Thanks?

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Saturday night, Isaac threw up.

Really, I should say Sunday morning, because he woke us with the news around 6:30 a.m.

“Daddy…I threw up. But I wiped it up, I promise!”

Being woken up before your alarm is only made better by news of bodily fluids, right? But that wasn’t all…no, no. The other end had surprises for us, too, all morning long. All I could think to myself was why stuff like this always seems to happen around important dates in the life of our family.

Sunday was the day Annaliese was going to be baptized. So, with little choice, I left for church. My family always comes after me, for the later service. Erin brought the kids on to church because we thought it might just’ve been something Isaac ate, and that it would get better.

Nope. A trip home and a fresh pair of undies later, he was back in time for baptism with no incidents the rest of the day. It was over. We won.

Cue 2:30 a.m. this morning.

“Daddy…I threw up again.”

He shuffled back off to bed, Erin following behind minutes later to make sure there wasn’t going to be a huge mess left overnight.  She came back to bed, but was awake, unable to sleep.

6:30 a.m.: the Poo-pocalypse hits.

It’s dad’s turn. I walk up the stairs, and knew what I was in for before I even made it to his room, if you catch my drift.

I’m not lying when I tell you that there’s stuff that got thrown away this morning at our house. That’s how bad it was. And in the middle of the literal poo storm stood my son, tears in his eyes because he was afraid we were mad because he woke us up and made a mess. As I turned to him and tried to comfort him, I remembered being that age, being upset because I had made a mess, because I felt horrible, and because I knew I was waking my parents up. Those moments were awful, and in that moment, something strange happened: I was thankful.

Now, I know you may be thinking at this moment how I could I be thankful for horrible smells, loads of laundry, and ruined things…but as I sit here now and write this, it was easy, and I can tell you how.

  • Being awakened by a little voice at 2:30 a.m. means I’m a daddy. I’m thankful to have children.
  • My wife going upstairs to handle round 1 means that I’m married to a woman I love very much, who is selfless and caring and loving and good, and that I have a partner who is strong. I’m thankful for my wife.
  • Bending down to kiss my son’s head and comfort him in the midst of his pain and sickness gives him a glimpse of what our Heavenly Father does for us when we are in need. I’m thankful to have a God who cares.
  • Dropping loads of dirty laundry in front of our washing machine means that I have appliances to do our work, and getting them our of dryer means that they are clean. I’m thankful that God has provided for us.

This is a month of thanks. Sometimes, I have a hard time with it. Thankfully, this was not one of those times. As I stripped sheets and dealt with tears, I was reminded that things could be a lot worse, and that I should be thankful for the things I have, for the people that God has given me to do life with. For all the good times, when life is easy, and for all the bad times, when life is…..well, you know what I’m getting at here.

I don’t think I ever thought I’d find thankfulness in dirty laundry.

A Back-to-School Prayer

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Today, my babies start back to school. 3rd grade. It’s unbelievable how quickly time has flown by. I’ve been trying to think back and remember what I was like in 3rd grade, to get a perspective for my own parenting, and I can only remember a few things:

  1. I learned to write in cursive that year.

  2. It was the year we moved to a new school building.

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  1. It was also the year I lost one of my Autobot Micromasters to a thief during recess, which just happened to be on an unoccupied spot of grass outside the cafeteria, because the playground hadn’t been finished yet.

  2. That was the year that I discovered Nintendo.

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Overall, I can’t remember much about my 3rd grade year, but I have to wonder if I was like my own children at that age. They are curious. They are full of life and energy. They love with abandon and are crazy unpredictable about what they say. They are also kind and compassionate. They can also be total turds at times. With all that in mind, and in honor of their first day of school, I offer up this simple prayer.

Abba Father (Daddy),

Today, my family begins another year of school. I praise you first and foremost because I know that you will be with them as they study. You promise to never leave us, nor forsake us, and I claim that promise over my house today. Again, I thank you for the privilege of allowing our family to homeschool. Our schedule is so crazy, it really lets us be flexible to spend time with these children you’ve blessed us with.  Sure, some days Erin wants to throw everything out the window and send them to the public school down the road, but I’m sure you know that not every day is going to be great.

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I pray today for my wife, their teacher. I thank you for the mind you have given her, that allows her to plan and prepare, to look to the future, to add a pinch of fun and dash of wonder to learning. I thank you for the calling you have given her, the calling to teach our children not just with academic knowledge they need, but the spiritual knowledge they need to grow in their faith. I pray you would give her strength, peace, energy, and lots of help.  I pray you’d guide her every move and every word in the name of Jesus.

