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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 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

Gotta Get Outa The Way!

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Are you struggling to overcome something today? Are you tired and weary? Is it not working out for you like you’d hoped? Does it feel like you take a step forward one day, just to fall back three the next? You’re not alone.

The first three verses of Colossians 3 opens with,

“Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God’s right hand. Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth. For you died to this life, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God.”

We died to this life. “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives within me.” (Gal 2:20). Believers, we’re dead. D.E.A.D. Dead. That’s pretty clear. If I’m dead, who’s walking around in this body of mine? Who’s writing this note? Who’s reading it? Who’s drinking this cup of coffee? Who’s going to work in 20 minutes?

Christ living in our body…In my life, and in yours. We are raised to walk a new life. A new life in Christ. Where we go, He goes. What we do, He does. What we say, He says. The people we interact with every day know who Christ is by our life…Our actions. Our inaction. Our attitudes. Our words. That’s a really big responsibility.

I’ve been struggling for years to put my old self aside, especially at work with my language and speech. That opening passage of Colossians 3 really jumped off the page right at me this morning. In prayer, this is what God whispered to me.

“You are called to, and for, a higher purpose. You are set apart. Live in such a way that reflects such, son. You cannot overcome your behavior challenges at work. But I can. And I will. As soon as you step aside. Get out of my way and let me.”

Yes, Lord.

You are struggling to overcome something too. Stop struggling. Step aside and let God do what only He can do! Will you join me in getting out of His way so He can change our lives? I’m praying for you this morning.

Love,

Dad

Hope Comes in Many Forms…Where I Am Today

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My head is full. It needs to do what it does when it’s full…vent. There is no order to what comes next, so be forewarned that I’m simply letting loose of the mess currently in my head. My apologies if what you read next is not what you’ve come to expect from me. I’m human, and this is where I am today. Writing is my outlet, so here goes.

Since Saturday, I’ve been in a sort of fog. Haven’t felt close to God. Haven’t felt like much of anything. Worship with dad and my brothers here at church on Sunday was okay, but I just didn’t feel connected to God, ya’ know? Last night, I was searching for the lyrics to a song that express how I’ve been feeling…and all I could remember was “oh God my God, your beloved needs you now.” I don’t remember the song, so it’s probably good that that’s all I can remember.

This morning, a text from my wife asked how I’m doing. I am…

Numb. Alone. Trapped. Spent. Drained. Overwhelmed. Lacking hope. Disconnected from reality…From life…From God. I’ve been better. I’ve been worse. I’ll push through though because that’s what we do. I just want to put closure to this period of life and move forward. I’m an action guy. Waiting is not something I do well. Too much waiting…not enough moving. I’m ready to crawl into the arms of my best friend and our kiddos and not have to make a decision or problem-solve for awhile. I’m ready to come home.

Dad, as you first read this, please know it’s not you or anything you’ve done or not done. It’s just my process. Being with you this week has been a blessing for me more than I’ve shared here yet…sharing that part of all this will come after we have some closure this week…and I hope I’ve blessed you in some small way by being here. I wouldn’t take any of it back or change my choice to stay…it’s just part of being out of routine…away from my wife and children…feelings I’m sure you either already have had, or will, soon after we all leave this weekend.

Yesterday’s hope came through an email from a dear friend on staff at church. The day before that, it came in an email from our Men’s Ministry leader, another good friend. Before that, it came daily in various emails, texts, phone calls and conversations with friends and family back home. Today’s hope comes from a thirteen year old angel…God has been employing her as my angel since the first day I met her in the hospital. Her momma sent me a text this morning that simply read:

Your daughter just prayed for you all by herself. It was so sweet. I looked over at the table and she had eyes closed, head bowed, hands clasped in front of her. And said, “Dear God, please keep my Daddy safe. Amen.”

So yes Lord, your beloved needs you now. Do not forsake me Lord. Your hope comes in many forms…and I have not lost sight of the truth that my hope comes from you. You have met my daily need for hope this past week and a half. SD’s prayer this morning has provided me the hope I need to sustain me today. I’ll take it. Thank you Lord for providing me hope though I deserve nothing.

“but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” – Isaiah 40:31

Love,

Dad

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.

Love,

Dad

The Storm Within

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It’s dark in here. The darkness is soul-piercing. It’s an evil kind of darkness, that has enveloped me. The cold that lives here in the dark is alive. It moves and sways around me. I cannot escape it, though my soul yearns for warmth and light. My mind cries out for it, and I cannot find the refuge I seek in it. The light, and the warmth it provides, has escaped me. I so desperately need your warmth and light Lord.

