a very special day

It’s safe to say that all days are special when you have kids. Special doesn’t mean easy, just special, even when it’s tough. Then there are some days that are simply very special. Today was one of those days.

It started by getting to wake up with my son and just chill on the couch for a bit. Then, I got ready to go to a men’s breakfast/brunch with some guys from our church family. One of our most faithful babysitters came over to hang with the kids (Jen is up spending the weekend with her best friend from college). The brunch was at the Curnan’s house. Very special. They live on Lake Butler. We hung out in their lovely home for some grub Then, we hopped out onto the lake for a boat ride and some time to chat together. I totally enjoyed the time. I am always encouraged when I do life with the other guys in our church family.

Next, I got home and played play-dough with the kids. 

Caleb was a huge cleaner upper, and PB and honey with cheetos followed. After lunch, Abby took a nap, and the other 2 and I rested on the couch. 

In the early afternoon, Katey and I left Caleb and Abby with Sam for the evening (Caleb was excited). Katey had asked me the night before for some “you and me time” as she calls it. She asked me as I was tucking her in if I could work it out for today. I guess I did :o), cause she was pretty excited about going to a beach wedding with me. I was asked to do this ceremony over in Sarasota for a new couple in our church family. They wanted it on the beach at sunrise.

2 hour drive later and some Chick-fil-A, we arrived. It was pouring down rain. I text messaged the bride and groom wondering what plan b was. It was a small wedding with just friends and family, so very informal and very flexible. They decided to move it indoors to the place where they were having the reception. I told them we’d be right there. Before backing out of our beachside parking spot, Katey asked if she and I could walk down to the water together. This surprised me, because she does not like to get wet. It was still raining. She would get wet I said. She said she didn’t care. She said she wanted to walk down to the water with her daddy. This is the secret password that gets Katey anything she wants (with my daddy). I obliged, thinking “what the heck. it’s only rain.”

(click here for some photos)

We got out and it was very special. We made footprints together. Put our feet in the waves. Took some pics. Found some seashells. Threw some seashells. It started to move from a sprinkle to a steady rain again, so we mozied back to the car. I was buckling Katey in as the rain began to pour down again. She smiles at me. “Where are we going now, Daddy?” 

We headed to the restaurant called Turtles there just down the road. Reception was to be in their upper banquet room that overlooks the inlet bay. Wedding was supposed to be on the beach, but would now be held in that same room. Or so we thought. The bride changed her mind and decided to wait for a break in the weather. That’s all good, cause brides sort of get what they want on their wedding day whether they say “with my daddy” or not. It could be that they’ve said it enough they earn points for their wedding day. I will let you know after my daughters turn 35 and they are allowed to marry.

Anyway, so we waited. The break came. We had about 25 minutes or so the assumption was made, both til dark and til the next rain. Both were right. It was short and sweet. I will mail off the marriage license Monday.

The bride’s brother took a great pic of Katey and me with the sunset in the background, peaking through the coming storm clouds. He was supposed to email it to me from his phone right there so I could include it right here to the right of this paragraph in my blog tonight. You will have to imagine it :o)

Again, very special. Katey loved it. She drew in the sand during the ceremony. She only interrupted once telling me she had to tell me something. I quietly told her I was almost done. She insisted. The bride and groom thought it was cute, sincerely I believe. I bent down, and she told me she had drawn a and b and c in the sand. I asked her if she could draw d and the rest of the letters. She thought that was a good idea and the ceremony continued. I told you it was informal. 

Some coffee and ice cream on the way home, and we were back on the interstate for what turned out to be a much shorter drive than I expected. Katey is upstairs asleep now. Sam’s back home. I am getting sleepy. I miss my wife.

Like I said_what a very special day. Family. Friends. Kids. Love. Marriage. Daddy-daughter time. Caleb loved the time with Sam. All of it together sounds like a good country and western song, especially if my mom had gone with us to the wedding and we had picked up my dad from prison on the way.

That would have made it very, very special, though. So I actually am glad it didn’t happen since I titled this post “a very special day.” And it was. Hope yours is special, too.

about to go crash

There are so many meanings for the word crash. My last blog was about both “crash” in the sense of colliding with culture and “crash” in the sense of a collective group of rhinos. This blog – I am about to go “crash” or go to bed.

It’s 11:48pm central time, and I am in Panama City Beach, FL teaching at a student camp. It has been a huge blessing. Not only am I blessed to be able to spend time with my college roommate, who is the student pastor for this church family, but I am also blessed to teach to and hang with one of the coolest groups of high school students I have ever been around. It is very apparent that they have been with David Jackson who I know has been with Jesus (Acts 4). 

Really miss my family, though. 

Jen told me tonight that the she and the kids have missed me, too. She said Katey came back down from getting out of bed tonight and told her she was ready for her daddy to come home. What daddy doesn’t want to hear that?

