classes is that, if the woman thinks that contractions are starting, she should take a warm bath. If they are pseudo-contractions, they will most likely slow down or stop. But if they are the real thing, then it will only speed up the process. Therefore, at 11.00am, Cat decided to take a bath. She said she could have stayed in the bath forever.

After a long soothing bath, Cat stepped out of the bath and that is when the heavy labour contractions began to come with full force. They went from mild discomfort every 10 minutes to painful contractions every 6 minutes. This is when the two text messages came to my mobile phone. And now we have have returned from the flashback…

Thus, as I headed upstairs and entered our apartment, Cat was in the midst of one of the really painful contractions. So, of course I knew we needed to head to the hospital immediately.

I began to pack the car with about three trips up and down the stairs grabbing our bag, the baby’s bag, the car seat, pillows, dressing gown (bath robe), portable fan (no air conditioning in Europe), couches, beds, refrigerator, etc. Ok, maybe not the couches, beds and refrigerator. But everything else.

In the midst of my trips up and down the stairs I would also stop every few minutes to help Cat through the contractions. For dads to be, one of the more valuable things we learned in the birthing classes is that it is very helpful to massage the lower back of your wife during contractions. That is where most of the pain comes, or at least for Cat it was. We were also encouraged to describe pictures for our wives to imagine. For example, this would be like imagining that she was blowing the seeds off a dandelion with each deep breath in and out, or climbing the rung of a ladder, or taking a swimming stroke. This would help distract them during the 45-60 seconds per contraction. If you just deal with the pain, the 45-60 seconds can feel like an eternity. So, it was very useful in describing these pictures to help them through each painful contraction.

By the time we got in the car it was just before 1.00pm. I knew the drive would be the hard part because, 1) we did not live very close to the hospital and 2) though I was in the car with Cat, I knew I could not massage her lower back during contractions. But the grace of God was ever-present with during those 6 or 7 contractions in the car. Cat was amazing through the whole car ride.

Remember those pictures I was talking about. Well one of those pictures was of a ladder. Once I told her to imagine that every time she took a step up a ladder rung, she was inching ever close to entering Narnia. Thus, with each step upwards she could see Peter, Edmund, Susan, Lucy, Aslan, Mr & Mrs Beaver, etc. Cat’s desire was that I read through one of the books from The Chronicles of Narnia during labour, all in an attempt to keep her mind off the whole labour process. But because the labour was so quick, we didn’t get to read anything (and I had chosen The Magician’s Nephew). So this was a small supplement.

We finally arrived at the hospital at 1.20pm. I pulled into that nice, close handicapped parking space and we slowly crawled out of the car and entered the building. We, then, made our way up to the delivery ward. By the time we entered into one of the rooms, Cat was already 8cm dilated (for those who don’t know, 10cm dilation is the goal). So they decided to immediately wheel her over to a delivery room.

Within minutes her water had broken and she was ready to push. Incredibly, she only had to push through about three contractions and, then, Caleb Benjamin Lencke was born to the world at 2.07pm on Sunday, 21 June 2009. I suppose it wasn’t the shortest labour that anyone has ever gone through, but I can assure you it was so short we didn’t even have much time to think. And I think most others will agree it was a short labour. We only saw the doctor in the delivery room for 15 minutes, and the two midwives were not really even having to coach Cat along. It was all just happening as it should and very quickly.

That pretty much sums up the delivery day for Cat and I. Wow, to experience the birth of your first child is one of the absolute great moments of your life. Each differing woman has a different experience with each birth, and even different experiences amongst differing children. But, in all, we are very grateful for the overall healthy pregnancy and birthing process from the past nine months. We have known God’s presence through it all.

Cat and Caleb are doing very well now. They both are very healthy and, though most people stay about 5 days in the hospital, we expect to head home tomorrow after only 3 days. But we shall see. There is no rush. But we are so thankful for good health for the mommy and baby boy. Oh, and the dad isn’t doing too bad either.

It has been amazing just getting to know our little one the past few days. He is really ours. We don’t have to give him back this time. I know some will remind us that we will want to give him back at times, and I am sure that is true. But I know we are enjoying this little one more and more. And I want this love to grow deeper and deeper. As I would suppose all dads and moms would testify to, this has been an incredible experience that has been imprinted upon our hearts for the rest of our lives.

He has been with us!

Love to you all,
Scott & Cat