Me too

“Me too.”

I believe these are incredibly powerful words. These words connect us to other people. They build bridges, communicate love and support. These words demonstrate empathy and bring us together. When I think about it, the people I have to most “me too’s” with are the people I am closest to in this world. Our shared experiences, our commonalities, draw us together and hold us together. “Me too’s” are important.

When someone is struggling, the words “me too” help others to see that they are not alone. When we say it, we’re saying that we are with them, that we understand, that we care and can see why they’d feel the way they do. Even if we have never been in their situation, we can almost always try to put on their shoes and say, “Me too. I understand why you’d feel that way.” We may not ever be able to imagine HOW it feels, but we can seek to understand WHY they’d feel that way. Either way, “Me too.” is powerful. Sometimes (I’m thinking about grief in particular) we don’t even need to say “me too.” Our presence alone communicates it.

When someone is celebrating, a “me too” celebrates too. It strengthens our relationship. When I was a youth minister, it became more and more clear that one of the best things I could do for a student was to show up at a game they were playing or a concert where they were performing. Those experiences, “being with” them became “me too’s” between us and helped draw us closer to one another.

Romans 12:15 – “Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.”

My hope is that I can become more aware of the moments I have. I want to say “me too” more often. I also want to live in a way that creates more “me too’s.” Of course I can’t be at everything I’d like, but I plan to be more intentional about “being with” people. My prayer is that you guys can all join me and say, “Yeah, me too.”

Home and Hurricanes

Home is where my family gathers. We laugh. We play. We cry. Home is where we settle our lives and work through our difficulties. Home calls us away from strife and beckons us into its’ safety. It’s where we find true rest. It’s where we find peace. Home is where we’re fed and filled and find satisfaction. Home is where we are meant to be. I love home.

My house is not my home. As we evacuated our house and our town this week, these things became much more clear to me. I looked in the rearview mirror and watched all of our earthly possessions grow small and smaller, shrinking as we distanced ourselves from the path of the hurricane. It was very surreal. This week, I have struggled between the fear of losing everything and the knowledge that we already have all that we need in Jesus. We have our family and yet, my faith is intermingled with unbelief.

“Lord I believe. Help my unbelief.” – Mark 9:24

When we drove away, I made some decisions. I decided that I was willing to lose everything that we left behind. I “let go” of our house. I now understand, that I was able to make that decision with confidence because I knew that we would always have a home. Jesus is our home and He has promised to never leave us. He is with us even in the midst of the hurricane. Would I miss certain things? Of course. Mostly things with sentimental value…. Items that are “more” than they actually are. However, in the end, even those things fall short of what Jesus Himself can provide.

Read my first paragraph again:

Jesus is where my family gathers. We laugh. We play. We cry. Jesus is where we settle our lives and work through our difficulties. Jesus calls us away from strife and beckons us into His safety. He is where we find true rest. He is where we find peace. Jesus is where we’re fed and filled and find satisfaction. Jesus is where we are meant to be. I love Him. 

 


PS – We have returned from our evacuation and our house has remained dry. Everything has remained the same. However, I have not remained the same. I have been changed. As a community, we have much work to do. I plan to help my neighbors. I’m praying that together we will experience this true “home” as we work side by side. Pray for us.

 

Crash – Kesleigh’s Tree

While skiing during Spring Break, Kesleigh hit a tree with her head! She was flying down the slope and was out of control, but she was too scared to just lay down and fall. Instead she sped down the slope, crossed another run and ran straight into a tree. As a dad, I watched in horror  and screamed. My heart sunk as her head bounced off the tree. She was wearing a helmet, but I could see her little eyes close as she fell to the ground and then she didn’t move. I imagined the worst. Was she alive? Was she paralyzed? I was there in just a couple seconds, but those seconds were long, difficult, and frightening. She was conscious. She was crying and scared, but she was alive and appeared to be functioning in every way. I was relieved and thanked God as I grabbed her little body and held it close to mine. I just held her for a while. I was grateful for helmets. Hers had a dent about the size of a softball on it.

