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Saturday, December 19, 2015

I'm not proud of this...

"Fathers, do not exasperate your children, or they will become discouraged."

I woke early with the boys this morning, really early.  Darkness wouldn't give way to dawn for another hour or so.  I was frustrated that they wouldn't just sleep until at least that's how the day started...simmering anger.

I stoked the fire and told them that if they were going to play, they needed to stay in the toy room so they didn't wake up their mom or the girls.  Did they listen?  Of course not.  They kept opening and slamming the door asking me to velcro their superhero capes on and to settle "toy disputes".  Every time they screamed or fought I would just seethe with rage thinking to myself, "Why don't they just listen and obey."  I would hurriedly walk over to them and get down in their faces telling them to be quiet so they didn't wake up the rest of the house.  In my mind I thought: "Isn't waking me up enough for you?  Will you not be satisfied until you wake up every living creature in this house or for that matter our three acre wooded lot?"  It only escalated.

I thought: "I'll get them breakfast and let them watch a cartoon.  That will buy me a half an hour."  I got them situated at the table with bowls of honey nut cheerios and proceeded to switch the television to some kiddy show like Miles and Tomorrowland.  It took about 8 minutes for them to be bored.  They were playing with their food instead of eating it, poking each other with their eating utensils, and raising their voices so their squeals echoed throughout our house.

And then the straw that broke the camels back...

Caleb flung his blanket around and knocked his whole bowel of cereal all over the floor.  I came unglued.  After 45 minutes of managing the chaos and feeling tired and frustrated, I just exploded.  I grabbed Caleb and carried him to the toy room to sit on a chair.  If that was all I did, that would have been ok, but I spoke so harshly to him as if he were a fully developed adult and could understand life in all its complexities.  I spoke to him as if he purposely wanted to ruin my morning, as if he was the mastermind of a plot that morning of messing up everything he possibly could.  I spoke to him as if his every intention was evil.  It's embarrassing to write it out even now, but it's true.  In that moment I lost all sense and spoke to him with such mean words...I wanted to hurt his feelings.  I wanted him to feel what he was doing to me.  It was 15 seconds.  But in those 15 seconds I lost consciousness of all other reality.  I, the grown adult, was reduced to blatant immaturity.  He, the three year old child, was expected to be a 41 year old man.

I don't want this.  Nothing about my vision and mission as a father allows for this.  And really, Caleb did nothing to deserve this.  He deserved discipline.  Loving, civil, respectful chastening.  But a hissy fit.  No.  He did nothing to deserve what came out of my mouth that was more about me getting something off my chest that planting something in his heart.  The only consolation I feel is that he's 3.  He won't remember what I said, but his spirit will remain affected.  I'm constructing his spirit right now; not his mind, not his body.  I'm sculpting his spirit on which all else rests in the years to come.  When I crush his spirit, I'm messing around with the foundation of his future.  I have to remind myself of this when I'm caught in a moment of weak-willed emotion.

I'm not proud of what happened this morning.  I needed to spend a moment writing it down so that I could process it and renounce it.  I will do everything in my power to not ever let it happen again.  "Lord, give me the strength to be the dad you desire me to be."

Monday, December 14, 2015

"There is still is good in this world."

Before I forget...

I had a really great day this last Monday.  I didn't want it to pass by without recording it. (I'll honestly forget it ever happened if I don't write it down.  Isn't that sad?)

Every Monday, I go to the Middle School and mentor a young man (5 years ago when I started he was a little lad, but he's in 8th grade now).  When I first started mentoring him in 3rd grade he was getting in fist fights in the halls and on the bus, way behind in homework and failing classes, and dealing with a home life where his older sister had cancer and was in the hospital more than at home.  In fact, they lived in the hospital as a family for several months the first year I met with him.  His father had left them and at the time he saw him once a year in the summer, but when I asked him a couple weeks ago if he'd seen his dad this last summer, he shook his head no and changed the subject.  It's a sore subject.

