Our Wonderful Life

Sometimes saying, “I’ll pray for you.” just isn’t enough. Galatians 6:2 says, “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” Our friends have lived out this passage and I want to tell you about it:

We had an incredible experience last night!! A bunch of friends (both old and new) surprised us and showed up at our door Christmas caroling. It was Nov 20th. We gathered the family to hear them and when they finished singing, they explained that they knew our year had been tough (with my unemployment) and wanted to come “be the church” to us. They handed Miranda a gift bag and then (like the movie) one by one filed by and dropped $$$/gifts in. We were all in tears. In addition, we received tons of cards and beautifully written notes from people who were unable to come as well as financial gifts both large and small. Some of the small ones are incredibly touching too – from students and people who really don’t have much to give.

Their presence, encouragement, love, and gifts could not have come at a better time. Although God has carried us through this past year, we have had discussions lately about how we’d make it through the next few months. We’re learning to trust Him more and these incredible friends were the faces of God’s provision for us last night. I can’t describe how much of a blessing they really are. My friend Josh said that God could have just given us the $$, but instead, out of His goodness, He decided to bring His people together so we’d receive both $$ and encouragement. God knew what we needed. He is an incredible provider!! He is good!! And we are blessed!!! It’s truly a Wonderful Life!!! I am grateful, humbled, honored, and probably most importantly: I know the LORD and His character better because my friends and family have represented Him so well to us.

I’d also like to say a great big “THANK YOU!!” to everyone who played a role:

Those who came.
Those who sent messages or $$ or both.
Those who organized and planned.
Those who were sneaky and lied to us so it’d all work out.
Those who got the word out.
Those who drove such long distances to be with us.
Those who prayed.
Those who cooked.

We are especially grateful to God for bringing these people into our lives, for providing us with $$ and encouragement, and for motivating them to “be the church” to us.

Here are the videos and pics:

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.

Palm Sunday

 

Palm Sunday is the day that we celebrate Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem the week prior to His crucifixion and resurrection. Anyway, here’s what I learned about the culture of this whole:

During Jesus’ day, Pilate ruled over Jerusalem as a Roman governor. Pilate’s superior would have been Caesar.

Caesar believed that he literally had come from heaven to earth and that he was the son of God incarnate on earth. He wanted to show people his power by spreading propaganda. Some of the sayings of his day were: “Caesar is Lord! There is no other name under heaven by which people can be saved than that of Caesar.” He also had a 12-day celebration of his birth called the “Advent of Caesar.” You could even give him offerings so that your sins could be forgiven. He was “King of Kings and Lord of Lords.” Caesar also minted coins with his face to help spread his name. When Rome conquered Jerusalem he also required a tribute in the form of a tax from that country. This is a huge deal to the Jews ’cause Caesar was claiming to be god. If they paid the tax, then they would be breaking thefirst two commandments – no other gods before me, and you shall have no graven image. (coin itself was an image) When the religious leaders try to trap Jesus with this issue he asks them for a coin – this means that Jesus didn’t have one (He wasn’t carrying a graven image) When the religious leaders pull one out, they have already broken the second commandment. Jesus is so cool!!!

During Jesus’ day, there were a few times a year that all Jewish people were supposed to go to Jerusalem to celebrate specific holidays together. The Romans were in charge and ruled over Jerusalem, but during these celebrations, the Jews would certainly have outnumbered the Romans who were present in the city. Pilate (the Roman governor) would probably have felt pretty weary about these festivals. I mean, there was always a big mess to clean up, fights to break up, and simply more people to govern and take care of during these times. It would have been a stressful time in government and there was also the ever-present threat that if the Jews decided to all get together, they might be able to overtake him. Pilate lived in a mansion in Caesarea, but during these festivals and specifically this week (Festival of Unleavened Bread or Passover – this festival celebrated that God heard their cry during a time when they were oppressed by a foreign government.) Anyway, Pilate would march into Jerusalem to keep things in order during these festivals. His procession was designed to be authoritative and show his power. It was designed to scare the people so that they would never even dream of uprising against Rome. The procession began with the Roman emblem which was an eagle.

Sidenote: A teacher of the law, says Jesus I’ll follow you wherever you go, and Jesus responds “Foxes have holes and birds have nests, but the son of man has no place to lay his head.” (Matthew 8:20) He was speaking about Rome as the “bird” and the word “fox” referred to the Herods who were corrupt kings who lived in palaces but didn’t care about the people. Jesus’ answer spoke saying “These other movements are about power, mine is different – I don’t even have a place to sleep.”