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I pray also for my children. Lord, I know they can be a handful. I know they ask “Why” way too much. I know they are difficult at times, but I also know that I am so proud to be their Daddy. I love watching them grow, to learn, to try new things. I pray you would give them the opportunity to do all that and more this year, and that they would leap in with both feet! I pray that you would help them to settle when they need to settle, play when they need to play, and question when they need to question. I pray for a discerning mind for them, a participatory spirit, and a love of knowledge both academic and spiritual. I pray that you’d help us not to just raise smart kids, but saved kids. I pray you’d bless them with enthusiasm for learning, curiosity for the subject, and for the ability to suppress their wiggles, jiggles, and sniggles until it’s time to go outside or go play.

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I know we aren’t the only ones, and so I also lift up other homeschooling families around our world. They are in a similar situation: maybe they chose to be there, or maybe someone chose for them. Whatever the case, I pray for those homes to be filled both with the love of learning and the love of family. I ask that you would be with parents who are already tired, and give them energy for the task at hand. Help them to work together with other homeschool parents, to build those important relationships, and to lean on each other when times get hard. Bring people into their lives as sounding boards, safe places to lean on, and good friends. I pray that you would protect them and watch over them in all they do.

Lastly, I pray for each and every man and woman who will step into a public school classroom in our country this month. Lord, their job is tough. The deck seems stacked against them already. But, because they love children, and they want to see future generations do better than theirs, they will leap headlong into their classrooms which somedays look more like a war zone than a place of learning. I pray that you will bring peace to their rooms, a spirit of fellowship among the students, and I pray that they will be released to do their jobs, their calling, instead of having to deal with disruption after disruption. I pray that you would kindle the fire inside that some of them need to be reminded of, and I pray that you would show them, even within the first days, something that helps them to see the impact they have on their students. Give them wisdom, protection, peace, grace, and mercy, all in abundance, because they need it! Jesus be with them.

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May your glory be shown this year, Lord, both in our home, other homes, public and private schools, and anywhere education may take place. May you reign over each and every person and classroom. Protect our schools, protect our teachers. In the mighty, wonderful, matchless name of Jesus I pray.

Amen.

Seven, too.

  
You’ve reminded us for weeks. You’ve dropped hints, you’ve talked about it, squealed about it, and now it’s here:

My baby girl is seven. I can’t believe it. 

This year has seen you do so much. You are my fearless little wonder girl with a heart of gold. Every flash of your gap toothed smile can melt my heart in a millisecond. It’s no secret that I’m wrapped around your little finger so tightly, just like I’ve been since the day you were born. 

You love to dance. You love to sing. You create on a daily basis. They may just been silly little songs, or simple paintings or drawings, but I know each one is an echo of the God who created you, who longs for relationship with you, and just as you sometimes mirror the things I do, you are just mirroring Him in creating. Watching you twirl, leap, sing, perform, and create makes me so happy, and brings a tear to my eye often. 

You love fiercely. If a person is your friend, they are friends for eternity. If a person is your family, they are to be fought for. These aren’t things I’m trying to teach you, they are things you already believe, and act out, on a daily basis. Your heart is gigantic, and you are quick to love and easily hurt, which is both a blessing and a curse. I pray that you never lose that gentle heart of yours. 

Today, baby girl, may you dance like you never have, sing the song of your heart, and may you never stop dreaming and believing. Your mommy and I love you so very much. 

Eight.

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Honestly, I didn’t think I would be here today.

From the time that you were born, I believed that Jesus would return by now, and that we’d all be in Heaven together, where I wouldn’t have to worry about the day to day life of raising an 8 year old boy.

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  1. years. old. I can’t believe it.

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They say time flies, and boy…does it ever! It seems like just yesterday that I was holding you with one arm, your tiny body swaddled tight just like you liked, and we were making funny sounds back and forth, or just sitting and enjoying holding you.

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But now….oh, now how you fly.  From the time that you wake up in the morning until the time that you go to bed you are a bundle of energy. I know I always seem to complain when I hear your footsteps clomping down the stairs every morning but the truth is that the house doesn’t feel right if I don’t start my day with that sound. You blur right by me, rushing off to watch tv, to play on the trampoline, or to make up silly adventures with your toys.

