With Thanksgiving 

 
Thanksgiving has always been an incredible holiday experience in my family. Food, family, and fun have always been the norm resulting in a lifetime of memories that have helped shape my values and direct my life. This has given me a thankfulness for my past that is rooted deep in my soul.

I realize that my experience is not the same as everyone else’s. I know how blessed I am. I know that those like me who find the holidays to be refreshing and full of joy have something truly amazing to be thankful for. I try very hard on a daily basis to live in a way that does not take it for granted. This stage of life is showing me on a daily basis what I have to be thankful for right now, today, every day.

Last year Thanksgiving changed. We were at my parents’ farm where I group up. It was early in the morning. We were getting to ready to have breakfast when we got the news. My father in law had passed away early in the morning hours before dawn.We were close. He would frequently supervise me as I tackled projects way beyond my skill set—offering up his expert advice and informed opinions—all smothered in generous helpings of his winsome sarcasm. 

Over the years I had come to love and appreciate our conversations. They were packed with questions. He would quiz me on different passages of scripture and I would share my opinions. We disagreed almost as much as not and I ALWAYS came away learning something even though I was the one being asked the questions. 

His passing hit me hard. He had become a second father to me. Of course I was sad, as most people are when losing someone they care for, but I was reassured by one simple passage of scripture that I have probably heard hundreds, maybe thousands of times.

“Enter his gates with thanksgiving; go into his courts with praise. Give thanks to him and praise his name.” ‭‭Psalms‬ ‭100:4‬ ‭NLT‬‬

A year ago that’s exactly what he did. It was a reminder of the joy that awaits us. In an era of cultural uncertainty it has renewed in me a sense of thankfulness for the future.

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From One Mom to Another: You should go on a mission trip . . .

On mission trips there are needs surrounding you at every moment. Needs of the people you are there to minister to. Needs of the missionaries, families, and staff you are in country supporting and assisting. Needs of your own team. It is a great burden and responsibility. It also a wonderful opportunity to experience incomprehensible joy. Much like motherhood.

Mom, won’t you join us for a few funny (and genuine) reasons why you should spend time in the mission field and on short term mission trips. So here we go…

5. The newborn phase already taught you how to survive without a shower.

4. You automatically count the number of your people who are on the bus/car/truck/motorcycle.

3. You don’t whine much because no one at home is listening anyway.

2. You’re used to carrying your body weight in diaper bags, toys, equipment, and children.

1. You’re an amazingly efficient packer when packing for four people, there’s no telling how efficient you could be only packing for one.

Truthfully, consider these:

5. You’re family will survive without you. They need the chance to take over some of your responsibilities.

4. You have been inherently gifted to give your heart to those around you in the way God specifically created a woman to love. You have been given little blessings on whom to perpetually practice this skill.

3. Being a mom has uniquely sharpened your ability for your heart to break without your Spirit breaking. Being resilient is a God given trait. I’m pretty sure it appears in the dictionary with mother.

2. Because of your experience, an experience resulting in a practical and powerful faith, you will be able to minister to other wives and moms in ways single ladies or men will never know.

1. We can’t JUST tell our kids that Jesus said Go into all the World and preach the Gospel……

Moms have a lot of GREAT reasons not to go. We have a great calling here in our homes and jobs, but that does not cancel our other callings. My children NEED me but they need Jesus MORE. And they also need to understand there are kids and moms around the globe who need Jesus even more than my kids need me.

In a few short days, You can invest in and make an eternal impact on families in a far away place. Then with renewed vision, strength, and perspective you fly home and continue to invest in your family.

SERIOUSLY! Prayerfully consider joining us for a trip soon. From one mom to another, I can’t wait to go again.

Parent Stuff: The Weight of Grace

  
In 2011 I had the incredible opportunity to travel to the Arkansas State Capitol at the invitation of then Lieutenant Governor Mark Darr. My responsibility that day was to open the afternoon session of the 88th Assembly of the Arkansas State Senate in prayer. I had thought long and hard about the words I would pray over those important lawmakers. Here is an excerpt from the prayer I prayed that day.

“God, my fervent hope today is that you would help them to continue to hear—not just the voice of their constituents, but your voice as well. God grant them the wisdom to make sound decisions and the discernment to understand the far-reaching implications of those decisions.”

I don’t remember what was on the docket for the day. But I know that each man and woman in that chamber was responsible for representing a body of people they had chosen to serve. Their actions—no matter how small, or even seemingly insignificant, carried weight. What they discussed, conclusions reached, votes cast. It all mattered. It all made a difference. The molding of the law was akin to working the clay of civilized society.