Behind the the eagle in the procession would have been the Roman soldiers carrying etchings of the Caesars with all kinds of things reminding the people of all the power they had and all the battles they had won. The etchings were all about power, strength, and domination. They also marched with metal shields which made sounds which would have brought about fear and terror to the people watching. Pilate would have entered next on a horse – a huge stallion – again a symbol of power, strength, and military conquests.

PILATE ENTERED JERUSALEM ON A HORSE FROM THE WEST!


Luke 19 describes another event which happened the same week. Jesus went to Jerusalem and from the Mount of Olives (east of Jerusalem) he sent some people ahead of him to get a donkey. As you look west from the Mount of Olives you can see Jerusalem just past the Kiddron Valley. They brought the donkey to him and people spread their cloaks on the road as He went past them. “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord!” This word “King” might not have been a good one to use in light of Pilate who had just come in himself. Some of the Pharisees ask Jesus to rebuke the disciples and to kind of “keep it down.” Jesus responds, “If they keep quiet, the stones will cry out!” Now, there were a bunch of stones/graves on the Mount of Olives, because the Jewish belief was that the Messiah would raise from the dead all the good Jews who had died. From there they believed He would lead them all into Jerusalem where there would be peace and prosperity. Therefore, they all wanted to be buried near Jerusalem. So anyway, the Pharisees told them to be quiet, but Jesus says basically, “I’m the Messiah who will raise these people from the dead!” The Pharisees lightbulbs came on ’cause they certainly knew what Jesus was talking about.

Jesus doesn’t walk into the city, but rides a donkey. (Matthew 21) Zechariah had said years ago that the King would come “gentle and riding on a donkey.” Jesus used the donkey to say, “Hey, I’m the guy you’ve been waiting for.” Now the way Matthew quoted this verse is called a “remez” – where Jews would quote the first part of a verse knowing that the other Jews would know the 2nd part of the verse. (Remember, they all had to memorize the Old Testament)

Here’s the whole verse: Zechariah 9:9-10 “See your King comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt the foal of a donkey.(That’s the part Matthew quoted – next is the part the Jews would have known.) I will take away the chariots from Ephraim (Jews) and the war-horses from Jerusalem and the battle bow will be broken. He will proclaim peace to the nations.” Now check this out: Pilate came from the west proclaiming his war abilities, Jesus comes from the east and takes the peoples weapons away so he can proclaim peace. Jesus’ kingdom is totally different than the kingdom of Rome. His kingdom is about peace, not war. His parade is humble rather than proud.

JESUS ENTERED JERUSALEM FROM THE EAST ON A DONKEY!

Why did Jesus weep as He entered the city? In the year 70AD the Jews decided to do it all Pilates way and they took up arms against Rome – they got destroyed! The temple was also destroyed. Jesus knew that Jerusalem would fail to do things His way, even though they were quick to follow Him now. In the city of Rome today stands the “Titus Arch” in remembrance of the destruction of Jerusalem. Can you hear Jesus? “You guys don’t realize it, but you’re gonna end up falling into the trap of war too.”


OK – here’s the point for you and I: THERE ARE TWO WAYS TO ENTER A CITY – the way of Pilate or the way of Jesus. There are two ways to enter a conversation. There are two ways to treat your family. There are two ways to deal with conflict in a relationship. There are two ways to deal with pain. There are two ways to treat your friends. Which will it be for you? Horses or donkeys? From the West or from the East? The way of Pilate or the way of Jesus?

ME? I HOPE I CAN CHOOSE THE DONKEY.

Jesus’ Sponge

I don’t know the historical accuracy of this and the bible doesn’t specifically say, but if this is the truth of the Scriptures, then Jesus’ love for us is even more magnificent than I ever imagined. My friend Jeff Medders showed this to me. Thanks Jeff. The pastor sharing the message is Mark Driscoll from Mars Hill Church in Seattle.

Added the next day:

OK – My friend Hans knows a guy who lived and taught in Israel for 10 years. In response to this video, he said that there have been no public latrines found in Israel and also made the point that Jesus was crucified outside the city. If there were public restrooms, they were probably not anywhere near Golgotha. He also did some digging and found that Driscoll’s source was a tour guide. Driscoll says, “I believe he was a professor of archaeology.” This is dangerous ground for making such claims. I’m very disappointed in Mark Driscoll. He has always been pretty strong at checking his sources. PS – Hans’ friend said he’d post a response on his website/blog sometime later this morning.

