Archives For Family

One week ago we sat down as a family and watched old home movies. We had documented and edited the kids’ first steps and first words, birthdays and holidays, and times of dancing, singing, and playing. The kids could hardly believe the little people on the video were themselves, and Kelly and I would make comments about what they were like at each age.

Our kids ate it up. They absolutely loved it.

I was surprised by how much it affected them. They were so excited to see what they used to be like, and enjoyed laughing and mimicking themselves. But what seemed to affect them the most was seeing how enthralled Kelly and I were with them on the video. At different times they would snuggle in closer to us, and this whole past week they have been extra cuddly and loving.

But the thing is, our kids have no idea how we really feel about them.

They know they are loved, but they don’t know we love them to the moon and back. They can’t grasp the intensity of our feelings for them. They don’t realize we would do anything for them, that we wouldn’t hesitate to die for them, or how impossible it would be for us to live without them.

I resonate with what Elizabeth Stone once said about being a parent: “It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.”

At this stage of their lives, they simply don’t have the perspective to fully understand how loved and cherished they are. And it really has nothing to do with anything other than that they are our Addi, Levi, and Micah.

Maybe someday if they have children of their own they will know these kinds of feelings.

You and I are in the same boat when it comes to how God, our Heavenly Father, feels about us.

You have no idea how God really feels about you.

Sure, you know He loves you, and maybe that thought moves you to tears, but you still can’t fully grasp how loved and cherished you are.

Sure, you know all about Christmas and Easter, and maybe you have experienced some of the most overwhelming, intimate times with God, but you are still incapable of comprehending the fullness of God’s love for you. And it really has nothing to do with anything other than that you are His.

Maybe someday when we are finally face to face with Him we will be better able to understand that kind of love. But I would guess not.

It will have to be enough to know we are loved. And to long for those times of intimacy and enjoy those grace-filled moments when we feel His love. And to share that love with the world that God loves just as much as He loves you and me.

Just another day at the office.

I’ve had poison ivy for two weeks now. I’ve never had poison ivy before. Some people can roll in poison ivy and never get it. Apparently, I’m not one of those people.

I’ve been on Prednisone (a steroid) to take care of it. One common side-effect of this happy drug is an inability to sleep. Apparently, I get this side effect.

Between the incessant scratching and the not sleeping, this has been the Best. Time. Ever.

Nighttime has been weird. I sleep for a couple hours, but not well. I’ve had a couple strange dreams.

Four nights ago, I had a dream I was a samurai fighting other samurais. We were fighting normal until I “realized” I could easily defeat them by scratching myself.

I woke up ripping my claws into my arms and chest.

A few nights before that, I had an even better dream. It was about the Avengers. I’m not sure if I was one of the Avengers or not, but they were in an epic battle. They were keeping the bad guy from destroying the world and of course sharing witty dialogue all throughout, when they somehow got tricked into thinking if they scratched themselves in strategic places victory was theirs.

Bad idea, Avengers. As soon as one started in (I’m pretty sure it was the Hulk: “Hulk, Scratch!”) there was a domino effect, and it was quickly all over.

They had not won, and I was fully awake and feverishly scratching all over my body.

Continue Reading…

This past weekend our church hosted a marriage conference called Love and Respect. So many light bulbs went off for me, it was like a fireworks display in my head. If you get the chance to read the book or go through the material, jump on it. Several people had told me how good it was, and I believed them to a degree but was also skeptical. I’m dumb; it was better than they said it would be.

Pretty simple, huh?

Since it’s Valentine’s Day, and since I need to blog about something, let me share an overview of the conference and a couple of the big takeaways for me.

Women need love the same as they need air to breathe.

Men need respect the same as they need air to breathe.

In Scripture, husbands are commanded to love their wives. Wives are commanded to respect their husbands. Interesting, right?

The marriage relationship was uniquely designed by God so that these two different needs would best be met within this relationship. A husband can meet the wife’s need for love in a way no one else can. Likewise, a wife can meet the husband’s need for respect in a way no one else can (with the possible exception of Chuck Norris. If he respects you, you’re pretty much set for life!).

Continue Reading…

Last week I revisited conversations with my daughter, and how I realized the silliness of cramming the gospel into a single 10-minute conversation. But this is our evangelical mindset: the whole of the gospel is fully explained in John 3:16; or can be sketched onto a napkin, or explained in 4 simple to understand statements.

