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My middle child, my baby girl, turned six today. It simply doesn’t seem possible. Time, it seems, does not heed my requests to slow down. Time, as they say, waits for no man.

This girl has been a tremendous blessing to our family. She is truly an “old soul” in her little six year old “earth suit.” She’s been through a lot already, for a little one, and I think that definitely had an impact in her “old soul-ness.” But it’s more than that…

My wife was going through her journal of her pregnancy with my daughter, and reading me some of the things she wrote during that time. One of her prayers was for our little girl to have a heart tender towards the things of God, that she would love the Lord and serve Him, that she would have a sweet spirit about her, and would live her life for Him.

And anyone that know’s our little girl knows those prayers were answered. In spades. This kid brings a smile to pretty much everyone she meets. She’s funny, sweet, caring…and then she’ll look at you and ask some of the deepest questions you can imagine. Some of our daddy-daughter rides home at night end up in some pretty deep discussions…and I couldn’t be happier.

I know we prayed the same for our other two kids, and I know God heard and answered those prayers as well. I know He has a plan for each of our kids, and a purpose in their personalities and inclinations.

But I also know that, for whatever reason, He planted these things in my little girl’s heart at an early age, and is already bringing fruit out of them. She asked Jesus to save her last year, and I had the absolute joy of baptizing her (and being baptized with her!) this year.  I wouldn’t have done that if I didn’t see the fruit of the Holy Spirit in her life. Love, joy, peace…yeah, and then some!

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So happy birthday little girl! Your dad loves you, and is so proud of you! I can’t wait to see what God has in store for you!

How I Pray for My Kids

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I’ve been blessed with three amazing kids.  If you know our story, you know that there was a time when we didn’t expect to have one, much less three, beautiful, healthy, precious little ones.

As my kids have grown and changed, my prayers have changed, too.  Of course I say prayers of thanksgiving for the blessing of having them.  I pray for their needs and their concerns.  I pray for their health and safety.  All things that I think are good and necessary for parents to pray.

But lately, especially with my son, I’ve found myself praying this prayer:

“God, help him live his life completely sold out for You and for Your glory.  Help him not get distracted with the things of this work.  And God, please make him a better man than his dad could ever be.”  

I pray these things for my son, and similarly for my girls, because I see myself in them.  I see the good and the bad.  And I know that it doesn’t have to be that way.  I hope they will choose the better way, and choose it from an early age, not waiting and allowing the locusts to eat the years.

This morning I was reading Psalm 78, and I thought about these prayers.  This chapter in the middle of the book of Psalms is subtitled in my Bible “God’s kindness to rebellious Israel.”  When I read it, it struck me as the same heart that I have for my kids.

“For He established a testimony in Jacob, and appointed a law in Israel, which He commanded our fathers, that they should make them known to their children;  That the generation to come might know them, The children who would be born, that they may arise and declare them to their children, that they may set their hope in God, and not forget the works of God, but keep His commandments; and may not be like their fathers, a stubborn and rebellious generation…” (Psalm 78:5-8)

I hear this all the time from folks:  “Kids will be kids.  They’re just finding their way, sowing their oats.”  Huh?

It doesn’t have to be.  I want better than that for my kids.  I didn’t heed the guidance of my father for a LONG time, and I paid for it.  I paid dearly, and so did those that were near to me.  The decisions I made in being a stubborn and rebellious man affected not only me, but my wife, my family, my friends, and my kids.

I don’t want my kids to “find their way.” I want to show them THE way, Jesus, and point them in that direction.  I want to love them when they mess up, and encourage them that they don’t have to “touch the stove to see if it’s hot.” I want to help them not make the mistakes I made.

I want them to be better than me.  I want them to live their lives with a singular focus: the glory of God.

And you know what? I think that’s a prayer that God would love to answer.  So I’m gonna keep praying it.

 

Do We Mean What We Sing?

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Words matter.

The things we say, write, tweet, text, email, smoke signal…they matter.  The way in which we say them matters, the way in which they are interpreted matters, the medium they’re shared in, you guessed it, matters.

And just like all those different forms of communication, the songs we sing matter…especially the songs we sing at church.  And while much could be (and has been) written about the theological content of the songs we sing at church, that’s not my point today.  Today, I want us to think about one thing:

Do we mean what we sing?

Take a few moments and consider that.  Think back over the songs you sang during church this past Sunday.  Can you remember them?  Can you remember the words?

Now think about this:  did you mean them when you sang them?