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When I say you fly, you soar. You’re the smartest 8 year old I know, and you have the best teacher in the world. I am so proud to see all you are accomplishing, reading words you probably shouldn’t be able to sound out, working through math, learning about history and science and all the while growing and doing things I have absolutely no clue how you learned.

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Just a week or two ago you showed me a roller coaster you built in Minecraft (your new favorite thing) and I asked you who built it for you. That was a dumb question. I knew the answer.

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You told me you’d done it, and you were so proud to show me how it worked. It was then that I realized that you weren’t my LITTLE boy anymore.  You were, and are, becoming my little man, a young man who has dreams of his own, desires, his own sense of humor and a HUGE tender heart that beats loudly for the people who loves, which, right now, is everyone. I pray that never changes in you, son. A tender heart like that is an amazing gift from God, and one that He will use to do great things if you let him.

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Most of all, what I want you to know on your birthday is just how proud I am to be your daddy.  You amaze me everyday. You make me smile. You make me laugh. You warm my heart. Yes, there are frustrating days. Days when I want to give up.

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But, it’s on those days that I’m reminded of my own father’s, and Father’s love for me, and about how they never give up on me, and I want you to know that I will never, ever give up on you. You are my special treasure, and there’s nothing in this world that means more to me than you, your sister, and your mommy.

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So, as for today, we will have waffles. We will rise early and open gifts. We will laugh. We will play. We will take time to slow down and enjoy the last few hours of 7 before you turn 8. (4.39 p.m., by the way.) Because life is way too fast, memories are way to slippery, and love that’s built on days like this last for eternity.

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I love you, son. Happy 8th birthday.

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Indiana, Twitter, and Everything In Between

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I don’t like watching the news.

That’s probably not good, because I am pretty uninformed most of the time about what’s going on in our world, but it keeps me sane. I mean, have you seen the news lately? Bad, bad, bad, worse, terrible, fluff piece, goodnight, hope to see you tomorrow if the planet doesn’t implode first.  As a person who has a hard time not seeing the glass as half empty in the first place, I don’t need all that negativity in my life.  However, I couldn’t help but notice lately all the furor and hubbub over the RFRA in Indiana, a law designed to insure religious freedom for the residents of the state.

Some people do NOT like this law.

Before this post descends into arguments over the law (like almost all articles and blog posts have over the past week or so), I want to say this: the response has been ridiculous.  From both sides. From those who feel like the law would be used for discrimination, there has been everything from boycotts to picket lines to death threats to even threatening to burn down a pizza joint in Indiana. On the other hand, from those who claim to want religious freedom, I have seen some pretty ridiculous responses as well.  Everything from celebrating a “victory agains the gays” to weeping and wailing about our descent to a “Romans 1 Society”. I’m sure all of these responses come from a real place of hurt and involvement with the person’s respective side of the cause, but it seems that both sides have something in common that they don’t realize: a sense of entitlement. The sides in favor of and against the RFRA feel that they are entitled to everyone believing just as they do, whatever their position on marriage is. The disappointing part of it all, to me, is the response of Christians on social media.

Social media is a double edged sword. Sure, you can see that neat video of Voldemort singing “Dark Lord Funk” or watch silly cats or see pictures of your family from far away, but it also gives everyone with a computer a public platform to air their views.  And boy, do we have some screwed up views.  And I’m talking about people in the church! Social media is the only place where a Christian can tweet song lyrics from their favorite praise song one minute then turn around and retweet a profanity laden picture or tweet the next. I think this reveals a huge gap in our understanding of who and what we are supposed to be as Christians, and in the end, it hurts our witness.

Matthew 5:13 says “You are the salt of the earth. But what good is salt if it has lost its flavor?” We are supposed to be the seasoning of the Earth. I’ve never eaten anything that wasn’t better with salt on it. Fries, mashed potatoes, chips at the mexican restaurant; you name it, salt makes it better. Christians are salt. We are supposed to be gathered up by God at salvation, sprinkled back into the culture, and then flavor that culture to make it better! But when we don’t live in a way that glorifies God, we become like useless salt, just grit that sits on top of the food that offers no taste and actually makes things worse.

When people have to wade through a flood of messages, statuses, tweets, and blog posts with “mile wide, inch deep” theology, lack of understanding about salvation, grace, mercy, and even the love of God, then it makes the salt unsalty. When people are turned away from the church because our speech and actions don’t match our Bibles, the salt becomes unsalty. For every time we laugh about LGBTQ people but then raise our hands during worship, the salt becomes unsalty.