I’m as guilty as the next guy for not seeing anything wrong with this kind of über reduction, but I’m beginning to grasp the faultiness in this kind of thinking. But more on that later.

Since those initial conversations with my daughter, there have been a couple other conversations that have stayed with me. In these short conversations, she has drawn back the curtain to her heart and what’s going on inside. Her self-awareness and insight amazes me and also shows the need for ongoing conversations.

One time, she again expressed sorrow and regret over how she acts and treats her brothers at times. She does not understand why she continues to be mean or selfish.

She does not understand why she is this way. And she doesn’t like being this way. But what she is beginning to see in herself is her sin nature.

Another time, as we tucked her in one night, she expressed frustration and confusion as to why God was silent. Why hadn’t He ever talked to her? Why couldn’t she hear Him? She is becoming more and more aware of how life in this world is not what it was originally designed to be.

It is so humbling as a father to be involved in this process. To be able to have these conversations with her and to anticipate the conversations to come.

These are real issues, and my daughter is not the only one feeling this tension or confused with God and His world. Many in our pews and outside them are asking the same questions and similar ones.

As we wrestle through answering these questions, a bigger question arises: has a reduction and simplification of the gospel made it harder to effectively answer complex questions? Could this be part of the reason our nation has been labeled post-Christian and the church is seen as irrelevant?

Is our gospel too skinny? To put it another way, could there a hole in our gospel?

What do you think? What is the gospel?

Last fall, I shared about my first-grade daughter’s spiritual questions and desire to please God. I shared how I responded (twice) by trying to explain grace. I shared the gospel with her using 1 John 1:9. The initial conversation lasted ten minutes or less.

It is this last part I want to revisit. Since the fall, I’ve been working my way through two books and doing some heavy thinking (at least for me). Both books deal with our understanding of 1) Jesus and 2) the gospel. Over the next few months, my plan is to dig through the goldmine of these two books and pull up the heaviest nuggets I can, and share the ideas that have been sparked in me through them.

Here’s one of the ideas as it relates to my previous conversation with my daughter: I am foolish to think a ten minute conversation is enough to impart the gospel to her. That the story of God can be explained in one verse and subsequently grasped by a six year-old.

Imagine you’re having “the birds and bees” convo with one of your kids. Do you just bring up the subject one time because they’ve reached a certain age and from there on avoid those topics like the plague? You did your job, so now for sure your kid won’t take any missteps or need any ongoing support or advice from you?

Of course we don’t think that would be good enough! The conversation can’t start then end when a child has reached “a certain age.” We have to have mini-conversations along the way: appropriate, timely and relevant to where they are. Sexuality is a complex issue and affects us on many levels.

Isn’t the gospel even more complex? Affecting us on every level? How do you explain an issue like depravity? Or a concept like grace? I don’t have all the answers, but I know you can’t do it justice if you’re limited to one verse or only ten minutes.

And can these concepts (and the gospel itself) be explained or understood apart from the context of story? The context of The Story?

I believe we lose something when we explain the Plan of Salvation without going into The Story the Plan comes from. Salvation must always be tied to the Story of Jesus, and the Story of Jesus is best understood in its context within the whole story of the Bible.

I can’t cram that into a ten minute conversation. And I probably shouldn’t even try.

(I’m taking this week off from blogging. The official name for this is Blogger’s Break, not to be confused with the more popular Blogger’s Blitz or the infamous Blogger’s BreakDOWN. Anyhoo, this last re-post is my favorite and is also the top post from the year. Originally posted August 24, 2011.)

I’d like to share a conversation I had with my daughter, our oldest who is now a first grader, that took place two weeks ago. I was putting all three kids to bed by myself and decided we would try something different to pray. I got us in a circle and said we were going to pray for the person on our right. (Then I showed the boys which way was right.)

The boys prayed silly prayers, imagine that, but when it was Addi’s turn she said she didn’t want to pray. Thinking she was just too nervous, I offered some encouraging, fatherly words that would surely convince her she could pray.

But she said, “I can’t pray… I did too many bad things today.” That got my attention, and I wasn’t sure how to respond. She looked at me and said, “I want to feel clean inside.”

That floored me. Instantly, my heart was both full and broken. I was a mess of excitement and nerves. This was the kind of conversation pastors live for, and here was my little girl opening that door.

