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Thursday, July 30, 2009

I love the church/the people...

This is a week that I've had time to just reflect on how beautiful it is to be a part of a faith community that emphasizes the celebration of life and the redemption of humankind.  I just wanted to reflect on some of things that I've been thanking God for regarding the church body I'm a part of, Impact...

- I love how real and raw people are.
- I love how creative and imaginative people are.
- I love how lively and lovely people are.
- I love how unique and united people are.
- I love how beautifully broken people are.
- I love how passionate and provocative people are.
- I love how artistic and aesthetic people are.
- I love how human and humane people are.
- I love how deep and driven people are.

Notice that I love the people...because that is what the church is fundamentally.  It is people. 

A today...I just needed to say how much I love them.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

You might be a redneck, I mean church planter...

You might be church plant reaching un- and de-churched people if…

…you can pick out your visitors by simply looking for who is dressed up.

…your staff doesn’t have any offices because they gave them up to the interns.

…after you preach a guy comes up to you and says, “That was some good s&@t!” (happened just this week)

…you're having baptism and a guy from England stands up and says that he wants to be baptized, too, even though he’s never gone to church.  (again happened last week)

…you prepare your messages in random coffee shops throughout the week.

…someone comes up to you and says, “My favorite book of the Bible is Palms.”

…you play “Gorilla beats the Man” in your morning worship service for an ice-breaker.

…people are outside smoking before the service so that they can last for the next hour or so inside.

…you have a guy in your church with a tattoo covering his whole leg from his ankle to his groin.  Scratch that, if more than half of your church has tattoos.

…someone gets saved in the morning and baptized that same day in a nearby lake.

 

This is the good stuff.  This is what I’ve always dreamed of being a part of.  This is what I am a part of.  Here’s to those who launch out into the dicey deep to rescue the perishing.  Do no grow weary in well doing, my friends.

Monday, July 27, 2009

can't help myself...

"He saved others, but himself he could not save." - Bible

This verse has been bouncing around in my skull the last couple days.  I fully realize what context this statement comes from and how unparalleled my life is in comparison.  But the statement itself pierces something deep inside me today.

Namely, the feeling that I can help everyone else but myself.  

Somehow, between helping others and helping myself, I'm missing something somewhere.  I can help men, but balk in my ability to help "this man".  I can deliver a message to the masses motivating them toward something, but when it comes to me rousing myself and charging the hill, I'm paralyzed and demoralized.  I can help other marriages, but feel powerless and wordless when it comes time to engage my own.  I can counsel others in their parenting pressures, but I feel so defeated with my own children when they aren't responding well.  I can help others through depression and anxiety, but when it fills my insides, I have trouble speaking truth to it, or hearing truth about it in a way that sets me free.  I can help the band of brothers at church to be valiant and vigilant, but when I'm battling my own temptations and tribulations as a man, I feel like I'm an easy target, the limping gazelle in the herd.   My mouth lays claim to such lofty ideals, but my life lurches to catch up with my lips.  Most of the time I'm preaching to myself.

Right now, I feel so impotent to climb out of my own baggage.  If I'm not careful, I'll just redirect my energies toward helping others get out of theirs.  That always distracts me from my feelings of futility and failure with my own growth by attaching me to the reconstruction of someone else's.  I feel a false sense of security that just because I help someone else through their raging river that I've successfully forded my own.  I've fallen for this cheap substitution before.  

And I'm in the people business.  People are my life.  So I'm constantly reminded of the distance between what I look like in front of others and who I actually am.  I don't think there's anything I can do about that disparity other than try to stay appropriately honest along the way, but yesterday was a prime example of how far from reality you can actually live on the outside when you're insides are convulsing with sharp pains, contractions...labor pains.  

I'm not going to divulge the details here, but suffice it to say that my insides where nowhere close to where my outsides were living.  I felt like I was in a different time zone, maybe a different ozone.  I haven't slept well the last several nights because of inner tension, but Saturday night was even more sleep deprived.  I wrestled with myself and my life and my family most of the night, tossing and turning, going downstairs to watch T.V. in order to try to redirect my emotional energy toward another subject, another narrative, than the one I was living in.  I couldn't do it.  I was so tired, but I couldn't sleep, and I knew that I had to get up at 6:00am on Sunday morning to go in a change my guitar strings and make sure things were set up for the day.  I slept maybe--maybe--two hours before I rose to tackle the day.  I felt like a shell of a man.  And yet, there was so much riding on me in the coming six hours that I hadn't the time to grovel in my own gravel.  "I must live above my circumstances.  I must press through conflict.  I must rise to the challenge.  I must tap into God and let him live through me regardless of 'the kind of me' he's getting the chance to live through."  And so I pulled myself together, and stepped into the roles that I get paid to perform--most of the time I'm completely there and loving it--making it happen.  Totally and completely making it happen when almost every bit of who I am wants to just cry like a baby, run home and crawl into bed.  I'm ashamed to admit that, but I can't live a lie making people think I'm something I'm not.  I'm not strong.  I'm not confident.  I'm not indestructible.  I'm just not.

And here's the kicker, the morning went great.  People came to know Christ.  Worship was unbelievable (the music part as well as the spirit part).  My message landed in people's lives with power and passion.  I could see the tears all over the place, you could hear a needle drop.  I've gotten more emails coming off of yesterday's message than the last 5 weeks combined.  Suffice it to say, God moved!  But here's the kicker.  I can do that.  Isn't that scary?  I can pull off stuff without actually "being there".  Things on the outside can be going smoothly, ministry can be sitting in the lap of luxury, so to speak.  And I can be imploding.  

That just petrifies me.  

But here's the only consolation.  I can't life a hypocritical life--though I'm great at living a hyper-critical life...hahaha--I just can't.  I will quit something if my insides aren't catching up with my outsides.  I will drop my job like a bad habit if what I'm preaching, I'm not practicing at home in my private and personal life.  That's why I'm filled with such inordinate alarm any time I feel incongruent in my holistic personhood.  I just can't move forward until all of me moves forward...no child left behind, right?  I can't make allowances for a life of compartmentalized living.  I just can't.

And yet, here I am.  I would love to be somewhere else or someone else today, even if only by writing in such as way as to come across more together than I am.  But alas, I am me.  And the "me" that I'm describing feels like he can help everyone else but himself today.  I must write honestly about my life, I can do no other.  

