Falling is not Failing

Kesleigh BikeKesleigh and I went on a bike ride the other day. She’s 4 (almost 5) and is still a little wobbly on her “new bike.” (She got it for Christmas.) Our neighbor, Peyton (7yrs) joined us for the ride. We rode around the neighborhood a while but then I got a little bored and decided to take them off road. We found a little trail that led us to a ditch. (maybe 20ft deep) The sides were a little steep and I could see a little trepidation on both their faces when I suggested that we ride down and then back up the other side.

Kesleigh spoke first, “Daddy, you go first.” I did. I rode down the smooth part of the hill thinking they would follow me.

When I reached the other side and motioned for them to come on over, Peyton jumped off his bike and walked it down the hill. Kesleigh (I love this girl) just looked at him and jumped on her bike and started down the hill. She trusted me and the direction I had pointed her in.

No fear. Fully committed. I could see the concentration on her face. She wobbled a little, but made it to the bottom, hit a bump, and bounced off the bike and onto the ground. By the time she realized what had happened, she heard daddy’s cheers showering down from above. “You were awesome Kesleigh! Good job! That was cool!”

Her first words? “Daddy, I made it to the bottom.” No tears. Just a positive outlook.

She fell, but she didn’t fail. I was so proud to see her commitment and determination. She didn’t hesitate.  Fear didn’t have time to speak. She just went for it! She was all in! Her focus was perfect and even her attitude about falling was great. Daddy is proud!

That’s my girl!!!!

Prayer: Lord, thank you for Kesleigh. She’s a precious gift. Lord, help me to train her up so that she will grow in her understanding and love for You – so that she will give her life to You and serve you wholeheartedly. Lord, I also ask that You teach me to be like her – trusting the directions you point me in – not allowing fear to have a voice – having a great attitude about falling – being committed and focused – going for it and being all in when it comes to the things You’ve called me to. AMEN.

 

Christmas Hangover

I’m praying for a really long “hangover” this Christmas. Let me explain:

The Collins English Dictionary defines a hangover as “the delayed aftereffects of drinking too much alcohol…” A “Christmas Hangover” is what I’m calling that time after the annual family gathering/gift exchange when you experience the “aftereffects” of Christmas. Some of the typical symptoms of the Christmas Hangover include sleeping children (worn out from playing with new toys), a crash-&-burn-feeling when the post-meal sugar high subsides, and the soothing sound of an empty house after everyone leaves.

All of this got me thinking though. Are these the kinds of “Hangovers” we should experience after Christmas? If our celebration is truly centered on the birth of Jesus, then our “aftereffects” might be a little different. I want to experience a much longer hangover – one which is motivated by the proper response to the incarnation – one that reflects the fact that Emmanuel “God with Us” is here! The incarnation should be incarnated in my life as well. I want to be changed by my Christmas interactions with Jesus. And I want those changes to last throughout the year – forever. I want a long “Christmas Hangover.”

Prayer:
Lord, let me be “hungover” with an overflow of the love you gave to us at Christmas. Let me be “intoxicated” by peace and “under the influence” of Your Spirit. May the “aftereffects” of your incarnation be incarnated in my life as well. AMEN.


PS – I don’t drink and never want to experience a “hangover” as it is normally defined.

Small Prayers

Over the last couple of years, I’ve been praying for a job. I prayed that prayer for so long and with such desperation that I quit praying for smaller things. I was focused. I knew that God would provide, but as often as I was reminded of my situation, I prayed for it. And in the end, God proved Himself once again to be faithful as our provider.

However, now that my prayers aren’t as desperate, my prayer life has changed. I got out of the habit of praying for smaller things, cause I had one really big thing to pray about. It’s not that I didn’t believe God could do something about those smaller things, it’s just that I had different priorities. I wasn’t sweating the small stuff ’cause the BIG thing was overwhelming me.

As a result, I don’t find myself praying for the smaller things now either – I almost feel guilty doing so. I mean, I know other people in desperate situations too. How can I spend time praying for a better parking space or for there to be one more sausage biscuit in the fridge when I get up in the morning? When there are so many real issues, these things seem so trivial. But here’s what I’m discovering – well. . . discovering again: If I’m not praying for the little things, and I don’t have a BIG thing, then I’m simply not praying at all. And if I’m not praying at all, then I’m not growing closer to the LORD. Maybe these little prayers help me stay close to Him. Maybe they keep me grounded and remind me that He is ALWAYS present. He is Consistently Emmanuel – Always with me.

