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Saturday, November 21, 2015

When Heidi gets to speak at our church with me...

Heidi and I are speaking at Impact this weekend together, which is something we haven't done for a few years.  I love these times to do ministry together.  We used to lead worship together every week and when I became the lead pastor and handed off the worship ministry we lost that weekly team-ministry-feel.  We are still "in it" together, but not the same way as leading together in the same place for the same purpose.

I love listening to her share her thoughts and ideas and concerns and passions with others.  Since she doesn't share that often, people are even more interested in what she has to say that what I have to say.  People have developed ear fatigue in regards to my speaking, but her voice has weight simply because she isn't spouting off about what she thinks all the time.  I've heard so many people say to me already that they are looking forward to "hearing from Heidi".  They see her bustling around the church, hauling the kids around, faithfully attending a couple services each weekend, and talking with people, but they want to know "how she does it".

What is it like to be her?  What is it like to raise our children?  What is it like to be a pastor's spouse?  What does she feel about how life is going?  What does she feel is the temperature of our relationship?  How is it going with the adoption?  What led her to want to adopt in the first place and how does that affect our daughters.  What takes her to her breaking point?  What are her dreams and desires?  What does she feel about our church?  What is really going on behind closed doors?

So when she talks, people tend to lean forward in anticipation.  She is a great thinker and communicator, she just doesn't get to use those gifts as much right now because the lion-share of her life is devoted to raising our children at their various ages and stages of life.  She devotes herself to laying down her life for our home and our marriage, so it's awesome when she can share her perspective so others can learn from and draw on her wisdom.

We got together this last week on our date night and wrote down some of the things that have kept our marriage fresh and held it together over the years.  We came up with some of the most crucial things we've learned...

1. Having a regular date night...our time.
2. Humbling ourselves and going to counseling.
3. Giving each other breaks without guilt or resentment.
4. Having good Christian friends to share the ups and downs with.
5. Giving each other grace in failures and true forgiveness--no keeping score with pluses and minuses.
6. Writing each other notes/texts/emails of encouragement.
7. Asking each other often, "Are you alright?" and then listening closely.
8. Frequent talks regarding romance and finance.
9. God first--Marriage second--Kids third--Everything else fourth.

We broke it down to key words that make all the difference...


We put it into a makeshift Marriage Covenant...

A Simple Marriage Covenant:
We Communicate. (talk through tension)
We Apologize. (say sorry and change)
We Initiate. (surrender and go first)
We Compromise. (meet in the middle)
We Appreciate. (notice and say thank you)
We Sympathize. (bear each other’s burdens)

All I know is that we haven't been married 19 years with everything happening automatically or accidentally.  It has taken work on both of our parts to pursue God's desire for our relationship.  I'm so grateful to be able to share pieces of this with our church this weekend.  I hope it helps some others who are wanting to glorify God with their marriage relationship.

I love my wife.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Hauling wood with Tay...

Taylor and I took to the woods to claim the last stack of split wood, hauling it up to the house and stacking it in preparation for the long, cold winter ahead.  She is my outdoorsy sidekick and doesn’t mind some honest toil even if it leads to a crushed pinky—they are battle scars that she takes pride in.

There’s something special about working together with your family to survive the winter.  So many things are done for us these days.  Food is grown for us that we purchase at grocery stores, heat is purchased from energy companies, running water is available at the turn of a nozzle…we just don’t think about where things come from and working the land or with our hands to provide for ourselves or simply survive certain seasons.  So when you have to band together as a family to work for something that you need to live, it does something in you.

As I high-fived Tay when she put the last piece of split wood on the stack, I felt such a sense of accomplishment and contribution.  She smiled and we hugged.  Another year of watching the cycles of life in the season of life.  

The tree grows, gets cut down, undergoes the violence of the chainsaw, gets thrown into a stack, meets the splitter, finds itself thrown into another pile to dry out, gets chucked into a wagon, takes a journey of being hauled to shelter, gets stacked for the winter, is taken piece by piece inside the house, gets thrown in the wood stove, burns to provide heat for the house, turns into fine ash, gets carried outside in a bucket, is thrown into the woods to turn back into dirt, and begins the journey of nourishing other trees to take root and grow to be cut down for future generations.  That is awesome!

Life if awesome.

Friday, November 13, 2015

A day with my boys...