I pulled her over to me, sat her on my lap, and gave her a big hug. I said a couple of things to her, then realized we needed to have a real conversation. So I put the boys to bed, grabbed my Bible, and we sat on Addi’s bed and talked.

I read 1 John 1:9 to her: “If we confess our sins, (God) is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” I explained that to confess simply meant to admit to God she had done bad things, which she had done. I told her because of what Jesus did for us on the cross, we are clean on the inside. I desperately wanted her to understand that this is what grace is all about, that she didn’t need to do anything, that because of Jesus she is forgiven and clean.

She said she understood. I prayed, and she repeated what I said. I asked her if she understood what she had prayed, and again she said she understood.

I wonder how much she did understand. I wonder how deeply a six-year-old can grasp amazing grace. I’m not sure how deeply I grasp it! I constantly find myself slipping back into old ruts of approaching God based on what I’ve done lately rather than because of what Jesus Christ did for me 2,000 years ago.

And I remember when I was about Addi’s age I prayed the sinner’s prayer to receive Jesus over and over and over again. I couldn’t tell you how many times I prayed it, but I know I had it memorized.

My constant fear was I had not prayed all the right words, I had left out a part, or I had not been 100% sincere. Ironically, in my prayer asking Jesus to save me from the eternal fires of hell, my focus was more on my own efforts to be saved. I did not get grace. My faith was pretty weak; I wasn’t able to trust in Christ alone.

From a developmental view, maybe I was unable to mentally and emotionally grasp the concept of grace at that young age. Maybe the same is true for my daughter. Less than a week ago, again at the end of the day, Addi said she did not want to pray. Then she said, “I think I need a new heart again.”

She felt bad for something that had happened earlier, and I love that she feels bad about being bad – I hope she never loses that! We had another conversation, and I explained how in a relationship it is important to say sorry when you recognize you’ve done something wrong. Then we prayed together.

I think her statement is indicative that she doesn’t get grace yet. As we go on from here and have more conversations, this is what I want to try to bring down to her level: that she is saved by grace and that her “job” is to believe that when Jesus said, “It is finished,” it really is.

As Paul Tillich wrote, “Faith is the courage to accept acceptance.” Faith is believing God’s grace is real and is for me. That’s what I want to be convinced of in the depths of my soul, and what I want for my kids as well.

I do believe God is hearing the heartfelt cries of my little girl, and it pleases Him to extend His Son’s righteousness to her. She might not fully get it, but in Christ she is forgiven and clean.

She is His.

This year, I started a new tradition with Addi. In the mornings on our drive to school, I tell her stories. It has not always been easy to do, there are days when I don’t feel like it, but she won’t let me off the hook. Some stories are more original than others, most are mash-ups of a couple different stories, and a few are just straight-up classics.

A couple of weeks ago I finished telling Hansel and Gretel, and Addi requested another story about the witch. It seemed like an odd request, but I went with it and came up with a short, corny story about Thanksgiving. And now I’d like to share it with you. I have lengthened it and tried to make it a little more interesting for an older audience, so without further adieu, here is the story behind why we celebrate Thanksgiving…

Once upon a time, in the middle of a dark, scary forest, there was a witch who lived in a house made entirely out of candy. As you already know (unless you didn’t read the part above this or have the memory of an ostrich), this was the witch who tricked Hansel and Gretel but did not actually get to eat them because they got away. Our story takes place many years after that story, and the witch is much older and consequently, much slower.

She still has an insatiable appetite for children, but it has been years since she has been able to catch one. It is not just her old age that has made it harder to catch the children; technology has played a key role as well.

Since smart phones now come with built-in GPS, children don’t get lost like they used to. And since Hansel and Gretel decided to tell their story on Oprah, children now know not to nibble on a random candy house lying in the middle of the forest. Between Oprah and Facebook, word has gotten out about the witch.

So one afternoon the witch was skyping with her other witch friends and complaining about her troubles. One of her oldest friends from Norway mentioned how it was no different there. Another witch then mentioned how she had stumbled on a very satisfactory solution.

Wild turkeys, she said. They can’t resist gumdrop doorknobs, are easily trapped, and taste rather like children if roasted a certain way. Most of the witches laughed and said their palates were much too sophisticated to eat anything but children, and soon the conversation ended.