If I’m praying small prayers, ‘it’s cause I believe God is in control of everything and that He wants to be involved in the details of it all. I love when my kids ask me to help them put their shoes on or brush their teeth. Why wouldn’t God love to help us (His children) with our little things? Of course He would. He loves us. If He’s anything like me, not only does He enjoy helping, but He also feels honored to help. Maybe our asking Him to help us with the small things is another form of worship. If He is honored and glorified in it, then that sounds like worship to me.

Prayer: LORD, help me to prayer smaller prayers. I’m great at BIG desperate prayers, but need help when it comes to small things. You are always God – always sovereign – always concerned about Your kids. Teach me to come to You as a child and to honor You by praying crazy little prayers. AMEN.

Teaching Wood Shop

“Working on my carpentry skills – wanna be like the Master!”

The beginnings of my first wood shop projects since 8th grade in 1982.

I just became the “Industrial Technology” teacher at Clute Intermediate and I’m excited about the possibilities! As a former Social Studies teacher who has very little experience in wood shop, I never imagined myself in this sort of position. However, I love students and I love creative pursuits. This might very well be the perfect position for me once I get my feet on the ground a bit.

My woodworking experience includes:

– Jr High Woodshop Class
– cutting 100’s of designs for my mom as a Jr Higher (She painted and went to craft shows.)
– Built skate ramps in High School as well as later on as a Youth Minister
– Built speaker cabinets in High School
– Built an entertainment center which we still use in my house today.
– Built our current kitchen table as well as one for my first apartment many years ago.
– Built wheelchair ramps, decks, and handrails for UM ARMY and Faith in Action camps throughout the years.

Anyway, I’ve certainly got some things to learn, but this will be a fun experience combining my creative side and my love for students. As I work on my carpentry skills, I also know God will be carving away at my character. There will be times when it’s painful, but I also know He’ll be there every step of the way. I pray that with every stroke of the hammer and swipe of the blade, He’ll be molding me into a better man. Someone who can truly reach these students. Someone who can be an incredible tool in His hand.

Jesus was the Master. He was able to challenge people where they were (much like a simple block of wood) and mold them into something more. He also puts people together and shows them how to connect to make them strong structures. He is able to take our “knots” and make them beautiful.

This is my shop. Where I'll be teaching 7th & 8th graders every day.

Prayer: Lord, teach me to be a great teacher. Allow me to get to know my students so I can truly teach them. Keep us all safe as we use these dangerous machines and let all our creative juices flow steadily. Guide my students hands as they use the equipment and as they paint – give them steady hands. Let them have fun in my class and help us all learn to work together. Allow us all to feel good about our experiences and the projects we build. Let them gain some confidence in who they are and in what they are capable of accomplishing. Use our time together to make us all stronger and better people. Allow me to represent You to my students and other teachers in ways that are appropriate. AMEN.

Teaching = Walking on the Moon

I have been walking on the moon for the past 2 weeks. I lifted off from the comfortable ground of the church world and entered a new territory in the public school system. Oh yes, others have gone before me, but this is uncharted territory for me. I am treading new grounds, making tracks, exploring, and hopefully making a positive impact on the lifeforms I encounter. You may laugh, but yes, they are aliens. They dress differently, speak a different language, and look at me like I’m the strange one. It’s truly an honor to have been chosen to lead such an important mission – to develop new ways of thinking and explore uncharted territories.

I am a Rasco Rocket!

OK – enough with the allegory. I know some of you really want to know how my first few weeks of teaching have gone. Well. . . . I think it’s gone well. I’m still coming home with a smile on my face. I’ve still got a lot to learn, but I feel like I’m moving forward and learning new things every day. My students are great! They get a little out of hand sometimes, but I like them. I feel like I’m getting to know both the other teachers and my students. I’m well aware that I’m still in a “honeymoon” stage, but I feel like this is going to be a good fit for me.