I wish I was more than what I am.  I wish I didn't struggle so much.  I wish I could pull it together.  I wish I was more manly.  I wish I was more godly.  But wishful thinking, for all that it can accomplish, isn't worth much when it comes to seeing your life rightly.  Wishing it was different won't make it so.  The only way for me to change it into the different I want is to declare it as it is in the moment.  

And in this moment, if you can believe it, I feel feeble.  I want to help me like I help others.  I want to help my marriage like I help others.  I want to help my kids, like I help others.  Why is this statement that was made to Jesus on the cross piercing me through today?

Maybe I'm missing something.  If so, I hope the days ahead will reveal what, where, when, how and who.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Handing over the keys...

What a restless night of sleep.  I'm tired of being tired.

But there are times in life when it seems that God just keeps me awake until I relent and hand over the keys.  It isn't until things get really desperate that I realize how tightly I'm grasping onto keys of my life.  I want to unlock and lock doors.  I want to open and close doors.  I want to be the sole engineer of my life's destiny.  

And then, in a fit of fatigue mixed with fear, I surrender once again all my "so-called" rights.  And you wouldn't believe the Bill of Rights inside my head.  All these codes and protocols, policies and procedures, do's and don'ts, will's and won'ts...these things seize up the engine of my heart like a neglected tractor that throws a rod.  I can't do this anymore.

And I can't tell you how many times I've re-dedicated my life to the Lord, re-surrendered my will to His,  re-doubled my efforts to function on his timing, his strength.  I can't innumerate.  And yet, time and time again, he shakes his head, takes the keys back, puts me in a head lock and gives me a noogie saying, "You little squirt!  What am I gonna' do with you?"  I look up at Him with disheveled hair and say, "Sorry for being such a nimrod...I don't deserve to be your song, but if you would be so gracious to allow for me to be your hired servant, I would be much obliged."  He gazes at me with an almost disgusted look on his face and says, "Have you lost your raving mind?...I've already sent for the fatted calf...and looky here, I've got a nice little signet ring to stick on your finger.  How ya' like those green apples?"  Embarrassed and yet relieved, I look at him as if to say, "Why do you keep doing this?"  And he looks at me as if to say, "Because I can't help but love you."  I affect to smirk and look down at the dirt.

Life functions so much better when I hand over the keys.

Monday, July 20, 2009

old journal entries 2004 A.D. ...

I wanna post some old journal entries about my family on here.  There's something special about revisiting old writing and seeing how God's faithfulness is woven through the tapestry of my story.  They are from from between the years of 2002-2004 A.D. (remember those decrepit years buried in antiquity?)...

05-26-04

Just before we left for California last week, I was playing with Aly when I made an observation that wrapped up the little girl heart in four words. In a matter of minutes she uttered two phrases that communicated the desire of every girl on the planet.


The first two-word phrase was, “Watch Me!” Over and over again, she would get ready to do something and then yell over at me to tune into her performance. She wants more than anything to be noticed, to be seen, to be captivating. She wants my undivided attention and she yells louder and louder until she pulls me away from whatever is preoccupying me until she finally gets it. She kept saying, “Watch Me!” every time she tried a summersault or slide down the slide or jumped on the Bed. She wouldn’t be satisfied until my eyes we locked on her every move.


The second two-word phrase was, Catch Me!” this took more than just my eyes, it involved an active rousing of my whole body. She wants to be pursued and rescued. She loved to know that I’m after her and that I won’t stop until she is found. She would poke me on the leg and yell, “Catch Me!” while running to her room. Over and Over again we would play these silly games, but I learned, they are only games to me, they are life to them. My girls want to be captured and captivating...and I don’t blame them...it’s in their blood.

old journal entries 2004 A.D. ...

04-28-04

You should hear my daughters pray.  They are just getting started with cutting their theological teeth and it just busts my gut and touches my heart to hear them discuss thoughts on Jesus and the rudimentary principles of the gospel.


I was praying with my 2 year old, Aly, before bed this last week and she started out her prayer like this... “Dear Jesus, ah sin...ah cross...ah happy...ah heaven...”  My nostrils were flaring with delight as I listened to her close the prayer by praying for every living being she knows on the face of the earth. 


Kami was praying with Heidi the other night and she taught us a proper perspective on the crucifixion and resurrection.  This was her discourse on those events, “Jesus, I don’t like that you died on the cross, but I’m really glad that you came alive again.  And I was thinking about whether you moved the stone or the soldiers moved it, but I’m just really glad that it was moved.”  Me too!


We were praying before lunch a couple weeks ago and it was right after I had to get on the girls for fighting.  Kami thought she would confess her sins while praying for her food.  “Dear heavenly Father, I’m sorry that we were fighting and making you sad.  Please pour out some more of your blood.”


I don’t know what it is about their prayers, but it’s like a workshop in communicating with God every time I listen in on their simple ways of describing everyday occurrences.  God, keep my little boy heart alive!

old journal entries 2004 A.D. ...

03-03-04

I love playing with my kids...especially if I’m the one making up the game. 

We were on our way home from church on Sunday night and I decided to open the sunroof on my stealth ’91 Acura Integra. I pushed the button and Kami watched as the window slid back and revealed the starlit sky. She asked how it happened and I told her that God did it. I told her that if she would pray to God, he would close it back up. She smiled and prayed, “God, could you please close the top.” Before she could finish her sentence, I pushed the button that was concealed to the left of the steering wheel. She then asked God to open it back up. As she watched it open, she turned to Aly and said, “Aly, he really listensed this time!” Aly squealed and said something about a goat. I hope this little game doesn’t wound her prayer life in the future. 

I just love watching them come alive to the simplest things. It awakens something inside of me to follow suit. I’m so thankful I have children, I’m learning more than I’ll ever be able to teach them.

They are the apples of my eye.

old journal entries 2003 A.D. ...

12-10-03

I can honestly say that I had no idea what my parent’s did for me in my lifetime until I became a parent myself. Because I don’t remember the first 10 years of my life very well, I tend to base my opinion of my parent’s performance on the years between my 11th and 18th birthdays. How unfair! How rude! I can’t begin to tell you how grossly I underestimated their investment in my life.

