HANDPRINT OF LOVE
MAY 11, 1997
ED YOUNG with LISA YOUNG
ED: If you ever get a chance to travel to Hollywood Boulevard in Southern California, make sure you stroll down to an area around Grumman’s Chinese Theater. Right there in the sidewalk you will see the handprints of the stars. When celebrities hit the big time, they get a chance, an opportunity to place their handprints in a slab of cement. All the icons are there from John Wayne to Jim Carey, from Marilyn Monroe to Madonna. It is something to see, those indelible prints that they have made in that cement.
Moms, on this Mother’s Day I have got some great news for you. You have made it. That’s right. You have hit the big time. You are something special and you have been given the opportunity to place your handprints on something that is far more valuable than a slab of cement on Hollywood Boulevard. You have an opportunity to place your handprint of love on the lives of your children.
If you haven’t noticed lately, our world is kind of going nuts. Over 3,000 divorces take place per day. Little boys and little girls watch their parents split up. Substance abuse is out of control. In the 80s and early 90s we had it under control a little bit but now it is breaking record numbers. Children these days are exposed to more adult decisions and adult situations than ever before. Our media is mesmerizing, for the most part, the minds of our children with their agenda and their focus.
What do we do about it? Do we pretend it is not there? Do we throw up our hands? Do we put our heads in the sands of denial? Do we allow society to suck our children into the funnel of futility? What do we do about it? I’ll tell you what we do. God has given us a mandate to make a difference in the lives of our children by placing upon them that handprint of love.
LISA: I believe that each of us as a parent would love to see the handprint or the mark that we place on our children. I think it begins in the delivery room. I remember at the birth of each of our children, the family gathered and as soon as the baby was born and taken to the nursery. We all just gathered at the nursery window to peer in. Comments were made like, she has Lisa’s eyes, that’s Ed’s hair color, she has Grandpa’s feet.
Actually if you look back at pictures of your children right after birth they are shriveled up, their faces are squished and it is very hard to pick out any facial feature, let alone physical features that connect you with that child. But we look for that connection or that mark on the baby with physical features even at that young age. I think about my growing up with one sister, four years older than me, and a mom and dad. When I was growing up I had naturally blonde hair, cotton top hair. Naturally meaning that I did not pay for it then like I do now. But my sister, my mom and my dad had coal black hair. I would look at that and at myself in the mirror and wonder why I was so different. That was significant to me because looking at the physical feature, I didn’t see the connection. I wondered, probably because of my sister’s jokes, how I belonged to this family. Well, it just took a deeper look into the mirror to see that I definitely had the right nose and my mother assured me that before my grandfather went bald he had blond hair. That was comforting. We look for that mark, something to say we are connected.
Now my mom and dad did not have the opportunity to sit on the family room sofa and peruse the family scrapbook and pick out those physical features that they preferred; the hair color, the skin tones, the eyes. They didn’t have a choice regarding that particular deposit into my life. But what they did have a choice over was the spiritual and emotional handprint that they placed on my heart. And I am so grateful for that handprint.
If you were to look at my mother’s hands you would notice three physical characteristics. One is that her hands are very soft. I don’t know if that is because of age or the Ester Lauder hand lotion that she has used so faithfully. Her hands are also callused in certain spots from gardening and housework that she had done over the years. And now, her hands are bent with arthritis. You can see the crookedness of her fingers.
These physical characteristics relate to me and symbolize for me the spiritual and emotional attributes regarding her handprint in my life. The softness in her hand represents the tender touch and tender teaching that I was given as a child, teaching about God’s grace, the truth in His word and about His church. My parents worked diligently to teach us about God’s tenderness. The callus represents the strong work ethic that was demonstrated to my sister and me. She expected us to work hard not only to contribute to our family but to work hard to meet the needs of those around us. And finally those bend fingers represent mistakes that my mom and dad as imperfect people made as they reared my sister and me. We have a fallacy in our culture today that because two people are Christians that family will be a perfect family. That is just not so. Ask our children, they will let you know quickly.
