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.

“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:

“Yes sir.”
“If you want to dig for oil, do not…because you might blow up.”
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.



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.

I Can’t Call My #3


Some days I just want to call her.  And then I realize that even though she’s still #3 on my phone’s speed dial, it just can’t happen.  There is no  speed dial that will connect me with her now.

There will come a day when you’re grown and out on your own that you wake up and want to call your mom, but get wrapped up in the business of your day.  You’ll put it off, and then before you know it months will have gone by without having heard her voice.  Don’t be that guy.  Don’t do to your mom what I did to mine.  She has always been, is now, and will always be your greatest fan and there for you whenever you need her.  Even if it’s just to hear her voice.  Don’t wake up one day wishing you could call her but knowing you can’t because she’s gone.  Well over a full year after her passing, she remains the top commenter on this blog.  She always had my back.  Always.

This woman right here…your granny…she loved each of you, with so much passion that I just can’t even write about it…there. are. no. words.  If ever there was an example of what “All In” looked like, it was her love for you.  I’m saddened to the point of tears as I write this, knowing how much of her life you missed.  She always had your back.  Always.


Mom & SD in March 2008


Mom with NE and SI in November 2009


I Miss You Mom

I miss you mom.  That is all.

Not My Job

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When one child recently told me “not my job” when asked to do a household chore, and another told me “you are not the best anymore” when I was honoring what I’d said about not getting dessert without eating dinner first, it got me thinking…am I starting to become more your friend than your father? That’s a slippery slope to navigate, so, I want to set the record straight right now and be crystal clear in where I stand on the answer to that question…

It’s not my job to give you a cookie when your siblings are eating one for dessert and you want one too. It’s to teach you that there are rules. Eating your dinner before you get dessert is one of them. It pales in comparison to the rules you will experience as an adult…and when you’re an adult, you can choose to eat dessert first if you want. 😛

It’s not my job to ensure you’re happy. It’s to help you find joy…even in your darkest moments.

It’s not my job to ensure you get what you want. It’s to teach you the skills you will use to provide for yourself and your own family some day.

It’s not my job to keep you from falling. It’s to teach you how to get back up and try again.

It’s not my job to get involved in every argument or fight you have with siblings or friends. It’s to teach you how to respectfully interact with others who have opinions and beliefs different than your own…and to show you how to think outside the box…and to admit when you’re wrong.

It’s not my job to think for you. It’s to teach you how to think for yourself.

It’s not my job to pick up after you or to clean up your messes. It’s to teach you how to care for yourself so that you can be a contributing member of society, not a drain on it.

It’s not my job to make sure you never lose, or that you always win. It’s to teach you how to lose without losing your cool…and how to win with grace and humility. There are winners and losers in life. There is no prize for participation when you become an adult. The sooner you learn that, the better your odds.

It’s not my job to keep you from being hurt. It’s to teach you how to see when others are hurting and to help them.

It’s not my job to serve you. It’s to teach you how to serve others.

It’s not my job to pay for everything you want. It’s to instill in you a work ethic that says “If I work hard for it, I can buy it myself.”

Likewise, it’s not my job to give you money (i.e. allowance) for doing nothing. The government is doing that well enough for all of us. It’s to teach you money management so that you have the ability to live a debt-free life if you choose wisely. You need to know that merely existing as part of our family (or society in general) is not worthy of getting a handout. You want money from me? Earn it. Know, though, that in life there are things we adults do without reward or compensation. Likewise, some chores around here are expected of you…without compensation…simply because your existence contributes to the wear and tear on the things we have.

It’s not my job to see that you never experience anger, frustration, disappointment or sadness. It’s to teach you the sanctity of life and that every life matters…and how to control your emotions and to show respect for others regardless of how you feel.

It’s not my job to teach you to avoid conflict. It’s to teach you to approach conflict like you’re walking up to a small fire with a bucket in each hand. One is filled with water…the other with gasoline. How you react to the situation (I.e. which bucket you choose to pour on it), is what will determine the outcome.

