All Saint’s Day

574797_3631959845175_594874501_nEven though I am a day late writing this, I wanted to share it with anyway.

November the first is All Saint’s Day. This is a religious holiday that was created as a response to All Hallow’s Eve, or Halloween as we know and celebrate it. All Saint’s Day commemorates those who have attained sainthood as a response to the commemoration of the dead (and presumably evil spirits) which happens on Halloween. Unless you are Catholic, you probably have no idea what this holiday is about.

November 1, also happens to be my mom’s birthday. I was afforded a special treat and had her at my house on her birthday this year and I was able to celebrate it with her. I don’t recall the last time I was in her presence on her birthday. Before you brand me a bad son, keep in mind we live 500 miles a part. We had a joyous time joking that the day is called All Saint’s Day thanks to her being born on that day. We tried our best to make her feel special and celebrate her.

What I want to share with you, is not thoughts on Halloween or All Saint’s Day… I want to share a few thoughts on my mom. As most sons will tell you, their mother is the best mom and I am no exception. She is the best mom I could have hoped for or wanted or deserved. I’m not sure how she put up with me all these years, because if as a child I was anything like I am as an adult I am sure I was challenging. There are many things my mom has taught me, but three things stand out to me.

  1. She taught me to never give up. This may seem simple, but it really isn’t. There are many times throughout our lives where we will want to give in, to throw in the towel, to just give up. I have seen my mother deal with some very difficult situations and to take on responsibilities that are very heavy and overwhelming to her. But each day she never gives up. She continues through the difficulty, through the hardship and through the toughness. My mom taught me, that no matter difficulty or obstacle is in front of you you must overcome it, you take it head on and you must not give up.
  2. She has taught me the power of enjoying the little moments of life. No matter what is going on around you, there is never not enough time to enjoy those you love. There is always time to share an experience, to snap a photo, to slow down and enjoy the little things which bring joy to those around us. Enjoying the little moments keeps us from getting uptight and upset about trivial details which don’t matter anyway. She taught me to not get hung up on little inconveniences when they result because we allow kids to be kids.
  3. She has taught me above all else, never stop trusting God. Each of us have experiences and encounters which lead us to question and wonder where God was in the midst of our pain. Why would he allow us to suffer? Why wouldn’t he step in and stop this from happening? Why? Despite these questions and pondering, we must not stop trusting that he is our father and that he loves us and that is still in control of the things happening around us. She has been an example of trusting God through the good times, the easy times, the bad times and the utterly difficult and unthinkable times.

My mom is an unsung hero in my life. These aren’t the only things she has taught me… it would be impossible to write everything I have learned from her. But these highlight the character and essence of who my mother is: a Godly woman, a woman who is able to find joy amongst the whirlwind and a woman who will never stop. These are characteristics I try to cultivate in my life and hope to cultivate in lives of my boys.

I love you, mom. Thanks for being who God created you to be. Thanks for being my mom.

The Beginning of Another Year.

As we begin another school year, we have a fifth grader, fourth grader & a kindergartner.

We also have a safety patrol.

This is the only year they will all be at the same school.

These little dudes rock! So happy to be their dad.

I find as I get older, it is the little things in life which bring me the most joy. Sending the dudes to their first day of school for a new year. Celebrating the little things in life that make them who they are. Getting excited about our safety patrol in the family. I joked with my parents, that we all have to be on good behavior because we now have law enforcement in the family.

Noah had a pre-season soccer tournament this weekend. His team ended the tourney 1-2. He was a little disappointed, but happy for the win. Ronda and I saw a lot in Noah over the weekend and we spoke with him a length about playing the best soccer he can. I know he thought we were coming down hard on him, the reality is we see something in him and we want others to see it too. I told him (and his bros) I only push him for more, because I know he is capable of more. I know he has more inside him. I have seen it. He agrees. In the midst of our discussion, he conceded Hayden (our middle child and Noah’s arch-rival) was putting out more effort in soccer than he was. I asked how he felt about that… he said he was glad for Hayden and a little disappointed in himself. He said he was going to do better. He was going to put more effort into it. He left the house with a soccer ball today, to spend time at recess and in his free time working on his skills.

With all the boys, we are pushing them to work on the skills/drills each of their coaches assign them as homework. Additionally, we are trying to play more pick up games and encourage them to practice juggling the ball to improve their footwork and touch on the ball. We are trying to make it fun again. This is one of those little things I spoke of. Making soccer fun. Making it a friendly competition between them and me to see who can improve themselves quicker. I have decided I need to practice my ball skills too. I try to do the drills they do also in order to improve myself, but to also model the commitment they need to see.