The parents who raised me, though truly devoted to God, were imperfect. Those bent fingers represent that. But those imperfections taught me about forgiveness and about grace. This spiritual and emotional handprint is something that I truly value. I thank God for that Christian heritage.
ED: I know many of us grew up under the handprint of love. And we need to thank God for that. But I also know that large blocks of us in this auditorium grew up under the handprint of hurt. Maybe when you look at your life you say that the handprint was misguided, misused. Maybe you grew up in a home where the words I love you were seldom said. What do you do on this Mother’s Day? How do you thank your parents or show appreciation to your mom? Pretty good question, isn’t it? Well the Bible answers your question. Look at Ephesians 6: 1-3. “Children, obey your parents. This is the right thing to do because God has placed them in authority over you. Honor your father and mother…” Now notice right here that there are no contingencies, fine print or escape clauses. The Bible commands us to honor our father and, on this day, our mother. It doesn’t matter if we had the handprint of love on our hearts or the handprint of hurt. We are to honor them. I read on, “….which is the first of God’s commandments that ends with a promise – that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.” I want to get in on that. You may still be saying, after reading this verse, that I don’t know your mom or the home you were brought up in. It doesn’t matter what situation you find yourself in, the Bible commands us to honor and show respect to our parents.
How do you do it if you grew up in a home under the handprint of hurt? First, thank your mom for bringing ou into the world. If that is the only thing you can thank her for, thank her for that. Thank her for carrying you around in her womb for nine months. Secondly, thank your mom and maybe your dad too, for provisional blessings; shelter, clothing, food and education. Thank them for that. If we thank our parents for that, and we thank them for the blessing, then we in turn will have the opportunity to imprint our children with the handprint of love. But there is no way that we can truly mark our children unless we have initially thanked God for our parents who have marked us.
So maybe today you need to pick up the phone and call your mom. Maybe today you need to take the time to jot them a letter thanking them for bringing you into the world and thanking them for their provision.
Moms, I am going to ask you to do something now which might seem a little odd. I want you to take your right hand and just look at it. Your hand really unlocks the key to making a deep impression on the lives of your children. Over the few minutes that remain Lisa and I want to go through the handprint of love and how we can apply it in our families. It doesn’t matter how old your children are, you can start today.
Let’s let the pointer represent trust. We have got to trust God with our whole heart. That is the first key to the handprint of love. In other words, it is impossible for me to make a handprint of love on the lives of my children unless first of all I have allowed Jesus Christ to make a handprint on my heart through a personal relationship with Him. Ephesians 2:8. “Because of his kindness you have been saved through trusting Christ.” I talked to a woman in this building a couple of days ago who didn’t understand what it means to trust Christ. She thought that to trust Christ meant to perform for Him, to take communion, to be baptized, to read the Bible. All those things are fine and dandy but we trust Christ by making a faith decision. We have to get off the performance plan and get into the trust plan by simply admitting the obvious to God that we are sinners in need of a savior and believing that God sent Jesus to die on the cross and rise again. Then we open up our lives and give the totality of our being to Jesus. Once we do that, we are armed and ready to go, to place the handprint of blessing on the lives of our children.
LISA: The second key ingredient is to live daily for Christ. The key word is live. Look at Colossians 2:6-7. “And now just as you trusted Christ to save you, trust him too for each day’s problems. Live in vital union with Him.” Let your roots grow down deep into Him and draw nourishment from Him. See that you go on growing in the Lord and become strong and vigorous in the truth you were taught. We are to live for God every day.
