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The Parable of a Trash Bag

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Some days, these notes are as much more to encourage me than you…a reference point for me to use in recalling something later in life as my memory fails me. This is one of those notes.

Last night, while changing the trash, my nine year old NE stops halfway through the task, turns to me and this is what followed:

NE: “Dad, I’m going to tell you a parable.”
Me: “Cool! I like parables. Whatcha got?”

NE: “This trash bag is us. Well, it’s like us, cuz we’re not really trash…”

Me: 😗😉

NE: “And the wind is Jesus. When I open the new bag to let the air in, it fills up. It’s like our hearts…when we open our heart and life to Jesus, He comes in and fills us up.”

Me: “Yeah man! That is SO true! I love it!”

NE: “See there, I just told you a parable, because parables are stories about things that are the same. I really like parables.”

Me: “Me too buddy. Where’d you learn that one?”

NE: “I didn’t. I just thought of it myself while I was changing the trash. It just came into my mind so I told you.” (Walks out of the room carrying the trash to the dumpster)

(Mic drop…like, literally! I’m left standing there in silence with my mouth wide open in awe.)

It was one of those Eight-Second Bull Rides, where I’m left standing in the dust wondering what just happened.

You have no idea the depths to which my mind had taken that parable in the 45 seconds that our conversation lasted.

No, really! I mean I could’ve done a full 40 minute Sunday sermon on that baby right there on the spot… in the middle of the kitchen, tripping over spilled trash, dirty dishes still in my hand…stopped everything and called the family in for some impromptu, down right deep bible study that would’ve touched the souls of most biblical scholars type-stuff. Yowza, baby!

He doesn’t know it yet, but I think he just found the Upward game day half-time devotion he wants to write and share himself this season. 😉🙌

I literally just never cease to be amazed at how and when God uses His children to work in the lives of others. Like…seriously! Awesome!

And, even more, I just totally adore watching my boys mature in their understanding of who God is and who they are in Christ.

Love you boys! Keep on keepin’ on!

Dad

Thank you, Lord Jesus, for making yourself known to these two precious little ones you’ve entrusted me with. Please keep working in their lives to guide and lead them along the path you’ve set apart for each of them. Would you please just continue setting a firm foundation in their lives of who they are in you so that they can withstand the trials they’ll surely face without me. Please, speak to them in a way that they know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that they will ALWAYS have you. Lord, bless these little hearts and keep them in your arms. Oh…and if you could just take my mistakes and shortcomings as their daddy…you know, all the things about me that I’d toss to the curb with the trash…and maybe just overlook those and use them for something good in their lives, that’d be like.just.really.amazing. I know you got my back. 😉👍

In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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I Thought About You Today

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 I thought about you today. I can’t help but wonder what your parents are doing today. How they’re coping  on this, their first Thanksgiving without you. Thanksgiving is supposed to be a day we give thanks for the blessings God has bestowed upon us. It’s supposed to be filled with family, friends, food and fellowship. I can’t even begin to imagine how hard it must be to be thankful for only three months. 

My day is filled with all those things Thanksgiving is supposed to be. Surrounded by family, we’ve been eating for two straight days. We’ve eaten more food in two days than we could ever need in a full week. We’ve been fellowshipping and making memories that I pray will carry this tired, weary mind well into old age. I’ve been calling and texting friends to remind them I’m thankful for them, and been encouraged in receiving their words of love in kind. It really is a picturesque Thanksgiving Day weekend.

Yes, I thought about you today. As I sit here on the couch, my daughter is snuggled up beside me, my boys are running around playing cheerfully with their cousins, my wife and other daughter niece are in the kitchen putting the final touches on another meal fit for royalty, my brothers and father are sitting around telling stories, other family and loved ones are milling about enjoying each other’s company, and the youngest in the family sits in her momma’s lap across from me. At only eighteen months, she’s a full year older than you would have been today. As I watch her, I can’t help but think of you.