What about you?
In your world you may be the lawmaker. You may be making the rules of the house. You might be passing down mandates and dictating decisions that shape the days, months, or years to come. If you’re a parent or guardian of a child you better believe this is true.

Your every decision, reaction, omission, and word have weight. The things you do will echo in the future of your child. The things you don’t do will echo just as loudly! The point I’m trying to make is that you have a responsibility. It is holy. It is God-given. It is authority. It is blessed. It is vital.

The implications of your every action are so important. I wish I could say I always get it right. I love my boys so much. But not an hour ago I was sending my three-year-old off to bed with a much harsher tone than was probably necessary. 

Parents, do you feel the weight of the life you hold in your hands? I hope so. Does it keep you up at night sometimes? I hope so. I think it should.

Now. Stop holding your breath. Unclench a little bit. Relax. Breathe deep. After all, you’re not perfect. Yes, your every action and inaction as a parent matters. But you’re never going to get it all right. But guess what? It’s alright. After all, who better to guide you through your imperfectness as a parent than the perfect parent?

Ask God to help. Go ahead. Ask him right now, I’ll wait.

Now, doesn’t that feel a little bit better. Ok,maybe it doesn’t yet. But long before you became responsible for guiding this little human being through the obstacle course of life God set your memories into motion. The first steps, the first fight, the crying, joy, gladness, serenity, and taxing anxiety of parenthood…God has already experienced all of it, for everyone, ever. Whoa!

He’s right there in the middle of your mess waiting for you to ask him to make it better. I love my boys “to the moon and back again” as one of our favorite bedtime stories goes, but I’m so far short of the perfect parent.

Thank God I’ve got God. He’s in the mix. He’s helping in the moments when I want to duct tape my son to his bed and scream at the wall. He’s there rejoicing when I get it right! He’s there when my heart hurts over a poor decision I have made. After all, there’s grace for that.

Yes, there are far reaching implications for your every action but God’s actions can reach farther than yours. There is a weight to grace.

Baby Eyed Faith

  
 I have always had strong faith. Faith just comes really naturally to me. That isn’t to say that I have not gone without struggles. And I find myself deep in doubt more often that I am comfortable admitting. But overall I am quick to grasp faith in God, his goodness, and his personal impact on both my eternal and temporal my well-being. But I know after countless conversations over the years that I am not necessarily the norm in the faith department.
Staring into our one month old son’s eyes last night I started thinking of this verse from Matthew’s gospel in a different way. 

And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 18:3 NIV)

My son Jonathan is a month old. This early in his development his vision is roughly 20/400. He sees nothing but a blur past the twelve to eighteen inch mark, and colors are largely something he will not even begin to appreciate for three more months. What does this have to do with faith?

Jon doesn’t have to scramble, cry, and worry for everything in his life, it is provided for him. He doesn’t have to fret for his safety and well-being. It is provided for him. All my son has to do is sit back and be. 

He just has to be my son. The very fact that he lives and breathes, that he is mine, bestows upon him the guarantee for protection and provision given to the fullest measure of my ability.

Even in my easy approach to faith there are moments of darkness. There is apparent blurriness. There are times when I do not have the answers and no answers seem forthcoming. Those are the moments when even walking by faith seems impossible. 

In those moments we must simply be. We must belong to the Father. We must realize that just being his guarantees us the fullest redemptive measure of provision and protection that is His to muster, which is all of it.

It’s yours. Just be His kid. 

That doesn’t guarantee you a steep bank account and a lavish life. But it is an unshakable eternal promise worth SO MUCH MORE.

Welcome: A Letter to My Son on His First Day in This World

  

Welcome to the world son. It’s a lot different out here, huh?

It’s big. And cold. And wonderful.

Sometimes it can be scary. Sometimes it can be miserable. But it is also beautiful.

Everything is new. Not as new as you. And not as cool as you, but it’s all new to you. And you’re new to everything.

There are quite a few people who have been waiting to meet you. Some of them are pretty awesome. They have already been in love with you for a while.

Your mom, brother, and I are crazy about you. We’ve been talking about you and getting ready for you for months. We’ve prayed for you every day together.

You’re a little brother now. And big brother has been really excited about you!

You’re a grandson, nephew, and cousin too—and those are all names that come attached with more awesome people who love you a whole lot.

The one mommy and I are most excited about though is the name son. We welcome you into this world because you’re our’s. We both get to love you, teach you, and help you.