OK – here’s my 3rd (and hopefully final) addition to this post. It seems now that Hans’ friend is saying that the burden of proof falls on him and that there isn’t really enough evidence to say that Driscoll’s story is false. There have been no public toilets discovered in Israel, however, that doesn’t mean they didn’t exist. It seems highly unlikely that they would have been near Golgotha, but the Roman soldiers who crucified many people there, may very well have had the same kind of toilets that they were accustomed to. He also describes an article called “The Puzzling Channels in Ancient Latrines” in the Sept/Oct 2002 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review in which Hershel Shanks suggests that the channels in latrines were used for the cleansing of sponges.  He quotes Seneca’s Moral Epistles which refers to a “stick of wood, tipped with a sponge which was devoted to the vilest uses.” I guess all this is to say, “Hey, maybe it’s possible after all.”

True Fear

KasenMiranda asked a simple question. “Where is Kasen?” I didn’t know. We had been home for a few hours from our vacation and were relaxing on the floor of the living room. Kasen had been right there with us just minutes before. We yelled for him. . . No answer or any noises from other parts of the house. We got up and started looking. There are only a couple of places he could be – the living room, the kitchen, his room, our room. (He can’t open doors yet and we keep the rest of them closed.) In a matter of seconds we had searched the whole house – panic was quick to follow. Miranda and I both were yelling his name. I checked behind the closed doors. And then the closets. Fear escalated. I remembered a story of a friend who had climbed in a trunk (Caylin Brashear) and I checked our trunk – then Kasen’s toybox. Miranda was screaming with a voice I had never heard. Shrieks. Her breathing had an unnerving “ohhh. . .” sound. She met me in the hall and screamed, “the pool.” Kasen loves the “poo” – maybe he could be there?.?. but logically, he couldn’t get the back door open. Could someone have come in the house and taken him? Could he have somehow gotten a door open? My mind raced. I was desperate. . .I ran outside slamming my face into the patio door. No. . .he wasn’t in the pool. . . Heart racing, I ran back inside.

Miranda was holding him and yelling to me that she found him. Evidently, he had been laying in his bed the whole time with his covers over his head. We had each been in his room multiple time during those moments. He likes to take Kesleigh’s binky and then run and hide getting his little oral fix ’cause he knows he’s not allowed to have one. Evidently, that’s what he had done and probably fallen asleep. Or maybe he didn’t answer our calls ’cause he was hiding.

Either way, it couldn’t have been more than 3 minutes total. But it was enough. Enough to realize how quickly things can go downhill. Enough to realize how great our love for our children is and how quickly it can turn into fear. This kind of experience changes a man.

As I look back on it I wonder, “Where was my faith during these moments? What happened to trusting in the Lord? Why did I panic so quickly?” I am a weak man. Sinful. Even at my best, I am still very frail. I need God.

Prayer: Lord, take care of my children. You have given them to me for a few years and I truly want to be a good steward. I want to be a great father and a good example. I want to protect them. I want to represent You to them. All of these things are noble thoughts, but the bottom line is that I can’t do any of these things near as well as You. Lord, cover them with Yourself. Protect them when I fail them. Hold them close and keep them safe. Lord, in the same moment that I pray for their protection, I also pray that You will ultimately use them in mighty ways. May they be arrows (Psalm 127) that break into enemy territory taking ground for Your kingdom. May they understand You and the strength they have in You so well that they are willing to follow You into situations that may even seem dangerous to others. May they be in Your hands at all times, with or without me, in every situation – that’s the safest place to be. AMEN.

Hosea & Gomer

hoseaRead Hosea 1:1-3:5 – The Message

As you read notice that I have inserted a few of my own comments (in blue). I’m hoping that they will help you to understand what you’re reading a bit more.

Hosea 1

1 This is God’s Message to Hosea son of Beeri. It came to him during the royal reigns of Judah’s kings Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah. This was also the time that Jeroboam son of Joash was king over Israel. This Whole Country Has Become a Whorehouse

2 The first time God spoke to Hosea he said:

“Find a whore and marry her.
Make this whore the mother of your children.
And here’s why: This whole country
has become a whorehouse, unfaithful to me, God.”

What?? God wants Hosea to marry a prostitute? Yep – you read that right. Hosea is a godly man. He is a prophet. Why would God want him to marry a prostitute? . . . Well, here’s the deal – God wants to show Israel (His chosen people) how much he loves them. God loves them even though they are chasing after false gods and doing things that don’t honor him. Israel is acting like a prostitute. God is gonna use Hosea as an example – He’s asking Hosea to love someone who doesn’t love him back. Kinda like the way God loves us.