I ask because this hit me square in the face this past Sunday.  There is a beautiful song by Hillsong called “Savior King.”  It has become one of our favorites at our church.  It’s a song we sing as kind of a dedication of ourselves to the Lord.  Some of the lyrics say “We love you, Lord…we worship You…You are our God…You alone are good.”

Beautiful…wonderful song of worship. So what got me?

The ending chorus changes lyrics several times, going through the Lord carrying the cross for us, to the point where we sing these words:

“I give my life…to honor this…the love of Christ…the Savior King.”

Now, I’ve sang that many, many times during worship at our church, and on my own.  But this time, those words hit me square in the face like a slap.

In the middle of worship, the images of my brothers and sisters around the world came to my mind.  These men and women, these children of God, who were, at that very moment, being persecuted, being beaten, and even dying for their faith in Christ.  I’m sure most of them have never sang the song we sang, but more than that, they were living out the words we were singing.

It shook me.  We could worship that day, and every day,  freely, loudly, exuberantly!  But do we mean it?  If called upon to do that very thing, to give our life for the love of Christ, would we?  Would I?

Easy to say.  Easy to sing.  To do…I can’t answer that.  My brothers and sisters around the world can.  And they have.

So next time you’re at church, whether tomorrow night or Sunday, or any time…consider the words you’re singing.  They aren’t just words…these are songs of confession, of adoration, of praise.  These songs are our attempt to sing what we believe, to encourage one another, to declare the greatness of our God and the salvation He bought by His blood.  They are not just songs.

And next time you sing…ask yourself…do you mean it?

Freedom

 

The 4th of July.  The birthday of my country, the United States of America.  July 4th, 1776, 13 British colonies issued a declaration that they considered themselves free from British rule, free to govern themselves, free to tax themselves, free to defend themselves from aggressors, free…

Freedom has been something that has been championed and cherished in our country ever since.  We have fought wars at home and abroad under the banner of defending this freedom.  Many have given their lives in defense of this freedom.

If you were to ask an American today whether they’d like to return to British rule, I doubt very seriously that you’d get many “yes” responses.  Freedom is as American as apple pie and baseball.  Threaten it, and we will get up in arms quite quick.

When I think of freedom, I think of the freedoms I have in this country, that I have because of my country, and I am grateful.  I can worship, freely.  I can vote, freely.  I can work, freely.  I can travel, freely.  I could spend all day listing the freedoms that I’m thankful for.

But there is a freedom that outdoes all the others.  A freedom that will last long after my country has come and gone, or any country for that matter.

It is a freedom that also cost a life.  It’s a freedom that’s bought with precious blood, Jesus’ blood.  It’s a freedom that never ends.  It’s a freedom that comes from knowing the Truth, Who is Jesus.

Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”  They answered Him, “We are Abraham’s descendants, and have never been in bondage to anyone. How can You say, ‘You will be made free’?” Jesus answered them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin.  And a slave does not abide in the house forever, but a son abides forever.  Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.”  (John 8:31-36)

We wouldn’t think twice about returning to subjection to Britain as a nation.  So today, why would a Christian return to the slavery he once had to sin?

Celebrate your freedom today as a citizen of the United States.  It is a great and wonderful thing.

But also remember, celebrate and rejoice in the freedom you enjoy, now and forever,  if you are a Christian.

 

2012-06-17 20.35.07We celebrated Father’s Day today, and since I became a dad 8 years ago, the day has obviously taken on new meaning for me.  However this year was very special, and not just because I got to spend it with my 3 kids.  This year was special because my dad was here to celebrate Father’s Day with us.

And while I was not able to see my Pop today, I gotta tell you that the early morning phone call I made on the way to church this morning was probably one of the most meaningful Father’s Day calls I’ve made.  It was just a blessing to make the call and hear my dad’s voice on the other end of the line.

At church today, my pastor shared about how Father’s Day came to be, and some of the traditions that have sprang up around it.  The one that grabbed my attention was the wearing of roses on Father’s Day.  In times past, one would wear a red rose as an indication that their father was still living, and a white rose if he had passed on.

The fact that I could have (were I prone to such things) been wearing a red rose today was not lost on me at all.  The miracle of what God did last December for my dad, and the fact that I could hear his voice and have a conversation with him today…these things were not lost on me.

This afternoon as I played with my kids and watched them romp around my in-laws place, I was reminded of the shoes I have to fill.  The shoes of a great dad that loved me far more than I ever realized.  The shoes of a father that I’m so blessed to have.  The shoes that I can never fill adequately, but I will certainly try, following in his example.