Commitment. It hit me this weekend, we are asking our boys to commit to touching a soccer ball for 20-30 minutes everyday. Using the argument, the people who really want it, who want to be the best, who want to get better do this. You have to be committed to putting time in everyday for this. If you love it and want it, you will do it. As I gave those words of encouragement and instruction, I felt convicted there are many aspects of my life I give lip service to their importance but don’t follow through with any real commitment to them. I felt convicted to be serious about my life and the things which are important to me. It felt a little hypocritical to be asking them to do something I wasn’t willing to implement in my own life.

What does this mean for me? I hope it means I will take stock of the things in my life, identify those I wish to excel at, and them implement a strategy to excel at those endeavors. I want to take my own advice and become a father and leader they look up to and follow because they see me modeling in my own life what i am asking of them.

Objects

Westfall Family Stone Mtn
I’m sitting here at work, and we are watching a video for our weekly Bible study with our dudes in our Independent Living home. As I think back to this last week and the vacation I was able to take with my family, my mind is drawn to my preoccupation with things.
On Tuesday, we went tubing in Helen, Ga. As we were preparing to go, I went to get a waterproof case for my iPhone. I felt as though I needed the case to protect my iPhone from the water. After all, my iPhone is my camera and I wanted photos of my family as we tubed. Over the course of the day, I dropped my iPhone in the river twice. I can attest and affirm, the Lifeproof case is actually waterproof. Each time I dropped it, I fumbled along the river bottom to locate my iPhone. Each time, I thought to myself ‘how terrible it would be if I couldn’t find it!’
As we neared the end of the experience, I looked down and noticed my wedding ring was gone.
Lost.
Somewhere at the bottom of the river.
Never to be found by me again.
As I floated in my tube, realizing my wedding ring was gone I felt an intense sense of loss. My marriage wasn’t lost, but the outward symbol of it was. It’s just a ring, but it holds a powerful and special emotional connection for me. This was the ring I used to symbolize my commitment to Ronda.
I will never get this object back. I can buy a new ring, but it’s not the same thing. It’s not the same one. As I feel these feelings, I recognize I am a traditional kind of dude. This ring holds a special place in my heart and I can never get it back.
Had I lost my iPhone, I would have had a sense of loss but not like this. My iPhone is just an object, not a sentimental object. This is an occasion for me to reorient my mind and priorities and be reminded I need to keepy mind and heart focused on things that matter and not be consumed with things that don’t.
The ring itself isn’t what matters. The relationship it represents does. I may have lost a wedding ring last week, but I had a fantastic family vacation. I got to spend quality time with my family doing things we enjoy doing and we had fun doing them.
That’s what matters.

Personality Testes, Personality Testes, 1 – 2. Personality Testes, 1 – 2 – 3?

No, it was not a Freudian slip.

Several weeks ago, I made mention of meeting a dude who offered to complete some personality tests on me. I thought it apropos to begin this way since for us men, our man-ness is often directly related to size of our balls.

We have big balls when we:

– don’t let our wives boss us around.

– make crazy-radical, on the edge kinds of choices.

– we are the first to do that daredevil act like jumping from a moving train.

– we grab life by the horns wrestle that beast to the ground and stand up and yell f___ you at it.

Like the size of our balls makes us the men we are, our personalities make us the people that we are. According to the ‘never wrong’ Wikipedia – Personality is the particular combination of emotional, attitudinal, and behavioral response patterns of an individual.

It is who we are.

This was an eye-opening experience to sit down and speak with this dude, who doesn’t really know me, and have him be able to peg me spot for who I am and what I am like.

This was revolutionary. I learned a lot of things about who I am and why I tick the way I do.

I learned the mechanics behind things in my life that I would have called failures. I learned the why of some of the things I struggle with.

I learned what drives me, motivates me, makes me lie awake at night. I realized the behind the scenes to many of the choices/decisions I have made in my life.

One of the benefits of being in ministry is having the opportunity to further hone my skills by learning more about who I am and why I think/act/feel the way I do. This was a great experience.

I have to be honest, I was wary going in. What if I didn’t like who the tests said I was? What was I gonna do about that? I would be screwed.

Providentially, the tests revealed me to be who I thought I was and more importantly who God knows me to be.

I am wonderfully and fearfully made… God made me how he needed.

And most importantly he loves me unconditionally.

The Daikini Crossroads

20120126-133559.jpg(C) by www.martin-liebermann.de
We’ve all had it happen to us. Our spouses, mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, cousins, grandparents, uncles, boyfriend/girlfriend, best friend, roommate or landlord has done it to us. They’ve given us an

ULTIMATUM.

A deadline.
A get this fixed or our relationship is seriously going to be affected.

The stakes are different for each of us. No matter the stakes, they are high.

With our friends, it may be the future of our friendship. With BFFs, it could be the balance of te universe shifting because we no longer have someone to share every moment of life with. With relatives, it may be a chane to attend family gatherings or it may even be the familial bond and relationship on the line. With spouses, it’s the highest.