In case you want to know, the first night I taught we focused on the topic “created to crash” as I wrote about in the previous blog post. Tuesday night we focused on the topic of “crash and burn” – how the crash and burn is not the sins that church culture sometimes holds up as the big no-no’s, but rather it is when people (who were created with the original intention to walk with and listen to God) choose to only listen to themselves, do their own thing, live self-absorbed. Tonight we focused on the topic of “collective crash” – about the importance of and the sacrifice of and the perspective required to do life together the way Jesus made us to do life together. 

Here’s an excerpt from Tuesday night:

i don’t want to crash and burn, and i don’t want you guys to either. so, how do i know whether a choice i am about to make could lead me toward “crash and burn” or a “steal, kill, destroy?”

in other words, the way we tend to say it in church culture is how do i know when i am making the wrong choice or the right choice, cause i don’t want to make the wrong one. this is an important question. the right and wrong thing is a big deal in Christianity, right?

what’s so cool is that Jesus changed the whole reason behind why we ask it. most people are consumed with the right and wrong thing because they define being a Christian with doing the right thing, with being involved in the right stuff, and with looking like everything is all right, like you have it all together. the Jews were especially concerned with this. 

problem is, following Jesus is not defined by whether I do right or wrong. it’s not defined by the keeping of  list. truth is not a list anyway. Jesus declared truth is a person. Him.

paul said in Galatians that if my ability to do right instead of wrong is what being a follower of Christ is all about, then Jesus died needlessly. right and wrong is not just some lists of do’s and dont’s. It’s deeper than that. it’s more connected to who God is and how we relate with Him rather than what we have come to think is a right thing to do and a wrong thing to do.

if this is the case, then how did Jesus really teach about right and wrong? Let’s go back to Matthew 22. Jesus said that all the laws and commandments hand on two commands, you might say hinge on or open and close life to us. He taught that all the commands hang on loving God and loving people. Jesus taught that we should focus on what is most important to God – love. God declared man being alone as not good. He made us to love Him and one another. So, anything that steals away from this intended purpose is against very purpose and nature of God and therefore plays out to be selfish and sinful in man.

So, to question if a choice i am about to make will lead toward crash and burn is not a question just about doing wrong behaviorally. it is a question about living in the purpose I was made to live in – a purpose beyond myself, a purpose founded in love, a life lived to relate in love for the One who made me and in love with others.

jen and i are trying to teach this to Caleb. we are challenging him to consider something when he comes to make choices. ask himself this question – in this choice i have to make, how will what i do show my love for God and my love for the people involved? if it shows that love, then do it. if not, and it demonstrates selfishness, don’t do it. 

now grant it, this only works if we are going by God’s definition of love – not a feel good or a only give love to those who are lovable. rather, lay down your life for both your friends and your enemies. like david jackson, my college roommate used to tell me, instead of saying “i love you” – “i would take a bullet for you.” that is a truer picture of love.

bottom line_how do i know whether i am living as i was made to live, original intention? how do i know whether a choice i am about to make will lead toward “crash and burn?” ask, “which action will show my love for God and my love for the people involved?” then act in love. it really helps with that right and wrong thing. gives clarity where there used to be a lot of gray when we just based it on a non-exhaustive list.

 

let’s crash and love.

Well, if you made it this far, here are 2 sets of pics that are really cool. One is from a quaint beach town I visited Tuesday afternoon to have some coffee and computer time. Pretty awesome! Can’t wait to visit with my wife in late August when we are up this way for a wedding. Click here.

Next, Caleb wanted me to take a picture of two students whom I found out to be huge NASCAR fans. The one in the blue shirt even has his own race car and races in a short track in west TN. Pretty cool. Click here.

Well, love you guys. Having fun. Missing my family big time. Heading to crash in more ways than one. You do the same.

created to crash

1st off, one last shout out from the Father’s Day weekend to my Dad. We had a good lunch and afternoon together yesterday. I am so thankful for him. He is one of my best friends. He has always been a picture of grace and wisdom and encouragement for me. He has always been a sharpener shaping me to listen to God daily and a reminder challenging me to not think more of myself than I tend to do. In my opinion, I don’t know of another dad who resembles the heavenly Father more than him. I love you, Pop.

Well, this morning is bittersweet. I am about to hop in my blue civic and head to the panhandle to teach at a student camp this week. My college roommate is a student pastor, and he invited me back about 8 months ago to spend this week sharing with the kids he pastors. We roomed together for 4 and 1/2 years. He is the funniest dude I know on this earth. I am really looking forward to doing life with him and the students this week. However, I am really going to miss my wife and kids. They are precious to me. 

