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Monday, April 28, 2014

“Hey Dad, so did you feel good about your sermon this weekend?”

“Hey Dad, so did you feel good about your sermon this weekend?”

These were the words of Aly (my 12 year old) on the way to school this morning as she sat in the back seat with her sprained ankle propped up for rehabilitative elevation. She overheard a couple conversations between Heidi and I during the weekend where I was sharing that my brain wasn’t working real well and that I felt like my message was sub-par and coming out all knotted and gnarled up.

I hate when I feel like my heart isn’t connected to my brain, and my brain isn’t connected to my tongue. The transmission, regardless of what everyone else is experiencing, makes me feel like I’m herding cats in my head that are crawling up and clawing at the walls of my mind, frenzied and frenetic. It’s a nightmare for a communicator--more like a daymare (if there were such a thing).

In the early morning commute to school Aly revisited those weekend feelings. She wanted to know if I felt better about the 1st, 2nd, or 3rd service. She asked me why I felt the way I did about this weekend and sweetly tried to encourage me by saying:

“Awe dad, it wasn’t that bad!”

Somehow, her encouragement was exactly how I felt about my message: “It wasn’t that bad.”

But these scribblings aren’t about my feelings about my weekend sermon; they are about something far more valuable to me. Something that I pray for all the time. Something that I want to be an example of. Something that I value in others more than almost anything else I can think of.

I want my daughters to care about the “why behind the what”.

I want them to listen to life as it’s happening around them and inquire of things that are happening under the surface and behind the scenes. I want them to wonder (the next morning) how someone is doing. I want them to follow-up. I want them to ask people how they’re feeling about something that has happened, whether good or bad. Furthermore, I want them to keep asking the 2nd and the 3rd questions because they care about unearthing the condition of the person’s heart and the “why’s” that often hide behind the “what’s”.

I can’t tell you how beautiful it was that my daughter cared (the next morning) about “how I felt about what I felt” yesterday. As she listened and kept asking questions about why I felt the way I did, she didn’t stop asking until I satisfied her curiosity at a soul-level. Her brain would have been quite satisfied with a standard answer, but her soul needed more reasons and more feelings before it “moved on”.

As I tried to explain “why” I felt “what” I did, she eventually nodded and looked out the window. She set out on a quest with questions and reached her desired destination. This expedition is becoming more and more rare in our culture that stops at the what and cares very little about the why. It’s sad, because the why is what makes life rich and full. It’s the meaning that happens (or could happen) in a meeting. It’s the intrigue just below the fatigue. If you look at life this way, you won’t believe how many people are rarely asked, “I know what already, I wanna know why.”

What a different world we would live in. What a different relationship we would have with the people that are all around close, yet so far away.

Friday, April 25, 2014

“So dad, what about you? How are you doing?”

“So dad, what about you?  How are you doing?”

Kami and I were sitting in T.G.I. Friday’s on a Daddy-Daughter date this last Tuesday when she paused between eating her fried green beans appetizer (to die for) and asked me that question.

I took her out very purposefully this last week.  There are many times we go out together and it’s just what you do…you do a regular date with your daughter.  But this week, I had noticed a different kind of silence about her.  Even in talking with her mom, we both agreed that she seemed to be “under attack”, which is often hard to pinpoint the source or even the symptom.  It’s almost barometric.  It’s a shift in pressure more than temperature.  I don’t know how to describe it other than you can just feel the change in the air.

I was asking her questions about her friends, her school, her feelings, her day, her week, her Freshman year, her thoughts about anything and everything under the sun.  At a point, you feel like you’re interrogating your poor child because there is so little reciprocal inquisition.  It’s just pop questions and quick answers, like you’re playing tennis but the ball isn’t getting hit back to you.  It’s great serving practice, but it isn’t good tennis.

And then, BAM!  “So dad, what about you?  How are you doing?”

I was in such a drumming-up-conversation-via-relaxed-questions-so-that-your-daughter-doesn’t-feel-interrogated mode that I was completely caught off guard.

“Well, um, let’s see, I’ve kinda been thinkin’ about…my dad a little bit lately and whether he’s going to have to go through dialysis or straight to a kidney transplant.  I also have been thinking a lot about our family and how everyone’s doing with us not having our own house and all.”  It was such a jolting sucker punch that it took me a moment to get used to the returned serve.

