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I’m Missing a Wheel, But Not The Point

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It’s been a while since I’ve posted a note…been busy living life.  Today, I’m just checking in long enough to share my favorite part of this last week.  Last night, I got to hang out with all three of you for a couple hours, and we played Legos…building creations with our imaginations.  That was, by far, the most relaxing and fun night I’ve had in a couple weeks.

Hanging out with you is fun for me.  I don’t always show it, but I’m going to keep working on that.  I’m still learning the value of disconnecting from the outside world for awhile so that I can better connect with you.  I have a lot of forces competing for my time, and I know from your perspective it can often seem like I place spending time with you near the bottom of my priorities.  I want to assure you, though, that I may not always show it, but YOU are the most important of those forces to me.  Last night was a good wake up call for me…just chillaxing with you and creating with our imaginations…making up stories about our creations and just being silly.  Smiling.  Giggling.  Laughing.  Bonding.  I gotta get me some more of that.

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Props to SI for having the heart and spirit of a giver!  Dude, I couldn’t have built this thing without you.  Literally.  I was a wheel short.  I tried for 20 minutes to use the pieces we had left to make it into a 3-wheeler instead, but couldn’t find a way to get the front wheel mounted facing forward.  I finally said, “I don’t think I can make this work with just three wheels…I don’t know what to do now.”  Bubba, you just looked right at the pieces I was holding…looked back at the two you had…one with wheels and one without.  And you said “dad, you can have mine.”  And proceeded to take yours apart to give me a wheel.  There.  Are.  No.  Words.  Don’t ever change buddy!

Props to NE too for your creativity in helping me to piece together various parts of my creation…but also in telling stories about yours and mine throughout the night.  Your imagination is inspiring and just simply fun to be a part of.  Others are…and will continue to be…drawn to you for it.  Don’t ever change buddy!

By the way…one of my favorite memories of being a young boy your age is of playing with Hot Wheels and Legos.  It does this daddy proud to watch you enjoying the same now, 30+ years later.  Secretly between just you and me…last night brought out a little of the kid still in me.  I’m looking forward to doing that again.  Soon. 😉

Love,

Dad

My Son is My Brother

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I read Romans 8 in my quiet time this morning. And prayed. I’ve been praying for you for some time now. In more ways than I could ever share in just this note. You’ve had a handful of other Godly men praying for you for over a month now. An army of believers has prayed for you…and today I write this and etch into history the account of how those prayers have been answered.

A SINGLE PRAYER CHANGES EVERYTHING…

It was just over a month ago that we were sitting in church listening to the message when out of the corner of my eye I saw you clasp your hands, close your eyes and subtly move your lips as if whispering. Fifteen seconds later, you opened your eyes smiled like only you smile and whispered in your mom’s ear. As she smiled and whispered something back, motioning my direction, you leaned over and whispered,

“Guess what I just did?”
“What?”
“I ‘axeded’ Jesus into my heart.”
Heart knowledge…you first received it that day over a month ago.

FROM HEART TO HEAD…

As I mentioned earlier, I’d been praying for your faith to grow to the point of understanding and acceptance of the free gift of salvation through Christ for long before this moment. Now, as your heart became filled with the Spirit of God, it became time to begin praying for the understanding of what that means for your life and how to apply it. Over the course of a month of more in depth conversations…lots of questions. You’re so analytical and inquisitive. Finding ways to explain it in ways you can understand was a fun challenge. And then it finally sunk in.

FROM HEAD BACK TO HEART…

I read Romans 8 in my quiet time this morning. And prayed. God’s timing then to arrive at church this morning and have you tell me you were ready. Who am I to stop the Spirit from moving a person to action? 🙂

A NEW BROTHER…

I read Romans 8 in my quiet time this morning. And I read it again this afternoon. In a whole new light. The light of the joy found in having a new brother in Christ. And I share a part of it here now as my prayer over your new walk of faith (with emphasis and underlining added by me for effect.)