The theme for the camp is “crash.” The picture for this entry, therefore, needed to be a crash scene, especially a NASCAR one to give props to Caleb who loves NASCAR. Side-note – Dale, Jr. won yesterday. 1st time in a long time. Pretty cool. We were pretty excited. Uh hum. I digress. 

Anyway, the theme is “crash.” David asked me to focus in on challenging his high school students to “crash” into their respective communities with the rescuing love of Jesus. There are really 4 basic definitions for crash, and I am going to draw from all four in each of the four nightly worship gatherings. Bottom line will be this_we need to be living so closely engaged with the people around us that we can’t help but collide with each others’ lives, both to give into and to receive, because we are existing in the same spaces everyday. This is necessary both with those who follow Jesus and those who don’t if we hope to live in the mission we were made for. This is tough for a lot of Christ-followers because church culture emphasizes retreat from culture. Jesus did not. 

In fact, to retreat is the most selfish form of living. To think only of my well-being, my image, my interests. Jesus called this self-righteous. When we live this way, we don’t love. When we live this way, we are basically saying we don’t want humanity to happen, especially if it means the “wrong” kind of humanity rubbing off on me. How selfish is that? Get away from me. No thought that God may want to use me to pour into their life. 

This is just as selfish as the people church culture tends to condemn – those who live self-indulgent lives. Both kinds of selfishness, self-indulgence and self-righteousness, lead to issues and actions that break down humanity and turn us inward and inhumane.

Someone recently asked me if I had seen the movie CRASH. I replied that I had because I thought I had. Then I got to thinking, have I seen that? Well, I saw it this past Friday night. Let me tell you, that is not a movie that you forget that you saw. I will remember scenes from that movie for life, situations that gripped me. It is a movie about this journey that we are all on, in the same spaces everyday, learning how to exist together. Learning how to love. Learning how to let humanity happen in the beautiful way God intended, not the selfish, judgmental, angry, self-seeking, greedy, lustful, prejudiced, and self-gratifying ways that we can tend to live. Those are inhumane and not how God intended.

Jesus died to restore us into the “crash” of a relationship that God wants with us_sharing the same space, especially the central space of our focus and lives. He also lived to show us how to live, to show us how to live, to show us how He intended humanity to happen. He wants us to live sent as a letter from Him into our culture, engaging into the lives of people, being God’s message of love and hope and grace and purpose, and being used to shape (sometimes through collision) their lives into what God meant for them. 

Please pray for me to have wisdom and insight as I teach this week. Please pray for us all, both me and the students, to catch a passion to live sent in the daily. To crash like we were created to.

katey’s dance recital

For a guy who grew up in a guy’s house, who has been blessed with one son and 2 daughters, who has loved as well as had a major learning curve having those 2 daughters (and maybe 3 – don’t know yet on the baby that is due in December), the dance stuff has been both an adventure and an adjustment. Don’t get me wrong, I dig dancing. I actually used to do a good bit of break-dancing in my day back in New Orleans (some of you are laughing right now trying to picture that I am sure, but I could do a mean wave and spin and worm). So, I think the dance stuff is cool. Now I am getting used to it for little girls. More than getting used to it. Getting into it. Loving seeing my little Katey do her thing, and Abby act like she wishes she was out there.

Katey started in dance last summer as an almost 3 year old. She ended this year’s season with a recital today. It was amazing. I will admit, there were times when I wasn’t quite sure whether to cheer or clap or keep quiet. There were a few times I wanted to stand and chant and cheer, like the days of middle school when I sat with the “Bleacher Creatures” and cheered on my brother playing high school basketball. I decided that a sudden “in de face!!!” would not be appropriate, even though my little girl was executing those dance moves like the winner of Dancing with the Stars (at least the runner up :o)

For real, though, Katey did great. We got to enjoy the whole thing with Mommy, Caleb, Abby, Pop, Ammaw, Nana, Papa, and some friends, along with a whole lot of other families of aspiring little dancers. Only one thing was a bit weird – there was one section of the recital where 5 moms must have been in a class, too, and they did a rather provocative number. I concluded that must be like dads in sports trying to get back to the days of glory when they made the 7th grade team and hit a free throw with 2 seconds left to finish a game (they were in because their team was up 25, but that doesn’t matter). So, these moms – maybe doing that days of glory thing, or maybe just wanting some exercise. It’s all good. 

Enough of me rambling. Click here to check out this little movie we put together. Katey is typically on the left in a bright, neon pink costume when her class is dancing. Enjoy.