It’s not my job to keep you from making mistakes. It’s to help you learn from them. Many of the best lessons I’ve learned in life came from the mistakes I made. There will be times you’ll make the same mistake more than once. Until you learn from them, you’re destined to keep repeating them.

It’s not my job to make sure your heart is never broken. It’s to show you how to lead your heart, not be led by it.

It’s not my job to make sure you have friends. It’s to show you how to be a friend to others.

It’s not my job to make sure you’re right all the time. It’s to teach you truth…and that there are absolutes in life, regardless of what society wants you to believe about this. There are some grey areas in life, but there also exist a set of absolutes that are true…regardless of whether we believe them to be true or not…and it’s my job to equip you to defend those truths.

It’s not my job to make sure you don’t ever miss the school bus. It’s to teach you time management…and how to make a plan and execute the plan, and to have a contingency plan…because “when you fail to plan you plan to fail.”

It’s not my job to stand over you constantly to ensure you don’t sink. It’s to teach you how to swim. In the beginning that means providing you a life jacket to keep you afloat until you can stay afloat on your own. And when you do sink, I’ll be there to extend a hand to help you up…not out…up. Because there’s a lesson to be learned in sinking…one you won’t learn unless you get yourself out.

It’s not my job to fast forward through the commercials and previews for you. It’s to teach you patience and self control…and that good things come to those who wait.

It’s not my job to fight your bullies for you. It’s to teach you how to protect and defend yourself from tyranny. And that in some situations, the best defense is a good offense.

It’s not my job to keep you and your siblings from ever fighting. It’s to remind you that some minor conflict within the family is a natural thing, but that family comes first…we stand on our family’s side in times of conflict from sources outside our family.

It’s not my job to ensure you always have a roof over your head. It’s to teach you to be thankful for what you have…because camping out with nothing but the stars overhead is fun on occasion, but the harsh reality is that it’s all the “roof” many in this world have. We’re blessed beyond what we can comprehend. Don’t take it for granted.

It’s not my job to teach you how you should vote or who you should vote for. It’s to instill in you a love for your country and a respect for those who’ve served, bled and died to protect your freedoms, including your right to vote…and that it’s not your right to vote…it’s your responsibility. When you don’t vote, you give up the right to complain about your elected officials and anything they do.

It’s not my job to solve all your problems. It’s to teach you critical thinking skills…how to explore multiple options until you discover one that works to solve the problem for yourself.

It’s not my job to make sure you catch a fish with every cast. It’s to make sure you know how to fish. When Jesus told the disciples to put down their nets and taught them to be “fishers of men”, not even they “caught” every man for Christ. It’s called fishing, not catching, for a reason. We win some…we lose some. But you won’t win any unless you cast the line.

It’s not my job to respond to your every request for my attention. Likewise, it’s not my job to be with you 24/7…that’s not healthy. It’s my job to teach you independence…and to take care of my spiritual, mental, physical, and psychological well-being…because when one of those is out of whack, I’m of no use to you or anyone else. Trust me, my sanity is important for your well-being…and as much as I love hanging out with you, I need to be away from you sometimes too.

It’s not my job to argue with your teacher for not giving you an “A”. It’s to teach you that we get out of something what we put into it…and to earn the “A” yourself.

It’s not my job to shelter you from the storm. It’s to help you weather it. The strongest trees in the forest are the ones who survived the storms, high winds and forest fires.

It’s not my job to see that you never lack what you need. It’s to teach you the survival skills that will help you overcome adversity. Trees that survive drought do so by sending their roots deeper into the ground in search of water. The deeper roots provide more strength for the tree. They’re stronger because of the drought than they were without it. The deeper your roots, the stronger you will be.

Likewise, it’s not my job to see that your every need is met instantly. It’s to teach you how to recognize the needs of others and to show love and compassion to those less fortunate than yourself.