I watch Heidi pour her every moment into our children’s hearts and lives and they couldn’t give a rat’s tail about her sacrifice. If fact, it’s an expected norm for them to get waited on hand and foot…stinkin’ kids! Ha. Why just last night she left our house at close to 11:00pm to go to Walmart to get the grocery shopping done. Only the Lord knows when she got home, cause I was sawing logs by the time she climbed into bed. All in know is that I woke up this morning and the kitchen was cleaned up and all the groceries were neatly organized into their rightful places. When did she do that, 2 in the morning?

She stays up with the girls when they can’t sleep, takes them to the hospital at all hours of the night, gives them bubble baths, dresses them, does their hair, cleans up their spills, puts up with their fighting, picks up their scattered toys, cleans the bathrooms, washes the dishes, cleans the laundry, organizes the closets and drawers, takes care of the bills, packs Kami’s lunch for school, feeds Taylor her bottle, holds her when she’s fussy while trying to get lunch ready, reads the girls books, takes them to McDonald’s playland, works out at the YMCA, vacuums the house, makes the beds, and if that wasn’t enough…“She has to take care of me”, which is harder than everything else combined.

Put it this way, if you knew just how much your parents have done for you, you would lay down prostrate before them and worship the ground they walk on. The puke, the poop, the spit, the snot, the screams, the wines, the accidents, the chaos, the breaking of fine china…oh, you have no idea! It’s time you went to Walmart and bought a clue. And after you get a clue, go home and hug your parents thanking them for all the things you never had a clue they did for you.

old journal entries 2003 A.D. ...

10-22-03

My family is the most wonderful gift I’ve been given thus far in life. I’ve been blessed with four lovely ladies to take care of and being gone from them the past couple days made me realize how fortunate I am to belong to them, and they to me.

Kami is growing into a sensitive and tender young lady. She loves getting her hair blow-dried and then flipping it back with her fingers. A few weeks ago we were listening to her new Worship Together cd for kids, and she was closing her eyes and raising her hands in worship. It was precious to see even though she may not have a clue what she’s actually doing.

Aly is ornery. There is never a dull moment when she’s around. This last week, she went #1 in her little potty chair and then poured it into the bathtub. Not exactly the bubble bath we approve of as parents. She loves lip-gloss and she is just getting to the place where there’s enough hair on top of her head to put a barrette in it. She’s a trip.

Taylee has just moved into the double-digit weight class division. She is crying a lot, eating a lot and pooping a lot. That is her blissful life at this point and we are at her mercy. Lucky dog. She is growing more beautiful by the day…I’m so glad we have her.

And last but certainly not least is my dear wife Heidi. She is the best mom I’ve ever seen in action. Her sacrificial love and tireless discipline blows me away. By far, the most attractive thing about her is the fact that she pushes through obstacles to get to Jesus. She is never satisfied to just settle back and coast with God. When she isn’t spending time with him…she’s bothered. When she’s not feeling close to him…she’s discontent. I love her so much…I love all my girls.

Today I’m reminded of my blessings… for they are many indeed. God’s been good.

old journal entries 2003 A.D. ...

07-16-03

Once again, out of the mouth of babes God continues to woo my heart and allure me back to his. My daughter is teeming with thoughts that draw me closer to my God and I’m ever grateful for her contribution to my soul’s journey for intimacy with my Creator.

After youth group two weeks ago, I was sitting on the couch with Kami just snuggling before we laid her down for the night. I was coming down from the adrenaline rush of Calstumi and my body was taxed and worn. As I started checking out, something in my spirit whispered to me from within and invited me to tell my daughter that I would protect her and that I would do my best to not let anything or anyone hurt her. I tried to emphasize my passion to be her guardian and as I did, she turned and gazed into my eyes. 

After I finished talking, there was a pause followed by her little voice asking a question that pounds in the feminine heart. “Dad, if someone tried to hurt me, would you kill them?” I couldn’t have been more caught off guard…I was beside myself. Did she just say what I thought she said? I gathered myself, and pulled her close to my chest. I looked her in the eye and said without hesitation, “Oh yes, yes I would!” She smiled and gave me a kiss. Then she went on a little conversational rabbit trail. “Dad, if a monster tried to hurt me, would you kill it?” I responded with a stern, “You betcha’!”


It was so appropriate since I was just reading a passage in Nehemiah that said, “Don’t be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your brothers, your sons and your daughters, your wives and your homes.” It got me to thinking how vicious I am in my fight for my brothers and sisters in Christ. Is their freedom my greatest prize? Do I watch their back, supply their needs, encourage their weakness? It just struck me how much I need to fight along side each of you in this ferocious battle that is waged over our affection… and by God’s grace I will fight like a warrior poet.

old journal entries 2003 A.D. ...

06-25-03

“He seldom reflects on the days of his life, because God keeps him occupied with gladness of heart.”
-Ecclesiastes 5:20

I was snuggling with my daughter on the couch and we were whispering sweet nothings into each other’s ears. I leaned over and spoke a word into her tender heart, “You are my beautiful little princess.” She smirked with her cute little crooked smile and tilted her head towards my ear. What she said couldn’t have caught me more off guard, “You’re my big daddy warrior.” I hugged her tightly and put her in the cradle hold while tickling her sides. It was a moment I will never forget.


Later that day, we were getting ready to eat dinner when Kami asked if I would break her grilled cheese sandwich in half. She had just seen Heidi pull apart Aly’s sandwich and she didn’t want to be left out. I nonchalantly walked over to her table and ripped apart the sandwich with my bare hands. Immediately she said, “Dad, you are so strong!” I glanced over to her and said, “I know!” Heidi started laughing. I thought to myself…”She has no idea that I’m not as strong as I appear.” To her, I’m indestructible, invincible and borderline immortal. It just takes me back to my innocent and naïve childhood where life was simple….”Dad is strong…I am safe”. I long for those days again sometimes.


This verse in Ecclesiastes really struck me to the core this last weekend. I put on some shorts and my hiking boots and waded into Mad River hiking a half-mile up stream. Eventually I found a quiet spot on the shore and I made myself comfortable. I opened my Bible to this mysterious book and began my journey through its every phrase. I was gripped by this verse…”God keeps him occupied with gladness of heart.” I so much long to be that kind of person…feeling the oil of gladness trickling down my face, clothing myself with the garment of thanksgiving as I clash with this world of brokenness.


