Monday, March 31, 2014

Be Awesome! Part 2

Earlier this month, I wrote how I had begun to ask my daughters two questions: How were you awesome today? How were you awesome to someone else? (Be Awesome!)

These questions have helped us to start conversations each day after school.  I admit that I had become quite  a lazy dad when it came to asking my daughters how their day had been.  I had taken to just listening to them tell their grandparents about it.  By telling the girls I would be asking them the questions daily, I knew it would hold me accountable to have those conversations.

They have really taken to the questions.  They get excited about answering them, and they really enjoy telling me how they have helped someone else.  Many times, they want to answer that one first!

Since writing the last post, a couple of wrinkles have occurred.  The first is the addition of a third question.  I noticed a couple times where my youngest wanted to tell me how she WASN'T awesome.  At first, I wouldn't allow it.  I thought it was important to think about the good things and how good they could be.

Then, I began to rethink things.  I thought this would be a great opportunity for the girls to learn another aspect of self reflection.  No matter how well they had done, they could always do better.  So, I began to ask them how they could have been MORE awesome.  I thought they wouldn't like this new question, but they really took to it.  It was like they wanted an opportunity to confess.

The second twist was a tough one for me.  My youngest started asking me the questions!  It took everything in me not to play the parent card and refuse to answer the questions.  Like I wrote in the last post, I am learning more every day I must lead by example.  So I gulped and answered the questions.

I want to raise my children to be open, honest and vulnerable.  I am doing so by showing them what those traits look like.  Too many dads hide their feelings and especially their failures from their kids.  I fail, and it's ok.  And it's ok for them to know it.  How else will they learn to learn from their failures?

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Be Awesome!

Recently the word "awesome", has been front and center in my life.  I took my girls to see The Lego® Movie, and the theme song was "Everything is Awesome" (included here for your viewing pleasure).  In one of the books I was reading, it talked about wearing an undershirt (so it wouldn't be seen) that reads "Be Awesome".

A buddy of mine is in the process of writing The Book of Dadverbs (click the link to join the process), where he looks at the verbs that are most crucial to being a dad.  I took all of this as a sign, and I began to think about how I could be awesome and raise awesome kids.

The first thing I started doing was telling my kids, everyday before I send them to class, they are awesome. It's become kind of a mantra.   "You are awesome.  You can be awesome. Be awesome."  It's my way of encouraging my daughters daily.  I want one of the last things they hear before school is that I love them and think they are awesome!

Then I decided this wasn't enough.  Recently, I told them that after school on the ride home, I would ask them two questions.  How were they awesome?  How were they awesome to someone else?  With awesomeness comes awesome responsibility.  I want them to know it's not enough to BE good.  They need to DO good.

But I can't just leave it at a question.  I have to model it for them.  Recently, we went to do a little shopping at an outdoor shopping center.  As we were walking into one of the stores, I blind man walked in just ahead of us and inquired about the location of a different store.  OPPORTUNITY FOR AWESOMENESS!  The girls and I lead the man down the row of shops to his destination and described things as we went.  Once he had concluded his business, we walked him back to where we had met him.

I love having these conversations at the end of the day with my girls, and my hope is this becomes habit for them.  By the way, they've been instructed not tell anyone about any of this.  I could just picture one of my girls saying they were helping someone so they could answer their dad's questions at the end of the day.

I am sure there are some that will say what I am doing is wrong, but that's true for everything we do, eat , say, hear, and watch.  I don't know how all this will play out, but right now, I've got my girls thinking, being and doing!  They get no prizes, no rewards.  They get my praise and the warm, fuzzy feeling of helping other people.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Come Off the Mountain

My local church (New Song) has been challenged by our leadership to read through the New Testament as a church family this year.  We've got groups getting together, and we even have some online discussions surrounding our readings.

Today's reading was on John 6.  There are lots of wonderful, deep theological verses in this chapter.  In fact, someone made the comment we could have a Facebook page about just the passage.  It can also be rather confusing, what the whole eating flesh, drinking blood and Bread of Life stuff.

Maybe in light of my recent trip to Eagle Eyrie (see my previous post), there was something else that stood out to me.  It wasn't the feeding of the 5,000 or Jesus walking on water, amazing miracles for sure.  No, it was the bit about the mountain.