“So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. And because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death. The law of Moses was unable to save us because of the weakness of our sinful nature. So God did what the law could not do. He sent his own Son in a body like the bodies we sinners have. And in that body God declared an end to sin’s control over us by giving his Son as a sacrifice for our sins. He did this so that the just requirement of the law would be fully satisfied for us, who no longer follow our sinful nature but instead follow the Spirit. Those who are dominated by the sinful nature think about sinful things, but those who are controlled by the Holy Spirit think about things that please the Spirit. So letting your sinful nature control your mind leads to death. But letting the Spirit control your mind leads to life and peace. For the sinful nature is always hostile to God. It never did obey God’s laws, and it never will. That’s why those who are still under the control of their sinful nature can never please God. But you are not controlled by your sinful nature. You are controlled by the Spirit if you have the Spirit of God living in you. (And remember that those who do not have the Spirit of Christ living in them do not belong to him at all.) And Christ lives within you, so even though your body will die because of sin, the Spirit gives you life because you have been made right with God. The Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in you. And just as God raised Christ Jesus from the dead, he will give life to your mortal bod(y) by this same Spirit living within you. Therefore, dear brothers and sisters, you have no obligation to do what your sinful nature urges you to do. For if you live by its dictates, you will die. But if through the power of the Spirit you put to death the deeds of your sinful nature, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own children. Now we call him, ‘Abba, Father.’ For his Spirit joins with our spirit to affirm that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.” – Romans 8:1-17 (NLT, NIV)

SECURE FOR ETERNITY…

God answers prayers son. You are evidence of that truth. You are, now, not only my son, but now also my brother! My brother in Christ. My fellow co-heir to God’s glory! We have a date with eternity, you and I, that can never be snatched from us.

“Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? (As the Scriptures say, ‘For your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep.’ No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us. And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.” – Romans 8:35-39

I’m going to “carry my cross” (Luke 9:23) and embrace my responsibility to live my life raising you as my son, and I’ll see you in heaven brother!

Love,

Dad, and fellow co-heir

First Day of First

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Just yesterday you were learning to walk. No really…it was just yesterday. And now today you’re heading off to first grade.

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My little man is becoming quite the young man. Overnight, you’ve matured right before my eyes. Okay, maybe not overnight…but when you have kids of your own you’ll understand what I mean. So this morning, as you scramble around the house looking for your new shoes…the ones you’ve been looking forward to wearing today for over two weeks, there are a few things I want to share with you before you head off into a world without your mom and I for the day.

1. Remember who you are. Your identity sets you apart from every other person trying to fit into the world around them. Don’t try to fit in, son. Don’t try to conform to everyone around you and blend in. Don’t try to please your friends or seek their approval. You don’t need it. You have the approval of both your heavenly Father and your earthly dad, and that’s all you need. Stick out. Stand apart. You’re God’s son. When you blend in, it becomes too easy to adopt the world’s values and morals (or lack thereof) as your own. You’re better than that. You have an identity in Christ that is yours alone. Claim it. Own it. Live it.

2. Remember why you’re here. Just as you’re set apart as God’s son, you have a purpose…a reason for being called into existence. It may take you years to discover what your purpose is, but trust that you have one. God has placed you right here right now to fill a purpose. To do something that no one else in all of creation has been able to do before now…or can do now. I can testify that part of your purpose has been to help me become a better dad and Christ-follower. Simply put, I’m a better man because of who you are…not by anything you’ve done…simply because of who you are. You bring out the best in the people around you, and you bring out the smile in everyone who gets to know you. Keep God close to your heart, son, and let people get to know you…and then share your story with them. Be the light to your friends today. Go out there and find your purpose.

3. Remember how to live. You are wonderfully made, righteous and holy. Your body is a living sacrifice. How you live today will directly impact who you become in Christ. The way you live today will directly affect your ability to be the light for Him. You are holy, not by your own actions, but because you are made holy though Christ in you. Understand that, and then live your life today in a way that reflects it.