Why is it so important in our homes? It is because we have an audience. Our children are watching us. They are looking to see how mom and dad live out that trust relationship with Christ on a daily basis. I was sharing with Ed that if there was not one person to hear this message, I wouldn’t really worry about what we were going to say. We wouldn’t have studied, done research and spent preparation time together. Who would care? But we knew that over these four services, people were going to show up expecting something. There would be an audience. Well how much more important is that audience that watches us on a day by day basis. I should be prepared, know the script. The script is simply the scripture. It teaches me how to live every day for that audience that watches me. I should demonstrate to my children how I deal with problems. They should know that I have problems that I deal with and that sometimes I struggle. They should know that I depend on God for the solution and resolution. I can demonstrate to them the needs that I have, the desires of my heart. I can demonstrate to my children how I am involved in ministry based on how God has gifted me. I can show them how I try to use my spiritual gifts in God’s seervice.
It is also important that I demonstrate discipline in my life. We read many books. Believe me I have camped out at the James Dobson counter reading about how to effectively discipline your children. But I believe that it begins with me demonstrating in the home discipline in my own life. They need to know that I have boundaries and that if I cross those boundaries I will suffer consequences. When my children see this discipline operating then, in turn, they can understand the discipline that is a part of their lives when they cross those boundaries. It is important for us to live each day for this audience that is so carefully and closely watching us.
ED: OK, moms. We have got the pointer and it is trust. We have got tall man and that is live daily for God. Now let’s talk about the weakest finger we have, this little ring finger. Is that a weak finger, or what? That represents prayer. We have got to learn how to pray and we have got to teach our children how to pray. The Bible puts it this way. Colossians 4:12. “Always earnestly praying for you, asking God to make you strong and perfect and to help you know his will in everything you do.” Parents, we need to pray for our children to come into a personal relationship with God. That is very important. I have talked to children who, I believe, at seven years of age understand what it means to know Christ personally. For other children it might be later on in their lives.
But we need to expose our children to the Children’s Ministry here, and we need to share with them what it means to have this contact with the living Lord. We also need to pray, parents, for the friends and the peers of our children. We have got to always monitor them. If we don’t, the peers in their lives can effect them and keep them from being where God wants them to be. Are you praying for those peers? Are you praying for your children’s future mates? I think also we need to share prayer requests with our children. Lisa and I struggle with this. People think that we must have one Bible study after another Bible study at our home every day. They think we play Christian music all the time, that there is no stress, no fighting. Give me a massive break. Come on now. That is not true. It is difficult.
And I will tell you where I struggle. I am at church at least eight hours a day and I am praying there, studying there, reading the Bible there. When I go home it may be the last thing I want to do to bring the kids together for a Bible study. I struggle with that. Recently I have been doing something that has really helped our family. We have a family devotion. Yes, we pray with our children every night prior to their going to bed. But now we get together and study God’s word. It is interesting to communicate when you are dealing with twins who are two all the way up to LeeBeth who is ten. We have some really interesting Bible studies, some really wild things have happened. But the completion and the feel of our family has changed just by doing that.
Also Lisa and I share with them where we are spiritually. For example, yesterday I ran into someone that I know while I had LeeBeth and EJ in the truck with me. They asked who it was I had spoken with. I could have just said it was someone I knew. That would have been true. But I shared that that person was someone I had been praying for over the last four or five months that he would come into a personal relationship with Christ. You see, that shows that mom and dad are praying. So make sure that you pray for your children, with your children and for their future. Also share with them what is going on in your life.
LISA: The pinky represents teach. We are to teach our children. Deuteronomy 6: 6-7. “These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.” This verse talks about how we, as parents, are to teach our children on a day to day basis, all day long.
ED: I believe that parents all to often do the substitute teacher thing. Remember back at school how you thought you could go wild when you had a substitute? Well some parents think the youth pastor is a substitute, or the day care center is a substitute. There is no on who can take your place, Mom or Dad. No one. So make sure you do the teaching thing.
LISA: To go along with that, look at the first part of this verse. It says that the commandments are to be upon our hearts. That goes back to the trust factor. I am to have these truths so ingrained in my own heart that it is a natural outpouring as I share with my children in all our activities.
