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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

A Week’s Prayer Covering – Day 2

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Heavenly Father, thank you for the blessing of these two boys. To be chosen by you as their Earthly father is the pinnacle of the joy this life has brought me, and I am richly blessed. I stand in awe at your creation, for they are fearfully and wonderfully made. Imperfectly perfect creations made in your image.  
I’m grateful you brought them to us together, in the timing you did. As I watch them play and grow together, I see they will be close their whole lives, and I pray that to be your will. It’s my prayer that the memories they’re making and the experiences they’re sharing together throughout childhood will forge an unbreakable bond that will carry them through their entire lives. Grow within them a love for family and a responsibility to always care and provide for family. Instill in them the importance of working together toward common goals.

Develop in them humility, grace, honor, respect, courage, love, compassion, joy, kindness, forgiveness, honesty and mercy. Basically, Lord, please build them into the leaders of their generation, who will stand up against oppression and immorality and defend the defenseless. Raise them as your own children, Lord. For they are. I commend them unto you, oh Lord. In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit I pray. Amen

Love,

Their dad, your son

A Week’s Prayer Covering – Day 1

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 Oh gracious Lord, my God, as I watch them play, I know you’re watching them too. So young and innocent…clueless to the horrors and atrocities that await them in the adult world. Abba Father, shelter their minds and their hearts for as long as You can. I beseech you to only expose them to the pain and the hurt and the suffering this world will offer them as You see need to prepare them for worse to come. As difficult as it is for me to see them hurting, Lord, I pray it be in Your will to do so while I’m here to help them navigate it.

  As their little minds grow with each rock skipped, every stick tossed, each ball thrown, every bubble popped and every frog caught, please continue expanding their minds to explore a world outside their own…to live outside their comfort zone…to never settle for the first answer (unless it’s from me and their mom) 🙂 Ignite a passion in their hearts to live life to the fullest…to seek You with all their heart, mind, soul and body. To never stop searching for Truth…to seek You without ceasing.

  Thank you for blessing me and their mother in choosing us as their parents. What an awesome responsibility you’ve laid at our feet. Oh, but what a greater joy you’ve placed in our hearts. Lead us in leading them, Father. Thank you for the road we’ve already travelled, the smooth and the bumpy. Prepare us for the journey that still lies ahead, and walk with us as we share with them a love like no other…the love of their eternal Father and Creator…the love of your Son. Lord God, it’s in the name of your Son, Jesus Christ, I pray these things. In all things may your will be done and to you be the glory and the praise forever. Amen.

Love,

A child of the One True King

Open Your Eyes and Be a Blessing

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This morning’s time with God was challenging.  As are most of the conversations we have in which I actually talk less and listen more.  From 1 Corinthians 12:12-31:

The human body has many parts, but the many parts make up one whole body.  So it is with the body of Christ.  Some of us are Jews, some are Gentiles, some are slaves, and some are free.  But we have all been baptized into one body by one Spirit, and we all share the same Spirit.

Yes, the body has many different parts, not just one part.  If the foot says, ‘I am not a part of the body because I am not a hand,’ that does not make it any less a part of the body.  And if the ear says, ‘I am not part of the body because I am not an eye,’ would that make it any less a part of the body?   If the whole body were an eye, how would you hear?  Or if your whole body were an ear, how would you smell anything? But our bodies have many parts, and God has put each part just where he wants it.  How strange a body would be if it had only one part!  Yes, there are many parts, but only one body.  The eye can never say to the hand, ‘I don’t need you.’  The head can’t say to the feet, ‘I don’t need you.’ In fact, some parts of the body that seem weakest and least important are actually the most necessary.  And the parts we regard as less honorable are those we clothe with the greatest care.  So we carefully protect those parts that should not be seen,  while the more honorable parts do not require this special care.  So God has put the body together such that extra honor and care are given to those parts that have less dignity.  This makes for harmony among the members, so that all the members care for each other.  If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it, and if one part is honored, all the parts are glad.”