It’s not my job to provide you the latest and greatest “thing”. It’s to teach you to be content with what you have. I grew up without 24/7 internet access, cell phones, DVR’s, or iPods…and I survived. You will too.

It’s not my job to put only foods you like on your plate. It’s to teach you where your food comes from and how to provide food for your own family some day, whether by working a job for the money to buy it…or hunting it yourself.

It’s not my job to make sure you have fun at school. It’s to teach you respect for your elders and those put in charge over you. For that matter, it’s not my job to provide you nonstop, fun-filled activities throughout the day or to constantly entertain you. You want to have fun? Do what I did…pick up a book. Go outside. Explore your world.

It’s not my job to see that you grow up to become a firefighter like me. It’s to let you see how much I love my job and to instill in you a passion to serve your community. I will love and support you, no matter what you do with your life…that’s what dads do…it’s how we roll.

It’s not my job to love you more than your mother. It’s to remind you that she and I existed before you…and we have to live with each other when you leave out on your own. She comes first…yes, before you. I love you, but I love her more. Get over it. Guess what? I love God more than her. She’s over it.

It’s not my job to force you to believe what I believe. It’s my job to share what I believe and allow you to choose for yourself.

It’s not my job to make sure you never feel lost. It’s my job to show you that you’re already lost. So am I. It’s only through the love and sacrifice of Jesus Christ dying for us that we are ever found.

It’s not my job to be your friend. It’s to be your dad…and to teach you how to be a dad someday too. I don’t always get it right, but I’m trying my hardest with every day.



Dancing Through the Snow…with a Beaver and a Prayer

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Snapshots of what happens when daddy is left unsupervised with three kids for 4 hours:

1. NE sings songs like his daddy. Just because we forget the words, that’s no reason to stop singing. In complete rhythm and tune, without missing a beat: “Dancing through the snow…and I wonder what comes next.”

2. Passing the urgent care I took SI to two weeks ago,

SI: “I went to that doctor before, and he said I have a beaver.”
Me: “A beaver!? You have a beaver? Awesome dude!”
NE: “No dad, not a beaver that eats wood, a beaver that you put the tempature stick in your mouth, and the beaver makes your head hurt.”
Me: “Oh. A beaver would be cool though, right?”
Silence. I think I stunned him.

3. I’m proud that NE has my debating skills…even when he uses them on me. Now we need to work on stopping while he’s ahead. In pleading his case for keeping his glass, chocolate milk bottle, I conceded and agreed to not trash it after he successfully pointed out that he rinsed it out with water and it’s not yucky anymore. Then as he takes the bottle from me and is walking away, he continues to argue his point…which occurs more often than not, and always ends with me saying “you successfully won the point son. Stop talking now or I’ll change my mind for no other reason than because I’m the dad…and I can.”

4. Dinner table conversation:
NE: “Mom says ____ is a bad word, and we shouldn’t say it.”
Dad: “I agree. I don’t like that word either.”
SI: “When we say ____, will momma spank our butts?”
NE: “No, momma won’t spank us if we say ____.”
SI: “Mommy and daddy will not spank our butts if we say ____?”
NE: “Nope.”
Dad: “If you don’t stop saying it right now, I’m gonna spank you right here in front of everyone.”
SI: “If I say ____, you’re gonna spank my butt?”
Dad: “Yes.”
SI: (with look of shock on his face) “Oh. Then I will not say ____ because I don’t want you to spank my butt if I say ____.”
Dad: “Thank you.”
SI: (after long pause) Why can I not say ____? Is ____ a bad word?”
Dad: “Yes, it’s a bad word, and I don’t like it.
SI: “Okay. I will not say ____, because I no want you spank my butt.”
Dad: “That’s great. Thank you.”
SI: “You’re welcome. Cuz I don’t want you to spank my butt if I say ____.”
Dad: “I don’t think you’re getting it son.”
SI: “I will get it when I say ____, and you spank my butt.”
Me: (fighting back a smile) “Yes son. Yes you will. While we’re here, I don’t like butt either. Can we say bottom instead please?”
Repeat conversation. Ugh.

