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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

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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

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?

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

Somewhere Between Here and There

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As he sits, nearly motionless, the world is moving all around him…people walking past like he’s not even here. Indeed, he’s not here. He’s nowhere close to where “here” is right now.

Here is a place he longs to be with every fiber of his being. Right here is good. It’s where his family is…and wants him to be. It’s safe. Secure. Comfortable. Peaceful. Relaxing. Oh how good here really is…if only he could be here to enjoy it.

He’s here physically, but he is constantly fighting to stay here mentally. An inner turmoil that rages deep within his soul, the daily struggle to stay here is real. And it wears on him…emotionally, physically, spiritually. Here is a place that fades in and out of reality for him. Reality for him is constantly bouncing between here…and that other place.

“There” is a place all too familiar to him. Every semi-loud sound jolts him back there…a world he’s left behind and returned to so many times over two decades it’s hard to discern which is real and which isn’t. There is a place like no other…where the memories of past runs reside. A collection of all the worst incidents he’s responded to in his 20 years on the job. Many so gruesome he’s wept afterward, then been forced to bury in the depths of his mind so he can run the next one.

No matter how hard he tries to forget, he can’t. Some things can’t be unseen. Unfelt. Unheard. Unlived. Even with his best efforts to forget, they always seem to find their way back to the surface every now and then…often when he least expects it.

Today is the first day he’s had the whole day to spend with his family in awhile…a day that’s supposed to be spent making fun memories. His children are playing nearby, laughing and screaming with joy. An all too innocent scene, but today the sounds bring the pain. They instantly carry him back there.

There, a mother’s child screams in pain while he and his crew desperately work to cut the metal from around them, trying to free his mother and him from a mangled mass of what once was their family minivan. Moments earlier, he was giggling and laughing as his family was off on an adventure. Their first family vacation ended before it ever began, and no family vacation will ever be the same for them again, as his dad lay lifeless over the steering wheel.

Here, as he watches his children playing, he has repositioned the chair he’s sitting in so his back is in the corner, and he faces the exit. Ready to bolt at a moment’s notice, he’s on edge when he can’t see what’s going on behind him. He quickly surveys every room he enters for threats and a quick way out. It’s the same in every situation. He sits on the outside of an aisle. Close to the exit. Every time. If he arrives too late to pick the ideal seat, he’d just assume stand in the back of the room and watch from afar than be confined in the middle of the room. You’ll never see him standing in the middle of a group of people if it can be avoided. Instead, you’ll find him on the edges, just close enough to participate, yet able to slip away unnoticed when his senses overwhelm him and force him to leave.

There, he’s watched colleagues ambushed and killed, and been verbally and physically assaulted by the very people he’s come to help more times than he can count. He’s been hit, kicked, spit on and yelled at so many times he’s become callous and indifferent. He’s constantly wondering what’s lurking behind him. His mind is conditioned to accept the reality that as noble as his profession is, there is evil lurking all around him…an evil that preys on him and his people. He’s come to accept that it’s not a matter of “if”, but “when”.

Here, the boys are talking loudly behind him. His daughter is watching a loud video beside him. Traffic is swirling all around him as he drives the family home. The combination of so many stimuli all at once is all too reminiscent of what he faces every day on the job, and it keeps him there instead of here.

There, he’s consistently multitasking on a level above average, walking into life threatening situations and assessing all that is happening in a traumatic and high-stress environment, processing multiple solutions, weighing the life and death outcome probabilities of each possible one, choosing the option with the hope for the best possible outcome, then implementing those actions to bring order out of chaos. All in just seconds as life hangs in the balance. As much as he wants to be here in this moment, there has ahold of him and won’t let go. 

And he hates himself for it…all this emotional baggage he carries now is the price he pays for what he signed up to do. And he knows it…accepted that long ago. Although never fully able to truly grasp the real cost at the time, he willingly stood when his time came…jumped at the opportunity. He was young and eager. Ready to save the world. If only he knew then what he knows now about the emotional turmoil his new career choice would bring over his lifetime, maybe he’d have passed.

Probably not. Ignorance is bliss. And helping others is in his blood. Serving others is who he is. No matter the cost. He knows the job has to be done, and if not him then who…if not now then when. Even if he knew everything he knew then, he still would have jumped in with both feet, ready and willing. He just hates that his family has to sacrifice so much for it too. He signed up for this…they didn’t. He hates how it’s affected his family, and his ability to enjoy them in the here.

As his family mingles around him, he bounces between here and there. It’s the end of the day now, and they’re settling into bedtime routines. Life is slowing down for the night. Night often brings the nightmares and sleepless nights, but for now he’s content to embrace the night and hopefully a peaceful night’s sleep. Right now, he’s not here or there. He’s bouncing between the two, but not settling long in either. And that’s alright to him, because when he’s somewhere between here and there, he isn’t there.

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.

A Field Trip

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I did something I thought I’d never do today. I walked through the doors of an art gallery. Intentionally. You see, I’m not much into art. It’s never really been my thing. Really. I mean, don’t get me wrong here, there’s nothing wrong with art…it’s just not MY thing. The extent of my art-viewing experiences is glancing at the walls in the dining room

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on my way to the refrigerator.

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Nonetheless, far be it from me to impose my likes and dislikes on my kids. So, we picked the boys up from school an hour early and took a field trip to the art gallery.

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Why, you ask? What brought me here today? Because, tied with your mom, I’m your biggest fan! I always knew you have mad skills, dude! My son…an artist who’s work is on display for the whole world to appreciate.

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They’ll never appreciate it as much as I do. Keep up the great work son! I’m proud of you. Then. Now. Tomorrow. Always. Not merely because your art made it into the gallery, but because you’re MY son.

Love,

Dad

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