But the witch could not get the idea completely out of her head. She was, after all, incredibly hungry. So the next day, she decided to build a trap and place one of her gumdrop doorknobs inside. The next morning, she raced to her trap and discovered she had caught a wild turkey. She took it home, roasted it, then tentatively tasted it. Much to her surprise and delight, she loved it.

For the next several weeks she stuffed herself on turkeys. She had forgotten how good it was not to feel hungry, and one day she actually decided to give up eating children altogether. It seemed like the right thing to do.

In fact, her steady diet of turkey was changing her. She was a much happier person. She was sleeping much better; she no longer battled indigestion; her doctor had even lowered her blood pressure medication (*The FDA cannot at this time confirm that consuming large quantities of turkey lowers blood pressure).

To celebrate this dynamic life-change, the witch decided to throw a party and invited everyone from the local village. She sent invitations out through Facebook and Twitter and also through the online dating service she was a part of.

Those receiving invitations were not sure what to do with them at first. There was much talk around the village water cooler about whether this was legit or a final, desperate ploy on the part of the witch to eat their children. I’m sure you can imagine the kind of long-term, traumatic effect a child-eating witch would have on a small village. They typically gave everybody the benefit of the doubt, but it was still incredibly hard to trust she had really changed.

Finally, the mayor decided he and his family would attend, and after this a few other courageous families committed to go as well.

The day of the party arrived, and the small group traveled into the woods to the witch’s house. She had a long table set up with chairs all around, and when the village people saw the table they gasped. There was dish after dish of salivary deliciousness: mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, rolls, apple butter, cranberry and raspberry sauces, bacon, steamed broccoli, corn, green bean casserole… and the plumpest, juiciest turkey they had ever seen.

The witch welcomed them to her home and invited them to play some games before the feast began. There were sack races, and stickball, and the children even got to play ‘Just Dance’ on the witch’s Xbox Kinect.

And so everyone had a grand time, eating and playing and laughing together. Late in the evening, the mayor stood up and said he had an announcement to make.

“This is a day to give thanks. Our old enemy the witch is now our new friend, and I mean that quite literally. I just added her as my friend on Facebook with my iPhone 4. I seriously love this thing.

“She has promised to never again eat one of our children, and barring the occasional moment of weakness, I believe she’ll keep that promise. So as your mayor, I declare that henceforth and forthwith this fourth Thursday in the month of November is a new holiday, and we will call it Thanksgiving!”

And that is why we celebrate Thanksgiving with no school, parades, football, a dog show, and lots of turkey.

A Hair Drying Lesson

Tim —  November 21, 2011 — 1 Comment

Kelly and Addi are discussing the possibility of growing out their hair long enough to donate it to Locks of Love. Not a very feasible project for me, although I could probably grow a mean mullet…

Tonight, as I dried Addi’s hair with the hair dryer, she asked me what would happen when she cut her hair. I told her they would make it into a wig for someone to wear. She asked if the hair would continue to grow.

“No,” I answered. “Hair can only grow when it’s connected to your head. Once it’s cut, it can’t grow anymore.”

Light bulb.

I think Jesus once said something like this and then applied it to our relationship with Him.

It’s a pretty simple concept, isn’t it? Connected to Him we can grow, we can serve, we can accomplish much. Cut ourselves off from Him though and, in Jesus’ own words, we can do nothing.

Simple concept, yet far too often I need to be reminded of it. My identity is in Christ.

Cupcakes and Bacon

Tim —  October 31, 2011 — 1 Comment

Today, the boys are bringing snacks to share at preschool because their birthday was last Thursday. Micah chose cupcakes that look like Lightning McQueen. Levi chose bacon.

Kelly ran this plan by their teacher, who said it’s fine but also a first. No preschooler has ever brought bacon as a snack before.

We’ve noticed Levi gets really excited when it’s his day to bring the snack. I think it is because he enjoys certain foods so much, and he naturally wants to share his love of food with his classmates.

In his mind, if there is a food he gets excited about, then it is a food that everyone will love just the same. And it gives him great pleasure to share that amazing food, to see his friends enjoy the food that he enjoys.

I think he’s on to something, and I’m pretty sure he’s picked what might possibly become the best snack ever. Bacon has got to be one of the greatest blessings the good Lord has bestowed upon us; talk about “Good Mood Food!”