Prayer: Lord, guide me. Give me patience with my students and give me experiences which will sharpen my skills and help me to become a great school teacher. Grant me favor with my students and with my team as well as the administration and other coworkers. Go before me and lead me. I truly want to honor You with this new role. I want to be a positive influence for all my students and will need Your help to do so. As I learn all these new skills, give me peace. When it seems overwhelming, intervene and help me to breathe again, to rest in You. AMEN.

Orange Name Tags

A Small Sampling of my Collection

No more orange nametags!!! I got a job!!! I’ll be working as a 6th grade Social Studies teacher at Grady Rasco Middle School beginning Jan 3rd, 2011! I’m excited about this opportunity for quite a few reasons but at least one of them is that I won’t ever have to wear the orange “substitute” name tags again. I got an official badge today from Brazosport ISD.

I have been unemployed and ineligible for “unemployment benefits” (as are all church employees) for 11 months. God has been our provider. We have been able to keep our house without skipping any payments and we haven’t incurred any credit card debt. God has surprised us many times throughout the year with His provision. (Check out this one: Our Wonderful Life) He has used family, friends, and even strangers to help us through this time and we are incredible grateful. We have also learned new habits – non-spending habits and have taken another look at our priorities. God has been good to us during this time and He has used it to draw us closer to Him, closer to each other, and to refine us as He has walked through this fire with us.

I’m excited about my new job. I’m excited to be able to spend my work days with students and to have the opportunity to influence and impact them. I’m also excited to be able to work with the teachers at Rasco. In all my days of substitute teaching, I have come to know many of them as friends and look forward to working together in a more official capacity. I’m also excited about what this means for our family: We can go to the doctor ’cause we’ll have health insurance. I’ll have a steady income. I’ve learned that God is the provider, but this will allow me to feel like I’m at least working with Him. This will also mean that I’ll be able to work on the same schedule as my wife and children.

Who knew?? I would never have guessed that just losing some orange name tags could mean so much.

Prayer – “Lord, although I’m happy to lose them, I also want to thank you for those orange name tags which played a role in how You provided for us during this time. Thank you for all that you taught us. Help us to continue to lean on You and trust You as our provider. Give us wisdom as we make decisions about how we will use these blessings which You have brought our way. Show us how to be good stewards of all that You have given us and please allow us to bless others as so many have done for us. AMEN.

Prayer is Christmas

Christmas is the celebration of the incarnation. Jesus became a man and came to dwell on the earth as Emmanuel – “God with us.” In his book, “A Praying Life” Paul E. Miller says,

“Prayer is a moment of incarnation – God with us.” ~ Paul E. Miller

So here’s the breakdown:

Christmas = Incarnation
Prayer = Incarnation
Prayer is Christmas.

I love this idea!! We can have a little bit of Christmas…Wait…No, ALL of God means ALL of Christmas…We can have Christmas every day of the year as we spend time with God in prayer!!

In the Master’s Name

“All this we ask in the Master’s name. AMEN.” is a phrase I heard over and over as a kid – every time my family would sit down to eat. Both my parents ended their prayers with this phrase each and every night. I’m not sure if it was passed down to them or if they created it themselves, but. . . Well, I’m glad they used it. There’s just something about the way it rolled off their lips. To this day, I listen for it when my mom prays.

I wonder if there will be phrases that will remind my kids of the faith that I carry and cling to?? What will those phrases be?? Will I pass along a legacy of prayer and faith like my parents did??

PS: I asked my mom where the phrase originated, and she isn’t sure either. We’ve heard my grandmother, (mom’s mom) use it too, so our best guess is that it came from her side of the family. I wonder how far back it goes? Did my great grandmother use that phrase too? (Mom keeps forgetting to ask my grandmother, so I’m going to post this without knowing where it originated.)

Lingering Love

I’ve been thinking about my dad quite a bit lately. I guess it makes sense. Father’s Day was this past month. The anniversary of my dad’s death was this month too. It’s been 13 years, but grief is weird. I feel like I’ve dealt with my dad’s death and life still goes on, but grief still gives me a kick here and there. Lately, it’s been a little more frequent. Probably ’cause I’m a father myself now. Anyway, grief shows up at the strangest times. Always unexpected.