As I read the last portion of that (the section I’ve highlighted) and allowed God to speak into my life this morning, He pricked my heart with more questions than answers:

  • “How well are you caring for the ‘less honorable‘ members of the body?”
  • “How caring are you toward those with ‘less dignity?'”
  • “How protective are you of the “weaker” members?”
  • “What are you doing to protect them?”
  • “How are you showing them honor?”
  • “How are you loving them?”
  • “How available and willing are you to humble yourself?”

What I’ve determined in this examination is that:

  •  There is no “less honorable“, “less dignified“, or “weaker” in His eyes.  These are our labels, as verse 22 so clearly demonstrates,

“In fact, some parts of the body that seem weakest and least important are actually the most necessary.”

  • I am too often consumed with serving God, wrapped up in the details of a to-do list, that I am focused on the wrong things.  Too often, the blinders come on, the tunnel vision sets in, and I see only what’s right in front of me…a to-do list.  I’m much too task-oriented when I should be relationship-oriented.

My prayer today, “Lord thank you for opening my eyes and heart to my shortcomings in this area of my walk with you.  Please forgive me these failures, Lord.  Continue speaking truth into my mind and life through the Spirit.  You created me with the ability to bring order out of chaos and to provide structure and organization where it otherwise wouldn’t be.  I believe you alone have the power to mold me into a person who is relationship-oriented who can also use his task-oriented gifts to your glory.  Claiming your promise in John 15:7, “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given to you“, I pray according to your will that you open my eyes to those around me and allow me to be a blessing in someone’s life today.” Love, Dad

My god was not my God

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I have come to realize I can’t go a day without it.  It’s 4 o’clock in the afternoon and while I haven’t touched it yet, I Can’t. Stop. Thinking. About. It.

Like, really can’t stop obsessing with how good it’d feel right now.  It’s over on the kitchen counter staring at me menacingly.  Calling me.  Beckoning me to come partake.  It knows I can’t function without it.  It knows!  It’s just sitting there…tempting me with the reality that the fog I’m in right now would go away almost instantly.  With just one cup.

Yes, I’ve come to realize it’s time for a change.  When I’ve become so reliant on something as small as a cup of coffee, I’ve become reliant on the wrong thing.  And I’ve been reliant on the wrong thing.  That’s not easy for me to admit, but there it is.

It’s the second Commandment, “You shall have no other gods before me” – Exodus 20:3, yet there it is staring me right in the face.  Coffee has become my god.  As I sat down to write this note, I honestly didn’t think I’ve put coffee before God.  I haven’t, have I?  Well, let’s see…

It’s the first thing I reach for in the morning.  Before my Bible and before my time with God.  Really, the two go together so well in the morning… a cop of coffee and the Word.

coffee and the Word

a little coffee and a whole lot of Word

But the coffee…oh how the coffee gets me through it.  Wait!  It “gets me through it?”  WOW!  Yeah…it’s time for a change.

I’m thankful that my God is bigger than my coffee.  Ephesians 6 tells us to put on the full armor of God.  It’s time to demolish this stronghold in my life.  With the Helmet of Salvation, I am claiming the mind of Christ as I thank Him that I am His child and praise Him for my eternal life.  I’ve affixed the Breastplate of Righteousness, asking God to search my heart and reveal the wickedness hidden within it.  I’ve confessed my sin and am claiming Christ’s righteousness to cover my sins.  With the Shield of Faith, I am claiming the victory and advancing in faith to quench the fiery darts of the wicked (Mark 11:24).

I am claiming victory in this through Christ.  My coffee is my god no more.

Love,

Dad

P.S. Ironic that immediately after posting this, I place a link to this note on the Decaf Dad page.  God really is good all the time.

My Kids and Oxen…Getting Dirty. Yes, I Went There.

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I almost missed it again this morning.  I’d skipped right through it and was two verses past it when I quite literally heard the Spirit of God whisper in my ear, “go back and read that again.”