Well anyway, it was Monday morning and that meant it was our weekly time to get together.  The week before he couldn't meet because of the shift of the trimester and the way his classes were restructured, so I was hoping we could meet this past week.  (Part of me wondered if he was losing interest in meeting with me just because he was getting older and it was feeling more and more weird for this older dude to come in and chill with him.  It's different when they're younger and I guess I was just feeling like he was getting ready to "break it off").  I walked in and waited for him to round the corner as the kids got out of there classes and hurried to their lockers and off to their next classes. There was no Jason.  It was as I feared.  I thought, "He just doesn't want to tell me to my face that he doesn't want to meet anymore."  I waited, then I walked into the administrators office and asked if Jason was absent.  They said no, that he was in choir and that they would page him and have him come down.  To be honest my heart felt a constriction because I felt like it would be obvious he didn't want to meet, but when he finally made it to the building entrance where I was waiting, he was all smiles.

He asked me how my Thanksgiving was and we walked toward the conference room where we do homework, talk, and play various board games.  He pulled out UNO and proceeded to shuffle up the cards and divvy them out.  We played a few games and then he said, "Let's go out into the halls and find the elves!"  He explained to me that the teachers hid 5 elves around the school and he had found 4 of them.  Lickety split we were darting around he halls looking for the 5th elf.  It was fun to see the joy in his face.  After a while, we couldn't locate it, so we returned back to the conference room and started playing UNO again.  He was up on me 3 games to 2 and being the competitor I am, I told him he was going down the next game.

I had one card left in my hand and was sure I was going to win when I heard him say, "When you see the three cards I have in my hand you're going to chase me around the table."  He laid down a Draw Two, a Reverse, said UNO, and then laid down the last card.  He bolted out of his chair and in moments I found myself chasing him around the table like we used to do in 3rd and 4th grade.  I love how he tipped me off as to what he wanted me to do by just making a statement of what I was going to do when I saw what he had in his hand.

When I finally caught him and I put him in a headlock and gave him a noogie.  He was giggling like a little school girl. We got back to the table and the very next hand he pulled out an impossible victory and immediately shot up from his chair and started to dart around the table.  I shot under the table and reach out and grabbed his ankle and took him down and started to wrestle with him for a second.  In a sense, I couldn't believe this was happening when about 45 minutes before I thought we might never meet together again.  It was a great time together and I felt God was just shining down on me.

Later that afternoon after lunch at Flat River Grill, I was getting ready to leave and there were five elderly ladies leaving the restaurant together.  I was behind them when all the sudden one of them turned around quickly and bumped into me.  I put my arms out and kinda hugged her trying to buffer the collision.  I think she had forgotten something at her table.  I apologized for running into her and she said, "No, that's ok, I like hugs."  I immediately said, "Well, I'm a hugger, you want a hug?"  She nodded and I just gave her a big hug and she held on for dear life.  I told her I didn't have a grandma anymore so I missed grandma hugs.

Her friend was right there and immediately said, "What about me, do I get a hug?"  I turned toward her and said, "You better believe it!"  After giving her a hug, their 3 friends were outside on the sidewalk waiting for them and one of them said, "Hey, do we get a hug from a handsome young man like yourself?"  I smiled and headed out the door and said, "I don't mind if I do!"  I made my way to each one of them giving them a hug and saying Merry Christmas.  It was a great moment and as I said goodbye and turned to leave I heard one of them say, "There is still good in this world."  That phrase has been ringing in my ears every since I heard it.

It's amazing what can happen when we put ourselves in places to bring joy to others and open our eyes to the basic needs people have for connection and love and encouragement all around us.

It was a day I won't every forget.

Saturday, December 05, 2015

Living for a Reason, or a Result?

There are weeks in life where you have to go back to "creeds" in your life..."vows" almost.

Paul said in his letter to the Corinthians, "conflicts on the outside, fears within."  It feels like it's been on of those weeks and when I'm staring down double barrel of "conflict and fear", it can really vacuum out the frills and chills forcing you to the anchor of your soul.  The core reason.  The deep beliefs that drive you when feelings falter or fade.