So to all you dads out there, Happy Father’s Day.  And to my dad…I love you more than I can say.  So thankful I got to hear your voice on the other end of the line today.

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That beautiful kid turned eight today.  Eight.  It is extremely hard for me to believe time has gone by this rapidly.

Eight years.  96 months.  2920 days.  70,080 hours.  And they all went by like a blip on the screen.

In my brain, she’s still the age of my son…a little two year old just learning to talk and run and play.  Crawling up into daddy’s lap to eat a snack or read a story. Now she’s reading her own stories.  Now she’s raiding the pantry on her own, munching and crunching me out of house and home to keep up with her seemingly overnight growth rate.

I fear I’ll be teaching her to drive far quicker than I want to admit.  And having those conversations that father’s everywhere fear…the ones with the “b” word…b…bb….bbb…boys…

Good grief. Where does the time go, y’all?

But you know what else I see?  When I look at that kid and think back to the years before we knew we were expecting this little bundle of joy…the years of wondering if we’d ever have a child…the years of praying for a child, expecting a child, and then the crushing feeling in your chest when things don’t go as planned…

And then the fulfillment of hope…the joy of holding that baby in your arms…the tears of happiness and absolute joy in which all the painful days and nights are eased (not forgotten, but eased).

Then the prayers shift.  Instead of the prayers in hope of a child, you transition to prayers FOR THE child…the one you hold in your arms and rock to sleep.  The one who begins to change on a daily basis, to grow and become their own little person.  Prayers that she’ll love the Lord with all her heart, soul, mind and strength.  Prayers that she’ll become the woman God calls her to be.  Prayers that she’ll walk with the Lord all her days.

Prayers for her future…way future…way way way future husband…all these these slight and nearly imperceptible changes that are only noticed in the full light of hindsight.

And it’s only been eight years.  But those eight years are reminders, ebenezers, of God’s faithfulness.  Of promises fulfilled……of prayers answered.

So happy birthday my not-so- little girl…your dad loves you more than any words on a screen could ever say…and I pray for you always.

patio-old-house(It’s been quite a while since I wrote…after everything with Dad, I just haven’t had the urge to write!  But today, a conversation spurred me to write this…I pray it blesses you.  And by the way, for my wife’s sake, that is not my house)

Last month, as winter turned to spring and the days got longer, the world around me started to bloom after a long, cold winter.  Along with the buds on the trees and the blooms on the flowers came letters from the neighborhood homeowner’s association.  It seems that weeds in the yard and mildew on the siding also come with the onset of spring, and they felt I should do something about it.

A good friend took care of the weeds, and I have attempted a cleansing of the mildew (it’s better than it was), but those “friendly” letters got me to thinking.  While I had noticed the weeds in the yard, I honestly hadn’t realized the mildew was as bad as it was.  Sometimes it takes someone else to point out the things that are growing in our gardens, eh?  Sometimes, familiarity breeds not only contempt, but complacency.  We just don’t see it.

Had I been johnny-on-the-spot with lawn care last fall, the weeds wouldn’t have sprung up like they did.  And if I’d been periodically spraying off the vinyl siding on my house, the mildew wouldn’t have clung to it like it did.  But it’s so much easier to do nothing, isn’t it?

Today, I had a conversation that was a replay of so many other conversations over the past few months, and it made me think of those weeds and the mildew.  Those things didn’t just spring up overnight in my yard and on my house.  They came from time and neglect.  That’s all it takes, really, time and neglect.

Our spiritual lives are the exact same way.  The conversation I had today (or almost any day, you pick) revolves around how one just doesn’t have the desire to (insert whatever spiritual practice or service you choose here), and that it’s not exciting anymore, or that we just don’t have the joy we once did.  And, to a man, they’re tired.

 

Now, the thing is, most of these are guys are good men.  Husbands.  Fathers.  Serving at church.  Faithful.  These are the men that the enemy does not want to leave alone.  He wants to destroy them, and subsequently their marriages, families, churches, you name it.  This life is a war, after all, between the flesh and the Spirit.

And  it gets hard at times.  Incredibly so.  But when it does, I pray we all take these words of Jesus to heart:

“Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you, and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and My burden is light.”  (Matt. 11:28-30)

Press in.  Come to Him.  The enemy wants you to retreat, to get alone, to lag behind the rest of the herd (we are sheep, y’all), so that he can, like the roaring lion that he is, devour you.

I for one would rather press in and stay near the Shepherd.  How about you?

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