“God, occupy me with gladness of heart…pour over me the joy of your salvation…let the joy of your heart be my strength. I’m tired and empty. Please encourage my heart with your incessant streams of living water flowing from the Holy Spirit who lives in my very heart. You are life to me.”

old journal entries 2002 A.D. ...

12-18-02

Kami has been off the wall lately…or off the hook if you want to use modern verbiage. I wish you could come and live with us for one day; you’d bust a gut! She has a clever way of taking stories and songs and mixing them together. I thought I would humor you with a few of her distorted mix-ups.


I was sitting on Kami’s bed getting ready to pray with her when she looked at me and said, “Dad, is the door locked?” She had never been concerned about htat before, so it caught me off guard. I responded, “Yes, but why do you ask?” She didn’t hesitate a bit, “Because I don’t want Cinderella Devil to come in.” I started to play along, “Who is she?” She fired back, “She is mean to the dogs and wants to get ‘em”.  In her mind Cinderella and Cruella Devil are one in the same. We have some reconfiguring to do in her little brain concerning Disney flicks.


On Monday, she was singing songs in the bedroom while we were getting dressed. She loves to sing in the morning, so we were just enjoying her jolly little voice. She started to sing the song “Give me oil in my lamp keep me burning, burning, burning; keep me burning till the break of day.” And then she did one of her infamous song twisters, “Song Oh Santa, Sing Oh Santa, Sing Oh Santa to the King of Kings…” We were beside ourselves…where does she she come up with this stuff?


We were listening to the Passion cd, and she loves the song, “Here I am to Worship.” We were dancing in the living room together and singing the chours at the top of our lungs. During the last chorus, I stopped singing to hear whether she was in tune and on target with the words, here’s how the chorus goes to her, “Here I am to worship, here I am to bow down, here I am to say that You’re my God; You’re altogether Lovely, altogether worldly, altogether wonderful to me.” That one had to make even God laugh!


Almost every night, I lay on the bed with her and we’ve developed this mini-tradition of telling each other make-believe stories. I will tell her one and then she will tell me one. You should hear what she comes up with in her little mind. Two days ago, she started by saying, “Once upon a time, there was a little girl named Nance, she loved, loved, loved to play in trees. Her mother said, ‘No, Nance, you could get hurt!’, but she was naughty. She climbed the tree and fell down and broke her face and had to go to the ‘hosible’ to get a cast. It was a sad story.” 

I’m all about imagination.

old journal entries 2002 A.D. ...

12-04-02

Man, I just feel I have so much in my heart I can hardly find a beginning with words. We took Kami to the doctors in North Carolina and spend the good part of yesterday in waiting rooms, doctors offices and traveling in the car there and back. It was a taxing day and there were comments that Kami made that are not leaving my heart…it’s not like I can sleep them off or just busy myself with tasks until they’re forgotten. These words are forged into my soul and I’m undone…literally spent of heart.


Oh, I’m not depressed, just desperate for God’s wisdom, empowerment and warrior instinct. She made a comment yesterday that I can’t forget, “Daddy, when we go to the doctors, no more surgeries, right?” I answered her quickly, “No! No more surgeries today.” But even as I answered her, my mind was racing with thoughts of what she was experiencing inside. I looked at her and I could tell she was tense and uptight inside the whole day. She couldn’t pay attention when I would read her books…sometimes she would be in a daze and it would be hard to break through the preoccupation…she would grab around my neck and not let go even though there were toys to be played with. She was lost in thought and fear, and I kissed her literally hundreds of times to assure her of my love and presence.


Today, we had to put a patch on her eye to make the other eye grow stronger. We are going to have to do this for 8 hours a day for an indefinite amount of time until her eye strengthens. When we pulled out the patch and talked to her about the need for it, she sobbed a broken-hearted cry.  As I put it on, she lowered her head in embarrassment and fear. I was broken…I sat her on my lap and told her how beautiful she was and how proud I was of her, but my words seemed to be insufficient to heal her heart.


It’s not like this little excerpt has any closure, cause we are in the middle of this experience begging God for the wisdom to act on behalf of our daughter in a way that won’t injure her heart and spirit. I’m begging you to pray for us in the coming days…some days I don’t feel strong enough to meet this challenge with courage. I need more than what I have…I need grace.
Do you ever feel like that? Like there isn’t really closure…it’s like you have to learn as you go and roll with the punches. Life is full of hurt…and it takes a strong heart to stay in the battle. Sometimes I fell faint, but I know God’s got my back… 

old journal entries 2002 A.D. ...

11-06-02

I was playing outside with my daughter last week. She really wanted to play in the leaves…and inside…so did I! We bundled up and made our way to the front yard. The leaves were plentiful, colorful and beautiful. I started raking them into a massive pile while Kami sat there and watched in childlike awe. She was fixing to run and jump into the bed of nature and you could see the anticipation building in her little heart. I couldn’t wait to grab her hand, count to three and take the first step back into my childhood memories.


That’s why I love having children…they cause me to remember days of old when I still had wonder and awe over little things like leaves and stars and my dad’s ability to pick me up with the greatest of ease. Life was filled with anticipation and days seemed to last forever. You see, last night while I was thinking about who was going to claim the Senate…she was talking about Cubbies and whether the scrape on her knee would heal fast enough so that she could dance during band practice. While I’m thinking about the plight of our government, she is doing flips on the floor and following each flip by saying, “That was so cute!”. She doesn’t get it…or does she?


I finished raking the leaves into a pile and made my way up the hill to where my daughter was chomping at the bit to make the mad dash to ecstasy. I grabbed her hand, we counted to three and ran down the hill toward the great mound. We both jumped into the leaves and rolled around while laughing. I covered her up and she busted out of the leaves like a loosed prisoner! It was a blast!


After we played in the leaves for a while, I asked her if she wanted to climb the tree…I know…3 year olds aren’t supposed to scale trees, but I’m not bound to every presupposition that society arranges. I placed her in the tree and kept my hand on her until she was secure. I then climbed up with her and she sat on my lap and I told her stories. I shared with her how no one else could see us and that we were hidden from the world. She was loving it and so was I. The branches were such that I could lay back and she could lay on my chest…we laid there and talked about how good it was to be alive and to have so many fun things to do every day.


I want to be a family man. If I must fail, I don’t want it to be at home. I want to love my wife and my children with the first-fruits of my passion…and to come to the end of my life and say, “I was faithful.” 

old journal entries 2002 A.D. ...