At least there’s hope in the final moments of the night. For the first time in a long time, the boys played together for 20 minutes without the poking of any eyeballs, smacking of any bottoms, pushing each other down the stairs or belly bombs off the couch to break the other’s arms. I only had to raise my voice during bedtime routine once (yes…that’s an improvement…sad, I know). And rather than fighting for a spot beside me at prayer time, NE wanted to sit by his little brother and hugged him throughout the prayer…that he prayed. It’s been awhile since NE has wanted to pray, and he willingly offered twice tonight. I wish I could take credit, but I’m not into pushing my luck. At this rate, we’re overdue for an AFLAC claim. I should have invested in AFLAC’s heart attack policy. Odds are in our favor there. Night night.



The Blessing in a Helmet

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“For man certainly does not know his time: like fish caught in a cruel net, or like birds caught in a trap, so people are trapped in an evil time, as it suddenly falls on them.” Ecclesiastes 9:12

fire helmet, firefighting

Playing Fireman

I’m in awe. I just got back to the firehouse. Your mom brought the three of you…SD, NE and SI…to the station this afternoon to visit me on my second day of a 48 hour shift, and while you were here, we were dispatched to a motor vehicle crash on the highway. You had been here about 20 minutes, climbing all over the ladder truck as usual…playing firemen…wearing my boots and my helmet. When you wear my helmet, it’s so heavy on your little head that when it’s sized for me, not you, it falls down over your forehead, covering your eyes…so you winch it down to your size, so it fits.

fire helmet, firefighting

Playing Fireman

You have been doing this for months now, maybe even a year or more. I always would forget to enlarge it back to my size after you left, and it used to drive me nuts to slap it on my head, and it not fit. So much so that I’ve not let you play with it as much recently…my OCD kicking in. I’m over that now.

I hate the highway…always have…always will. I’ve been saying it for years…I’d rather run into a burning building than work a wreck on the interstate…any day of the week. As I prepared to step off the truck onto the interstate this afternoon, I grabbed my helmet and was putting it on my head as I opened the door. As I dropped it on my head, I realized it was too small…and I immediately, instinctively thought of you. My mind raced back to the laughter and smiles as you played firefighter in the very same seat, not 5 minutes earlier…to the memory of you standing there waving and saying “I love you” as we drove out…to the thought of you standing by the radio desk at the station, eagerly listening for my voice on the radio. And I paused ever so slightly. Not long…just long enough to make a difference. In that pause, a car raced by at full speed, inches from my open door…me still in my seat. In that moment, I instantly realized the blessing in a helmet that was last on the head of a 5 year old boy.

Have you ever given any thought to what you would do right now if you knew with certainty that tomorrow you would die? Would you act differently? Would you treat people around you differently? Would there be something you’d want to say to those you love? Is there something that you’ve put off doing that would quickly be moved to the front burner? Is there something you’ve always wanted to do, but didn’t?

What’s holding you back? Is it that you think you have more time? That your time’s not up yet? That “it won’t happen to me”? Are you afraid of offending someone? Afraid of embarrassing yourself? Afraid you’d be laughed at?

Get over it. The one certainty in life is this: all things die. You and I are no different. And you don’t know when it’s your time, so what are you waiting for? In the first 12 verses in the ninth chapter of Ecclesiastes, God uses King Solomon to encourage us to enjoy life, despite the death that awaits us. Live today like there is no tomorrow, and instead of living a life full of tomorrows, “what-if’s” and “if only’s”, you’ll live a life full of today’s…a life worthy of the admiration and respect of your fellow man…and more importantly, a life worthy of the approval of the Father. Few people on death’s doorstep look back on their life and have regrets for the opportunities they seized. More often, they regret the missed opportunities…those things they should have done but didn’t. If there’s one thing I’ve learned in my 16 years in EMS, life is too short to have regrets.