Someone came by on a snowmobile and asked if we needed Ski Patrol. I declined and said that I thought she was OK. I was right. She was OK physically, but emotionally, she was not OK. She didn’t want to ski again. She was done and I must admit that I understood why. She had experienced something that would have shaken anyone.

Together, with many tears, and at a very slow pace, we worked our way back down to the lift and then back to the house where we were staying. She opted out of skiing the rest of the day. I didn’t blame her.

The next day, she wanted to try again and so we went out with her cousins and everyone. She was a different skier. A slower skier. A more controlled skier. Unfortunately, at her new pace, she couldn’t keep up with the rest of the group. We had to let them go on without us and so she cried. Grandma stayed with me as I watched over Kesleigh. She didn’t enjoy herself that day. She was sad that everyone went on without her, but she was too scared to speed up. She cried that her legs hurt. She whined saying she couldn’t go any further. She laid on the slopes and refused to get up over and over again. I don’t think she smiled the whole time we were on the mountain together. Skiing was not fun for her anymore. As her dad, that broke my heart, but I must admit that I was not having any fun either. I was growing weary and impatient with her whining and complaining. Yes, I knew she came by it honestly, but I also knew her potential, and I didn’t want to let her settle for staying home and not skiing. She had already fallen in love with skiing and I didn’t want to allow her to deprive herself of all the fun she could have simply ’cause she was scared. Fear can do that, but I felt like this was a perfect time for a lesson in perseverance. (It would test my own as well.)

For the rest of the day, we struggled. She didn’t want to stop, but her pace, her whining and complaining and crying made me want to stop. Even grandma grew weary and tired of Kesleigh’s attitude. When we got home at the end of the day, my mom told me that she thought I should win the “Best Son” and “Best Daddy” award for staying back and watching over them on the slopes. I was shocked ’cause I didn’t feel like I had been a good dad at all. I was really feeling impatient and tired. I felt like I had been short with Kesleigh and maybe even pushed her too hard a few times. Mom thought I had been patient, but mom didn’t know the thoughts that I had been fighting all day.

Here’s what I realized. I can be really patient and I don’t mind going slow when there is effort being made. As long as we’re moving forward, I’m OK with slow and methodical. I struggle when there’s complaining and whining and excuses. At those times, I’m not patient at all. I just want to keep moving forward and none of those things helps the process so I grow weary and lose patience.

Here’s my plea: If you need someone to be patient, put forth some effort. Don’t whine, complain, or make excuses. Just keep working toward the goal.

I can be patient when there is effort. I think we all can.

PS – The 3rd day, Kasen chose join us to help his sister and she did much better. By the end of that day, Kesleigh was back to her normal pace, but wiser with controlling her speed. That’s my girl!!! Proud of my boy too for sacrificing some of his ski time to help his little sister.

Worst Dad

Kesleigh told me I was her “Worst Dad.” She went on to explain that her other dad was God. I guess that means I’m OK with being her “worst dad.” Maybe that should even be my goal? Keep propping up God and showing her how great He is so that I sort of fade into the background of her life. Wow….it’s hard to say that, but that’s truly what I want. I want her to be so in love with Him that I’m secondary. I want her to know that in Him, life goes on and she can find everything she needs with or without me.

Presence

The word “love” has been hijacked by our culture. It’s misused all the time. We “love” certain foods and as culture defines it, “love” changes with our emotions. This is why divorce is accepted and rampant. Even with all the talk about it and obsession with it, we don’t know what “love” is.

When Jesus left the earth, it was his “presence” that He expressed to us, not his love. I wonder, “Is presence the full expression of love? Jesus presence on the cross in our place – His presence in our sin.” The people who have the strongest marriages our our world are those who have been “present” with each other the longest. When my own marriage is at it’s best, it’s when we are fully “present” with each other. The closest relationships I have in this world are those people who I have been with the most – That includes both family and friends. Maybe “presence” is more important than love? (Probably not, but considering the way our culture has defined love, maybe this is a better way to think about it?)