There’s another lesson Levi is teaching us, related to evangelism. We have made evangelism all about sharing certain information, about finding ways to manipulate conversations and persuade people to see things the way we do, and convincing them to make the right decision with the information we’ve provided. Evangelism is something we need extensive training to do correctly; it is something we need extraordinary giftings to do well; honestly, it is something that most of us dread doing or at the very least makes us squirm.

In the same way that Levi is simply being a witness: “Hey friends, here’s this awesome food; come enjoy it with me,” we should simply (and naturally) be a witness: “Hey friends, let me introduce you to this guy Jesus; want to hang out with me as I spend time with Him?”

But this is not a simple or natural thing for most of us to do… or we would already be doing it. Maybe part of our hang-up is that we simply do not enjoy Jesus as much as we do bacon. Or at least as much as I enjoy bacon.

So let me offer this prayer for you and for me (which is incredibly ironic since bacon was a no-no for the Jews in Jesus’ day!), “May Jesus be to our souls, what bacon is to my stomach.”

Conversations With My Daughter

Tim —  August 24, 2011 — 7 Comments

I’d like to share a conversation I had with my daughter, our oldest who is now a first grader, that took place two weeks ago. I was putting all three kids to bed and decided we would try something different to pray. I got us all in a circle and said we were going to pray for the person on our right. Then I showed the boys which direction was right.

The boys prayed silly prayers, imagine that, but when it was Addi’s turn she said she didn’t want to pray. Thinking she was just too nervous, I offered some encouraging, fatherly words that would surely convince her she could pray.

Then she said, “I can’t pray… I did too many bad things today.” That got my attention, and I wasn’t sure how to respond. Then she looked at me and said, “I want to feel clean inside.”

That floored me. Instantly, my heart was both full and broken. I was a mess of excitement and nerves. This was the kind of conversation starter pastors live for, and here was my little girl opening that door.

I pulled her over to me, sat her on my lap, and gave her a big hug. I said a couple of things to her, then realized we needed to be able to have a real conversation. So I put the boys to bed, grabbed my Bible, and we sat on Addi’s bed and talked.

I read 1 John 1:9 to her: “If we confess our sins, (God) is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” I explained that to confess simply meant to admit to God she had done bad things, which she had done. I told her because of what Jesus did for us on the cross, we are clean on the inside. I desperately wanted her to understand that this is what grace is all about, that she didn’t need to do anything, that because of Jesus she is forgiven and clean.

She said she understood. I prayed, and she repeated what I said. I asked her if she understood what she had prayed, and again she said she understood.

I wonder how much she did understand. I wonder how deeply a six-year-old can grasp amazing grace. I’m not sure how deeply I grasp it! I constantly find myself slipping back into old ruts of approaching God based on what I’ve done lately rather than because of what Jesus Christ did for me 2,000 years ago.

And I remember when I was about Addi’s age I prayed the sinner’s prayer to receive Jesus over and over and over again. I couldn’t tell you how many times I prayed it, but I know I had it memorized.

My constant fear was that I had not prayed all the right words, that I had left out a part, or that I had not been 100% sincere. Ironically, in my prayer asking Jesus to save me from the eternal fires of hell, my focus was completely on my own efforts to be saved. I did not get grace. My faith was pretty weak; I wasn’t able to simply trust in Christ alone.

From a developmental view, maybe I was unable to mentally and emotionally grasp the concept of grace at that young age. Maybe the same is true for my daughter. Less than a week ago, again at the end of the day, Addi said she did not want to pray. Then she said, “I think I need a new heart again.”

She felt bad for something that had happened earlier, and I love that she feels bad about being bad; I hope she never loses that! We had another conversation, and I explained how in a relationship it is important to say sorry when you recognize you’ve done something wrong. Then we prayed together.

I think her statement is also indicative that she doesn’t get grace yet. As we go on from here and have more conversations, this is what I want to try to bring down to her level: that she is saved by grace and that her “job” is to believe that when Jesus said, “It is finished,” it really is.

As Paul Tillich wrote, “Faith is the courage to accept acceptance.” Faith is believing that God’s grace is real and is for me. That’s what I want to be convinced of in the depths of my soul, and what I want for my kids as well.

I do believe that God is hearing the heartfelt cries of my little girl, and it pleases Him to extend His Son’s righteousness to her. She might not fully get it, but in Christ she is forgiven and clean. She is His.