Not saying that my experience on the highway today was a close call…but it was closer than I’d prefer to experience. It was close enough to remind me what’s important. Close enough to remind me there are no guarantees that the next call won’t be my last. It was close enough that I’m over my earlier OCD about my helmet not fitting my head, and will instead encourage you to play with it, rather than be frustrated by it. It was close enough that the next time I put my helmet on after you’ve worn it, I’ll pause when it doesn’t fit my head…say a short prayer for protection…and be just a bit more safe in what I do.

“Good to Be Alive” – Jason Grey



P.S.  Within a month of this note, I responded to A Garage Fire and came off the truck with a helmet that didn’t fit.  I believe it was a blessing then too.

Guilty Until Proven Innocent

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As I write this, it’s been only two hours since the media has reported on the verdict in a “high profile” murder trial.  A mother was accused of killing her 2 year old daughter.  I didn’t follow the case very much in the news, because I have found that the media reports what they want, when they want.  Reporting in the news is jaded to reflect what the reporter believes to be true, not true, relevant or irrelevant, and they more often than not throw in their own personal commentary rather than simply reporting the facts.  This usually ends up in the public finding guilt within the accused before the trial even takes place…guilty until proven innocent…and once “proven” innocent, still condemned in the eyes of an unrelenting public opinion, the life they face will never be lived without the stigma and reputation that will follow them.

That’s not how the system is supposed to work.  Innocent until proven guilty is a thing of the past.  I’d like to think that back before the time of instant communication making information accessible across the globe, the accused truly were innocent until proven guilty.  Now that we have radio, television, email, internet, cell phones, texting, Twitter, Facebook and the like…the times have changed.  Innocence for the accused is now a pipe dream.  Moral of the message here is this: take what you watch, read and hear in any media form at face value…with a grain of salt.  It’s most likely someone’s opinion rather than fact.  You’ll learn this along the way as you grow, as I’m sure you’ll see it lived out in your own experiences.

Such is the case with this recent news…the reading of the verdict.  This mother was found “not guilty” on the counts of murder and child abuse/endangerment.  But because she was found “guilty” on the counts of falsifying information to law enforcement officials, the public has condemned her as being guilty on all counts.  Really, the public had already condemned her and “found her guilty”, so the reading of the verdict was more of a slap in the face to a lot of people I know than anything…people who believe she is guilty.  I’ve been reading posts on Facebook all afternoon from “friends” who are shocked at the verdict…surprised she was not convicted of murder…angry at the justice system for what they perceive as a failure…condemning her for getting away with murder.

What is truly saddening to me is how easily we forget how guilty we all are.  We all deserve to stand before a just and holy God and face accountability for our actions…our sin.  God makes several things VERY CLEAR:

1.  There is but one Man who is not guilty of sin.  “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”Romans 3:23  There are other Scriptures to back this up, but this is the one we’re most familiar with.  Regardless of companion verses, it can stand alone.  The truth here is simply that we are all sinners.  In Exodus 20, God lays out a foundation of right and wrong…lists the Ten Commandments and provides for us a moral footing upon which to live.  When Christ came to the earth, He went a step further: “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.  But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment.  Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca, is answerable to the court.  And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.”Matthew 5: 21-22.  He goes on further: “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.  But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.  If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away.  It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell.  And if your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away.  It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.”Matthew 5:27-30.  Any violation of the rules He has set out for us in His Word is sin.  Simple as that.  Sin came into this world through man.  We all sin.  We’re all guilty.

2.  Judging others is not our job.  In the first 11 verses of John 8, Christ makes this crystal clear, summing it up in verse 7, “When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.”  Luke 6:37 is a great companion verse, “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned.  Forgive, and you will be forgiven.”  God alone is holy and just.  We are not God, and because we ourselves live in sin, it’s not our place to judge or condemn someone else for theirs.  In fact, as believers we are called to forgive others:   For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.  But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”Matthew 6:14-15

That’s not to say that we are not to be held unaccountable to the laws of our land.  God has allowed the laws of our land to be put in place for a reason…for His plan.  Those placed in positions of leadership and authority over us (judges, congressmen, senators and other elected officials) have been put there by God, so they are in effect doing what God has ordained to be allowed…regardless of whether or not they are believers.