3 Hosea did it. He picked Gomer daughter of Diblaim. She got pregnant and gave him a son.

4-5 Then God told him:

“Name him Jezreel. It won’t be long now before
I’ll make the people of Israel pay for the massacre at Jezreel.
I’m calling it quits on the kingdom of Israel.
Payday is coming! I’m going to chop Israel’s bows and arrows
into kindling in the valley of Jezreel.”

6-7 Gomer got pregnant again. This time she had a daughter. God told Hosea:

“Name this one No-Mercy. I’m fed up with Israel.
I’ve run out of mercy. There’s no more forgiveness.
Judah’s another story. I’ll continue having mercy on them.
I’ll save them. It will be their God who saves them,
Not their armaments and armies,
not their horsepower and manpower.”

8-9 After Gomer had weaned No-Mercy, she got pregnant yet again and had a son. God said:

“Name him Nobody. You’ve become nobodies to me,
and I, God, am a nobody to you.

OK –  So now Hosea is married to a prostitute and he has 3 kids. Here are their names:

Jezreel (which recalls a sad event in Israel’s history)

Lo-Ruhamah (which means “not loved”)

Lo-Ammi (which means “not my people” – some scholars believe that this was not Hosea’s son but one whose had been fathered by one of Gomer’s customers.)

Whoa – talk about a dysfunctional family!!!

10“But down the road the population of Israel is going to explode past counting, like sand on the ocean beaches. In the very place where they were once named Nobody, they will be named God’s Somebody. 11Everybody in Judah and everybody in Israel will be assembled as one people. They’ll choose a single leader. There’ll be no stopping them—a great day in Jezreel!”

Hosea 2

1In that day you will call your brothers Ammi—‘My people.’ And you will call your sisters Ruhamah—‘The ones I love.’ (NLT)

So now it sounds like theirs is gonna be a time when things are gonna be better. Maybe God is hinting that there is gonna be a happy ending to this whole thing.

Now – the next section lists God’s charges against Israel and Hosea’s charges against Gomer (his prostitute wife) I’ll warn you it gets pretty graphic.

2-13 “Haul your mother into court. Accuse her!
She’s no longer my wife.
I’m no longer her husband.
Tell her to quit dressing like a whore,
displaying her breasts for sale.
3If she refuses, I’ll rip off her clothes
and expose her, naked as a newborn.
I’ll turn her skin into dried-out leather,
her body into a badlands landscape,
a rack of bones in the desert.
4I’ll have nothing to do with her children,
born one and all in a whorehouse.
5Face it: Your mother’s been a whore,
bringing bastard children into the world.
She said, ‘I’m off to see my lovers!
They’ll wine and dine me,
Dress and caress me,
perfume and adorn me!’
6But I’ll fix her: I’ll dump her in a field of thistles,
then lose her in a dead-end alley.
7She’ll go on the hunt for her lovers
but not bring down a single one.
She’ll look high and low
but won’t find a one. Then she’ll say,
‘I’m going back to my husband, the one I started out with.
That was a better life by far than this one.’
8She didn’t know that it was I all along
who wined and dined and adorned her,
That I was the one who dressed her up
in the big-city fashions and jewelry
that she wasted on wild Baal-orgies.
9I’m about to bring her up short: No more wining and dining!
Silk lingerie and gowns are a thing of the past.
10I’ll expose her genitals to the public.
All her fly-by-night lovers will be helpless to help her.
11Party time is over. I’m calling a halt to the whole business,
her wild weekends and unholy holidays.
12I’ll wreck her sumptuous gardens and ornamental fountains,
of which she bragged, ‘Whoring paid for all this!’
They will soon be dumping grounds for garbage,
feeding grounds for stray dogs and cats.
13I’ll make her pay for her indulgence in promiscuous religion—
all that sensuous Baal worship
And all the promiscuous sex that went with it,
stalking her lovers, dressed to kill,
And not a thought for me.”
God’s Message!

She did all this stuff and never even thought about her husband. Remember: Israel was doing this stuff to God too. Have you ever gotten so caught up in what you were doing that you didn’t even think about God? Have you ever decided to do something that you knew you shouldn’t do and ignored God?

Now go back and read verse 8 again. Notice that even when we’re misbehaving, it’s God who is allowing it. Even in our sin, God loves us. (Check Romans 5:8)

This next section describes how much Hosea loves Gomer in spite of how bad she has treated him. (God loves his people in the same way.)