Yes, I thought about you today. I remember walking through the front door and laying my eyes on you for the first time. My heart literally skipped a beat and fell out of my chest when I first saw you. I remember scooping your lifeless body off the floor, cradling your limp body in my arm as I leaned down to place my lips over yours. In twenty years on the job, I’ve used a BVM to perform manual respirations on the old and the young dozens of times, but I’d yet to find myself literally breathing my own breath into someone else’s lungs. As I did, your cold lips on mine startled me. I wasn’t prepared for that. No amount of training on a mannequin could have prepared me for that.

Yes, I thought about you today. I remember wrapping my hands around your little torso. As my hands fully encircled your chest, my thumbs over your sternum, I squeezed, trying desperately to pump life into your veins. I’ve performed chest compressions on lifeless patients for more than twenty years, but you. You. At just three months, squeezing your chest…I can’t even describe. There just are…No. Words.

Yes, I thought about you today. I remember the fast walk to meet the ambulance at the street, jumping up in the back and saying, “we gotta go. Now.” I remember every second of the drive to the hospital, the longest ride of my life. I remember every squeeze. Every breath. Never before that day have I actively prayed over someone as I tried desperately to save their life, and here I was, praying out loud as we worked to bring you back. I remember every word. Every plea. Every cry to God for His healing touch and breath of life.

Yes, I thought about you today. I remember the concerned looks on the faces of the ED staff as we walked in the room. Their frantic efforts to revive you. Their defeat an hour later as they also conceded to the reality that it was not up to us to choose life for you. I remember your parents and the desperation in their faces as they struggled to let go of you. Oh, how they loved you…it was so evident in that moment.

It’s all etched so deeply in my psyche that it’s just there now. Always. It’s just become part of who I am now. Every. Single. Bit. Every time I remember you, I relive it. Not part of it, or bits and pieces of it, but every single moment…from the second I walked through the door all the way through the long drive back to the firehouse, four grown men…completely silent…knowing nothing could be said.

Yes, I thought about you today. Again today, for the umpteenth time I questioned what we could have done different, how we could have been faster, worked harder, prayed stronger, believed more. I know. I know in my heart we did all we could, that it wasn’t up to us to choose life for you on that afternoon. But it doesn’t stop the interrogation I face in my own mind…every. single. day. I force myself to find my own portion of peace in knowing we did all we could…that it wasn’t for me to decide. But the memory of that afternoon will haunt me until I, too, take my last breath. 

Yes, I thought about you today. Although the memory of that day will haunt me a lifetime, I have it easy. I can’t help but wonder what life for your family must be like in your absence. This first Thanksgiving without you must be unbearable. As I give thanks today for all that God has given me, I pray your parents either already have, or will one day soon, come to a place of peace in their lives. I pray they will come to a point where they are thankful for the three months they had with you, not resentful for the lifetime they didn’t. It’s unlikely they’ll ever read this, but if by chance they come across these words some day, I pray they can forgive me. Please know you are in my prayers every time I think of your precious baby girl.

Yes, I thought about you today. I think about you every day. May the God of peace and mercy be with your family this day and the next.

Get Up!

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The enemy is real. The battle is real, and though we only see the battle from our earthly perspective, it is spiritual in nature, and it wages nonstop for our heart, mind, body and soul. All around us, the devil and his demons are trying to penetrate our defenses and gain a foothold. The earthy walls we put up to defend ourselves are powerless to defend us. They serve only to shield us from reality…to isolate us from the world around us.

If the battle is a spiritual one, then the walls we must put up should be spiritual as well. Get up and face the battle…don’t run and hide. Gear up and man up. Put on the Helmet of Salvation, the Breastplate of Righteousness and the Belt of Truth. Slip into the Gospel Shoes and pick up the Shield of Faith in one hand and the Sword of the Spirit in the other and claim the victory in Christ’s name. You’re His child and your destiny is sealed in the Book of Life. Go claim the victory. Go. Go now.

Love,

Dad

  

Slow Down

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Coming off a 72 hour firehouse shift, I’m headed from one job to the next…go go go. Gotta get my laundry cleaned. The trash needs changed. The carpets need cleaned. The yard needs mowed. Need to clean and organize the garage. It’s time to start closing the pool for the winter. Gotta pack for a mission trip. Need to make sure the ministry team is equipped and ready to keep rolling on while I’m gone. The tags on the truck expired last month; can’t find the paperwork I need I renew them, so I’m off to spend the morning downtown getting all that in order before I spend another full day at the office…answering emails, returning phone calls, scheduling, budgeting, shuffling equipment.