  • “For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good.  But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason.  They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer.  Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience.”Romans 13:4-5
  • Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good, to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and always to be gentle toward everyone.” Titus 3:1

A jury of our peers and/or a judge in a lawful courtroom has authority to judge our actions according to the laws of the land.  And if we’re found guilty, we’re to submit to their ruling.  This would be the only time that “judgment” should be allowed from one person to another.  And for the rest of us not privy to all the facts or placed in the position to lawfully hold someone accountable, we are to accept the ruling of the court and let God deal with all parties and their action or inaction when the time is of His choosing.

3.  Sin has a punishment…a sentence.

  • “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”Romans 6:23.
  • “remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of their way will save them from death and cover over a multitude of sins.”James 5:20

4.  God loves us enough to offer forgiveness rather than condemnation, although we will all face judgment. and deserve condemnation  You’re surely familiar with John 3:16…it’s one of the most popular verses in the Bible.  But let’s take a minute to look at it in context starting in verse 1 of chapter 3:

 “1 Now there was a Pharisee, a man named Nicodemus who was a member of the Jewish ruling council.  2He came to Jesus at night and said, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the signs you are doing if God were not with him.”  3 Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.   4 “How can someone be born when they are old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother’s womb to be born!”

 5 Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit.  6 Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spiritgives birth to spirit.  7 You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘Youmust be born again.’  8 The wind blows wherever it pleases.  You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going.  So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”   9 “How can this be?” Nicodemus asked.

   10 “You are Israel’s teacher,” said Jesus, “and do you not understand these things?  11 Very truly I tell you, we speak of what we know, and we testify to what we have seen, but still you people do not accept our testimony.  12 I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things?  13 No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven—the Son of Man.  14 Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, 15 that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.”

 16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.  17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.  18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.  19 This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.  20 Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed.  21 But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.”

There are three things within this passage that immediately stand out to me:

  1. God loves us so much that He gave His son…to die an unimaginably painful death on the cross…for me, and for you…and for the mother found not guilty today.  “The world” in verse 16 isn’t just the righteous…the good…the people who work hard…the ones who do the right thing.  Nope.  “The world” means just that…the world.  Everyone!
  2. Verse 12 speaks a powerful truth that is hard at times to digest.  It does me no good to try to explain to someone who lives without Christ in their heart how the process of forgiveness and judgment and “heavenly things” works.  Not to be interpreted as saying we shouldn’t speak the truth in love and show non-believers the truth in the Word.  Just that we need to leave the results to God.  Not everyone is going to get it, and there will be many who don’t.  Many of the people we know and love may never understand, and will then miss out on the redemption found in the blood of Christ.  It’s not our job to convince them, because only the Holy Spirit can talk to a person’s conscious.
  3. There is only one way into heaven, eternity with God.  Belief in Jesus Christ and following Him as your personal Lord and Savior.  Good deeds alone don’t get us there.  Living a morally righteous life doesn’t get us there.  Attending church doesn’t get us there.  Being good people doesn’t get us there.  Belief gets us there.  Belief takes more than knowing God exists.  Even the demons and the devil himself acknowledge the existence of God.  Doesn’t mean they’re going to heaven.  A true belief and acceptance of Jesus Christ as being the Son of God, coming to earth as Man, living a sinless and perfect life, being wrongfully accused and crucified on the cross, rising three days later,residing now in heaven with God, coming again one day for His followers.  True belief in all of that is reflected in the life we live, the words we choose, the actions we take, the people with whom we associate…the fruits of  our life.

