Tag Archives: Parenting

“Beautiful Nate” by Dennis Mansfield

beatiful nateI have tried to write this book review several times now… and each time I have stopped, not liking the way it sounds….

I could tell you about the time I first met Dennis Mansfield (summer of 2000) or about the time I saw him help start an environment stewardship ministry in a local church (a ministry I ended up leading a few years later) or about his youngest son (who was a joy to be around) or perhaps I could just jump into the book straight away… Yet, none of these sound right…none of them do this subject justice…

So I will tell you about my recent interaction with Dennis.

Every Tuesday for the past eleven weeks, my wife and I have joined a handful of other parents in a tiny conference at the Vineyard Boise to try to learn how to be better parents. Dennis and his wife, Susan, are the leaders of this class which is following Dr. Tim Kemmel’s “Grace Based Parenting” book and video series. The core concept of the series is that we, as human parents, are to treat our children the same way God treats His children (i.e. us). While this sound fairly straight forwards, in reality it is not

The reason that it is hard to raise kids the way God raise us, is because we don’t always have a clear view of who God is or what His grace means or looks like. So many of us tend to think that God is sitting up there on His throne just waiting for us to screw up so that He can smack us (just like our human parents used to). Or we think that as Christians we are to protect our children from the evils of the world in the same way the church is supposed to (i.e. remove itself from the evil word and wait till Jesus comes again). Or, still yet, we have a hard time truly believing that God loves us just as we are – no, we think, there is no way that God loves me as I am, I haven’t done enough to earn that love and trust…. And so the reasons and the excuses go…

The reality is that God does love us. He does accept us as we are. He doesn’t sit up there smacking us on the head, He is down here with us, crying with us, hurting with us, rejoice with us, and walking with us. He is a God full of grace because He knows that grace changes us from the inside out. It is not the outward appearance or even our actions as much as it is about our heart. God knows that in repairing our hearts – and let’s face it, we all are screwed up on the inside! – He is breaking us free from the chains of evil and giving us a new life.

Yet this is a hard thing to learn…and it is even harder to put into practice as a little one screams and throws a fit.

This is where people like Dennis and Susan come in. They are parents who have walked through the valley of the shadow of death. They are parents who, by their own admission, were control by fear – trying hard to protect their children by isolating them from the dangers of the evil world around them… only, in doing so they got their eye of what was truly important – their children’s heart.

The memoir Beautiful Nate: A Memoir of a Family’s Love, a Life Lost, and Heaven’s Promises is their story of finding grace and love in the middle of pain and sorrow. For what you don’t know yet is that their oldest son, Nate, became a drug addict and was sent to prison for several years. Not long after Nate was released from prison, he died in his sleep at the age of 27 of an adverse drug reaction (two different drugs in small amounts interacting with each other – not an overdose). But still just as heartbreaking. It is not known which drugs they were and who knows if they would have been detected on a drug test, which could have prevented his death. But we can’t change what has happened, regardless of how much we want to. My heart just goes out to his family. This is a truly devastating, yet real story.

Not quite the resume you would expect for the teachers of a parenting class…yet, in reality, it is the only resume worth having as their resume not only includes tragic, but grace, warmth, love, peace, hope and humility. It is the resume of someone who has walked through the valley of the shadow of death as well as lied on the cool grass beside the still waters.

It is a resume of life.

And since life is not fair, nor gentle, I would recommend reading “Beautiful Nate” as it uncovers the uncoverable in each of us.

Defining Love

As it happened, I discovered a great definition for the word “love” the same week as Valentine’s Day – the day of loooove. (or, more realistically , the day of chocolate and fake emotions). 😛

The definition that I discovered coms from a parenting class we are attending called “Grace Based Parenting” by Dr. Tim Kimmel. This is the definition of love that they give:

Love is the commitment of my will to your needs and best interests, regardless of the cost.

grace based parentingWow! What a definition?!

If asked, I would have said that love was a decision and not an emotion. A decision to care for someone other than ourselves…yet that definition pales in comparison to Dr. Kimmel’s definition.

In breaking down this new definition, you see that it has the decision part (“commitment of my will”) as well as other focused part (“your needs and best interests”). It also reflects the truth that love is not free. There is always a cost to love – a cost that someone has to pay as love is often inconvenient and sometimes very painful. Yet if we are committed to helping others with their needs (note that this means their actual needs, not their selfish or supposed needs) then the cost will be worth it (“regardless of the cost”).

Again, great stuff… However, there is one final test as to whether or not this definition holds out. Mainly, does this definition fit within Jesus’ commandments concerning love?

Let’s find out:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘make a commitment of your will to your neighbor needs and best interests, regardless of the cost and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, make a commitment of your will to your enemies needs and best interests, regardless of the cost and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. –Matthew 5:43-45

Jesus replied: “‘Make a commitment of your will to the Lord your God needs and best interests, regardless of the cost with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Make a commitment of your will to your neighbor needs and best interests, regardless of the cost just as you would do towards yourself.’All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” –Matthew 22:37-40

How about the famous “Love Passage” of St. Paul? Does this new definition fit within that passage as well? Let’s see. 🙂

The commitment of your will to each other’s needs and best interests, regardless of the cost, is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. The commitment of your will to each other’s needs and best interests, regardless of the cost, does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.  -1 Corinthians 13:4-7

I think it fits…. and, perhaps even more importantly, I think it makes us stop and pay attention to those commandment more than the overused English word “love.”

Something to think about…