Kudos to all the Dads Out There

Fathers get a bad rap. Sure, they get one day out of the year where we celebrate them in the aptly named Father’s Day. We buy them greeting cards and lots of neck ties.

The rest of the time, we seem to get the impression (from a lot of the media and culture out there) that they really aren’t all that necessary.

Nothing could be more wrong.

Of course, there are  lots of well-adjusted, normal, and productive people who were raised by single mothers out there. I give a shout-out to all those women out there who are pulling double duty as both mother and father. You deserve every bit of praise that comes your way.

I still believe that the best environment for a child is one where the father is present. There are certain things that are taught best by fathers. A boy can best learn how to be a gentleman from his father. A son best learns how to treat women by watching how the father treats the mother.

I admit that there are lots of bad examples of fathers who are abusive and domineering. I confess that a lot of people are uncomfortable with the idea of God as Father because of their upbringing and all the pain and suffering caused by their own earthly fathers.

Still, I think there’s nothing quite as beautiful as a father speaking affirmation over his children, drawing out the strength in his sons and the beauty in his daughters. Their words have incredible power to build up and create as much as to tear down and destroy.

The best way to be a father is to put your children third. I know it sounds scandalous, but here’s how it should look. The order should be God first, wife second, children third.

Thanks to all the fathers out there who are loving their families sacrificially on a daily basis. None of them are perfect and none of them will ever get it 100% right but they are the ones who keep showing up and never giving up on themselves or their wives or their children. They know they can’t do it without a lot of help so they start out every day on their knees before God in a posture of submission and surrender for the strength to be the best fathers possible.

Kudos to you.


Random Life Lesson

If I could give you one random life lesson, it’d be this– celebrate the life you have and not the life you wish you had. Enjoy the season of life you’re in by living in it rather than merely marking time until the next season or pining over the last one.

If this isn’t where you want to be, make the most of the present by preparing yourself now for who you want to be when that life you really want does come around. If you’re single, that means you work on being the right person more than looking for the right person. As my pastor said more than once, when the time comes, you can’t start getting ready– you have to be ready.

Most of what really constitutes life happens while we’re busy making other plans. Or to rephrase it for more modern times, life is what happens when you’re looking down at your phone and texting about what you wish would happen. Oh, the delicious irony.

It’s not the grand cinematic moments that you remember most fondly. It’s a combination of several unobtrusive small moments that add up to great memories.

Don’t base your identity on what might happen and on the next phase– in other words, if you’re single, don’t define yourself in terms of a future spouse, or if you’re married, in terms of future children. Let God be the one who tells you who you are now and let that define how you live in the future, spouse or no spouse, children or no children.

As the old Robert Earl Keen song says, all you have is today. So much time and effort is wasted on worrying about what probably will never be. So much energy is depleted in obsessing over possible scenarios that never come to pass.

Just enjoy your present for the gift that it is.


If/Then Vs. No Matter What

A lot of people have an if/then kind of faith. It goes something like this:

If God allows me to experience the fullness of the American dream, then I’ll keep believing.

If God grants me a spouse and children, then I’ll keep believing.

If God sees to it that my children follow in my footsteps and my faith and never disappoint me, then I’ll keep believing.

If God blesses me financially and lets me live comfortably, then I’ll keep believing.

That’s probably what most American Christians believe, although few would be brave enough to confess it.

This is biblical faith:

I will keep believing, no matter what.

If I never get married and have children, I’ll keep believing.

If I never get to where I can live comfortably, I’ll keep believing.

Even if I watch as each of my dreams die, even if God never does one solitary thing more for me beside saving me and granting me this life abundant, I’ll keep believing for as long as He grants me life.

The prophet Habakkuk put it this way:

Though the cherry trees don’t blossom
    and the strawberries don’t ripen,
Though the apples are worm-eaten
    and the wheat fields stunted,
Though the sheep pens are sheepless
    and the cattle barns empty,
I’m singing joyful praise to God.
    I’m turning cartwheels of joy to my Savior God” (Hab. 3:17-18).

If/then faith says that you need more than God, that He isn’t sufficient in and of Himself. It might work for a while, but it eventually falters when the hard times come.

No matter what faith says that God alone is, has been, and will always be enough. It keeps believing, keeps hoping, keeps trusting through any and every circumstance (much like what Paul talked about in 1 Corinthians 13). That kind of faith not only lasts, but it keeps you going.

I choose to believe no matter what.

The end.




14,000 and Counting

I set a new personal Fitbit record. I took over 14,000 steps today. That’s over 6 miles.

I also set the timer on my phone and spent 10 minutes in silence at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church.

Guess which was harder. Guess which felt longer.

If you picked the 10 minutes, you win the satisfaction of knowing you were right.

Why is it so hard to be still and silent for any length of time? Why is it that we feel compelled to check our smart phones or our watches or anything to distract us from stillness and silence.

