A full circle journey

This is a weekend of memories. It is a weekend of significant milestones. 

We celebrated my parents’ 60th anniversary. Thankfully we did it in July. Their actual anniversary is in January and we risked freezing rain at that time. 

All the family made it. It was an incredible blessing. New great-grand babies, new spouses, new members of the family were introduced. 

The personal treasure for me was the picture I had been waiting for the past 18 months. It was my dad, me, my son, and his son. Four generations. It was an overwhelming moment. 

A few months ago my parents had switched churches due to health issues and the need to not travel so far. They have returned to the church I started almost 28 years ago. Today I get to preach in the church I started. 

I am thankful for an incredible weekend of memories. 

The honoring of family

Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you. (Ex. 20:12)

When we handle this relationship right, the rest of life has a better opportunity of flowing a bit better. When we learn, as children, to honor authority, and allow God to deal with that authority, we have an opportunity for healthier living. Parents don’t get it “right” all the time. (I came close…) If we can learn to deal with “wrong” decisions by parents, we learn how to walk under authority. We then learn how to walk in authority ourselves when the time comes.

The key to good societal living begins in the home. If we did not have good examples in the home growing up, we have the opportunity to create BETTER examples in our own household.

When the home is strong, the rest of society has an opportunity to be strong as well. There is a reflection on the family that can create wonderful opportunities in the world around us.

I have a picture on my desk of my dad and I walking along the riverfront in Minneapolis. I love that picture. When I glance at that picture I am reminded of the relationship I have with my dad and am grateful for the years I have with him. Even though I am now half a century into life, I still have a sense of wanting to honor my dad.

When we recently went to Alabama to have our family together for Christmas, there was an opportunity to hear what our oldest son had done. We were sitting in a local restaurant having breakfast and our oldest son ran into the director of Big Brothers/Big Sisters in Mobile. He introduced us to her and then she proceeded to brag on the project our son had done for her organization when he was in college.

Our son is 25. He is now a dad. He has a very successful business. He doesn’t “need” to know how proud that made me, but as a family, he reflected core values that showed off our family and what we believe in.

Family is core. Family is key. If we have done well as parents, we raise kids that bring value to the world around them. They build up. They don’t suck value out of the world around them… they add value to the world around them.

As I reflect on all three of our adult sons and watch them make their way in the world, there is absolutely a sense of pride. They do well. They reflect well on the values we tried to establish. (They turned out so well even in our big mistakes as parents!) The world IS a better place because we worked on family as best we could.

So, when I look at that picture of my dad and I walking, I think of how I work to carry on what he instilled in me. (My dad grew up without a dad, by the way. His father was killed before my dad was born. You can create something new from what you didn’t have yourself.) My dad created value and worth in our home. Value I want to add to our world. Value I wanted to pass along to our boys so THEY can now add value to their world.

We cannot, as believers, lose the core value of family. It makes society better.

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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