Gonna run home this afternoon and get there just in time to meet the school bus and cram some food down their throats on the way to practice…gotta shuffle Kenpo and soccer practice into one night and still find time to do some homework with them. When it’s all said and done, maybe bath time will go smoothly enough to get some lap time with their favorite book before bedtime prayers.

When it’s all said and done, I’ll crash in a heap of exhaustion on the bed and lay there letting the frustration build as the boys are restlessly up and down, in and out of bed. Just. Fall. Asleep already. As exhausted as I am, my body and mind are telling me to sleep for a week. Yet, I’m restlessly running tomorrow’s to-do list through my mind, wondering how I can jam just one more thing into the schedule. No wonder the boys won’t fall alseep. They can’t. Can I blame them? Neither can I. Ugh.

Go. Go. Go. Seems like day after day we’re rushing from one activity to the next. Even as I type this, I’m thinking “you don’t have time to be doing this today…you got WAY too much to get done, and writing some silly little blog post is not on the list.”
Yet here I am. Unable to shut the flow words off. God simply saying to me, “Slow. Down. Just. Stop. Be. Still.”
 
So here I am. Sitting on the side of a busy street, intermittently looking up from my typing to watch the world go by. Three guys just walked past me. The first was talking on the phone, the second was reading some papers as he walked, and the third was shuffling through a binder filled with papers, literally tripping over the sidewalk as he continued on without slowing down or taking his eyes off his paperwork. Busy busy busy. Nonstop really.

Wondering when the last time I sat still and just let God talk to me…and simply listened, I open the Word to hear what He wants to say to me. Right here on the side of the road, in this moment, what do You want to say to me, Lord? And He leads me ‘The Message’ translation of Jeremiah 2:25

“Slow down. Take a deep breath. What’s the hurry? Why wear yourself out? Just what are you after anyway? But you say, ‘I can’t help it. I’m addicted to alien gods. I can’t quit.'”

And I stop. “Woah, there, Lord! I’m not addicted to ‘alien gods.’ What’s that even mean? That’s not me. That’s ‘The Message’ version anyway. Let’s see what another translations says, one I like better.”

“When will you stop running? When will you stop panting after other gods? But you say, ‘Save your breath. I’m in love with these foreign gods,and I can’t stop loving them now!” (NLT)

Well, alright then, Lord. But surely that’s not me. Let’s put in context. I’ll read on:

“When will you stop running? When will you stop panting after other gods? But you say, ‘Save your breath.  I’m in love with these foreign gods, and I can’t stop loving them now!’

“Israel is like a thief who feels shame only when he gets caught. They, their kings, officials, priests, and prophets— all are alike in this. To an image carved from a piece of wood they say, ‘You are my father.’ To an idol chiseled from a block of stone they say, ‘You are my mother.’ They turn their backs on me, but in times of trouble they cry out to me, ‘Come and save us!’

But why not call on these gods you have made? When trouble comes, let them save you if they can! For you have as many gods as there are towns in Judah. Why do you accuse me of doing wrong? You are the ones who have rebelled,” says the Lord.

“I have punished your children, but they did not respond to my discipline. You yourselves have killed your prophets as a lion kills its prey.

“O my people, listen to the words of the Lord! Have I been like a desert to Israel? Have I been to them a land of darkness? Why then do my people say, ‘At last we are free from God! We don’t need him anymore!’

Does a young woman forget her jewelry, or a bride her wedding dress? Yet for years on end my people have forgotten me.

“How you plot and scheme to win your lovers. Even an experienced prostitute could learn from you. Your clothing is stained with the blood of the innocent and the poor, though you didn’t catch them breaking into your houses!

And yet you say, ‘I have done nothing wrong. Surely God isn’t angry with me!’ But now I will punish you severely because you claim you have not sinned.