The problem with reaching a community of people who already thinks we hate them is that we prove that we do by the way some of us speak, act, and think. We forget that people aren’t just a sin that they do, but are real flesh and blood, just like we are. We forget that they have doubts, fears, hopes, and dreams like we do, and all the while we would balk at the idea of anyone classifying us by our sin, but for “them” it’s ok.

I think it’s important to remind everyone here that NO SIN is greater than the other. One sin of any kind is enough to separate us from God and damage our relationship with Him.

In the next verse of Matthew 5, it says “You are the light of the world – like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden.” (v. 14) Light draws people to it. That’s why its described here as being up high, easily seen, for all to see. Light, when it shines, cannot be hidden. Our actions, as believers, as children of God, should draw people to Jesus, not push him away. I think we forget that. We blast people and say, “Well, if it pushes them away, that’s their fault for not understanding!”. False. If we are offense, if we are darkness to them instead of light, then we are at fault.

Verse 16 is a warning: “In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.” If EVERYONE doesn’t praise God because of the way that I live my life, then I have a problem. If EVERYONE doesn’t praise God because of the way that we live our lives as Christians, then we have a problem.

I just wonder if we are willing to admit it.

Ministering From a Place of Discouragement

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One thing that no one tells you when you first answer the call of God on your life to do ministry is that eventually you will be discouraged. I suppose that I should have been prepared for it, as discouragement isn’t a stranger to most people’s lives, but I can still clearly remember the moment I experienced the first big discouragement of ministry. I don’t exactly remember the details; the who, what, when, where, and how are lost to time, but I do remember how I felt.

Honestly, I was shocked. I was shocked that people who claimed Christianity could be so mean, so hurtful, so shallow. These were people who claimed Jesus as their Savior, and who I thought were striving toward a life lived for Him…but I was wrong. Not only was I hurt; I was discouraged, which I quickly came to understand was the worst part of the whole situation.

Discouragement goes deeper than a simple insult or jab. Discouragement attacks not just the things we have done, but the motive behind them, and plants seeds of doubt and fear that take our focus off what we’ve been called to.  And if there’s anything that our Enemy wants, it is a disruption of the sacred calling that we have, keeping us ineffective and weak.  Discouragement continually asks the “what if ” questions we all have but are scared of, which causes a critical shift of focus from God’s will to our own selfish fears and doubts.

As shepherds of God’s sheep, we must seek to move past discouragement, not staying content to live defeated and distracted in it. It’s important to note that we simply can’t acknowledge it with a passing tip of the hat, though. There are valuable lessons and scars (yes, scars can be valuable) we can glean from wrestling with our discouragement and coming out on the other side, so we can’t just dismiss it.  Here’s some things I think we need to be mindful of when finding ourselves doing ministry in the midst of discouragement:

1. Ministry done from a place of discouragement is almost always reactionary.

This is problematic because reactionary ministry is typically not well thought out. This includes knee jerk reactions, spontaneous creation/termination of programs or policies, and the like. The best ministry we do is proactive, as we seek to use the Holy Spirit’s discernment to see what’s coming down the pike and prepare ourselves and our people for it.  I can count WAY more times that reactionary ministry has harmed a church’s witness as opposed to proactive ministry.

Reactionary decisions are more likely in times of discouragement because we are hurt, angry, or uncomfortable. We must realize when we are in those times, take a step back, sleep overnight on it, and allow time for prayer and seeking the Holy Spirit’s guidance through Scripture and counsel with trusted other believers.  It’s better to take our time on issues than to pull the trigger hastily because discouragement is knocking at our door, only to realize afterward that we’ve done irreparable harm to the body of Christ or out witness.

2.  Discouragement goes deepest where we are weakest.

Scripture describes Satan many ways, but one of the most striking is that of a prowling lion, waiting for its opening to devour its prey. Satan knows the cracks in our Sunday morning facades, he knows where our armor is torn or broken, in need of repair.  It is in these places that he will press hard, seeking to make the gaps wider or maximize the damage from a strike. We sometimes forget that our adversary isn’t just some goofy demon with a pitchfork and a thin moustache he twirls constantly, but an opportunist with all the knowledge and power he needs to push our buttons and destroy our lives. This is where discouragement comes in.