Jesus and his disciples had gone up to the mountain, presumably to have a little time away from the crowd and connect with each other.  Instead, a hungry mob shows up.  Instead of moving further up the mountain, Christ challenges his disciples to SERVE them.  I can imagine the grunts and groans. "Awwww, Jesus! We just wanted to be with you!  I don't wanna feed these people.  This is MY time."  Nevertheless, they served, and everyone went home full.

Then they came off the mountain.  Herein lies perhaps the bigger miracle.  I know when I am in a place of solitude, and I am as close to Father as I will ever be, I never want to leave.  I want to stay in that place and rest in His arms and grow my goatee, but I'm called to come down.  No mountain top experience is meant to be permanent.  It's meant to carry us into and through the valley below.  The valley is where the work is.  It's where the people are, and it's where we're needed.

Maybe come down a little slower!
We need to come off the mountain to allow the other workers a chance to rest.  Staying up there is selfish and lazy.  There's work to be done, and we're called to do it.  The challenge is to take the feeling of the mountain into the valley.  Allow the time you had to strengthen you for the journey and the service God has called you to.  Use it to encourage those who have never been to visit the mountain and spend some time in Father's arms.

How do you carry the mountain top feeling into the valley?

Photo Credit, David Niblack,

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

When Boys Weren't Being 'Boys'

This weekend I had the incredible experience of spending some time with the youth of New Song, my church.  I do not think I can overstate what a powerful and moving weekend this was.  As happens so often, I set out to give and ended up getting back so much more.

Each year our church sends a group of middle and high school students and chaperons to Eagle Eyrie, a retreat center in Lynchburg, VA.  I went last year as a chaperon, and even though it took a few days to recover from the lack of sleep, I agreed to go again this year.  This year there were about 60 of us spread out over three different houses.

This year's theme was Ka-Pow.  We were encouraged by Joe Torrence to cast aside our labels and be the super heroes we were made to be.  Joe is an excellent speaker and really has a passion for today's youth. he knows how to speak to their level and into hearts.

What moved me this weekend was not anything Joe said, as anointed as he is.  It was not any song sung or skit performed.  What had me balling like a new born was what I saw among our youth.  When one was overcome with emotion, they were surrounded, instantly, by their peers.  High school boys were wrapping their arms around middle school boys who were openly sobbing.  There was no judgment.  There was no laughing.  There was only compassion and caring and love, not words you usually associate with boys of that age.

This gave me hope.  But it also gave me cause to think.  How do we keep this going?  How do we get these young men to continue showing love to their male friends?  How do we foster a culture that makes this normal and not weird?

I don't have all the answers, but it starts with the men in their lives.  Once these men feel free to cry, to hug and  just feel, then maybe these boys will grow to be men whose hearts are more visible and open and not barricaded behind a wall of machismo.

Photo credits: Allie Reed

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Jimmy Fallon Christianity

I am a relatively new Jimmy Fallon fan.  The first thing I recall seeing from his show was a clip of him, The Roots (the show's house band) and The Sesame Street gang singing the the Sesame Street theme song in the green room on toy instruments.  I thought it was absolutely fantastic!

I found him to be infectious! I searched for more clips, started watching episodes on Hulu and following him on Twitter.  I couldn't explain it at first.  I don't know that I have ever been as captivated by a television personality as I am by him.

I appreciate the way he, even after all the guests he's had on, still gets awestruck by them.  I admire how passionate he is about comedy.  He allows himself to crack up and double over in laughter.  He still pays homage to the past, but pushes on into the future.  (See Ragtime Gals.)  He comes across as humble as anyone I have ever seen in show business, but he still has the confidence to give some of the best monologues in the industry.  

These are all characteristics I want as a Christian.  I don't get to meet a lot of celebrities, but I want to be moved by the everyday creations of Father.  I want to be passionate about Him and His people, and I want that passion to be visible. I want to remember what He's done for me, but I want to live for what He WILL do in me.  I want to lose my sense of self, but remember that I am an heir to the throne and can go boldly where He sends me.  I want a Christianity so contagious, people are eager to find out more about it and want what I have! 

So to that extent, before I change my mind and rethink everything I just wrote, I'm hitting publish.  What did I miss?  What did I get wrong?

Friday, February 14, 2014

It's Me Again!

