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.

 

Waiting

“Young women . . ., I charge you: do not stir up or awaken love until the appropriate time” (Song of Solomon 8:4, Holman Christian Standard Bible).

In my quest to read through the Bible in a year, I recently went though Song of Solomon. I noticed several places where the verse said to not awaken love until the appropriate time.

I have some observations about relationships (from the serial non-dater, so take it for what it’s worth):

Too many are in too much of a hurry to get into a relationship that they’re not considering whether the person they are pursuing may or may not be who God has for them, or even if the person is compatible in terms of sharing faith and life goals.

Too many are so wrapped up in planning every detail of the perfect wedding, yet they have failed to even begin to plan for a godly marriage. No one remembers the beautiful wedding if the marriage tanks. No one.

Too many are staying in relationships because they’ve already invested so much time and effort. As I read recently, don’t cling to a mistake because you spent a lot of time making it.

As much as it sucks to be alone, it’s much worse to be in a bad relationship where you and the other have nothing in common and are pulling in two different directions. To be with someone who mocks and belittles your dreams and only offers you negativity is way worse than being by yourself.

Learn to be alone without being lonely. If you can’t really ever be alone, then you’re not ready to be with someone else. If you’re not comfortable and complete in who God made you to be, then there’s no one who’s going to fix you and make you whole.

Take this with a grain of salt. Or a huge bucketful of salt. But whatever you do, make sure that if you enter into any kind of relationship, pray over it and make certain in your heart it’s what God wants for you instead of asking God to bless what you’ve already decided.

 

Thanks, Uncle Mike: The Sequel

I heard out of your own mouth tonight that you are stepping down from Kairos soon. I’d heard it from other people recently, but even so, I couldn’t quite believe it even when you were the one saying the words.

I thought I’d say a few words to you, since I most likely won’t get to say them to you in person.

Thank you for being faithfully devoted to the Kairos ministry and to all of us who have attended over the years. We see how biblically wise you are. We also see how honest and vulnerable you are at times, making us feel like it’s okay to struggle and have doubts, even if you’re a senior pastor of a megachurch with several campuses.

I for one am a better person because of you and Kairos. I like myself a lot better than when I first started attending Kairos way back in 2006. I understand more of my Abba Father’s love for me and am learning how to define myself by that love and the voice that calls me His Beloved.

I learned how to take a few minutes in the middle of my hectic day and be still and have a moment or two of prayer. I learned that confession is not beating yourself up, but admitting that I acted out of fear instead of faith, of owning my sin and calling it for what it really is. I learned that I-40 West will take me to Memphis every time (even if I’m only going to Jackson). I learned that Oreos are your kryptonite and that a mostly clean glass of milk is still dirty.

I and many others saw how much you loved your parents, your wife, and your sons. That more than anything has probably helped strengthen many of our marriages and families.

I can’t imagine Kairos without you. I keep saying how much I like change and I’m always ready for it, but when it actually happens, I find I’m not so fond of it. Sometimes, I wish I some things could stay the same.

But I think I’m ready for what God has next for Kairos. I’m excited for you and what God has in store for you next. Plus, I’ll always think of you whenever I pick up a Henri Nouwen book.

Anyway, thanks for allowing God to use you in helping me become more like Jesus. I and the rest of those you’ve touched through Kairos will never be able to repay how much you’ve blessed us all.

 

2,000 Posts Later

“Though my plans disintegrate and my aspirations die, though my dreams shatter and my goals are thwarted, even if no woman is ever romantically interested in me and all my friends leave me, though I never have another visible reminder of God’s presence of of spiritual comfort, if all I have in life is God and only God, I will lift up my hands up to Heaven and proclaim that my Yahweh is good to me. My Yahweh is AWESOME!!!”

I posted this a few years back. Actually, this pre-dates my WordPress blogs and probably goes back to at least 2010.

The point is not that I wish any of these things I mentioned would happen or that I fear they will happen.

The point of what I wrote is that even in the very worst case scenarios, God will still be good and I will still be blessed and I will still lack for nothing.

God is enough.

That is the cliffs notes version.

If you only get one thing from tonight’s post, let it be that God is enough.

Make that your mantra.

If you pin your hopes and dreams on anything else, ultimately whatever it is won’t satisfy you. Nothing else has the capacity to do so. Not your marriage, not your kids, not your career, not money, not anything. Only God can truly be enough.

If you have everything you ever dreamed of and don’t have God, you really don’t have anything. If you end up with absolutely nothing but God, you still have everything you need.

So, here’s hoping for at least 2,000 more blogs and enough creativity to fill those posts so that they will continue to be both fun to write and fun to read.

Maybe I can get Lucy the Wonder Cat to be a guest blogger one of these days. You never know, right?

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.

 

 

 

A Good Psalm

I’m sure now I’ll see God’s goodness
    in the exuberant earth.
Stay with God!
    Take heart. Don’t quit.
I’ll say it again:
    Stay with God” (Psalm 27:13-14).

Don’t quit. Stay with God. Take heart.

Those are good words that we’ve all needed at certain times and seasons.