Day with boys.
"We're a team, but I'm the leader." - Caleb "Here goes nothing." - Joshua "Sharing is not as fun." - Caleb "Watch me, Dad! This is going to be good!" - Joshua "Dad, if I'm naughty are you gonna throw me in the woods?" - Caleb "I love you and and mom. You're my best friends." - Caleb "I found a great idea." - Joshua "Someday I'm gonna stand when I pee like you." - Caleb "Sorry, my bad!" - Joshua "Dad, pull up my's showing." - Caleb "Dad, I'm tired, Caleb needs a nap." - Joshua "When will I be big enough to be like you, Dad?" - Caleb "I'll try to obey if I can." - Caleb "When's mom getting home?" - Joshua "Just the boys is fun." - Caleb "Superman was adopted." - Joshua
These cats crack me up! #DaddyDay

"Dad, what am I like when I'm with you?"

"Dad, what am I like when I'm with you?"

I was on a date night with Aly and in the course of our conversation she fired off this question.  It caught me off guard, to be honest.  What 14 year old musters up the competency, moreover, the courage to ask that kind of question?

I think we were in the middle of talking about she and her sister's friendship groups and how they interact differently.  She was talking about Tay and how her friends relate and interact.  I contributed my two cents on what I'd observed.  We talked about Kami and the nature of her friendships as the oldest sibling in our family. (she casually mentioned that sometimes she wishes she was the older sister so that she could feel more comfortable leading...that's a whole other wormhole in our conversation).  But eventually we landed on her friendships and what she feels about them.

She was in an observational mode of communication stating things she noticed in others and how they showed up in life when she looked me in the eye and said: "Dad, what am I like when I'm with you?  What do I act like?"  I gathered my thoughts, swallowed, and took my best shot at giving an off-the-cuff response to a pretty deep question.  It was one of the most unforgettable conversations I've every had with her.

How many people live the entirety of their lives and never get the nerve to ask someone else that question: "How do you experience me?"  It's a pretty vulnerable invitation.  But the wisdom you can gain as people share what it's like to be with you can be life-altering and game-changing.  I know that I probably have no idea what it's like for people to experience me, to live with me, to listen to me, to follow me, to trust me, to talk to me, to be patient with me, etc.

I heard someone say one time that 90% of life is just "showing up".

But I think it goes beyond that.  Once you show up, do you know what that looks like for other people?  Do you care to know?  If you do, you must care enough to ask.  It starts with asking someone you trust to share with you what "doing life with you" feels like.

"What is it like to spend time with me?  What does it feel like to be with me?"

She went on to talk about what she was feeling the night before after learning of a pastor's wife that was shot in the head and killed by an intruder during a house invasion.  It was a sister church in our denomination and she said it just made her feel afraid.  She slept with Kami that night and was describing how she prays every night out loud in her bed before she drifts off.  As she was laying next to Kami in the dark as the second born, she tried to pray in her head and she couldn't do it.  She told me that she can only concentrate when she prays out loud, so she turned to Kami and said: "Can I pray out loud before we do to bed?  I have to pray and I can't pray very well in my head."  Kami was like, "Uhh, ok."  And Aly proceeded to pray to set her heart at ease in the presence of God.  She ended her prayer and paused to let Kami pray.  Kami didn't offer up a prayer and Aly was fine with that but described feeling a little awkward in that moment.  Like she wasn't the eldest and yet was leading...making her feel like it might seem like she was trying to look better than Kami (which she said wasn't her intention).  It was a fascinating conversation...simply stunning.

All in all, it was a date night of deep discussion and conclusions.  I hope to always share a relationship with my daughters that is full of joy, peace and freedom...for those are the three things I pray that they will maintain with a high degree of potency throughout their entire lives.  The world will seek to kill those three core characteristics, but I'm praying they never lose them though life's storms will violently batter their woman-hearts.

God, what is it like to be with me?

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Making decisions...

Making big decisions really stinks sometimes.  This is what I've experienced that goes into a big decision before it's made that no one ever gets credit for.