09-11-02

September 11 will always be a day that stirs deep emotions within me. I remember vividly every movement of that morning. The most vivid memory I have of that horrific day was when I was holding my tree month old daughter, Aly, in my arms while watching the second tower collapse into a cloud of billowing smoke. I remember the terror I felt in my bones a I cradled her in my arms…the thought, “What have I done bringing an innocent child into this kind of world?” I was stunned, stupefied…still.


However…I remember the first time I heard of the story of the flight that went down in Pennsylvania…I was bolstered and taken to places of courage, valor and honor. Imagine yourself there…what would you have done? In a matter of moments, something this man said, no, something this man was turned a flight of passengers into a band of warriors. I wish I could have been there…to hear the passion, to see the eyes of sacrifice, to watch a man in a suit transform into a Point man for changing a part of his world. And did he ever change it…have you ever paused to ask yourself what they stopped from happening simply because thy laid their lives down? It’s amazing what a person will do when they know that they’re going to die anyway. 

Think about that…


If we really truly believed (not just giving intellectual assent to the facts) that we were going to die and that eternity awaits us with open arms…would we not lay down our lives more than we do? Would we not give up the insatiable thirst for human approval, temporary recognition and whimpering pleasures? Yet these things bind us and hold us captive for the good part or our days…we don’t truly believe we’re going to die. Believe is proven through fire. I once heard it passion defined this way…“The degree of difficulty one endures to achieve the goal.” How true.
So as we remember the lives lost…may we not let them die in vain…but honor their deaths with our lives. It is not the critic who matters…only the one who is in the arena…spilling blood, excreting sweat, and shedding tears for the one who did so on our behalf…there is not greater life to be lived. 

old journal entries 2002 A.D. ...

06-05-02

I had just gotten home from running some errands. I was beat and was just laying on my stomach at the foot of the bed when my daughter, Kamryn Rose, came in and grabbed my cheeks with her beautiful hands and squeezed my face into her lips. She kept doing that over and over again and then finally whispered the words that your heart longs to hear…“Daddy, you are my best friend in the whole wide world!” I replied, “What did you say?” She quickly rapped her arms around my neck and responded, “You are my very best friend in the whole wide world!” I smiled and hugged her tight for as long as she would let me before she got claustrophobic. As quickly as the moment came…it was over.

I don’t even have to wonder anymore what God feels when we lavish our love on him throughout our day. He drinks it in exactly like I did yesterday. He doesn’t say, “Well, it’s about time.” Or “Yeah, I already knew that…tell me something I don’t know.” Or “Get a number and step in line, you’re just one of many.” It’s piercing and penetrating. It grabs him and moves him. We must know that…or we lose heart.

I just wanted to remind our hearts of the real God that we love and serve. He can’t wait to hear you say the words, “Daddy, You’re my very best friend in the whole wide world!”

old journal entries 2002 A.D. ...

04-03-02

I love praying with my eldest child, Kami! It is an adventure at times just to heart what comes out of her mouth! As we were getting ready to pray for Mommy in the living room, I thought I would share with her how much God loved her. I asked her if she knew that Jesus loved her very much. She eagerly nodded her head. Then she asked me, “Daddy, where is God?” I hesitated and responded, “Well he’s right here with us!” She didn’t even pause before she said, “ But I don’t see him…is he behind us?” I tried to explain to her the doctrine of omnipresence and the invisible attributes of God and who how is Spirit, but I think I lost her after, “Let me explain…”. I love her to death!

In prayer today, she said something that struck me as funny, but after I thought about it for a little while, I started to recognize how often we as Christians pray the same way. She prayed for our lunch and said, “God, praise the day, thank you for Aly’s shots, thank you for food and thank you for all the other stuff…Amen.!” We laughed a bit and commented on the phrase “all the other stuff”.

Some times we pray like that, we don’t want to wrestle in prayer or labor in prayer, so we just pray that God will take care of all the other stuff that we don’t have the heart or time to pour out to him. Somehow I think God knows the depth of our prayers and is left wanting when we pray with such generality, such shallowness, and such rashness. I wonder if we don’t see him moving in power, because we don’t pray with power. I wonder if God doesn’t give us the time of day, because we struggle to give him the time of day, rather, the time of minute! Honestly, I stink at prayer!

When will I get serious about prayer…what am I waiting for?

Old journal entries 2002 A.D. ...

I wanna post some old journal entries about my family on here.  There's something special about revisiting old writing and seeing how God's faithfulness is woven through the tapestry of my story.  They are from from between the years of 2002-2004 A.D. (remember those decrepit years buried in antiquity?)...
___________________

03-20-02

I was waiting at the airport for m family to arrive. It had been five days since I last laid eyes on them and I was giddy to say the least. My mind was racing with dreams of what our reunion would look like. Would they get off the plane and run in slow motion toward me just like the movies? Would Heidi jump into my arms and would I, with wild passion, swing her around in youthful zest. Would Kami be distant and cold because of the tiresome trip? Would Aly be awake so that I could see her beautiful blue eyes? I could only imagine.

When I saw them coming through the gate, I was exploding with joy, but in maturity, I held it in. I walked up to the stroller and before I was able to get there, Kami yelled out, “Daddy! Daddy!”. It was to loud that others waiting for their friends and family turned to see what warranted such commotion. I was so proud at that moment. I swept Kami into my arms and kissed her all over her face. She kept talking about the “big airplane” trying to give hand gestures to accurately portray how great it was to fly. I couldn’t stop kissing her. I then leaned over to my wife, embraced her, and gave her a good old-fashioned smooch…that was nice! I then shifted my attention to my youngest child, Aly, sitting in the stroller. She was tilting her head back and trying to watch every movement of every member of our family. I loved the way she looked at me…she wouldn’t take her eyes off mine. When I talked to her, she would squint her eyes, wrinkle her face and smile so big that her pacifier would fall out.

I sometimes wonder if that is what it’s like for God when he doesn’t see or hear from us for a while. He’s gotta be dying to meet with us and share our company…he loves us more that anyone could begin to imagine. To hear us say, “Daddy.” To feel us reach out for a hug. To see us looking in his eyes and finding our rest in his presence. All I know is that is how I feel when my children give me the time of day. I love it.