I have not written in some time, almost 2 full years.  I do so now with lots of questions and even more doubts. So why start up again?  What do I write about?  Will anyone read it?  Will I offend people?  How will I deal with any scathing responses?  Do I have anything to say?

Well, to answer the first question, I write because I can no longer NOT write.  I am not creative, cannot make stuff with my hands, but I have felt for some time the need to produce/make something.  I am not necessarily a good writer, but, frankly, it's my only option.  What I am is open.  I share too much too often, but sometimes people connect with that.  It's one of the things I feel is wrong with the church today, but that's the subject for another time.

Feeling a strong need to write is one thing.  Actually doing it, is another.  Once a month I meet with a good friend.  Well, we just started last month.  We decided we would hold each other accountable for professional and personal goals.  I decided my goal would be to write at least twice a month.  So, now I have motivation to make it happen.

Coming up with a subject matter is something I worry about. This same friend, who also writes, said just to write. Get started and let it come to me.  That's what I'm doing.  I thought maybe I would respond to Donald Miller's blogs on the church.  Maybe I would write about grace.  Perhaps the gospel according to M*A*S*H, my favorite show.  Maybe...

The answer to the remaining questions is I can't worry about that.  If no one reads it, I've learned a lot in the writing, and I've scratched an itch.  I won't set out to offend people, but I know it might happen.  I'll write out of a place of love, love for people and love for the Gospel.  The Gospel tends to offend people, but my conscience will be clear.  I'll deal with responses out of that same love.

We all have something to say, a story to tell, a testimony to give.  I have decided that I want to tell mine, and I believe Yahweh will honor the telling, in spite of bad grammar and poor prose.  I want to live my life out loud, and this is the best way I know to do it.

If you decide to read my writings, I can't promise anything new and profound.  I can't promise anything mistake free or moving.  What I can promise is myself, laid open and honest.  I can promise each and every word will be soaked in thought and prayer.  My passion is to see the church universal being vulnerable and real.  I think too many are closed off and afraid to admit they haven't got it all together. It's got to start somewhere.

photo credit: bachmont via photopin cc

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Hans Solo, Mary and Martha

I am and always will be a man.  Nothing will ever change that fact.  For most of my life, I have identified with male characters in novels and movies.  I typically read male authors of fiction, not that there are not terrific female authors, but I find myself more compelled by the types of books written by men.  Growing up, my heroes were always men: Batman, Superman, Hans Solo, Hannibal Smith, Michael Knight.

I have never had anything against women.  I am a teacher, so the vast majority of my co-workers are women.  I have a deep respect from them and have learned from them.  Before teaching, I held various jobs and a large number of my supervisors were women.  My mom is a woman, and I love her dearly.  I have a sister who's a woman, and I married my wife, also a woman.  I have two daughters, not women, but one day will be.

For the first time in my life, I find myself wanting to be like a woman.  Now before you start unfollowing me on Twitter or unfriending me on Facebook, please see the first two sentences.  Let me 'splain.

Last year, I started a slow and deliberate journey through the gospels.  Time and again I was struck by the incredible strength and courage of the women found in these four books.  Not that there are not great examples elsewhere, but it seems that not enough is said about these women.  I had always focused on the 12 male disciples, but these female disciples get their fair share of ink, too.  I am ashamed to admit that I had overlooked them and their role in advancing the gospel message.

The one Mary broke with culture and sat at the feet of Jesus in a room that was supposed to be for men.  One woman anointed Jesus' head with very expensive perfume.  Mary poured a year's wages onto Jesus' feet and wiped it with her hair.

How about the faith of the woman who knew all she needed was to touch his garment?

Jesus' mom stood by him at the cross when the vast majority of his disciples had fled and went into hiding.

Mary and Mary went to the tomb to take care of Jesus' body. Jesus appeared to them first.  Why not a man when, at the time, a man's testimony was all that counted?  They were the first to be given instruction to spread the gospel.

Nothing could hold back the love these women felt for their Savior.  They were neither ashamed nor afraid to do want needed to be done to honor their Lord.  We can learn a lot from their boldness and humility.  I know I did!

Happy Mother's Day to my mom!  Thank you for showing me the love, patience and grace of Christ.  
Happy Mother's Day to my wife!  Thank you for sticking with me, and holding my feet to the fire to become a better father, husband and friend.