As Dad

As a dad, I watch all these stages of life in our kids. Our youngest just turned 21 and we are all together as a family celbrating Christmas and the coming of our first grandchild. My wife and I are with our three sons, two daughters-in-law, and one awesome grandson. (Have I mentioned I have a grandson yet?)

As a dad I have all these thoughts flow through my mind as I look at each one. I will sit in a corner of the living room at my oldest son’s home holding my new grandson and listen to the conversation going around the table a few feet away. A flood of memories come through as I remember holding each one as an infant. Remembering ball games and plays… times at church… vacations together… the highs and the lows.

As a dad I have a flood of thoughts remembering how badly I did things as a dad. So many times when my temper was too much or my focus was in the wrong direction… And how God graciously brought me back and the goodness of God overcame the faults in my life and there is joy around that table that evening as I sit holding my grandson. God’s grace overcame my bad parenting flaws to produce three amazing sons who love Jesus, two daughters-in-law who are the best to me, who also love Jesus, along with a godly wife carrying us all… and I am so thankful.

As a dad I have all these thoughts flood through me in what seems to be seconds… and then, when I finally the get the chance to actually say something to each of them, it comes out in about three words or less!

“I love you.”

“I’m proud of you.”

“Good job.”

Words that formulated in my mind… words I might be able to craft on a page… good grief! I can formulate a SERMON!… but when I get the chance to say something directly to my kids… I choke up. I am overwhelmed. Tears come easily. And all I can choke out is, “I love you.”

As a dad, I live my life praying they all know how much I deeply love them, how proud I am of them, and how thankful I am to God for the beautiful results that came in spite of a very flawed man trying to lead them.

A few years back I mentioned to a friend that with my two youngest boys getting ready to graduate high school I would probably spend the next five years just crying all the time because I was so proud. My friend said, “Only five years? Try the rest of your life.” She was right.

As a dad, I sit back and reflect on the goodness of God in the lives of these “kids”, tears come readily, and all I can breathe out is, “Thank you, Jesus.”

Great is his faithfulness. Even if I can’t say more than three words at a time.

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Christmas Eve 2015

I sit in the early morning doing something brand new: holding my new grandson. In the quiet I ask for the goodness of God to be POURED into his life. His name is strong: JUDAH (God be praised).  As I sit and look at this beautiful boy I ask for the name of the Lord to be strong in him, through his life, through the lives of his parents.

In this early morning on this special day I am “out of pocket” a bit as pastor. I love being at my church on Christmas Eve and getting ready to lead a Christmas Eve service. This year I am in Alabama and we have all our kids here. Three sons, two wives, and one adorable grandson. (Have I mentioned I have a new grandson yet?)

This Christmas Eve I have my immediate family here. Though my wife and I are far from our parents, we are “being parents” this year having our core family together in a way we may struggle to get again. This Christmas Eve is so deeply meaningful in my life as I think of the charge I have as a parent and now a grandparent. It is a time to reflect on blessing and then TO BLESS.

It is a time to remember the timeless story… and then impart spiritual blessing into my family so they can live out the timeless story in their lives.

I have learned over the years to live in the moment gifted to me. I can choose to be in a moment and say, “Well, if this person was here it would be perfect,” or, “Well, if this moment were happening this other location it would be perfect,” etc. We can miss precious moments if we play the “well, but…” scenario in our minds constantly.

In this moment, I have a beautiful family all together and it is a gift. Last night I was tired from the trip so I was sittting off to the side resting and listening to the rest of the family get into an incredily deep discussion about race and culture. It was a powerful moment for me. I was filled with gratitude. They were thinking. They were discussing. They were finding their way. And through it all came this heart for God that drives them to do things better in this world.

These are precious moments gifted to me. And on this Christmas Eve morning… I give thanks. And I worship Christ the King.

Merry Christmas.

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The great longing of Christmas

Advent creates longing. The Scripture reading all season reflects on longing.

I love the celebration of Christmas, but I also love the stirring this season’s readings create in my heart.

A few weeks ago I walked into a colleague’s office and started with, “I’ve heard a rumor…”

His ears perked up, but he was cautious because he is not a man who wants to hang around a rumor mill.

I finishes: “that Jesus is coming again.”

He smiled and relaxed.

I then left him with a quote I heard from a man who has now experienced the fullness of what he said a few years ago: “I’m homesick for a place I’ve never been.”

Advent makes me homesick. I long for the fullness of the presence of Christ. He has come once. He will come again… and I have that deep longing. I want to go home.

The great invitation is given today:

12 “Look! I’m coming soon. My reward is with me, to repay all people as their actions deserve. 13 I am the alpha and the omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end. 14 Favored are those who wash their robes so that they may have the right of access to the tree of life and may enter the city by the gates. 15 Outside are the dogs, the drug users and spell-casters, those who commit sexual immorality, the murderers, the idolaters, and all who love and practice deception.

16 “I, Jesus, have sent my angel to bear witness to all of you about these things for the churches. I’m the root and descendant of David, the bright morning star. 17 The Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come!’ Let the one who hears say, ‘Come!’ And let the one who is thirsty come! Let the one who wishes receive life-giving water as a gift.” (Rev. 22:12-17)

Let us long for that day.

Celebrate the season. Long for his coming again.

It is the tension we need in our lives in these holy days.

The chaos of Christmas

One of my “unfavorite” Christmas carols is “Away in a Manger.” That line “no crying he makes” is just too much. He was a baby. An animal makes a noise while he sleeps, crying he makes. 

There are those subtle reminders in our lives where we need our nice, neat Christmas pictures blown up from time to time.

A scared young lady. A pious Jewish man who has laid his reputation on the line. Giving birth in a cave surrounded by animals. Dirty hay. Upheaval because of Rome. People coming in and out to feed the animals. Trying to shove away the donkey from the feeding trough because there’s a baby in it!

Jesus didn’t march into the halls of power to impress anyone. He came where people would eventually find him as an adult: among the margins. Among the forgotten. Among the poor.

He didn’t come in magisterial glory. He came in chaos.

And THAT is good news. Our lives are neat and clean. They’re messy. They’re noisy. We’re generally not noticed by anyone else in the world. And in THAT… here comes the Savior. He can bring peace to the chaos. He does it this way to let you know he sees you. 

Thank the Lord for peace in the midst of our chaos. He comes into our mess.

PEACE on earth.

My Christmas Wish List

I don’t get asked a lot, but every once in awhile someone will ask what I want for Christmas.

This year I’ve said the same thing: World Peace.

I just don’t have a Christmas wish list. My life is full.

My family is doing well. My wife and I are having a great time as we watch our sons mature. We’ve had a house full of young adults this fall who are making their way in life and that has been nice, actually. No big struggles. We’ve actually had them successfully sit down with us every week for a house meeting, which I couldn’t do with my sons once they hit high school!

Our church is on a new trajectory as the Lord challenges us to dig deeper into our community. This next year will be full of incredible new territory for us!

At my point in life, while I can always enjoy a good book and a great cup of coffee, what is possible for a Christmas wish list?

A question I’ve challenged myself with over the past several months is this: Is it well with my soul?

In this season, that answer is “yes.”

But could someone please work on that world peace thing for me?

God bless us… everyone.