I wonder what our world would be like if we started valuing “presence?” Would our marriages last longer? Would we put down our cell phones more and be with the ones we’re with?

In times of grief, Jewish people “sit shiva.” They just make themselves present with those who are mourning. They aren’t expected to say anything or do anything – simply “be” with each other. This is an example of valuing “presence.”

In his story “The Places Outside the Maps,” Doug McKelvey speaks of a man who has gone through many struggles and says of him, “It had never been answers he had sought in his sufferings, but presence, and that presence was here and was itself the thing that had always stood – from the foundations of the world and even before and even after – in the place that answers could not. Before the questions had been asked, the presence had already been given.”

I’m really just asking questions today. This idea was thought provoking for me.

What do you guys think?

Quiet – The Internet Can’t Do This

Quiet – The internet doesn’t do quiet. It’s good for a lot of things, but quiet is not one of them. The internet overflows with information. It is loud and noisy. It’s a million voices. It’s full of people. (Many who would never be so obnoxious in person.) This can be a great thing. Sometimes, we need sensory overload and we need to fill our brains. Only then, can we sort through it all and make sense of the world around us.

Unfortunately, we need quiet for that part to happen. We can’t live our lives fully online, ’cause the internet doesn’t do quiet. When we’re online, we don’t see the long, quiet, thoughtful moments where people wrestled with themselves or with God or with other people. No one communicates the deep unsure quiet space where they work through things…..where they pray or where they seek guidance, but we need these times to sort through all the noise and settle in on the quiet where we find the “still small voice.”

I studied under Mike Ayers in college and he used to say, “A leader needs time to sit and stare out the window.” We’ve all got to have time to stare and imagine what life “could” be like and maybe more importantly, how it “should” be. Staring out the window gives us a chance to imagine and create a way to get to these new places, how build something new, to develop a new strategy. It allows us space to dream. Maybe daydreaming should be a bit of a discipline? When we need to make big/important decisions we need space and margin. We need quiet. Internet can’t do this.

Confession: Quiet is what I need. Soccer games, and football practices, and dance classes, and church responsibilities, and work, and family, and lifegroup, and, and, and. It all just overwhelms me. My life seems like a lot of noise. Then I come home to the internet……and it’s just more noise, more information, more, more, more. The stress builds and just piles on. I feel like screaming. I just want it to stop. I need quiet. I need margin and space so I am working on it. As a family, we are taking January off from sports – no soccer games or practices. We didn’t sign up for basketball. We’re planning to go camping. I’m also refraining from tv and much of the internet – planning to read more and write (on this blog) – to contemplate and sit and “stare out the window.” Pray for me.

I’d also encourage you to do the same – take a break from the internet. Disconnect and I believe you’ll find real connections – deep connections which the internet cannot provide. Get quiet. Listen to God. He is so much better than the internet. He has real answers without the booming voice – without all the sensory overload and confusion. He is the “still small voice.” (1 Kings 19:12)

Handle It

daddys-hand-8x10“God won’t give me anything I can’t handle.” – Ugh! I hate it when I hear this statement. I don’t think Noah could have handled the flood without God’s intervention and instruction. Moses wouldn’t have gotten Israel out of Egypt without the plagues that God provided. The walls of Jericho didn’t fall ’cause Joshua could handle it. They fell ’cause God handled it and Joshua obeyed. Would David have said, “God won’t give me anything I can’t handle?” He cries out to God regularly in the Psalms. He understood that he couldn’t handle it. We can’t “handle it” either.

The phrase is not a horrible thing to say. It’s not that it’s completely wrong. It just strikes something in me strangely. When people say this, they are trying to say that they trust God. They recognize that He is in control. However, it also makes me think that they might be confused about something. I mean – Do they think they can handle the situation? Do they think that God knows how awesome they are and that He is trusting them to handle it? Do they think God is acting as some sort of self-esteem booster giving them a vote of confidence in their own strength? ‘Cause I think that’s what our culture hears when we say it. Listen to it again – “God won’t give me anything ‘I’ can’t handle.” – It sort of implies ’cause “I am strong.”