When I was in school learning how to be a first grade teacher, our professor told us about different methods of teaching. One of those methods was how to seize the teachable moment. He would say that there were certain times that you should seize the opportunity to teach something even if it was not part of the lesson plan. How much we should do that in our homes. As we live each day, we need to seize those teachable times when our children are experiencing something specific and we can capitalize on that and teach them.
We need to teach first of all that our children are valuable, not only to us as parents, but to God who created them. We are to teach their uniqueness, that God made them in a special way with gifts and talents and that they will make a great impact on the world. We see in our family a wide variety of gifts. Each of our four children is different, each has strengths and weaknesses that are different from the others.
Our daughter, LeeBeth, is very organized. She loves to plan for the future. She can anticipate well. That is a strong gift. As a parent I need to communicate to her that she has that great gift. In communicating that, I have to be careful to speak to her on a level that she understands. I enjoy what Gary Smalley and John Trent write in their book THE BLESSING about communicating through word pictures. God used word pictures throughout scripture to describe many things. He called the nation of Judah, the lion. What did that tell us about Judah? That lion paints a picture of strength and alertness. That was the nation of Judah. So I must remember when I communicate with LeeBeth that I must use a language that she will understand.
“LeeBeth, you are so great at anticipating and leading forth for those people who are following you. You are kind of like the big engine at the beginning of a train. The others can trust you that you will lead them to a great destination.” Maybe that could be a word picture. I also need to communicate to her practical life skills. For me, I enjoy cooking. Maybe I could teach how to make a certain dish. For Ed, it may be to teach them how to outline effectively or fly fish. Then last, but certainly not least, teach your children the word. As Ed said, there are no substitute teachers. You can depend on the church, to assist you, but we are not here to be the primary teacher. It is up to you to teach those truths, those words of application.
ED: I remember so many great things that my mom did for me in terms of communicating the Bible. One of my favorite stories is that of David and Goliath. I still have the image that was in that big old picture Bible for children that my mom used to read from. So this stuff matters when they are small. You may think that they are not really listening, but yes they are.
LISA: We have found during our family time Ed was referring to earlier, sometimes we take just one Bible verse and decide to talk about what God is saying through that one verse. Other days, we may get out the little picture book Bible and read a story out of that. And LeeBeth is not insulted. She knows that we are going to balance that out. Landra, one of our two-year-old twins, has the same answer for any question that you might ask her. Her every answer is “Jesus.”
ED: Let’s go to the last finger, which is affirm.
LISA: We are not only to trust Christ, to live daily for Him, to pray for our children and to teach our children but we are also to affirm our children. For us, in our family, that is represented by thumbs up. It doesn’t matter whether our children are on the soccer field, in a school play or whatever. Ed and I can be watching and give thumbs up and they know that means “we love you.”
ED: I like the word affirm because the word firm is in the word affirm. When you give them the thumbs up sign you give them a firm foundation to build on. Too many children that we come into contact with here have a shaky, movable foundation.
LISA: We need to tell our children consistently, “I love you.” We should not save these words for special occasions but use them on a daily basis. We need to tell them we love them, care about them and that they are important to us not based of their performance but just because they are who they are.
We also need to touch them, hug them, give them a pat on the shoulder. We can have wrestling matches and tickling sessions. For us, our kids know what the thumbs up means. Give your kids a concrete symbol that will say the same thing.
ED: Well there you have it. How to make the handprint of love on the lives of your children. Trust Christ. Live daily for Him. Pray. Capture those teachable moments. Affirm them. I think the greatest acknowledgment ever given to the handprint of love happened about 2,000 years ago. You know when Jesus was hanging there on the cross paying for your sins and mine, one of the criminals next to Him was verbally abusing Him. Yet, he took the opportunity to find John in the crowd surrounding the cross. And here is what He said. “John, take care of my mother.” In other words, Jesus was showing appreciation for the handprint of love that Mary placed on His heart. And it doesn’t get any better than that. If that doesn’t put the office of motherhood way up there, I don’t know what does.
Obey this stuff. Flesh it out so you can place those indelible impressions on the hearts of your sons and daughters.