You don’t know it yet but you’re a minority now. Not every sweet little boy or girl has a mommy and a daddy. And while we’re not anything that special we are yours. And you are ours. And we promise to do everything we can, the best that we can, as often as we can. It’ll have to do because you’re stuck with us.

So welcome to this world. It’s crazy (I think I already mentioned that but it is worth repeating). I can already tell how awesome you are. My little gift from God.

You’re going to grow up to do some pretty amazing things. Just try not to grow up too fast ok?

Waiting

Parenthood comes with lots of “waiting” time. This isn’t something anyone warns you about. Not saying there’s a lot of calm time just waiting.  Waiting at practice, waiting for potty time, waiting on food to cook or cool (isn’t that funny that we have to do both).  Waiting at the doc’s, waiting for a phone call,
waiting…waiting… Waiting.

Maybe that’s why pregnancy comes with so much waiting.  Waiting on a positive test result.  Waiting to tell everyone until you’re ready. Waiting for nausea to subside. Waiting to find out what you’re having.  Waiting at the docs.  Waiting on test results. Waiting on your water to break.  Waiting on contractions.  Waiting to push.  Waiting on birth.

Having had my first child after being induced at almost 42 weeks I did a lot of waiting.  Now here I am waiting again.  God designed pregnancy to be a certain length of time for different creatures.  Why does ours have to be so long?  Why do we have to wait? And why is it so hard?

Waiting can do one of two things to you.  It can exhaust you or revive you.  We have to LEARN to be good “waiters.”

Isaiah 40:31 speaks of the good kind of waiting.

31 But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.

But we often see people who react quite differently to the waiting.  Who impatiently demand change or anxiously blame the waiting on something.  What is different?  Okay let’s be honest we all are these “bad waiters” sometimes.

So what can we do?  Shift our focus and be content.  Paul talked about learning to be content in all circumstances.  Not accepting of status quo but so rooted in Christ and so trusting of His plan that you can accept what comes your way.  You can search the scripture but Jesus didn’t follow a “traditional life schedule,” write out a to do list, or whine about the demands of the job.  No he consistently fed those around him and then turned around and spent time with His Father.

So let us focus on serving while we wait. Let us remember the things we allow our minds to dwell on have power in our life.  As Paul wrote:

Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. Put into practice what you learned from me, what you heard and saw and realized. Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies. (‭Philippians ‭4‬:‭8-9‬ MSG)

Harmony and peace while waiting.

To Claus?

to_claus

I was one of those guys that swore off Santa Claus before I was a dad. Wasn’t gonna happen. My kids won’t believe in that stuff. Now I’m a dad. Our first son is nearly 3 and the second one will be here in April. Where do we stand? How do we handle it?

We tell the truth.

Santa Claus is like Batman, Captain America, or Buzz Lightyear . He has a lot of movies. Everyone knows who he is. But he isn’t real. He is pretend.

But what about when he isn’t pretend? What about when you can see him or talk to him? What about when he’s at the mall? That is a fat guy with a beard. Kids sit in his lap and talk to him, kind of like grandpa. He is pretending. Like when my son says he wants to fly like Buzz Lightyear and I pick him up and run across the house while he extends his arms and shouts “To Infinity and Beyond!” We are pretending.

Where do presents come from? People who love you, work hard for the money they use to buy them, and don’t cheat with pretend magic powers. You don’t have to earn your presents. It has nothing to do with being bad or good. It has everything to do with being cherished and probably a little spoiled. There’s nothing pretend about overtime, deadlines, and income taxes.

We pretend a lot in our house. We have bear hunts, and super hero adventures. We build snake guns out of Legos and block towers for the Ethan monster to destroy. And we have a blast.

Why?

I made a pledge never to lie to my kids. Not even “white lies.” I don’t tell him the super heroes we love are real. I don’t tell him Santa Claus is real. I don’t tell him eating his vegetables will make him big and strong like Hulk.

I never want to limit my ability to speak truth into his young and sponge-like mind and heart in a way that could undermine the BIG truths we already discuss on a regular basis. Things like love, generosity, kindness, (we recently had to tackle the notion of death and afterlife) and truth.

What about Jesus? We tell the truth. Christmas is all about celebrating the birth of Jesus. We have nativity scenes (at least 6 because my wife is Christmas-crazy). It’s important, we talk about it. But we don’t have to overcompensate. We don’t have to cram it down his throat in a half-guilty bid to outshine Santa Claus because Santa is never really part of the equation.

We might do it different than you. If you want to do the Santa thing go for it. Your house. Your rules. But we won’t. We don’t. And if I judge you a little bit for it, well—I’m only telling the truth.