As I sit here in the dark, my emotions are painfully at the forefront of all I do. I do not like dealing with my emotions, and I am now swimming in a sea of them. They churn around me, tossing me to and fro, like a small boat in a turbulent ocean. They crash over me in waves, threatening to capsize me with every toss. They are never ending, and ever changing. In one moment, I’m sad and grief-stricken. In the next, I’m angry and filled with rage. In the next, I’m isolated and alone. The constant barrage is endless, always hitting me when I least expect it. Throwing me off balance in the least convenient of times.

It is wearing on me. I’m tired. Physically, I feel like I’ve run a marathon, knowing another marathon awaits me. And yet I feel somewhat catatonic. Disassociated. Like I’m walking in a fog. Apart from the reality of the life going on around me. Mentally, I’m done. Exhausted. Emotionally, I passed the point of exhaustion long ago, and yet I carry on because by your design, my emotions have to go where I go. I long for peace and cannot find it. I search for joy, and it hides from me. My mind and soul desire rest, and it escapes me at every turn. I don’t think I have much left to give. I do not want to be short-tempered and without compassion toward my children any longer. I do not want to be lacking in patience and gentleness. It’s not by any fault of theirs that I am here, and I struggle to not take it out on their precious, trusting and innocent little souls. Lord, I cannot continue on like this.

Father, you knit me together in the womb and knew me before time began. You held me when I was without form, and you made me who I am. I believe with all my soul that I am here for a reason. I do not know what that is, and I don’t think I could handle knowing it right now if you revealed it to me. But I know and believe that you have a plan for this. And for me. I know you are still working on and in me, molding me into the child you want me to be when I return home to you. I know that this life holds grief, loss, and struggles. I believe in the power of your name. I believe in the shelter and protection provided in your embrace. I believe in the grace and mercy you provide through your Son. I am not worthy of your love and affection, Lord. I ask only this Lord.

Help me to find peace within the chaos of my soul. Help me to ward off the devil, as he is so very much at the root of the evil stirring up within me. If I am to be here in this present darkness for a spell, Father please strengthen me for the journey. I pray my spiritual preparation before now is enough to carry me through. If my journey in this valley is to endure, please light a glimmer of hope within me so that I may walk toward You. Please help me to learn what you would want me to learn through this. My suffering is nothing in comparison to what you endured on the cross for me. Forgive me of my sin so that my prayer may be heard.

I draw upon your guidance, found in James 1:2-3 “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.” Lord, help me to find the joy you speak of. A joy I remember feeling once. A joy I know only comes through you.

Father, calm the storm within me and help me to seek you daily. I know that I am not alone, that you are carrying me. That I can find you when I stop and look. Help me to be still, Lord, and listen for you. To watch for you. To allow you to speak to me. To be still and know that you are God, and I am not. To seek your Light. For it’s only by your Light that I will be saved from this storm within.

Love,

Your faithful child and servant

My Deepest Condolences

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DW, where do I even begin?  We’ve had a rough go, haven’t we?  If I could go back and start over, I think I would.  There aren’t many things in my life I would say that about.  I believe that our mistakes…our hardships…our struggles…our adversity…they help to define us.  They make us who we are.  They are the steps that take us down the path of our life.  Changing even one can have a ripple effect that would change our life altogether…take us down a completely different path and alter our life forever.

There are things with you that I would do differently, though…knowing what I know now.  Having the information we had at the time, I believe we did the best we knew how.  Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough.  Those are my demons to deal with now, and I’m forced to move on.  Not for the reasons you may think, but because three other children are relying on me now.  I pray I learn from our relationship and apply those lessons to your adoptive siblings.  I believe God used the six years you were in our home to accomplish His will.  We may never know what that is while we’re on this side of eternity, but I believe He knew exactly what He was doing.  I have an idea what I think that might be…but that’s not something I’m read to share.

I’m writing this today because I learned yesterday of the passing of your grandma.  I am sorry for your loss.  I truly am.  Through all our differences and disagreements…through our arguments, harsh words and hurt feelings…through all of it…my heart hurts for the pain and loss you’re surely feeling.  I know she was a HUGE part of you…a rock in the stream of your life.  I pray the pain subsides quickly, though I know the void left in her absence cannot be filled.  I know the loss of a close loved one is extremely difficult, and I pray you and your family are comforted through surrounding each other with love.  I pray that the memorial service for her was filled with loved ones come to honor her life.  I pray that you can find comfort in Jesus’ arms and that God would use this difficult time in your life to draw you closer to Him.

I pray for a day when we can reconcile our relationship.  If that day does not come in my life, I will continue to pray for your safety and your relationship with God for as long as I live.  Be safe son.

Love,

Jay

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