Have low self-esteem? Discouragement will work to make you feel like you’ll never be loved. Have trouble with feeling stupid or slow? Discouragement will make you feel like you’ll never learn anything. Anywhere, yes, anywhere you are vulnerable is a fertilized bed of fruitful soil waiting for discouragement to come along and sow its seeds. It’s there that it’s roots will grow deepest, curling around our souls and refusing to let go.  Learning to protect our weak points through accountability, counseling, and Scripture memory is key to blocking this.

3. Discouragement’s true goal is to keep you distracted.

Often in talking with fellow peers in youth ministry, our conversations typically turn to struggles we have had in different situations, and I have noticed a common thread that runs through most of these encounters: we are really good at blaming ourselves for anything and everything. Now, that’s not to say that each of us has made and sometimes occasionally does make mistakes, but rather that discouragement and scapegoating is common to lots of ministry folk. However, that fact along proves my point: discouragement’s main goal in our lives is to distract us from the glorious, amazing, powerful presence of God in our lives and from the holy calling He has placed on our lives.

Discouragement gives us tunnel vision, where our pain is the track and the light at the end of the tunnel is us feeling whole again.  We focus so intently on that little pinpoint of light that we think is our salvation that we lose sight of the one who is, making ourselves into God in the process.  This is the big lie of discouragement: our comfort is more important that the work and will of God. For those of us who serve in the ministry week in and week out, I don’t have to explain why that’s not good.

The more distracted we are, the more ineffective to the Kingdom we are, and that is ultimately what Satan wants, a legion of weak, distracted, ineffective Christians who are more talk than walk. This is where discouragement leads us, and seeks to keep us, if we will let it. So how do we beat it? What can we do to make it past discouragement?

In ministry, most discouragement comes from wanting to see measurable results in an immeasurable medium. How does one traffic in spiritual transformation? When we don’t see what we believe should be there, we end up frustrated and discouraged. Let me leave you with this little nugget: we cannot produce one single result on our own! While that probably doesn’t make you feel better, it should ring true. Without God’s help, we cannot change one single life. Take time today to rest in the fact that, by God’s grace and mercy, He has called you to participate in His work in a huge way, and that His power through you and in the lives of those other people is what brings about life change. As you rest in that, let go of the discouragement you feel. God has chosen to use you! Sure, there are ups and downs, but He is the one who directs your paths, even through the valleys of discouragement.

What is this?

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Many times in my life, I’ve thought to myself that something I’ve done or said is quite clever, and that other people should perhaps view or see those things. I suppose that is the purpose of having a blog, isn’t it, to offer your view on the world? The problem with that is that I have more failed starts that I do consistent records of blogging, and it seems that each time I get started in earnest something pulls me away or stops me completely, and you, the people reading this, don’t get to see or hear those things that I think are so important that others hear them but in reality probably aren’t.

So….here we are again.  What is this space and why are you here?

Chances are the reason you are here is because you know me. You saw me post about a new blog and here you are, reading along and wondering what the point is. Maybe you saw the link via Facebook or Twitter, or maybe, just maybe, you are a longtime reader and you’ve followed me from WordPress to Tumblr and now back to WordPress.  Whatever the reason, welcome, and now let me explain what you’re going to see.

  1. I’m a husband and a daddy. I’m not a father, I’m not a Dad. I’m a daddy. I prefer to think that’s less stuffy than the other two words. I was never allowed to call my own Dad “daddy” so I embrace it. Since I’m a Daddy, you’ll most likely see lots of posts and pictures about my kids. They are awesome, and will continue to be that way, and I will continue to tell you about their awesome. I love my wife, and we have great adventures together in this thing called marriage and I will talk about that, too, at some point. They say you write about what you love….

  2. I’m a youth pastor. I love working with my teenagers, and I love Jesus. Those two things are the passion of my life and I will post about them often as well. I believe these teenagers can change the world, and so I spend a lot of time with them.

  3. I play board games. If you follow me on Instagram, you know I play board games, and I play a lot of them. We play often at my house and I love to get new games and try them out and you’ll probably see tons of that here, too. When I get a new game I may try and write a review after I play it, so look for that.

Mostly, this blog will just be about me. And if that tickles your fancy, then great, if not, it doesn’t bother me. This is a way for me to chronicle my life and have something to look back on, and maybe one day, to be the writer I want to be.

See you next time!