Often in life our attitude and demeanor slowly change. It’s not a drastic change, but a slow insidious one that take time to infect every aspect of our lives. Slowly, the way breathe, think and eat changes to something else. We become someone else… At least within the context of the dynamics of that particular relationship. We no longer respond with love. We no longer respond thinking the best. We now have become oppositional, defiant, defensive and repulsive.

And it changes everything.

So finally, our loved ones get tired of it. They love us, have to begin thinking of their own good. Their own mental, emotional and spiritual stability. So enter stage left the

ULTIMATUM.

What do we do now?

As I see it we have two choices:
1. Do nothing and let the chips fall where they may and have our lives and relationships destruct around us. This is a choice of non-action in reality. We are choosing to change nothing, to not do the hard work of saving our relationships. This at its core is a selfish choice. It serves us the most. True, life may be hard for a short time after we lose the treasured relationship, but we haven’t had to work anything out. That’s what makes this the easy, cowardly way out. We don’t have to do anything except do nothing and let our relationships disintegrate.

2. That leaves us with choice number two which entails dealing with that hard garbage. We have to move outside of ourselves and think of someone else and make changes. Hard changes. Difficult changes. Uncomfortable ones. Changes that hurt. Changes that cause pain in our own disjointed, screwed up self-centered reality where we allowed ourselves to become the center of our own universe. Changes that puts others back at the forefront of our lives. We were built, designed with a self-less aspect to us. We were created as image-bearers of God. I think two aspects of that are the communal aspect of our lives. We are community based and focused. We need others around us. The second aspect is in our selflessness. We were designed to think of others first, as Christ did. But that hurts. It is much easier to live with ourselves at the center. When we get this ULTIMATUM we have to decide are we going to continue to sit at the center of our universe or not. Removing ourselves from that place hurts. It hurts like ripping off a leech that is dug in and sucking. Or yanking out a tick that is getting fat of our blood. It hurts.

Why bother?

Good question. Why should we suffer the pain and indignity of change? Because life is better that way. When we sacrifice ourselves and put others first, serve others, look to God first, make him the center life feels more complete. This is not to say that it is going to be easy without hardship. The exact opposite. This isn’t to say it won’t be painful. The opposite. If we don’t change at some point nothing will ever change. What do I mean by that? I mean if we let this relationship self-destruct and we move on to the next one, everything will be good for awhile… until we get the next ULTIMATUM.

Then what?

Let this one fall victim to the destructive lifestyle we have chosen? Allow this relationship to become yet another burning hulk of destroyed, damaged and jacked up people we know?
At some point we have to decide things are going to change, things are going to be different. Let me rephrase that, WE are going to change, WE are going to be different. And after we make that decision for change, we commit to it, we throw ourselves all in, we begin to furiously work to alter our lives to be something else we have to stay the course.

I like the word furiously. It denotes that we are approaching this change with every ounce of effort we can muster. We are holding nothing back to assist us in the change.

Are you ready to do that?

Are you ready make a change?

Or are you ready to let things be the way they have always been?

If you let things stay the same, then life will continue to be a downward spiral of never-ending destruction of relationships.

As for me, when I get to the Daikini Crossroads I am furiously changing.

When God brings us to Life.

I have been reading Francis Chan’s Crazy Love (I know, I should have read this book eons ago… alas I did not).  This book is great.  It has been challenging me to live and love better.  But it also has been timely for me according to my current life circumstances.  It seems, that I have not read this book until now because it is what I need to hear now.  A few things come to my mind and feel particularly relevant to me today and right now in my life:

 

1. God is bigger than me and anything that I currently struggle with.  He is the almighty creator of everything out of nothing.  Ex nihilo.  God created all there was out of nothing.  Don’t forget that he had to exist prior, for him to be able to create.  God is eternal and gigantically huge.

2. The giant God who is creator and king of everything, love ME.  Personally.  Not as a part of a group, but me.  He knows me and loves me as though I was the only person.  Incredible.  I don’t deserve this love.  That’s probably the understatement of all time.  As I’ve been working to wrap my head around somethings in my own head, I have been sharing with the students that I pastor at SRCC.  One thing I’ve said to them a couple of times is that God died for the individual, not me the unknown face in a sea of humanity.  He was thinking of me on the cross… and you… and you… etc.  God loves us each one.

3. God is going to do what he wants and I can either get on board or get out of the way (because his will will be done with or without me, I just might get run over if I’m impeding the process).

 

What does this have to do with being alive?  I have been listening to a lot of Skillet lately.  Particularly on the latest album, Awake, there is a much discussion on being made alive by God and God alone. I feel energized and renewed as I rely on God to bring me to life.  Only God can satisfy me.  Nothing else this world affords.

Do you love God with everything in your life?  I want to quote Chan as I close:

Are you willing to say to God that He can have whatever He wants?  Do you believe that wholehearted commitment to Him is more important than any other thing or person in your life?  Do you know that nothing you do in this life will ever matter, unless it is about loving God and loving the people He has made?