The rest of our food came and I was just about to say, “I’ll pray for our meal” when Kami grabbed my hand and said, “I’ll pray for the food.”  Sideswiped again. She dove right into one of the most beautiful prayers I’ve ever heard her pray right there in the middle of T.G.I. Friday’s.

“God, thank you for this day and this food that you’ve provided for us.  Thank you that I have a dad that will spend time with me and take me out on dates because he cares about me and how I’m doing.  I know that a lot of dads don’t do this, so thank you that I have a dad who does.  Help us to have a great night together.  In Jesus Name, Amen.”

It’s funny 'cause just before she asked me how I was doing and volunteered to pray, I was thinking, “The older Kami gets, the less it seems she cares to go on dates with me.  I feel like I’m the only one who is asking questions and her answers are short and to the point.  I wonder if she is annoyed that I’m probing into her heart and her feelings and her world?  I wonder if she feels awkward being alone with me?  I wonder if I’m not doing something right? “

And then BAM!

After she prayed, we got to talking about what to do the remainder of the night and she had an awesome idea of looking at purity rings for her sister Aly’s 13th Birthday.  She knows that it’s coming up next month and she wanted to browse jewelry stores with me.  So we did.  And it was awesome.  We actually found a ring together, shot a picture of it over to her mother, got the ok to buy it, and purchased it.  She got her purity ring cleaned while we were waiting.

The night served as yet another reminder of something I know, but easily forget in the flurry and fury of my own self-conscious emotions as a father, that no matter what it looks like on the outside, gestures of care and love and concern matter to a child on the inside even if they don’t seem to be making much of an impact or impression.

As parents, we cannot allow our child’s re-actions to dictate our pro-actions.  We must cling to our creeds and believe that now matter what the exterior response, our children need our proximity, they need our presence, even when—especially when—they appear like they don’t.  That fact is so easy to forget in the fray of feelings.

My feelings as a father cannot be the driving force of my parenting.  I must follow my deep beliefs with faithfulness.  I must carry out my creeds with courage especially in the moments where it doesn’t look like it’s making much, if any, difference…cause it is.  Even if I don’t get a “question” or “prayer” as an immediate payoff, any time I spend moving toward my child’s heart is not wasted.

“Don’t grow weary in well doing for in due season you shall reap a harvest if you do not faint.”  Galatians…chapter something, verse somewhere.

Come on, parents.  We can do this.

Friday, April 11, 2014

I haven't read books for the last year...

I haven't read any books for the last year other than the Bible.  Nothing against books, I just wanted to follow an inner nudge.

About this time last year in the Easter Season, I remember having a stack of books by my bed and I was being given books almost every week by people eager to introduce me to another line of thought.  I love reading, so the problem wasn't my lack of desire to read, it was the glut of reading that was crowding out my time in the Word.  Beyond that, I felt like I was getting used to people's interpretations of life, people and God instead of letting the Word speak for itself and forming my own thoughts rooted  in my own interpretation based on God's Spirit illuminating my heart.

This has been especially life-altering in the realm of sermon preparation.  I haven't read commentaries or gotten ideas from books or articles or blogs and fleshed them out into messages for church. (I'm not saying this is bad--it's not--or that I won't return to a more balanced approach of research and cross-referencing.)  I just needed this last year to be a season of fasting from man's commentary on God.  It comes so fast and furious it almost crowds out the need to do your own work and come to your own conclusions and convictions.  There is a danger of living in an isolated interpretation of Scripture which can lead to a rogue reading of God's Word, but there is also a danger in not digging deep yourself asking God to reveal Himself as you soak in the Scriptures and let them seep into the secret places of your soul.

I've found God's Word to be self-sufficient, self-evident, and self-satisfying.  I'm not going to lie, there are seasons I'd rather read books about God than the book of God.  I have been more satisfied in the musings of man and the word-smithing of great authors than God's authorship and authority.  I needed to reestablish the primacy of His Word and Voice as the sole author and authority of my life and leadership.

I can't tell you how much I needed this year of centering to align my heart and to regulate my theological and spiritual equilibrium.  With that said, I'm looking forward to reading some books again with a new lens of learning.  I certainly need to wisdom of others speaking into me so that my interpretation isn't ingrown and malnourished.  I miss the reflective thoughts of man, but that is all they are...reflective.  They are only a reflective light of the source of light and I never want to confuse the moon for the sun.

Here's to the supremacy and sufficiency of God's Word.