I don’t think we know how much God loves to be yelled to, looked at, hugged and kissed. That’s probably why we don’t do it that much. So what do you say…let down your guard, let down your hair and give him something real, something huge. If you need permission, I give it to you. If you need to know if it’s Biblical, just open up your Bible…and read.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Telling secrets...

This is from one of my favorite books by one of my favorite authors, Fredrick Buechner - Telling Secrets.  I've often explained this phenomena of writing as being akin to pulling down your pants and letting everyone see your privates.  It's em-barr-ass-ing, yet necessary.  It explains well why it is that I believe honest-to-goodness writing is critical to the heart's health.  We do no good holding stuff inside and keeping it to ourselves...

___________________________ 

I have come to believe that by and large the human family all has the same secrets, which are both very telling and very important to tell. They are telling in the sense that they tell what is perhaps the central paradox of our condition- that what we hunger for perhaps more than anything else is to be known in our full humanness, and yet that is often just what we also fear more than anything else.

It is important to tell at least from time to time the secret of who we truly and fully are- even if we tell it only to ourselves- because otherwise we run the risk of losing track of who we truly and fully are and little by little come to accept instead the highly edited version which we put forth in hope that the world will find it more acceptable than the real thing.

It is important to tell our secrets too because it makes it easier that way to see where we have been in our lives and where we are going. It also makes it easier for other people to tell us a secret or two of their own and exchanges like that have a lot to do with what being a family is all about and what being a human is all about.

Finally, I suspect that it is by entering that deep place inside us where are secrets are kept that we come perhaps closer than we do anywhere else to the One who, whether we realize it or not, is all of our secrets the most telling and the most precious we have to tell.“

- Fredrick Buechner, Telling Secrets

Don't let your hearts be troubled #3...

Some more good stuff...







Don't let your hearts be troubled #2...

Some more funny pics to medicinally heal your heart...







Don't let your hearts be troubled...

I'm a collector of things...especially little nick nacks like pictures that crack me up.  Here are a few that I've loved lately...







More to come...

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The pesky inner critic...

Have you every heard the inner critic before?

Does it ever say things like this to you?

You can’t do that...

You don’t have a chance...

Why even try...

No one has ever done that before...

That’s a losing battle...

You’ve lost your mind...

Why even bother...

It’s not worth it...

You’ll never make it...

You’re not thinking clearly...

Give it up...

Let go of your pride...

Just forget it...

Don’t worry about it...

It’s no big deal...

Let someone else deal with it...

It’s not worth the risk...

Just let it go...

That’s a crazy idea...

It’s too big for you...

That’s beyond your ability...

The odds are stacked against you...

Just give it some time...

Live and let Live.

 

“Listen...there are almost no impossible situations

...only impossible people.” 


Go out and live and let the world feel the weight of God's image in you. 

A letter from God I wrote for a women's retreat one time...

My child…

You cannot know how much I’ve been looking forward to spending this weekend with you.  I’ve been counting down the days ever since I heard that you were coming.  I know how much you need these couple of days away.  Life has a way of draining you and leaving you empty and tired.  I want to refresh you this weekend.  Will you let me come close to you and whisper something into your ear?  Come a little closer…

“I love you.”

 

Sometimes I know that you don’t sense that and it feels like I owe you an apology.  Let me explain.  It is my love for you that puts you in harms way.  Satan attacks you because of how much I love you.  There is only one thing that Satan can do to hurt me, and that is to hurt you.  He knows that you are precious to me.  He sees how much you affect me.  He knows the passion I have for you.  And he uses it against me.   He attacks you with feelings of loneliness and futility.  He mounts attacks on your relationships and your marriage.  He makes you question your worth and your beauty.  But it’s not about you.  It’s about me.  He does it to get to me.  You know why?  Because when he gets to you, he gets to me. 

 

I know that doesn’t always make sense, but I wanted to let you in on the reason for the attacks you’ve been facing.  And I want you to know something else…I know you and I’m with you.  This weekend I want you to experience my presence with you through every struggle you’re up against.  I want you to be assured of my love for you in ways that you’ve never known before.  I want you to feel a sense of how beautiful you are to me and how proud I am of you.  Let me love you this weekend.

 

Let me love you.

 

God 

please live...resist the unlived life.

Words unspoken

Leave hearts broken.

Lurching, Searching

Sighing, Crying.

Gifts stay wrapped

In the mind

Waiting to find

The perfect time

To leave the tongue

And find the one

Who’s ears are burning

Who’s heart is yearning

For the voice of life

Like a knife

To cut asunder

The soul that wonders

“Am I alone?”

“Am I known?”

Give the treasure

That fills them with pleasure

Beyond measure.

Linger no longer

You’ll never be stronger

That lie has killed before

And seeks again

To rob your friends

Of what they need

To be freed.

With a quick look around

A soul can be found

Who needs some fresh air

From someone who cares

Will you not speak?

Are you that weak?

Have you lost the will to live?

The church will sleep

Until someone speaks

And takes the risk to give.

My end…my means...

Desires latent in the breast

pounding with heaven’s heart,

Dreams awake refusing rest

are sounding in the dark.

This cold place drowns the soul

and robs the fertile mind,

Trading wonder for control

adventures for more time.

What is living without the thrill

of giving up the right,

To see what lies beyond the hill,

to step into the night.

May my life begin today

with eyes fixed on the dream,

Of turning problems into play,

My end into my means.

I hold the keys to my daughter's hearts...

I was thinking this morning of what I would say if someone asked me about each of my daughter's hearts...it would go something like this...