Maybe you were stuck in an endless cycle of job applications and interviews and were beginning to feel like you were unemployable.

Maybe you were in a rocky patch of your marriage and you were beginning to wonder if it was even worth it to stick it out.

Maybe you were wondering if you’d ever find someone who’d think you were worth pursuing (or maybe being pursued by you).

Maybe you’re still there. Maybe you feel like you’ll always be there, seeing your dreams at a distance, always just out of reach.

Stay with God. Take heart. Don’t quit.

Don’t give up on God and especially don’t give up on the you that you’re becoming through this whole process. Don’t give up on the process itself and how it will ultimately be worth it in the end. More than worth it.

One thing I’ve learned and one thing I know is that God is faithful. Always.

 

Listening with Soft Eyes

I heard someone use an intriguing expression today in a conversation. She talked about empathetic listening and used the expression “listen with soft eyes.”

If you take it literally, it sounds kind of stupid. Of course, people listen with their ears, not their eyes. But when you take into account that 90% of communication is nonverbal, it starts to make more sense.

Most of us (me emphatically included) tend to listen not to hear but to respond. All the while the other is speaking, we’re coming up with the perfect retort to win the argument or the perfect solution to fix the other’s problem.

To me, listening with soft eyes means listening with compassion. It means I don’t try to fix the way you feel– even if it seems irrational and counterproductive to me. It’s me saying, “I know what you’re going through is hard and I know you must feel scared or tired or frustrated. I’ve felt like that lots of times before.”

Real listening is an art form that takes practice. Especially if you have a flighty attention span like me. You have to train yourself to listen not to just words being spoken but to facial expressions, tone of voice, body language, etc.

I confess that while I like to think I’m a good listener, many times I am anything but. I can get distracted and lose the train of the conversation and walk away without any clue about what the other person was saying.

I think a lot of us do that. It’s happened to a lot of us. And it’s frustrating when you know you’re not being heard. Truly heard.

So one of my Second Half of 2015 Resolutions is to work on listening better. Being a better friend, husband, wife, lover, father, mother, son, daughter, or anything else starts by being a better listener.

So, I’m learning to listen with soft eyes.

 

Absolutely Positively Definitely Maybe

Definitely-Maybe-2008-movie-quote

“That’s why I don’t think there’s any comparison between the present hard times and the coming good times. The created world itself can hardly wait for what’s coming next. Everything in creation is being more or less held back. God reins it in until both creation and all the creatures are ready and can be released at the same moment into the glorious times ahead. Meanwhile, the joyful anticipation deepens” (Romans 8:18-21, The Message).

Such a great moment in the movie. I’ve actually owned Definitely, Maybe for a while and just now got around to watching it (one of the few perks of being without a job).

I love that line because it reminds me so much of God and the Story He is writing. And I do so love stories, especially when they’re well-told and have happy endings.

I know that ultimately God’s Story is about God, as it should be, but one of the very happy side effects is you and me finding redemption and freedom and abundant life. Because of God’s Story, you and I have a Story that we get to share. Because of God’s Story, we know that our Story will always have a happy ending because God has written it already. I read the last page of the book and I know that it’s good.

It’s hard to remember that when the Story seems headed for tragedy or when the current chapter seems like it will never end and circumstances will never change or get better. It’s hard to see that happy ending when you’re wondering how you’ll pay the bills or make your struggling marriage work or find that job that makes you come alive.

As I’ve learned in reading books, you don’t put down the book when the characters run into hard times. You keep going with the hope that those struggles will lead to something better. As Corrie Ten Boom says, you don’t jump off the train when it goes through a dark tunnel. You trust the Engineer to get you through.

I don’t want to be that guy who says things like, “Hold on, it will get better” or “The darkest hour is just before the dawn.” When you’re feeling overwhelmed with anxiety or discouragement, bumper sticker quotes don’t really do the trick.

You need to know that God is still faithful to His promises. You need to know that the same Jesus who conquered death and the grave can conquer your circumstances. You need to know that He will finish what He started in you because He said He would.

That’s a happy ending.

 

Another Letter to Myself

Last year at Kairos, Mike Glenn instructed us to take pen to paper and write ourselves a letter, to be place in a self-addressed envelope and mailed back, to us at some point in the future. The point was that you could see where you were back then and where you are now and how far you’ve come.

Mine came back today. Here’s what I wrote way back in 2014:

“Dear Me,

You probably feel like your life is headed toward a dead end. You feel like everything will always be as it is right now. You feel like you’ll never move out on your own or go on a date, much less ever get married. You feel like you’ll always be behind, trying to catch up.

Remember, God can take anything in your life and turn it to good. What seems impossible to you right now isn’t even remotely difficult for God. One day, you will look back and see God was preparing you for a future only He could see. Remember that you kept putting one foot in front of the other, trusting that God knew what He was doing when you didn’t.

God is good. His promises are always true, in sunshine and rain, joy and pain, good and bad, in daytime and nighttime, as long as forever lasts.

Don’t let your past define you. Don’t let failure define you. Don’t let other people (or even you) define you. Let the Abba Father who calls you His Beloved be the one who defines you both now and forevermore.

A slightly wiser version of you”