We sure did. I am a proud daddy tonight, in a way that I never anticipated being. My little girl scored 30 and dished out 10 assists, so to speak, in her 1st dance recital. She was awesome!!!

a date with my wife

there are certain things that i look forward to with both fanatical excitement and awesome reverence. there are certain things that touch me at the core of who i am and have the potential to change me and keep growing me forward. there are certain things that i cherish and think about for days after.

the first and foremost among these things is the chance to worship through song the One i follow daily, Jesus. And, there are certain people who lead in this time that mean the most to me – David Crowder Band, Watermark, Beyond Me, Ted Watson and the band. It’s not for the “experience” of it. I really don’t get a lot of butterflies in my stomach and “feel goods.” It’s more of a sobering time that both reminds me of whose I am and uplifts me to keep becoming who He made me to be. 

the third among these things is the chance to have one on one time with Caleb and Katey and Abby (and soon to be baby # 4). i so look forward to these times. whether it is watching the nascar race with Caleb, going to get some hot chocolate with Katey, or taking a walk outside with Abby, or who knows what with the next little blessing, i am refreshed and fueled by these times.

fourth among these things is watching March Madness (aka the Duke Invitational), especially Duke University. But nonetheless.

the second among these times and what the title of this blog is about is a date with my wife. seriously, you can ask her. as we drive out of our neighborhood to go on a date, i can’t get rid of this giddy smile and this child-like excitement. i just love having one on one time with her. eating, walking, shopping, movies, whatever. i don’t care. i just like the girl. and i like being with her.

so, that’s why i need to leave you now. we are about to head out on a date in about 15 minutes. write you next time…

grappling with why

 

grappling with why

I’m not one to complain. Especially to God, who has always shown Himself faithful. But, showing Himself faithful doesn’t always mean showing Himself in a way that I understand. He is definitely mysterious. So, this is not a complaint.

I’m just grappling with why right now, more than I ever have. Why certain things happen the way they do and to the people they do and when they do. I’ll give you two examples. 

Steven Curtis Chapman, a well-known singer and songwriter, has inspired millions. In recent years, he has not only inspired with his songs, but with his parenting. You see, he and his wife, with 3 kids of their own, decided to adopt one of the many orphaned girls from China. Then, they adopted another. Then another. In all 3, and in the process they began a ministry that helps to financially support and situationally counsel families who are interested in adoption. You can check it out by clicking here. 2 weeks ago, as they were about to leave the house for an engagement/graduation party for family and friends, one of their teenage boys accidentally ran over their youngest adopted daughter, Maria. She was helicoptered to the hospital and pronounced dead there. Why? They gave so much love, both to daughters and to families wanting to adopt daughters of their own, and then this. Not to mention in the midst of grieving having to comfort your own son dealing with the reality that he killed his sister. There’s no equation that makes that make sense.

Secondly, a friend whom I work with on several projects, a pure hearted guy who absolutely loves his wife and 3 kids, was driving to a worship gathering this past Sunday morning. Someone ran a stop sign and t-boned them causing them to flip several times. His middle daughter, 5 years old, was injured severely. Her brain disconnected from her brain stem, she was lifeless on life support. No brain activity. Tests were run, doctors said she has had no brain activity for 24 hours, and on Monday night (June 9th), he and his wife had to decide whether to “pull the plug.” She was officially declared dead. Her organs will be donated to help give hope to other children. But this little girl, whose name was Hope, is gone. Why? Where do you put that? You never get over that. 

I’m not meant to understand it all. I know that. “Why” will always be a question we ask from this side of heaven. I don’t think God “causes” all this stuff. I see evidence in the Scriptures that some things He causes to move forward His purposes of restoring us into relationship with Him. I also see evidences that some things are consequences of the selfishness of man. I also see evidence that God allows stuff. 

And, we may never know why. Jesus seemed to have 2 themes that dominated His teachings – LOVE and OVERCOME. He called us to love God and love people. He showed us love and told us to love like He loves. He challenged us to love even when others don’t love us. He changed the whole paradigm of love from what I feel to what I give, even when it hurts. He also was honest about how tough this life is. He was straight about life having difficulties and people hurting us and about people possibly losing their lives for His name’s sake. He was calling us to be overcomers. To overcome by following Him, abiding in Him, clinging to the hope that He gives. In Him we can overcome all the stuff that makes us not want to love anymore. That’s what He said and that’s what He did. 

Who knows in these situations what the “cause” was. Who knows the why. I still grapple with it, but I rest in this. Whether God caused it, man’s selfish choices led to it, or God allowed it to draw us nearer in His purposes, or some other reason, the great God of mystery is also the great God who came near. And, He is near to me when it hurts and when I don’t know why. I can rest in His love, so clearly declared for me. I can rest in His hope that is certain to come. And, I can overcome in His strength. It still seems so unfair and unnecessary. But if anyone knows unfair, Jesus does. I will listen to Him, draw near to Him.

The why remains inside the category of mysterious, but let’s keep grappling to know Him more. Let’s get to loving each other, in tough times and bad. Let’s overcome together until that day. For now, I am praying for wisdom to know how to love Hope’s Dad in a way that he needs to be loved, and I am praying for the wisdom to simply be there and not say too much.