I haven't been getting good sleep, my mind has been filled with the barbed wire of worry, fear is on my mind like stink on a monkey, and people seem to be dropping like blowflies lately due to everything from rebellion to emotional collapse.  Last night I woke at 4 in the morning with my chest tight and my mind racing, what some people call a panic attack that I've come to call "the fight".

So like I said, I have to return to my roots.  And God reminded me this week of verses that I memorized in college in my Junior year that I knew I would need to center me in seasons in the future when that fight was on.

There were several that came to mind, but the one that really stuck out to me was in 2 Timothy 4 where Paul said: "I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time has come for my departure.  I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.  And there is now stored up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will aware me on that day, and not for me only--but also all those who long for His appearing."  It may not be word for word, but that's pretty close.

It all came back to me like a core memory that I'd almost forgotten.  I felt a few things rise up in me afresh as I engaged the battle this morning:

1. I want to be one of the Fighters.  Not fighting just any fight, but the good fight...the Right Fight.  Sometimes someone will say, "You got any fight left in ya?"  I want to say on that day, I fought to the end.

2. I want to be one of the Finishers.  It doesn't take anything to start something, that's easy.  You can start a child, but can you raise a child?  Can I finish as a Father?  I can start a relationship, but can I complete the marathon of marriage to the very finish line?  I don't want to start strong, I want to finish well.

3. I want to be one of the Faithful.  There are days when I know I am driven by Fruitfulness instead of Faithfulness.  The result instead of the reason.  And though I want to get results, I want to be faithful even when I don't see immediate gratification.  Even if I never see the fruits of my labor, I want to do what's right even when feelings aren't there.  Faithfulness is rare.

It's Saturday morning and I'm getting prepped for the weekend.  My heart is pounding with passion and tension.  But somehow reminding myself of these verses that have buoyed me for so long gives me hope that they will buoy me the remainder of my fleeting days on this earth before I stand before the One with eyes of fire and give an account for me life.  I want him to say, "Well done thou good and faithful servant."

The is my reason, not matter the results.

Friday, December 04, 2015

Questions to ask on Date Nights...

Some questions Heidi and I try to ask each other on our date nights.  We don't always do a great job of this, but it's good to have a goal nonetheless...

1. How have you been feeling about life lately? 2. What have you been enjoying recently? 3. What areas of our marriage do you feel are going well? 4. What areas of our marriage do you feel need a shot of life? 5. What have you noticed about me lately for the good or not so good? 6. How do you feel I'm missing your heart lately? 7. What is stealing your joy right now? 8. What are some things that you dream of doing? 9. Who are your good friends? How are your friendships going? 10. What areas of temptation are you wrestling with lately? 11. What is your favorite recreation right now? 12. How is your relationship with going? Where do you feel like you're growing? Where do you feel like you're hitting a wall? 13. What has been your greatest disappointment lately? 14. How do you feel our sex life has been? Is there something that is keeping it from being more free and alive? 15. What is a goal you have the next month that I can join you in accomplishing? 16. How can I be of encouragement to you right now? In what way can I lighten your load and fuel your passion? 17. When do you feel loved well by me? What do I do that makes you feel cared for and valued? 18. How do you feel like things are balanced with work, family, and marriage lately? 19. How do you feel you're doing as a parent? How do you feel I'm doing as a parent? How do you feel we are doing as parents? 20. Anything making you feel angry or irritated recently in our relationship or in life? Are you harboring any resentment or burying any rage? 21. How can I pray for you right now throughout the day? Anything I need to be tuned into? 22. How do you think we can go to another level in our relationship in the coming month?

There are few things I care more about than marriage. I see so few marriages functioning with freedom and true oneness that it strikes me as something I must always keep before me...intentionally.

I want to be wedded to my wife all the days of our marriage...mind, body and spirit.