4. I love you, and I’m proud of you. Not for what you’ve done, are doing, can do, or will do. I love you for who you are…my son. I’m proud of you for who you are…my son. There is nothing you could ever do to take that love and that pride away. EVER! Have a great day son!

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Love,

Dad

Early Retirement…Passing the Torch

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The fire service, is rich with tradition, many rooted deep in our history. When we start the job, we’re issued a compliment of various Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) that only we wear. Over the course of many years on the job, this gear provides for us a degree of protection…keeping us safe from injury…and yes, even death. It’s not uncommon to grow attached to this equipment, as it quite literally becomes an extension of ourselves.

The tradition I mention above is that we wear our gear…particularly our helmet…as a badge of honor. Tradition says that as the helmet has protected us while fighting what others fear, it becomes scarred. Dented. Smoke-stained. Seasoned. To clean a battle-scarred helmet is to dishonor it and the profession.

The seasoned helmet serves as a reminder of what we’ve faced. The exciting

Garage Fire

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and the not so exciting.

It reminds us to watch our six.

And it reminds us of our blessings

Blessing in a Helmet

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So, it’s a bittersweet day at the firehouse today. After almost ten years, I’m retiring helmet #2. Mind you, not by choice…technically it has 5 months before its ten-year life span is reached. Nonetheless, this baby is moving into retirement, making room for a new one to usher in a new era in my career. This piece of equipment representing ten years of life on the job will one day be passed to you. Whatever you do…don’t clean it. It’s done its job and kept me safe…protected me. It’s earned the right to stay dented, scratched, and stained.

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A Last Ride

Now a new helmet will don my noggin through the next decade of my career…

Passing the Torch

Passing the Torch

As my old helmet passes the torch to the new one, so I will one day pass the torch of manhood to you…pass to you the sum of my experiences…not just on the job, but in the life I’ve lived. It’s my life’s goal that what you learn from me not be in the words I share, but in the way I’ve lived. That’s primarily why I’ve not written any notes here in awhile…as I am trying to spend more time WITH you and less time writing TO you.

It’s my hope that when I’m old and living in retirement, you can look at my scars…my dents…my stains…my wrinkles…my frailness…and proudly see the man of my youth who did his job and protected his family…kept them safe…and raised them up in the Truth.

Love,

Dad

Birthday Boy

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Time flies too fast son. Six years ago this morning, I got to walk into the operating room and watch the doctor reach in to your momma’s belly and pull you out, kicking and screaming. What a joy that day was…seeing and holding you for the first time.

Our miracle baby who doctors said would never be, you proved them wrong…and have been forging your way through this world ever since.

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I’m proud of you son. Proud of you for being you. Proud of you for who you are. Proud of you for the young boy you’ve become and the young man you’re becoming. If these last six years are any indication of what the next six will be like, I look forward with eager anticipation to what lies ahead.

I love you bud!

Dad

His Love is Greatest

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Oh Lord, I wonder if this is a little like how You felt on the walk to Calvary.  Tired.  Beaten.  Defeated.  Emotionally spent.  Physically spit on.  Cursed at with words of hate.  By the very people You came to love, no less.  That’s what hit me about half way there.  And then it all started making more sense.

My sweet daughter, we took this drive years ago, you and I.  Well…a similar drive anyway.  Back when you were still in a pumpkin seat, it was a 40 minute one-way drive from Newton, Kansas to Wichita at 3:00 am to get you to fall asleep.  Tonight it’s an hour and fifteen minutes one way hoping you fall asleep so this verbally abusive, self-destructive tirade you’re on will end.  I think it would have been a farther drive had it not been for three things: We drove out of the range of our local Christian radio station – which felt like the only thing keeping me close enough to God to keep trying; your mom and brothers were stranded at church without a ride because we dropped them off mid-meltdown; and the low-fuel light came on…not enough gas to make it home.