A few companion verses for this passage:

  • Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.” – Mark 16:16
  • But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life.”Romans 6:22
  • For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit.” – James 3:18

The long and the short of it is this.  I don’t know whether or not this woman is guilty or not guilty.  Quite honestly, I don’t care.  That may sound harsh, but in reality, I don’t.  Why, you ask?  Because if I care, then in a way, I’m looking to find justification within my own  mind to condemn or not condemn her.  I wasn’t on the jury.  Nor was I presented with all the facts.  Only those in attendance for every portion of the trial were.  The jury of her peers alone is capable of determining guilt or non guilt of the crimes for which she was accused here on Earth.  God alone is the capable of determining her guilt or non guilt when she faces His judgment.  It’s my prayer that she accept Him if she hasn’t already…that she draw near to Him and renew her relationship if she has…that others may be drawn to God through this…that I may be slow to anger or judge others and quick to forgive…and that the family of the 2 year old little girl, including her accused mother, find peace and comfort in Christ through this loss.

For you, my children, I pray that you are slow to judge others and quick to forgive also.  I pray that as you grow and begin to be influenced by the media (in all its forms) and your peers that you take it all in with the wisdom and discernment that can come only from God.  Stay in the Word.  Stay near to Him, and that will come easier than if you do not.  I also pray that in the times you are accused of wrongdoing by this world (whether with cause or not), you can rely upon Him for your strength and peace.  When the tide of public opinion may find you guilty until proven innocent, may you grow in your faith knowing that even the  apostle Paul endured years in prison for his faith, and He’s basking in the glory of heaven right now.  Even Christ knows what it means to be wrongly accused, sentenced to die for crimes He didn’t commit, to be guilty until proven innocent…death for our sin, not His own.  Even now, Christ endures the fate of a public opinion that continues to find Him guilty until proven innocent.  Rest assured, when He returns to usher in His kingdom, all will finally know…once and for all…that He is innocent.



A Change of Plans

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Summer. When you hear the word summer, the mind takes you down memory lane, and there are several activities that quickly come to mind that are forever associated with summer. For me, I remember spending almost every day at the pool. It was only 3 blocks from the house, well within walking distance, and we were there almost every day. As I became a dad, I found myself longing to be able to provide awesome summer memories for you…spending the hot days in a pool. It’s a little more difficult here, though. The nearest pool is 2 miles away, so it’s not like we could easily just walk back and forth throughout the day. We tried the inflatable popup pool here at the house for several years, but it seems we kept popping holes in it, so it never really worked out for us. I’d given up that dream until about three weeks ago. Some dear friends from church offered to give us their pool, because it seems they hadn’t used it in a while and knew that our family would get some enjoyment out of it. The fire in my eyes and the dream of providing a pool for you was once again alive and well.

I enthusiastically went and helped take it down, disassembling it piece by piece and bringing it home in two trips. I borrowed a hand tiller from a friend and got to work tearing up the grass and top layer of dirt. With your mom’s help, we hauled out all the loose dirt and grass, placing it in varying spots throughout the yard to build up the grade of the yard for better rainwater drainage. That process alone took two days. You all even helped in your own ways, using your snow shovels or my little hand garden trowel to move dirt from the circle into the wheel barrow. And then, the plan was put on hold.

It started out with a day of rain. And then it rained again…and again…and again. For the last three weeks, when I’ve been at work for two days straight, it’s been beautiful and sunny…great weather to be installing a pool. And then I come home…and it rains It’s rained so much that the circle of mud is taking 2 days or more to dry out after each rain. I even went out last night and spent 45 minutes bailing water out by hand with a scoop shovel. My hope was that by getting the bulk of the water out, the rest would evaporate and/or run off quicker, allowing me time the following afternoon and evening to get out to finish leveling the stones and moving dirt. Well, I’m typing this note now instead of working on the pool, so you can guess how well that worked. I woke up this morning to find as much water as the day before…before I bailed water for 45 minutes. It didn’t rain overnight, so the ground is so saturated that runoff from the neighbor’s yard and other parts of our yard is all collecting in the circle. I work the next two days, and it’s supposed to be nice and warm…no rain in the forecast. So it will have had a good 3-4 days to dry out by this weekend. My first day home is supposed to be no rain, followed by rain in the forecast the following day. I have a short window of opportunity it appears.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not completely the fault of rain that has kept me from working on it. Last Saturday was a perfect day to finish the project. Problem there was that I worked Thursday and Friday, had only 6 hours of sleep in those 48 hours, and came home to run in a 5K. After the race, my body felt like I’d just finished a half marathon. I was spent. So I laid down for a nap in the mid-morning and crashed for 5 hours. When I woke up…it started raining. I blew my opportunity to get some work done.