Kami - First, she is my eldest (10 yrs. old going on 20).  She likes to play, but she is much more interested in adult conversation.  Her eyes can't move laterally, so she jerks her head back and forth lightning quick to follow people's conversational volleying.  Her mouth hangs open as she soaks in stories.  She is the most tactile of the bunch, snuggling is her primary gift.  She loves physical touch.  It's nothing for her to just wrap herself around me as I'm talking to people at church, she just wants to feel the warmth of my body securing her little feminine heart.  She is athletic as all get out, built like a gymnast with muscular legs and arms and a torque that puts her in the category of Dash from the Incredibles.  She loves soccer, though she's taken some time off to enjoy dance.  This is her bread and butter, this coordinated movement of body and soul in perfect synchronized harmony.  I love watching her wed herself with a song incarnating the rhythms and lyrics into flesh and blood.  She has a sensitive heart and is growing increasingly sensitive each year to the psychological atmosphere of human beings around her.  She can tell if there is an invisible mood shift in the room and will typically ask, "Are you alright?"  And yet, there is a stubborn rebellion in her that makes her strong-willed and immovable.  She will need this to brave the cruel world she will be encountering in the future.  I pray that God divvies out the perfect emotional skill set she needs to meet the situations she will surely face in the coming years.  She loves to eat, she loves food, she loves cooking, she loves shopping for food, she just plain loves the whole world of food.  She loves different tastes and textures of food.  She loves the various food groups and the experimenting that happens when food groups are creatively mixed together.  She loves veggies, she loves meats, she loves fruit, she loves sweets...she loves almost all sustenance...period.  More than anything, she loves values.  She always is asking about moral issues and is making comments about why things are right or wrong.  She wants to talk about sexual purity, and modesty, and divorce/remarriage, popularity, materialism, distribution of wealth, poverty, church culture, relevance, prayer, heaven, television shows, what's appropriate and what's not...etc.  She thrives in this sort of banter.  I think she might go this direction in her future in some way, shape or form.  All in all, I love her heart to the point of a heart-attack.

Aly - This is my second born.  I know what it is to be a second born, so we have some stuff in common right off the bat.  She is my dainty princess, highly concerned with social etiquette and social justice.  Her heart is definitely the most tender of the bunch, set like a mouse trap with a hair trigger to snap at the smallest infraction or injustice or iniquity.  She can't keep secrets if they are even in the realm of "the appearance of evil".  She confesses all her sins (or potential sins) to Heidi each and every night so that she can go to bed with a clear conscience.  It's impossible for her to lie (at least in this season, I'm sure it will change) or to be a part of some questionable scheme that could injure someone else emotionally or otherwise.  She just can't keep things to herself...it would be the death of her.  She loves soccer as well and she has these long skinny legs that gives her a long distance speed....she can't get off the blocks like Kami, but she can keep up with her in a 200 yard dash.  But she wouldn't even say that athletics are her primary love.  If you asked her, she would say that she loves "art".  She can sit for hours and draw, color and design things.  Lately she's been on a kick to design the exterior architecture of houses.  She colors "inside the lines" better than anyone I know.  In fact, this is a great description of her life.  She has lines and she stays in them, pointing out the others that aren't staying in them or for some reason don't want to.  This doesn't make sense to her, "Why wouldn't you stay in the lines, follow the rules, or abide by established standards if you know what they are?"  I love this about her.  She loves to have individual attention and is always trying to figure out whether you want to be with her as much as she wants to be with you.  She has what I call a "crap detector" that will survey the body language and the non-verbals establishing whether or not you're paying attention or centering your affection according to her inner expectations.  She knows when you're not really "with" her.  She always asks things like, "Are you having fun, too?"  "Dad, do you like spending time with me?"  "Are you glad to be our dad?"  These are questions that beg for answers that calibrate her internal crap detector.  You can't pull a fast one on this chick.  She loves asking questions about Jesus.  She's very interested in spiritual things...unseen things.  I think of all the girls, she gets the spiritual dynamic of Christianity...the mystery, the invisible, the symbolic.  She doesn't need the hands-on as much, she is completely relaxed with the idea that the greater (realer) part of life is what you can't see or detect with your senses.  She is spiritually sensitive, I guess you could say.  She always has been.  I know that God has great things in store for her beautiful heart.  All in all, I love her heart to the point of a heart-attack.

Taylor - This is my little caboose, which is to say that the train stopped taking on any more cars after her arrival.  How could we?  Her entrance filled our hearts to overflowing.  She is joy personified.  Her smile just fills whatever room she enters and her zest for life is contagious.  She is the only one that likes to be tickled...I mean she will ask for it at night before bed.  We will be playing the game she affectionately calls "Rhymes" and I will throw out some word like "eye" and she will respond with words like "die, cry, hi, my" and then you will see her face change and she will say, "Mister Squizy", knowing full well that they doesn't rhyme whatsoever with "eye".  That's what I mean when I say she's asking for it.  I will bury by unshaven face into her neck while tickling her ribs like I'm playing a harp with my fingers.  She will laugh with a shot-gun giggle saying the whole time, "Daddy, you're handsome" which is the same as her saying, "Uncle".  It's her feeble attempt to get me to stop tickling her by buttering me up with some disingenuous affirmation.  But immediately when I stop, she does something else to get me to tickle her so that she can laugh hysterically once again.  She loves to laugh.  This is her trademark, her personal signature in our family.  She also has a supple heart as it relates to spiritual things.  She was talking just last week about heaven and how she can't wait to see Jesus and to ask him to take away her Molescum (a little rash she has).  She asked the question of whether she would be her age (5) in heaven if she went today, or if she would be changed into  and older version of herself.  I thought that was a bit abstract for a 5 yr. old.  She often will describe the pecking order of affection with me in our home.  She will say, "Dad, do you love Mommy more than us?"  To which I reply, "Oh, yes." She continues, "Dad, do you love Us more than your Mom and Dad?" I say without hesitation, "You better believe it."  She persists, "Dad, do you love your Mom and Dad more than our cousins?"  I keep playing the game, "That's right."  Then she brings the haymaker question, "Dad, do you love God more than Mom?"  I look them in the eye as squarely as I possibly can and say, "OH YES!  I love God more than anyone in the whole world."  She will smile and look at her sisters as if to say, "He's still got his head screwed on, guys!"  This game will keep going sometimes, "Dad, do you love us more than the church."  This is a big question to be answered in our household.  "Listen, I will always love you way more than I love the church, though I love the church deeply."  I love that she cares about this hierarchy of affection.  She loves to clean for her mom and often will do it without us asking.  I think she loves that she's the ONLY one who does this.  She points that out after she's completed the project.  All the sisters are trying to find out their unique contribution to the world and looking to set themselves apart from their siblings.  Taylor has a BFF named Emily and a host of other friends that she tools around with.  I can't wait to see how her little personality develops and how God will choose to use her to affect change in humanity. All in all, I love her heart to the point of a heart-attack.