“Without oxen a stable stays clean, but you need a strong ox for a large harvest.” – Proverbs 14:4 (NLT)

I’ve read this particular verse in Proverbs probably a hundred times or more and missed it every time.  After a few minutes reflecting on that verse, I was left with more questions than answers:

“What am I doing to reap a harvest for God’s kingdom?  I mean what am I REALLY doing?  Am I living in a way that reflects Christ living in me to those around me?  How dirty am I willing to get to do the work God’s called me to do?”

Planting, sowing, tilling and harvesting a crop is dirty work.  And yet, we are called to it…put here on Earth to reap a harvest for God’s kingdom…to bring Him glory in everything we do…to point the lost to Him.

“‘Bring all who claim me as their God, for I have made them for my glory.  It was I who created them.’” – Isaiah 43:7 (NLT)

“So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” – 1 Corinthians 10:31 (NLT)

Spoiler alert!  The lost aren’t generally in the most pristine and cleanest of places (by our standard of clean anyway).

In actuality, our first priority in reaching the lost should be in our homes.

As parents, we’re on the front lines doing battle to win the hearts and souls of our precious little ones for God.  And make no mistake moms and dads…it IS a battle.  A battle that takes place both in the spiritual realm between God’s angels and the forces of evil…and a battle that takes place in the physical realm between us and the influences a fallen world has on our children.  As we seek to hold our children close long enough to instill in them Godly character and moral truths, Satan is working overtime through the world around us.  He is working to pull them farther from our reach into a cycle of sin that can only be broken when they truly realize and accept their brokenness and complete dependence on God.

Dads, as a father of three boys and a special needs girl, I can assure you that raising kids is messy work.  I get it, I know.  It’s emotionally cluttered and chaotic…littered with drama.  Drama we don’t like and would just assume avoid every chance we get.  I mean honestly guys, who among us wouldn’t “rather be fishing”?  Fatherhood is heavy-laden with emotional turmoil and baggage that wears us down…leaves us inpatient and unkind.  It’s scary and often times traumatic.  It’s heartbreaking and gut wrenching.  It’s late nights and early mornings…with sleepless nights in between.  And that’s just the emotional side.

It’s just as physically relentless and cluttered.  You show me a dad who’s never navigated the minefield of Legos and Hot Wheels, and I’ll show you ten more with the battle scars to prove otherwise.  For the mom reading this, when you look at the living room littered with toys, the couch covered in Cheerios, the syrup-covered dining room floor, the endless loads of laundry, the kitchen sink overflowing with the day’s dishes, the bathroom you wouldn’t let a stranger use, let alone a close friend who stops by unexpectedly, the ransacked-looking bedrooms and kids running around half-dressed with bubble gum stuck in their hair…have faith that “Without oxen a stable stays clean, but you need a strong ox for a large harvest.”

You WILL one day wake up to a clean house with no laundry to wash, no dishes to clean, no floor to mop, no bathroom to sterilize, no toys to pick up.  No giggles to enjoy.  No children to play.  For the dad reading this.  You wanna make an impact in your kids’ lives?  Don’t let mom be the one to do all the dirty work.  Let’s man up and get in the trenches with her in managing the homestead, eh?

Because like it or not, we are right where we are called to be…whether we’ve fully accepted the role or not.

“Children are a gift from the LORD;  they are a reward from him.  Children born to a young man are like arrows in a warrior’s hands.  How joyful is the man whose quiver is full of them!  He will not be put to shame when he confronts his accusers at the city gates.” – Psalm 127:3-5 (NLT)

“Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” – Proverbs 22:6 (KJV)

Do you see it?  To get an ox to plow the field and do the work that’s hard, it has to be trained.

“It’s easier to train oxen when you start when they’re babies.  In addition to being smaller and easier to handle, you gain their trust and respect from the beginning.  They’ll trust you and your judgment just as they would trust their mother.  If you are careful in how you handle them (never abusing them, but never letting them get away with anything) they respect your dominance and will not challenge your authority when they are older and much bigger”  (excerpt from “Training Oxen: Start with Calves” by Heather Smith Thomas via http://www.countrysidemag.com)

The ox doesn’t become strong after one planting season.  It takes many seasons to develop its strength.  It has to be trained, and then only after years of training is it strong enough to do the work well.  Much like an athlete who has spent years training for his sport, the ox is stronger for having endured the training.  Likewise, our kids are being trained.