To Start All Over Again

14“And now, here’s what I’m going to do:
I’m going to start all over again.
I’m taking her back out into the wilderness
where we had our first date, and I’ll court her.
15I’ll give her bouquets of roses.
I’ll turn Heartbreak Valley into Acres of Hope.
She’ll respond like she did as a young girl,
those days when she was fresh out of Egypt.

Wow!! The day will come when he’s gonna take her back to where they first dated and remind her of how good he has been to her. He will remind her of the life they had together before she ran off and got into the whole mess.

16 When that day comes,” says the Lord,
“you will call me ‘my husband’
instead of ‘my master.’[g]
17 O Israel, I will wipe the many names of Baal from your lips,
and you will never mention them again.
18 On that day I will make a covenant
with all the wild animals and the birds of the sky
and the animals that scurry along the ground
so they will not harm you.
I will remove all weapons of war from the land,
all swords and bows,
so you can live unafraid
in peace and safety.
19 I will make you my wife forever,
showing you righteousness and justice,
unfailing love and compassion.
20 I will be faithful to you and make you mine,
and you will finally know me as the Lord.

21 “In that day, I will answer,”
says the Lord.
“I will answer the sky as it pleads for clouds.
And the sky will answer the earth with rain.
22 Then the earth will answer the thirsty cries
of the grain, the grapevines, and the olive trees.
And they in turn will answer,
‘Jezreel’—‘God plants!’
23 At that time I will plant a crop of Israelites
and raise them for myself.
I will show love
to those I called ‘Not loved.’

And to those I called ‘Not my people,’
I will say, ‘Now you are my people.’
And they will reply, ‘You are our God!’”

When things get better between Hosea and Gomer, everyone else will benefit too. Their kids (Jezreel, “not loved,” and “not my people”) will become blessed again too.

Hosea 3
In Time They’ll Come Back

1 Then God ordered me, “Start all over: Love your wife again, your wife who’s in bed with her latest boyfriend, your cheating wife.
Love her the way I, God, love the Israelite people,
even as they flirt and party with every god that takes their fancy.”

2I did it. I paid good money to get her back.
It cost me the price of a slave.
3Then I told her, “From now on you’re living with me.
No more whoring, no more sleeping around.
You’re living with me and I’m living with you.”

4 The people of Israel are going to live a long time
stripped of security and protection,
without religion and comfort,
godless and prayerless.
5But in time they’ll come back, these Israelites,
come back looking for their God and their David-King.
They’ll come back chastened to reverence
before God and his good gifts, ready for the End of the story of his love.

This last section is my favorite. Check out verse 2, “I did it. I paid good money to get her back. It cost me the price of a slave.

Whoa! Imagine that scene. He loved her, cherished her, took care of her, and provided for her. She runs off and becomes a prostitute. She get into all kinds of junk. Lives a party lifestyle – lots of different men, lots of hotel rooms, lots of drinking and drugs. She finally hits bottom and is being sold as a slave on an auction block. Probably stripped naked and standing in front of a crowd of people, she is being sold to the highest bidder – and no one is bidding. No one wants her.

Then, from somewhere in the back of the crowd, she hears a voice, “I’ll take her.” She sees the crowd begin to part as the stranger makes his way to the front.

Her eyes meet the face of the man she ignored and treated so badly. It’s Hosea. In her horrible broken condition, he buys his own wife back. He takes her just as she is. He loves her just as she is. We know he’s planning on taking her back to the place they first dated –  reminding her of they life together and his amazing love, care, & protection.

The story of Hosea’s love for Gomer is also the story of God’s love for us. We are the prostitute. He is the lover. It doesn’t matter how bad things have gotten or how far you’ve gone away from God. It doesn’t matter what kinds of things you’re into or how bad things have gotten. God loves you just as you are. He has paid the price (His own’ son’s blood) to have you back. He has redeemed you from your old life.

God is redeemer. His love is AMAZING!

Gran Torino

grantorino1Clint Eastwood is truly a legend, but I must admit that I was never a really big fan. . . well, that is. . . until now. “Gran Torino” is a great film depicting many aspects of society today. As our world becomes more and more global, cultures collide – and Gran Torino illustrates this well. Earning it’s “R” rating for language and violence, this film is ultimately still about community, love, loss, and relationships between the most unlikely candidates. I don’t want to be a spoiler, but the end is a masterful expression of Jesus’ teaching in John 15:13. (Spoiler alert!!! Don’t look it up or click the link if you haven’t seen it. If you’re spiritual enough to have that verse memorized, well, I figure you’re also spiritual enough to forgive me for spoiling the ending for you.)