I think God allows us into all kinds of situations that we can’t handle on our own. Sometimes I even wonder if He puts us into situations that we can’t handle? The key is – we can’t handle them “on our own.” We need His intervention. We aren’t relying on our own strength. We rely on Him. He is the provider. He is our strength. Yes – we can handle it, but only when we’ve got Him. The phrase we use leaves Him out of it in some ways. It places the power to overcome in the hands of “I.”

You see, when people use this phrase, some believe they are quoting Scripture. 1 Corinthians 10:13 says,

“No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and He will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide a way of escape, that you will be able to endure it.”

This passage in context is talking about the temptation of idolatry – not every life situation that you find yourself in. Temptation, not circumstances. Yes – of course almost every circumstance can be reduced to some sort of idolatry so it sort of applies, but the critical part of the verse is not the part about our own “ability.” It’s the part about God’s provision and intervention on our behalf. We are to watch for His action – his “way of escape”, trusting that it will come, and then walk in faith into the “way of escape” that He provides. The power in this verse is in God’s hands, not our own. We are in need and He intervenes – providing a “way of escape.”

I’ve been through some things that I couldn’t handle. God allowed those things to happen to me. I couldn’t handle it when my dad died of leukemia. I couldn’t handle it when I lost my job and couldn’t provide for my family. I can’t even handle it when the lady in front of me at the grocery store has a bunch of coupons. The point is – I need God’s intervention. I need the “way of escape.” God gives me lots of things I can’t handle and I can choose to either let those things drive me closer to Him or drive a wedge between us. If I believe that the power to handle the situation is in my own hands, then I’m more likely to abandon God and go it alone. On the other hand, with a right understanding of this verse, I will look for His actions and be drawn closer to Him.

Friends, this is just sort of a pet peeve of mine. Instead of saying “God won’t give me anything I can’t handle,” please just say “God will help me through this one.” This way, my mind won’t launch into some ill-conceived idea that you don’t understand the Scriptures and that it’s my job to make you see it my way. I’m pathetic.

OK – My rant is over now. What do you guys think? Am I crazy? Am I reading too much into what people are saying or do you think there might be some misunderstanding as well? Are we communicating something unintentionally when we use this phrase?

Snitches

Photo May 28, 9 02 17 PMStudent: “Snitches get stitches and wind up in ditches Mr Corn….and I ain’t no snitch.” 

The phrase just hung in the air and the class was silent. What should I say? If no one in the class comes clean, then someone got away with it. This is the culture of my school, and I suspect it’s everywhere.

What I wanted to say is, “You say you’re not a snitch, but maybe you should be. What you’re saying to me is that you’re not brave enough to stand up and do is what is right. What you’re saying is that you are happy to let your friend go down a dangerous path. What you’re saying is that you think he’ll cover for you later if you cover for him now. This is not love for your friend. It’s selfishness on your part. Love would want what is ultimately the best for your friend and that includes consequences which will allow him to grow and learn from his poor choices. What you’re saying is that you don’t care enough about society and the world around you to do something about a wrong. You’re saying that you’re OK with a steady decline in the morals of our community. ‘Cause if you let him get away with it, and he lets you get away with it, eventually someone else is gonna get away with more and maybe even against you. If it continues, your children will grow up in a world where no one ever tells and everyone gets away with everything. Somehow I think, if you were the victim, you might not be saying “Snitches wind up in ditches.” You might find yourself saying, “Someone man up and do the right thing. We need justice here.” This no-snitch culture is ultimately hurting us. It’s a fast-food/I-want-it-now attitude that will plague our future. Yes, now we can get away with it, but as we do we are unconsciously telling others they can too. This creates a downward spiral of the moral fabric that guides everyone around us and will lead to our demise.