Just a few short hours ago, as I cried through the realization that I can’t go on like this, it was my prayer that God would show me how.  How to go on.  How to be the father you need.  How to show compassion through my frustration.  How to help you.  How to love you.

He’s faithful to hear our cries, you know.  As my heart cried out to Him, the words of the song “Every Good Thing” rang out over the radio, piercing my heart and soul like the nails being driven into the very hands and feet of Christ himself.  And He awakened my mind and opened my heart to the realization that the answer to my prayer is found in the life of Jesus.  How do I love you?  I love you how Jesus loves me.  At the height of His pain, He loved the ones who put Him there the most…asking the Father to “forgive them for they know not what they do” – Luke 23:34.

At the height of our pain, His love is greatest.  At the depth of our depression, His love is greatest.  In the solitude of our loneliness, His love is greatest.  At the precipice of our failure, His love is greatest.  At the end of our love, His love is greatest.

I know that when you’re in the middle of a meltdown like this, you don’t know what you’re doing.  I know that you can’t control yourself in this.  I know that the things you do and the words you use are beyond your ability to tame.   I know that this isn’t you, and that if you knew how to stop it, you would.  I know you’re just as powerless to stop it as I am.  And I love you no less for it.  God doesn’t make mistakes.  He doesn’t make anything less than what He intended.  You are “Every Good Thing”.  You are just who He wants you to be…and just who I love…not for what you do or say…but for who you are.  The problem lies within me…not you.

Love,

Dad

And for today, I claim the promise that Your grace, oh Lord, is sufficient.  Lord, please grant it in proportion to today’s need.  And let tomorrow be a new day with a new portion sufficient to meet tomorrow’s need.  Father, I ask that daily You sustain me when I call on on Your name.  When I’m challenged and struggling to love my child through the hate-filled fits in which she knows not what she’s saying or how to stop, bring me to the foot of the cross, oh Lord, that I might see how You loved those who knew not what they were doing.  Show me that kind of love Lord…that I might also show it.  It’s in Your name I bow and in Your name I pray. Amen.

Watch Out For That Alligator in Your Ear…He’ll Poke Your Eye Out

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For most people, today is tax day, but it’s so much more than that. For me, it’s the day I walked my beautiful daughter down the halls of the courthouse to sit down with the judge to finalize your adoption.

Walking my daughter down the aisle

Walking My Daughter Down The Aisle – April 15, 2001

Which in itself is still quite the miracle – it was only a few short months before, near your second birthday, that you started walking. Born with Ventricular Septal Defect (a hole in the inner lining of the heart), it was all your little body could do to stay alive, let alone develop and grow like everyone else’s.

I still vividly remember the days surrounding your open heart surgery at the young age of 11 months.

Open Heart Surgery

PICU recovery room following open heart surgery at 11 months old.

What a ride that was! And what a drastic change in you when you woke up afterward…the life that had been missing from your eyes for 11 months was finally there…and was burning with a passion to get out there and live.

Open Heart Surgery

Recovering and Ready to Go!

Most days, I still can’t believe that was 11 years ago. You have taught me so much about life, my young child, that I could write for hours about it and only scratch the surface. God has used you to change me for the better in so many ways…made me a more responsible man. Shown me that a smile and a cheerful heart can brighten the worst of days. Helped me overcome my shyness. Taught me compassion and true love. Planted patience and acceptance in my heart that continues to grow everyday. Deepened my faith and trust in God with the realization that I need Him to be the dad you need me to be. Proven to me that with God, we can overcome any adversity. Guided me through uncertain times with the knowledge that He has it all in his hands. Shown me how He truly can heal the broke-hearted and use the weak in powerful ways to humble the strong. And reminds me every now and again that having fun keeps us young… that we’re never too old for butterfly, Eskimo, and frog kisses, or that we have water-skiing alligators in our ears that do amazing and creative things – right before they poke us in the eye for peeking in on them.

Happy Adoption Day baby girl! I love you!

Love,

Dad

“For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, ‘Abba, Father. The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.” – Romans 8:14-16

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