Anyway, I would highly recommend “Gran Torino” to any adult who can endure the language and enter into the cultures represented. The ultimate message is not only powerful, but one which is desperately needed in our world today.

New Terrain

No matter where you are in life, you can probably say, “Wow! I’ve never been here before. Life has thrown some things at me, but I’ve never felt like this before.” It seems that even in our “normal” everyday lives, there’s still always something new – something different that turns things at a new angle so it all seems new. Consequently, we’re always breaking new ground – walking into uncharted territory. New terrain is normal – it’s what we do, if we’re alive. This means we’ve gotta always be ready for the unexpected and it also means that life is truly an adventure.

During our time at my mom’s house for the hurricane evacuation, I was watching Kasen and learned something about new terrain. Let me explain: He has been walking for about a month, but he’s still working on it. He still stumbles around a bit when there’s an incline or a little step – or if he’s going from concrete to grass, etc. stepping-stones2My mom has a concrete porch in the back of her house with stepping stones in the grass leading to another bricked area with a porch swing. The weather was beautiful while we were there so we spent quite a bit of time outside. Kasen loved the stepping stones, but couldn’t navigate them very well. They were too far apart for him to use them properly, and so he would step into the grass and then up on a stone, then down into the grass again. . . .you get the picture. If I walked all the way out to the swing, he’d just stop and cry for me to pick him up and take him there, but if I went a couple steps ahead of him. . .he’d give it a shot and walk to me. He fell almost every time he went from the stone to the grass, but each time he got up again and would clap for himself and say “Yeah.” (That’s something else he’s learned recently.) Each time I’d join him in the applause and he’d continue. Whenever he made it without falling, he also clapped and I joined him then too. He needed the encouragement either way – besides that, the applause is what made the whole experience fun. As a father, I loved cheering for him when he’d get up after a fall and also when he made the step and kept his balance. I know he loved it too.

I wonder if this hurricane and the new terrain that we’re learning to navigate is similar? Do we have enough people around us who will cheer for us whether we succeed or fall? Are we being the kind of people who will cheer for others either way? As we enter into this new terrain, will we continue to walk – taking one step at a time, or will we be overwhelmed by the magnitude of the task? Do we have people in our lives who will go with us through it all without getting too far out ahead? Will we go through it with others?

For that matter – isn’t this the case with anything new in our lives? Isn’t it better when we do it together? When there are people to encourage us and walk through it all with us?

Mother’s Day

Mothers_dayMiranda is an amazing mom (not to mention how amazing she is at being a wife). Having Kasen, was like uncovering what she was created to do.

I sat next to her the other night on the couch as we listened to Kasen crying in his crib. We were attempting the let him “cry it out” which is a method for teaching children how to sleep through the night. It’s a tough thing to do. You basically just let them cry until they realize that they’ve gotta go to sleep on their own. Anyway, Miranda was in tears. It took everything she had to force herself to stay in the living room with me. As she cried, it was hard to understand her words through the tears, but she mumbled “I’m his mother. I’m supposed to love and care for him.” I tried to comfort her saying that she was loving and caring for him by helping him learn how to go to sleep on his own. I’m not sure my words were very comforting, but I think it’s true. This is probably just the first of many times where our love for him will put us in a position where we’ll have to act against our own desires. Ultimately, Miranda held off and after the second night, Kasen slept through the night completely by himself. He’s now made it three nights that way. It’s a pretty amazing thing. Miranda and I both know it’s a good thing, but I feel pretty confident that when she wakes up in the middle of the night, she wants to check in on him – you know, to make sure he’s still breathing and is okay. How do I know that? ‘Cause that’s exactly what I wanna do, and I know she’s a much better parent than I could ever dream of being.

As a single youth minister, that whole “tough love” thing sounded a much easier than what we experienced together the other night. This is probably only the beginning though. Anyway, all this is to say that we’re both realizing that parenting is tough, but I can see clearly that Miranda is tougher. God has truly blessed us by giving her to Kasen and I. Voddie Bachaum defines love as “an act of the will accompanied by
emotion on behalf of it’s recipient.
” That’s exactly what she did the
other night. She chose to do what was best for him in spite of her
emotions. Kasen will grow up knowing that he is loved beyond measure, and he’ll also be shown a beautiful example in his mother.  She loves with all she has, and will sacrifice her own desires to do what’s best for him. Even when it hurts her, she will choose to love him.