We need heroes. Heroes are courageous and self-sacrificing. They do the right thing even if it’s scary – even if it costs them something. Snitches can be heroes, and yes, maybe some of them wind up in ditches, but that doesn’t change their hero status. It only makes them bigger heroes who were willing to pay the price for what is right.

What? Pay the price? Be the hero in the ditch? It seems that our culture believes the bullies’ fear tactics have won the battle and convinced everyone that not saying anything is okay. Is there another way? I have had students who anonymously let me know what’s going on or speak without saying a word. Sometimes a look is all it takes. As a teacher, this helps me know what happened, but it doesn’t help me with addressing the situation ’cause there is no proof – sort of like inadmissible evidence. (Unless of course, the anonymous student is willing to give an official statement to an administrator while still remaining anonymous to the perpetrator.) Ultimately, I guess I’m back to heroes. We need heroes who are willing to do the right thing no matter what. 

OK – So now you know how I feel…….but what about “Tattling?” Is that the same thing? As a parent I teach my kids not to tattle every little detail ’cause I want them to learn how to “handle” some situations on their own. Part of learning how to navigate this world includes “figuring it out,” working with others, compromising, sacrificing, and sometimes it means learning how to just “deal with it.” Do I want them trying to punish the other one by hitting them? No! Of course not. But these are difficult things to navigate for a child’s mind. “How much does daddy want me to handle on my own? Where is the line?” If my child is being abused or has been with a friend who likes to play with daddy’s gun, I want him to tattle. I need him to be a snitch.

I saw a video this afternoon where someone explained to children that we never “tattle,” but it’s good to “report” something. They went on to describe reporting as an issue where someone is endangered or unsafe. This might be a helpful distinction but I haven’t had time to think through it too much. There are lots of big questions here. And what about the “lying snitches” that wrongfully accuse or implicate an innocent? So what do you guys think? I looked at over 700 images on google and couldn’t find anything speaking in a positive way about snitching. Am I way off in my thinking here? As a parent, am I creating a “no-snitch culture” by telling my kids not to tattle? Is this leading to the demoralization of our culture?

“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” ~ Edmund Burke

 

Lost

Kesleigh and DadSurrounded by strangers, my mind raced. . . .she’s not here? My heart sank. I went into denial. She has to be here. There’s nowhere else she can be. My heart sank deeper. No. It can’t be. No! No. No. No. My baby is missing. The tears started rolling down my face as I slammed my face into my hands.

My extended family (brother, sister, in-laws, nephews, nieces) was skiing in Angelfire, New Mexico and Kesleigh (6yrs old) was a brand new skier. We all started at the top of the mountain together and headed down a run we had done together multiple times that day. My son Kasen had a little spill and so I stopped to help him and allowed my daughter, Kesleigh to continue down the slope with our group. After getting Kasen settled, we raced toward the rest of our group and caught up with my brother about 1/3rd of the way down. He pointed Kesleigh out to me quite a ways down so I sped up and headed in her direction flying past lots of other skiers. I could see her with my sister as she turned a corner. When I made it to the turn, I saw my sister helping her son get up but didn’t see Kesleigh anywhere. She told me that she must have followed the others on down to the ski lift. There was only one ski lift at the bottom of that hill and she had been skiing with our group all morning long so I felt pretty good about meeting her at the bottom, but raced down to catch her anyway.

That’s when my mind started racing and my heart sank. She wasn’t there. Where could she have gone? What could have happened? Maybe it’s irrational, but I imagined some crazy abduction case or that maybe she had not made it down the mountain and was stuck hanging over the edge of some cliff. Why did I leave her? How could I have let her go on without me? Why? OK…….OK….Calm down. What should I do? OK – be smart. Alright. I asked my family to head up the lift looking for her and then to make another run down sweeping the area in search while I waited at the bottom in case she came down in the meantime. Waiting. . . . Oh, this can’t be. What kind of father are you? Is she alone? Please God. Keep her safe. Bring her back to us. Time moved so slowly. Please God. If I can’t be with her, please put someone else with her to help. My phone started ringing. My sister. She said they had seen Kesleigh from the lift and that she would come over the hill at any moment where would be able to see her. Thank you God. Thank you God. Thank you God. Oh. . . . there she is. As she approached, I could see her whole body quivering from her cry. She skied right into my arms and held her quivering dad who couldn’t control his own crying.