Last night as I was bailing water out by hand with a scoop shovel, I had bailed for about 10 minutes in one area, and I had that little low spot almost clear of all water when I stopped to revel in my accomplishment. As I sat there resting, proud of clearing the water from that hole, I noticed it. Water was slowly running back into the area. I thought the area I had chosen to toss the water would direct the water out of the yard, but it didn’t. It slowly trickled its way right back into the hole. That was it for last night. I’d bailed as much water as I could. At least the other 35 minutes of bailing water would help. Nope. By morning, water from around the yard and the neighbor’s yard had worked its way in, negating all my hard work.

Our spiritual life is like that too, I think. At least mine is. I work for days…weeks…months to develop a stronger relationship with God. I read the Bible, do a daily devotion, attend church 1-2 times a week, take part in a small group, am actively involved in several ministries, fellowship with other believers…live the life. And then wham! All that hard work is ruined by my weakness. I fall into sin again. Sometimes the fall is brief. Other times, it’s for longer periods. Either way, all my effort is negated by a momentary act of weakness. I work tirelessly and with passion to seek after God and to be more like Christ each day…and then I make a choice to let my flesh win out over Him. The water I’m bailing from the yard, comes right back. And so does the temptation to sin. In the yard, there are times I can see the water coming in, either flowing in on the surface or falling from the sky as rain. Conversely, there are times I can’t see it coming in, as it seeps up from the ground underneath the surface.

In my spiritual life, it’s really not much different. Sometimes, the temptations are right there in front of me as they flow back into my life. Other times, they seep up from the under the surface and catch me off guard. Like I have no control of the rain, there are times that temptations are placed before me outside of my will. Other times, like the water that flowed back into the hole because of where I chose to toss it, the temptations are in my life because of my own actions. Either way, how I choose to react to them is my choice alone to make.

As I write this note, it’s been almost three weeks into the pool project with very little progress. I had hoped it would take a week, maybe two at most. I’ve found myself becoming more and more frustrated in the lack of progress. Then this morning, I read Proverbs 19:21Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails.” And just like that, I’m humbled at my frustration and now see that in my frustration, I’m sinning against God. To think that I have the right to be frustrated because something is not going according to my plans. I’m learning…again…that the plans I have made are not mine to make. It’s not that I’m not supposed to make plans, because going into any project without a plan would also go against God’s will. “Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it? For if you lay the foundation and are not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule you,” – Mark 14:28-29 It’s just that I need to be flexible enough…and willing…to adjust my plans, acknowledging all throughout, that God’s plans are bigger than our own, and that my plans are secondary to His. I know He has a plan for this pool, and I know it will get done…in His timing, not mine. I’m sure He is trying to teach me something through this, and I will try better to work my plan around His.

And so goes it with life for you. As you grow into adulthood, you’ll be faced with more and more decisions. As you face those decisions and choices, tackle them with God by your side. Set your own goals aside in lieu of God’s plans for your life. When you’re in the middle of something and it’s not going as you’d planned or hoped, make sure you’re respectful of what God is doing through you…and for you. Take time to reevaluate what you’re doing and why you’re doing it. Make sure your plans are aligned with God’s plans. And be prepared to embrace a change of plans now and again.