Being a dad is one of life's highest privileges and certainly one of life's highest callings.  I don't always do it well, but I want to.  I want to be an "epic" dad for my kids.  I want to always have my finger on the pulse of their hearts.  I want to see the signals they are throwing out there along the way.  I want to pay attention to their cries for attention.  I want to adapt my affection to each season of their feminine pilgrimage, staying tuned into their morphing desires.  This is hard.  Very, very hard.  But I hold the keys to their little hearts, and in some ways, I always will even when another man comes in and says, "May I have this dance?"  I will look at him and say, "By all means, but don't plan on getting the keys to her heart, because I own those and you're not getting them."  I will father my daughters their whole lives...I repeat...I will father my daughters their whole lives.  Men will come and go, but their Father will be there through the thick and thin, hell or high water.  Because I hold the keys to their little hearts.  

Friday, July 10, 2009

some pics of my family...


These are just some pics I love...

My wife and I in Michigan...this place is tropical for those of you that haven't been here...

This my daughter, Taylor, shining in all her glory...


These are my girls loving their new pool we installed a couple weeks ago...


Thursday, July 09, 2009

Fishing with my girls...

The thing about having three daughters is that sometimes I want to impart masculinity into something or someone and they happen to be the only ones available in those moments of epiphany.  

A couple days ago I picked them up after work from their friend's house and was driving home when I was overcome with the desire to "fish".  Heidi was leading a women's ministry meeting and I was--dangerously--left alone with the girls for the whole evening, left to my own devices so to speak.

This penchant for fishing caught me off guard because I've never been much of an angler, or a hardcore outdoorsman for that matter.  I try to fake like I'm Grizzly Adams sometimes because I love the woods and creation and virgin land, but at the end of the day, I'm not much of a survivor in the wild.  I don't know how to hunt, I don't know how to fish, all I know how to do in the wild is take a pee and climb a tree.

So when I felt this ineffable inner nudge to fish, I began to talk myself out of it which usually works.  But this time, something unnamable inside of me wouldn't let me just go home to enjoy the safety of domesticated and docile living.  And in a fit of pent up masculine rage mixed with Peteresque impulsivity, I took a left turn at the light in Lowell and headed to Meijer for some fishing poles, some fishing lures and some fishing worms.  I turned to the girls who were strapped into the seat belts and said, "It's time for adventure, Fancy Nancys!"  I told them my scheme and they were elated.  Aly immediately floated out the first feminine grenade to blow up the idea, "What would Mom think if she knew we were doing this?"  This was the first question of many that sprung from their little female hearts as we made our way to the makeshift sportsman section.  There were all sorts of girly road side bombs and lady land mines that I had to navigate around to actually follow through and make this fishing thing happen.  It was kinda fun.

I said to them, "We're doing it and that is that!  Just cause your Mom doesn't like fishing doesn't mean you won't.  I'm going to get you grabbing worms and kissing fish heads and your Mom won't be here to stop me or you!"  They laughed and almost saw it as an opportunity to be naughty with Dad's permission.  (kinda like when my dad came and woke me and my brother up at midnight to watch March Madness and told us to not tell our Mom)...scandalous.  

We got the poles, the lures, and the worms and headed down to the Flat River.  I was kinda scared, quite honestly, because I didn't know how to do this.  I wasn't sure how to tie a fish hook so that it didn't slip off the 10 pound test line.  I didn't know whether to put sinkers on and how far the bobber was supposed to be from the impelled worm.   This may seem strange to everyone else that I don't know these things, but this was somewhat new to me.  And men, no matter how small the venture, don't do well with new things that test the limits of their comfort zones.  As I was setting up the poles and they were watching me, I could tell they thought I knew what I was doing even though I hadn't a clue.  I wondered how many times I thought my dad knew what he was doing when he didn't.

We finally found a place on the river, guided by a friend that happened to be eating at the Flat River Grill, and set up camp for our fishing expedition.  I casted the line in and waited for the bobber to plunge into the cool current.  And to my surprise, it did!  I would get the fish on and give the pool to the girls and they would reel the sucker into the shore with shot-gun giggles and shouts of adulation.  It was amazing beyond words.

We had a stringer that we would put the fish on to keep them alive.  I had no idea what we were going to do with these fish when all was said and done, but the girls thought we would take them home and eat them.  (I don't know jack about flaying a fish, etc., but I didn't know how to tell them so without them seeing my fig leaf that was covering my shamed nakedness.)  

We were catching rock bass and sunfish when the same friend that turned us on to this fishing hot spot came down and showed us the ropes.  (Jeff Stewart is his name and he's a fisherman extraordinaire.)  He showed us how to hook the worm on to catch the big ones.  He took the bobber off and floated the worm down a certain section of the river where he said the big ones typically hit hard.  He did it a few times and then left.  I watched him to see where he was casting and how he was tactically maneuvering the pole and such, so that when he left I would be able to employ his expert skills.  

He took off and I hung another worm on "fishhook gallows" just the way he showed me. I casted the worm exactly where he did and handed the pole to Kami.  Two seconds later, her pole doubled over and about flung out of her hands.  She started reeling this baby in and was telling me, "Dad, you take it...I can't do it!"  I told her, "You're doing well, just keep reeling.  You don't need my help.  You can do it!"  She would respond, "NO I can't!  I can't do it!"  I would again affirm her that she was doing a great job.  Eventually she pulled this 2 lb. bass onto the river's edge and the girls were screaming.  It was huge!  I was coming alive in ways that I hadn't for days, even weeks.  And it wouldn't be the first bass we would hook into.

I didn't have a camera, but my mind's camera was working perfectly and I will never forget the picturesque joy in their voices and faces.  I will never forget seeing them hold worms between their index finger and thumb trying not to get too slimy.  I will never forget the smell of bug spray, the sound of the river, the sight of them holding the fish up in the air as proud as peacocks.  It will forever be etched into the tablet of my heart.

Who said that men were to be wild at heart and women were to be mild at heart?  It's not true. My girls will never be boys, but that doesn't mean they can't get dirt under their fingernails, wrestle, land a fish or pee in the woods.  I want them to be a perfect hybrid of "Fancy Nancy" and "Wild Wendy".  

I love they way Heidi pours femininity into their hungry hearts.

But there comes I time when you just have to let your hair down and live on the wild side!

So down with the mild at heart movement!  I summon all women to lift their fishing poles and hunting guns and war swords screaming at the top of their lungs, "We're not gonna take it, we're not gonna take it, we're not gonna take it, anymore."