First here, then there—you flit from one ally to another asking for help. But your new friends in Egypt will let you down, just as Assyria did before. In despair, you will be led into exile with your hands on your heads, for the Lord has rejected the nations you trust. They will not help you at all.” Jeremiah 25-37 (NLT)

While this passage was directed at Isreal, it certainly hits home for me and the busyness I’ve allowed to creep into my life…my family’s lives. My words and heart say I don’t chase other gods, but my actions often say otherwise. God says. Just slow down.

“It is useless for you to work so hard from early morning until late at night, anxiously working for food to eat; for God gives rest to his loved ones.” – Psalm 127:2

Lord, I’m sorry. I turn from the gods I chase after here and toward You. Draw me in, oh Lord my God, and quiet my soul. Draw near to me and fill me with Your presence so that I can rest in You and lay the toil of this life down at the cross. Abba Father, thank you for never giving up on me…for bringing my shortfalls to my attention and allowing me the opportunity to continually come back to You. I’m a work in progress, Lord, and as long as You give me breath to live I will seek to become more like You everyday. Though I fall woefully short, You pick me up time and time again and bring me into Your arms. For that I only know to cry into Your shoulder and weep aloud, “thank you.” Thank you, Lord, thank you. Amen.

That’s my prayer for you as well. Prayerfully, there’s still time in this life to show you better how to slow down and rest in God.

Love,

Dad

My Six Rules For Using The Public Shower – I Might Be Too OCD For This

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There are some jobs of fatherhood no one ever really prepares us for…long-standing traditions that need to be passed on to our children and grandchildren…lessons of past generations to be remembered, memorialized and honored. Sometimes, those traditions are as obvious to us as the nose on our face, the things we have woven into the very fabric of our family name and heritage. Things that have shaped who we are as a people. 

More often than not, are the common things we do every day without really even a second thought as to how we learned them. Things that never really even appear as a blip on our radar…until the moment presents itself. And then in that moment, that “aha!” moment, when the blip appears on the radar, it’s THE most important thing right now, and we instantly know we HAVE to get this one right…or risk losing the precious knowledge handed down to us by our forefathers. 
So, to honor those who came before us and protect this critical knowledge for generations to come, let’s take a moment to review the top six rules…of public shower use at the campground.
  
As complicated as I could actually make this, I’m dealing with a 6 and 8 year old on their first weeklong camping trip, so I’ll keep it as simple as I can. Because honestly, it took less than 12 hours to forget the first rule. So, let’s get to it:

Rule #1 – No skin touches the floor.
This includes feet, hands, butt cheeks, and everything in between. For those who are asking, “why list ‘butt cheeks’ specifically?” You obviously don’t have boys, nor do you understand how a child takes off his shorts. I need say no more.

Rule #2 – Only the bottom of your Flick Flocks touch the floor.
No really, refer to Rule #1 above. It’s Rule #1 for a reason.

Rule #3 – No clothing or towel touches the floor.

Are we seeing a pattern here yet?

Rule #4 – Lock the door behind you.
Seems self explanatory really, but needs said nonetheless. Nothing really witty or funny to say about this one. The sad fact is there is an evil that walks among us, undetected and unseen…until it strikes. When it strikes, it does so without warning or provocation, so take measures to reduce your risk.

A side note to this rule: Remember, there’s safety in numbers. The “Two-In-Two-Out” rule in firefighting is our equivalent of the Boy Scouts’ “Buddy System”. It applies in many aspects of life, including this one. That is, unless your “buddy” likes hiding your clothes and turning the lights off on you while you’re in the public shower. If that’s the case, maybe go it alone…and reconsider whether your “buddy” really is a buddy.

Rule #5 – Wash your feet.
Like, really, really, really well. Really. It’s called ‘incidental contact‘ or ‘splash-back‘. Regardless of how well you adhere to Rule #1, it’s gonna happen…wash it. Really well. Really.

Rule #6 – Look up.
You’re camping. Probably near trees and woods. Bugs live in the woods. Big bugs. Eight-legged, hairy bugs that will carry you off into the deepest, darkest recesses of the wilderness and eat you alive kinda bugs. Bugs like water, so much they migrate toward water sources. You’re in the shower. The shower has water. Need I say more (Okay, maybe the bugs aren’t THAT big, but they’re big enough that when the water knocks one from the shower head into your hair or face you’ll be screaming like a girl and running around like a bug just fell on your face. Save the embarrassment and look up first.)