Evidently, she had crashed near my sister in between some trees where no one could see her. By God’s grace, and as an answer to prayer, another skier just “happened” to stop a few feet away from her and heard her crying. She helped Kesleigh out of the trees and got her back on her skis. After waiting a few minutes for someone to come looking for her, they decided that we must be waiting at the bottom. She told me that she knew she’d find some very worried parent at the lift. She was right. I couldn’t thank her enough and have prayed for God to bless she and her family many times since that day. She was an answer to prayer.

After the whole incident, Kesleigh and I talked about it and she forgave me for not being there. She also learned that God is watching over us and helping us even when no one else is. God never leaves us or forsakes us. Even when we are alone, we are NOT alone.

Thank God.

Lowering the Bar

I was inspired by a friend (Denice Lambert) who posted this on facebook:

J: What do you want these boys to wear?
Me: They already dressed themselves. They sort of match and their clothes don’t have any holes or stains.
J: So those are the standards now?
Me: Yep.

Lowering the bar might be the most Godly thing you can do. (as long as it’s the right bar/standard) Lowering one bar is sometimes essential in order to raise another.

One simple example: Our house doesn’t always have to be spotless. When visitors drop in, it’s highly unlikely that they will find an OCD dream. Most of the time, we have shoes piled in one corner of the room and there might be clothes folded on the couch or backpacks opened with school supplies falling out onto the floor. It’s “lived in.” When I come home from work, I could focus my attention on cleaning up the place, or I could go outside and play with my kids. Some of you may disagree, but my calculations say that time with my children is more important. By lowering the “clean house” bar, I can raise the bar for my relationships. (Let me also say, that this one with my personality is easy for me to lower. My beautiful bride, who is usually correct, would like for me to pick this bar up off the floor a bit more.)

By choosing a specific bar to lower, we can focus on those things which are more important. By lowering one bar we might also grant permission to others to do the same. Using my previous example….maybe my wife only feels like the house has to be clean because her other friends have raised this bar…because our culture has said this is the “norm.”

By continuing to follow our cultural standards to always raise the bar, we perpetuate the myth that we can have it ALL together. It’s simply not true. We can play this game and mask the fact that we are not perfect, but that doesn’t make us perfect. In reality this game, forces us to neglect some other area in our life – quite possibly an area which is ultimately more important. Also, by continuing to raise all the bars, we overload ourselves with unreal expectations. When we fail and these expectations aren’t met, we feel an unnecessary sense of guilt.

When I attended CBS (College of Biblical Studies) they used a system called “Contract Grading.” They set a standard of a specific grouping of assignments and explained that if the student did each assignment successfully, he would receive an “A.” A smaller subset of those assignments would receive a “B” and an even smaller set would receive a “C.” They did not put pressure on students to work for the “A” all the time, and even explained that they understood that each of us had a life outside of school. They said that it might even be “sinful” to get an “A” in the class if it took us away from something that might be more important. I LOVED this approach and was set free emotionally to put as much or as little into each class as I felt like God would want me to do. These teachers communicated a trust in our own judgement and yet still held us to a standard that would stretch each of us. They gave us the option to “lower the bar.”

What bars/standards consume your time and drain your energy? Are they getting in the way of more important bars? Is someone else’s high bar making you feel inadequate? If so, evaluate the bar, is it important or will you choose to keep it low and focus elsewhere?

Prayer:   LORD, Help me to see which bars I need to lower and which ones I should raise. Give me discernment. Lead me to a schedule that will allow me to focus on the standards which you think are important and whittle away those which are not. AMEN.