Dad and Kasen

The other day, Kasen (2yrs) put on a sailor hat that my mother-in-law bought for him at Pearl Harbor. He was laughing and giggling and it was a ton of fun, but in one split second he looked at me with this sort of sideways grin – it was small, but still enough for me to recognize my dad in him. I teared up briefly, but didn’t let on how I was feeling until later when the kids were asleep in the car. I was telling Miranda about the experience and cried thinking about how I wish dad could have seen Kasen, and how I wish Kasen could have known his grandpa. Grief gave me a kick that day.

Dad in his boxing days.

I got another “grief kick” on Father’s Day. I had an interesting conversation with my father-in-law, Mike about my dad’s hard head. I was telling him about how my dad won his first boxing match which was televised. He won by technical knock out ’cause the other guy broke his hand on my dad’s jaw. That’s right. You heard (well read) correctly. My dad was tough. I could just picture him taunting the guy, “Come on. Just hit me.” And when he does, he breaks his hand. That’s a hard head.

There’s another story I heard about the first date he and my mom went on. He was taking her to the movies, but on the way, there was a guy stranded on the side of the road. Dad was trying to impress mom, so he stopped to offer his help. Well. . .he stopped to show her how good of a guy he was and the stranded guy was just gonna benefit from my dad’s flirtatious efforts. Anyway, the guy was drunk and broke a beer bottle over my dad’s head. When dad didn’t flinch or fight back and just stared back at him, the guy ran back and locked himself in his own car so dad couldn’t get him. That’s a hard head.

As I’ve thought about these things and told these stories over the past month or so, I’ve experienced grief. “Grief kicks” aren’t all bad though. They remind you of who you are, of where you’re from. They remind you of the things you treasure and help remind you to reorient your life to the things that matter. Grief is nothing more than a lingering love. I’m so grateful for my dad. Everything I am or will ever be is influenced by him. Truth is. . .Everything my kids will be is influenced by him too – they just don’t know it. They will never know their grandpa. (at least here on earth) But their grandpa is alive in them. And I am grateful.

Prayer: LORD, thank you for the grief you sent me recently. I’m reminded of the incredible love You gave to me through my dad. I remember the way he loved me, the way he played, the way he smiled sideways…I love him. I miss him. But I’m grateful for his influence in my life. For who I am. For who my children are. I’m grateful to You God for him. And I’m grateful to him for helping me see and know You God. LORD, let me be a great dad to my children. May they see You in the way that I live. And may they see You in spite of the way I live too. For I am weak and in need of You. LORD, thank you for letting us experience lingering love in grief.

According to Your Word

During a devotional time this morning, our Associate Pastor read 1 Kings 3:7-12 and something grabbed my attention that I’ve never noticed before. It was in verse 12. In the ESV it reads, “I now do according to your word.” The interesting thing is that in this portion of Scripture, God is speaking. God said to Solomon, “I now do according to your word.

What?!?!? We’re supposed to say that to God. He’s not supposed to follow us! He’s God right?? So why would He do “according to our word.” We’re just stupid, arrogant, prideful, selfish people. Of course you all know the answer. God is willing to say He’ll do “according to our word” when we have completely lined up with His will – when our desires are the same a His desires – when He has placed His words in our mouths – when our word is the same as His Word.

So here’s my question: Can God say to you, “I now do according to your word.”? Is your desire the same as His? Is your heart in line with His? If you could ask for anything in the world from God (like Solomon), would your request be a selfish one? or one that would honor God and be in line with His desires for the world?

Me? To be real honest, I’m not sure what my request would be. I believe that in moments like that God gives us strength to do the right things, but I also know that my first temptation would be to ask for a job and a way to support my family right now.

Prayer: Lord, I confess that I’m a selfish man – that I want things my way way too often. I confess that I’m fearful for the future of my family. I do trust You. But I’m also fearful. I know those things don’t really go together, but it’s truly where I am right now. There’s a real tension between my faith and my fear and the two of them are waging war within me. Lord, I’m weak and I know that in these moments, You are strong. So please Lord, take charge of this battle. My true desire is to be faithful, to honor You, to hold fast. My deep desire is to have my words, my desires, & my life in tune and in step with You – to put myself in a position where You can say, “I now do according to your word” to me. May it be so. AMEN.