Is it that those wonderful smart phones have further eroded our attention span to the point that we must have ceaseless stimulation throughout the day?

We’re losing the ability to interact with real people in real time in real conversations because we spend so much time virtually interacting with others through social media.

I’m not saying social media is evil. I’m not saying all of us need to immediately go on hiatus from all forms of social media starting today.

I am saying that we need to look up and look around us periodically. See the sunset. Go to a Starbucks and watch other people (but not in a creepy way). Have face-to-face conversations, make phone calls to your friends, write letters by hand, and live your life.

Since it’s Advent, maybe pay attention to all those decorations that are popping up all around you. That funny cat video can wait.

For those of you with kids, put your phones down. Your children will only be small for such a short time. It’s likely that the technology that made your smart phone possible will still be around long after your kids have grown up and left home and it’s no longer possible to create magical moments with them. So do that now.

Find five or ten minutes in your day to simply sit in God’s presence and be still and silent.

Trust me. It’s good for your soul.


10,000 Steps

I recently purchased a Fitbit Charge. It counts your steps and tells you how many miles you’ve walked, how many calories you’ve burned, and how many stairs you’ve walked up. It also acts as Caller ID for your phone. It even makes great waffles. Well, not really, but that would be cool.

The goal is 10,000 steps. When I reach that milestone, I get a pleasant little vibrating buzz on my wrist to notify me of my accomplishment.

I remember what a friend of mine said. He said that every day you take 10,000 steps that either lead you closer to or further away from your desired destination. Those steps will either bring you into more intimate fellowship with God or in a direction away from His plans and purposes for you.

If you wake up and look around one morning and wonder how you got so distant from God, remember those steps add up. Every little decision matters and every little compromise and slip eventually adds up.

The good news of the Gospel is that the journey back isn’t 10,000 steps. It’s about 18 inches, the distance from your head to your heart.

All it takes is to decide once and for all to follow God, no matter what. To put Him first, even above your own spouse and your own children. To obey no matter what backlash society gives you. To lay down your life a thousand different ways every day in dying to your own rights, your own preferences, and your own emotions. To strive to be more like Jesus.

Every step matters. Every second matters. Every choice matters.

Joshua told the Israelites to choose this day whom you will serve. That’s not a once-in-a-lifetime choice. That is an every day, every hour, every minute choice. At every moment, you must choose to serve or not to serve God. Every step is a decision for or against the Lordship of Jesus.

Who will you serve right now? Who will you follow?

It all starts with that first step.


People and Things That Make Me Really Tired

I used to get upset at a lot of things. Now when I’m confronted by these same things, I feel the overwhelming urge to lie down and take a nap.

Here’s a list of the people and things that make me really tired (note that this is 98% in jest and not to be taken too seriously):

  1. People who won’t speak to you or acknowledge you even when you’re literally sitting right next to them. Is it that hard?
  2. Every piece of electronic equipment that seems to slow down when you’re trying to get through the end of the day.
  3. People who are super impatient and hyper-aggressive drivers that will cut in front of fifteen cars to arrive at their destinations a whopping thirty seconds earlier.
  4. People who still think that spiritual problems have political answers, even after twenty plus years of evidence to the contrary.
  5. People who make lists about people who get on their nerves.
  6. People who are unkind and/or neglectful to animals or children (or other grown people). Kindness literally costs nothing and benefits you greatly, at least a lot more than jerkiness does.
  7. Being up since 5:25 am, which is totally unnatural, unbiblical, and unethical (in my opinion),

Quite honestly, I make my own self tired a lot. I catch myself doing and saying stupid stuff a la Joey Tribbiani. I catch myself thinking judgmentally toward others when  I would expect grace if I were in their shoes.

I think my guardian angel looks at me a lot and shakes his head and face-palms over me on a daily basis. I think I even drive him to drink alcoholic beverages (which is probably frowned upon in heaven).

I know that God looks at me and sees none of the royal mess-ups I make or my daily screw-ups but instead sees the perfection of His Son Jesus. He looks at me more completely and perfectly than anyone else (including me looking at myself in a mirror) and is pleased.

And that, my friends, is the only opinion that matters.

The end.


I’m Feeling a Bit Sheepish


Sheep are stupid. I know, I know. You look at a lamb and think, “Isn’t that the cutest and cuddliest thing ever?” But really sheep are helpless and defenseless without a shepherd. Yet Jesus calls His believers sheep, not to be insulting but to remind us of who we are.

Most of us (especially in this time) look at children and see innocence. We at times tend to idolize and adore children almost to the point of worship. But have you ever seen a sick child refuse to take the medicine that might make him well? Maybe you’ve been that child at some point. Or maybe you’ve seen a child engage in behavior that will lead to injury because he won’t listen to the parent that tells him not to do that.

Jesus calls attention to little children. True, He wants us to have the unwavering faith of a child, but He also wants us to see that we’re completely dependent on a loving Father who sometimes makes choices we don’t like but end up being way better for us in the end than what we would have chosen.