There you have it, my top six rules to using the public shower. Use at your own risk from here out. No lifeguard on duty.

Love,

Dad

P.S. I know I’m OCD about some things (germs in particular), but I embrace it, because I also know I’m not completely lost to it. I’m somewhere between “what doesn’t kill us builds our immunity” and “I put gloves on before I put gloves on, so I don’t get my gloves dirty.” (Although, I have actually put gloves on before I put gloves on so I don’t get my gloves dirty, but that’s a story for a whole nother day.)

P.P.S. I can see by the photo below that I need to readdress Rule #1
 and make it clear that it also applies to using the same public shower/restroom facility when we’re taking a potty break during a swim. Ugh.

I know I’m not alone in my craziness here. What are some of your “rules” for using the public shower?

Life In Eight Seconds…or Less

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Some of my most deeply though-provoking, meaningful and life-altering conversations with my boys take place in less time than it takes to win a championship bull ride. They start with an open of the gate, and whether I’m ready for the ride or not, we’re off and running. Sometimes I’m able to dig in, hold my ground and ride that bull for the whole eight seconds, leaving a small nugget of truth in their hearts and minds. Most times, (which is more often than I care to admit) the gate is opened when I least expect it, and that bull bucks me off with his opening line. Take last week as a prime example:

SI: (watching a toddler half his age walk past him…at church, no less!):
“She has a cute butt.”
“Umm, wait…wha…?”
He gone. Down the hall in the opposite direction, I didn’t even have a fightin’ chance.

Any trip in the car tends to be one bull ride after another.

SI:
“Dad, firemen are not afraid.”
“Uh, yeah I’m not sure I agree with that.”
“No! Firemen cannot be afraid.”
“Yeah, we can.”
“Wait, you’re afraid?”
“What makes a firefighter different from everyone else is we’re a little afraid, but we go in anyway…because someone has to. There’s nothing wrong with being afraid of anything that can kill you.”
“Fire can kill you?”
“Yes, son. It can.”
Turning to his brother, he’s gone…off to the next thing.

Two minutes later from NE:

“Dad?”
“Yes sir.”
“If you want to dig for oil, do not…because you might blow up.”
“Wha…”?”
He gone. And I’m left lying in the dust wondering what just happened as that bull runs off to the next thing.

Last week SI was was literally walking circles around a friend at church.
“Dude! What are you doing?”
“I’m mooning him.”
“You’re what?!”
“I’m being his moon.”
“Well, alrighty then.”

That’s our life. Eight-second bursts of attention that take every ounce of my concentration just to hold on as if my life depends on it. Can’t say, if given the chance, I’d change it for all the sanity in the world. Life…eight seconds at a time.

Love,

Dad

P.S. For the record, any “cute butt” comment coming from my 5 year old warrants a follow up conversation. Apparently, she had cute little flowers on the seat of her pants. Aha! So, the pants. The pants are cute, not the butt. Well, okay then. I can live with that.

We Left Our Mark…Not Just Another Day

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This note is just a really fun opportunity for me to brag on how much I love you.  These are the days I will look back on when I’m old and remember fondly how much fun we had.  I love hanging out with and spending time with you.  Period.  End of story.

Kansas City Chiefs, Arrowhead, Tailgate

Leaving Our Mark with Sidewalk Chalk in the Parking Lot

Kansas City Chiefs, Arrowhead, Tailgate

Just Like His Momma…People Watching

Kansas City Chiefs, Arrowhead, Tailgate

All Smiles

Kansas City Chiefs, Arrowhead, Tailgate

Learning to BBQ a Hot Dog

Kansas City Chiefs, Arrowhead, Tailgate

Pregame, Still All Smiles

Kansas City Chiefs, Arrowhead, Tailgate

Getting in on the 12th Man Action on Defense

And, he’s out!  Sleep Eating 101.

I love you,

Dad

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