The question we have to ask ourselves as their father is, “who’s training them?”

Are we training them for the work God will soon call them to?  Or is the world training them to resist Him?  Are we preparing and equipping them for success on the front lines for God?  Or is the world preparing them to rebel against Him?

As dads, we have to be on the front lines in the mud with them (mostly figuratively, though many times literally).  We lead from the front, not the back.  To win their hearts and minds, we have to be involved.  Engaged.  Committed.  Standing steadfast and consistent.  Intentional in our actions and words.  Every. Single. Day. Without fail.  There are no breaks in fatherhood.

It won’t happen overnight. It won’t happen this week, this month, or even this year.  Through many years of training, though, they will grow stronger.  They will come out the other side stronger for having endured it.  Stronger spiritually.  Fully reliant on God.  Through our consistent love (which is more than affection…it includes discipline, but that’s a note for another day), we will have reaped a harvest in our children.  A harvest that will go forth and reap another harvest when it’s their time.  The question that remains is, “how messy are we willing to get?”

What we’re called to do isn’t easy, by any definition.

“Dear brothers and sisters, if another believer is overcome by some sin, you who are godly should gently and humbly help that person back onto the right path.  And be careful not to fall into the same temptation yourself.” – Galatians 6:1 (NIV)

We’re being asked to work in the mess without getting messy.  To work the field without getting any of the field on us.  To be in the dirt without getting dirty.  How is that possible, you ask?  Only by the power and grace of a God who loves us enough to get messy for us.  It’s by the blood we’re kept clean and holy.  Even when we fail.  It’s by the cross we are found pure in God’s eyes.  It’s by the Son we can do all things.

“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” – Philippians 4:13 (NKJV)

I’m gonna go jump in the dirt.  Who’s with me?

Love,

Dad

What Do You See?

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What do you see when he passes you, red lights flashing and siren blaring as he clears a path to his destination? Do you see the pain and suffering he will see when he gets there? Do you see it? No? Open your eyes…it’s there.

It’s a darkness that swallows him, pouring over his soul like a raging sea.

It tosses him back and forth, churning him up in a blender that’s mixed with all the pain and sorrow he bears witness to.

He tries to escape the fury of its wrath,
but its grip on him is unrelenting. It crushes his soul and takes away his breath.

He’s sinking into the pits of a darkness that won’t let him go. The raging fire that engulfs his once vibrant, green and thriving soul leaves in its wake the charred remains of destruction and death…each memory of the terrors that haunt him as fresh today as the day they first burned him.

Oh, how the memories that haunt him are more than he can bear. At night they startle him from his sleep in a cold sweat that finds him grasping for breath and fighting to break free from the chains that bind him. At dawn, there is no reprieve as they follow him throughout his day, lurking around every corner and down every path…a constant reminder that they will follow him all the days of his life. His heart grows callous to protect him from the pain of it.

He had no warning, no friend to say “wait!” No idea that what he once loved would become something to hate.

Every day, people pass him by and utter under their breath, “he’s got it made. His job is easy. He’s well paid.”

If only they’d stop and explore his eyes…it wouldn’t take long at all for them to realize

He’s begging for mercy, crying out from the pits of his own hell, “Someone help! Throw me a rope. Where is my hope?”

Is there no reprieve for this man? No light at the end of his present darkness? No one to offer him hope? Will no one come to his side and offer to save him from this misery? Who is able?

I claim Your promise in Psalm 121 today, Lord. I lift my eyes up. My help comes from you LORD. I reach for Your outstretched arm and grasp it with what little life I have left in me. Pull me from these depths LORD. I long so deeply to embrace You and rest my weary head on Your shoulder. What is seen and felt now is temporary. Come now and bring me home.

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