The point is that we’re all fallen creatures who live with the consequences of Adam and Eve’s bad choices (hey, they both messed up and are equally to blame). We’ve ALL sinned and ALL fallen short of the glory of God.

I think Jesus wants us to remember who we are. We’re frail, fallible human beings who need a Savior, even after we’re saved. We will never not need Jesus.

There’s a great book that I read a long time ago that really delves into Psalm 23 from a shepherd’s point of view. It’s by Philip Kellor and is called A Shepherd Looks at the 23rd Psalm. I highly recommend it.

So remember that you’re not perfect. You’re not the be-all, end-all. But also remember that you do bear the image of God, even in the midst of all your flaws and failures.

Bearded Brawny Men and Other Ridiculousness


Apparently, beards are in. I see guys wearing beards, growing beards, basically reveling in facial hair. I’m not so sure I’m a fan of it.

I don’t say that because my own facial hair is scanty. It takes me forever to grow anything close to resembling a beard, but I’m okay with that. I’m really not bitter about being beardless.

I just think it’s one thing to grow a beard and another to go for the Paul Bunyan look. I mean, what’s up with all the long scraggly beards? Is there a cult out there looking for another David Koresh?

I heard someone say that she was looking for bearded and burly in her men. I guess the blue ox and the red plaid shirt are optional. Hopefully the axe isn’t a requirement.

All that to say this. You be you. Don’t do something because everyone else is doing it. Don’t grow a beard because it’s suddenly fashionable. Life is way too short to live it for the sake of pleasing others.

If you really and truly want to grow a beard down to your knees, don’t listen to me. You go for it and you grow it. If you want to be clean-shaven, you do that.

I’ve been around long enough to know that these trends never stay very long. The more trendy you are today, the more likely it will be that your children will one day look at photos of you and laugh and say things like, “You actually went out in public dressed like that?”

So once again, you be you. Be yourself. In the words of one E. E. Cummings, “To be nobody but yourself in a world which is doing its best day and night to make you like everybody else means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight and never stop fighting.”

Don’t ever stop fighting to be you. Ever.

A Prayer for the Weak


Maybe this is your prayer tonight:

Lord, I feel like giving up tonght. It’s just not worth it anymore.

Whatever I’m desiring most seems always just out of my reach. Right now, it feels easier to quit holding on to that dream of mine.

I want to pray “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief” but I don’t even have enough faith for that. I’m bankrupt when it comes to believing.

I’ve just about quit believing that I’ll ever get married. Or have children. Or that the children I do have will ever turn out right. Or that anyone will hire me. Or that I’ll ever be able to work in a place where I come alive instead of counting the hours and minutes until the weekend.

I feel like I’m completely screwing everything up. I don’t feel like anything I do matters or makes the tiniest bit of difference.

I do know that You’re still God. I do know that my impossibles aren’t impossible to You. In fact, they’re not even difficult for You.

I know You are truer than my feelings and though You seem so far away, You’re nearer to me than my next breath.

I don’t know how any of this will work out, but I know You will take care of me. Even if You deny my dreams, it’s only because they weren’t big enough for You.

I declare all these things with a faith that’s barely a blip on the radar screen. A faith that’s as small as a mustard seed. But still I declare.

So here’s me offering all I know of me to all I know of You. Take me and use me in whatever way You want. Let me know You’re near and let me feel in this moment how much You love me.

I surrender.

For When You’re Feeling Anxious


It’s February. And unless you’re living in Hawaii with all those palm trees and beaches, it’s cold.

My feelings on cold weather go something like this: if it’s gonna be this cold, it might as well snow, or what’s the point?

Maybe you’re feeling more than just cold. Maybe you’re feeling anxious or stressed.

Perhaps you’re out of a job and wondering how that big stack of bills is going to get paid. Or where they money is going to come from to put gas in the car. Or food on the table.

Maybe you’re still single and wondering when (or even if) that special someone will ever come along.

Maybe you’re children don’t want to have anything to do with you anymore and you don’t know how to get through to them anymore.

Maybe it’s just a combination of a million little things all rolled up into one big case of anxiety.

Don’t you know that Jesus didn’t come to bring your peace?

He came to be your peace. He is after all the Prince of Peace.

That’s what all of us who are overwhelmed with worry and stress need to remember. Jesus may not take away all those things that cause anxiety, but He promises to walk with us through every trial, every tribulation, and every dark valley.

Jesus has already overcome whatever you’re afraid of. Nothing can touch you apart from God’s permission. And absolutely nothing can come between you and the love of your Abba Father.

Sometimes, you need medicine to make those anxieties go away. That doesn’t make you less spiritual. It just means your brain needs a little help to function normally.

I love the line from that movie, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel: Everything will be fine in the end. If it’s not fine, it’s not the end.