1. Multiple conversations to look and relook at the same thing from different angles.
2. Daydreaming about the decision for incalculable hours while you're doing other things.
3. Waking up early and mulling over your motivations to make sure they're tethered to truth.
4. Thinking about the aftermath of the decision to weigh out the pros and cons.
5. Thinking about good protocol going into the decision to make sure you've vetted all the facts.
6. Second guessing your gut, your discernment, your intuitions.  Is my head screwed on straight?
7. Considering the people that will be hurt and/or helped by the decision.
8. Seeking God so that it's not just the best ideas of the human spirit, but also the Holy Spirit.
9. Losing precious time with your family as your mind is preoccupied with possible outcomes.
10. Struggling for concentration in simple duties of your job that require creativity.
11. Surveying the lay of the land to see how the current culture is being affected negatively.
12. Gathering good data and cataloguing the ongoing drama surrounding the decision.
13. Knowing that doing nothing is not an option which forces you to make tough calls.
14. Fighting off the fear of making a big mistake that costs you dearly for months and years following the decision.
15. Confronting the situation and weathering the resistance without losing heart.
16. Getting great counsel from people who have been there before.
17. Having a funeral in your head for what will be lost...going through sadness and sorrow in my mind.
18. Talking to your spouse to see how this decision will affect your marriage and family, positively or negatively.
19. Taking the full range of emotions to God...whether it's sighing, yelling, questioning, whispering, or listening.
20. Finally getting the nerve up to pull the trigger and asking God to give you wisdom with whatever unfolds.

I love being in leadership and in ministry, but there are always decisions that cost someone something.  Some decisions are minimal, others are critical.  But as Jesus said, "Consider the cost before building the tower."  He was talking about not making decisions without weighing out the situation and what it will require.  The time, however long it may be, coming into making a big decision is filled with a consideration of costs and risks.

I just wanted to jot down some of my raw thoughts about making these sorts of decisions over the years.  Sometimes I forget the gauntlet it can be.

Friday, November 06, 2015

Aly held my hand...

She reached over and grabbed my hand.

Every day I take my girls to school.  A different one sits in the front seat every morning (they have some kind of rotation of fairness nailed down just like any siblings would).  This morning is was Aly Grace's turn in the passenger's seat.

As I pulled out of the driveway I felt Aly's hand pull my right hand off the steering wheel and pull it over to her lap.  She then proceeded to hold my wrist with her right hand while she wedged the fingers of her left hand in between each of mine so that we could hold hands in an interdigitated fashion.  My arm was extended over the console and draped on her lap the whole 7 minute ride to school.  Those are some of my favorite 7 minute intervals in life.

Usually I'm the one initiating hugs, kisses, snuggling, and hand-holding.  I'm perfectly fine with that as I think it's my place to continue to pursue their hearts even when they give appearances that they aren't as interested.  But like a root out of dry ground, sometimes something extraordinary prompts them to pursue me.  I wish I could get in their minds to see what they're reaching for--needing in that moment that they might not ever be aware of.

As I held her hand this morning her 14 year life passed before my mind's eye.  I recalled events and moments that have formed Aly into the beautiful young woman she is.  As if some nameless energy was flowing back and forth between our connected limbs, I was transported in warp speed through her story, leafing through chapters gone by and imagining chapter yet to be written.  Those 7 minutes rendered and re-rendered and I remembered and re-rerembered.  It's amazing how much the human mind can do with 7 minutes.  Some studies say that the average time of a dream ranges somewhere around 7-10 minutes and just think about how extensive and expansive those dreams can be?  I felt something akin to that this morning, except I was awake, which is even better.

She reached over to connect with me this morning.  I don't know what was released in her mind, but I know what was unleashed in mine.

Thursday, November 05, 2015

The voice of my father...

Yesterday I did something I don't think I've ever done.

I called my dad just to hear his voice.  I didn't have anything to talk about, I just wanted to hear the sound of his voice.

It was one of those days where I felt surrounded and hounded by the pressures of the present.  It was like I couldn't see anything beyond what was right in front of my face...I couldn't hear anything but noise in my head picking up reverb with every minute that passed.  I just felt a need to connect with my father.  His voice instead of my noise.  His familiar and familial sound instead of the ground and pound in the octagon of my office.  So I called.

The minute I heard him answer the phone, I knew why my heart needed to hear him speak.  I didn't need to hear him saying anything in particular, I just needed to listen to him talk.  I needed to be reminded of my beginnings.  I needed to connect with the place and person I came from, the foundations of my identity, the DNA I often forget that flows in my veins and in my brain.  I talked a bit, but mostly I listened.  I let him talk about anything he wanted to share.  I didn't care what it was, it didn't matter--all I needed was his voice.

I got up the nerve to tell him, too.  As we finished our conversation I said: "Dad, I called today just to hear your voice.  I felt like I needed to hear it for some reason."  I could tell he was taken aback a little, but he responded with affirmation and how good it is for him to hear my voice as well.  I wish I could have seen his face, but he lives 9 hours away, so his voice is all I can access.  But it's enough.

As we said our goodbyes he said, "I love you very much, Jay."

I think that's what I need to hear...someone that knows to call me "Jay".  The boy connected with the dad.  The son connected to the father.  This voice that echoes through my life today.