Sunday, December 23, 2007

Christmas seems weird this year

I said to my wife, Sara, the other day, "I think I'm getting kind of weird". What I meant is that I'm really changing in some deep ways lately. This has probably been one of my biggest years of personal growth I've ever had and it's certainly the deepest my growth as a person and a follower of Christ has ever gone. It's so significant that things that used to just seem ok to me don't anymore.

Today I'm thinking about Christmas and I'm just turned off with what we've made it. I'm not on the "Christmas is too commercial - baah humbug" bandwagon. I'm not upset at retailers or even those pathetic people who rush into Wal-Mart at 4am on black Friday like cattle. (I feel a bit sorry for them, but I'm not upset with them). I'm just dissatisfied with what I've allowed Christmas to become for myself, and in extension, my family.

I listed to a conversation yesterday with Chris Seay and Rick McKinley and they said two things that really struck a nerve in my spirit . . .
  1. I think it was Chris who said it's pretty silly for us to give each other gifts on Christmas when it's the birth of Christ we're supposed to be celebrating. Shouldn't we be giving gifts to Christ if it's His birth? Matthew 25 gives us a clear example of how to give gifts to Christ.
  2. One of them (I think Rick) said that this year Americans will spend $475 billion on Christmas, but the global crisis of clean drinking water could be solved for $10 billion. I have no idea if his numbers are right, but even if they're close I feel deeply convicted about being part of this.
It's December 23 and the gifts are purchased and some are already wrapped. I'm not planning on taking all my kids' gifts back to the stores and giving them a stocking with an orange and a peppermint stick for Christmas, but I am deeply stirred about what to do for next Christmas. I don't know the answer yet, but I think it will be different.

Ultimately, I'm just deeply bothered at how my culture just cycles the wealth and abundance around among those are already wealthy and live in abundance. When I say wealth and abundance, I mean me, my family and my friends; not "rich" people. I was bothered this year around Thanksgiving when I heard countless people talk about how Thanksgiving is about being with family. Is that it? No, it's not just about being with family. I'm very thankful for my family, but I'd much rather do something on Thanksgiving to give some other person a reason to be thankful for once than to just be with family and eat too much because 'that's what Thanksgiving is for'. We did this in a small way this year and I'm glad, but I have so far to go.

Please understand that I'm not against family. We have big plans to be with family all next week and I'm very much looking forward to it. Please pray with me that we are safe in our traveling and that we are a blessing to our family. The long trips with a van full of kids are very taxing on me and I usually come home from family visits feeling embarrassed at how I portrayed myself. I'm usually pretty frazzled from the whole experience of traveling and keeping 3 little boys from destroying whatever house we happen to be in on a given day, but that really does not matter. I'm a follower of Jesus Christ and my attitude ought to be the same as Christ's. I pray for that more than anything else for this next week.

So, I feel weird this Christmas . . . this year. I'm glad I feel weird. At least I feel something. Thank you Lord for waking me, just a bit, from my coma I've been in all my life. Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 16, 2007

a normal weekend . . . aah

It's Sunday morning and I just finished my third relatively peaceful night of sleep. Praise God that my boys are finally healthy and sleeping through the night. We actually went to church last night. Colin threw up in the ladies bathroom, but I think that was just because he ate too much junk food off the dinner table in the sanctuary. My bad. I should have been watching him more closely. I played drums last night at church. Yes, I was ridiculously rusty and I wrecked a couple spots of certain songs, but it was really nice to play again. I'm so looking forward to playing in the future.

I've been thinking a lot about the future. Some of the specifics I think of of . . .
  • missions trips with my kids instead of being sick with how much I miss them
  • there is an army of staff kids at church who are going to just blow this world apart for Jesus in a few short years. I think to myself how much more affective we'll all be then. Right now we are all limited by the young age of our kids. Not long from now, our kids will actually be adding momentum to the ministries we're all doing.
I love my job. I basically see my job as a leader in two places; my home and my church. I happen to get paid for the church part, but I don't see much of a distinction. Of course the needs at home always trump the needs at church, but the two sides are so deeply connected and complimentary. I just love it and could not imagine doing anything else. I hope God keeps me here doing what I'm doing - my role ever-evolving, but still here in this place.

Christmas is approaching and I'm praying for safety for our traveling to NY in a couple weeks. I'm also praying for protection for our family in a few other ways. I don't know if anybody really reads these posts, but if you do will you pray these things with me now? Thank you.

Well, my boys are stirring and I need to finish up so I'm 100% available to them when they get up. I'm so looking forward to a day with them.

Monday, December 10, 2007

tonight I'm a stunted shrub

It's Monday night and I feel like yesterday was Thursday. This weekend was among the worst I've ever walked through. Couple a horrendous schedule with my twin boys being very sick and it felt like insanity most of the time. Still does. I'm peaceful right now, but I know that just under the surface I'm way too angry and way too volatile.

As I had a few hours to myself tonight I was struck with my own selfishness. I'm appalled and embarrassed at how often and how highly I think of myself. I've spent the last few days being deeply angry with my precious little boys, who can't help that their coughing leads to vomiting, and God who I loathe at times for "not caring" although I'm blessed beyond measure. Just when my boys need their daddy's comfort they get his anger and frustration. Just when my Daddy needs appreciation and love from his boy He gets yet more anger and frustration.

Jer 17:5-10 - This is what the LORD says: "Cursed are those who put their trust in mere humans and turn their hearts away from the LORD. 6 They are like stunted shrubs in the desert, with no hope for the future. They will live in the barren wilderness, on the salty flats where no one lives.

7 "But blessed are those who trust in the LORD and have made the LORD their hope and confidence. 8 They are like trees planted along a riverbank, with roots that reach deep into the water. Such trees are not bothered by the heat or worried by long months of drought. Their leaves stay green, and they go right on producing delicious fruit.

9 "The human heart is most deceitful and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is? 10 But I know! I, the LORD, search all hearts and examine secret motives. I give all people their due rewards, according to what their actions deserve." NLT

I've proved Scripture to be true again. My heart is desperately wicked. I wish it were not, but the last few days have proved that to me again. I struggle desperately with being a good father and husband. I want to be so badly and feel so terrible when I fail. Tonight I'm a stunted shrub. Someday I'll be a tree planted along a riverbank.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

God blesses with another opportunity!

I saw that there was some money sitting in a missions account at church and I had the thought (I wish I could say I was so spiritual that I prayed this, but I only though it) "I sure wish I had a good place to sow some of that money into." It was only several hours until I received a text message from one of our young adults in a ministry training school asking for prayer to receive a large sum of money by Friday to continue that training. What a blessing to both of us that I could immediately text back that it was covered! God not only blesses us by providing for our needs, but giving opportunities to provide for the needs of others. It's amazing to me how interconnected we are as the body of Christ, yet we get so focused on our own stuff and miss out on how perfectly we could work together.

I mentioned this person in ministry training and it reminds me how overjoyed I am to see those who used to be kids in our church growing into powerful leaders and ministers in God's kingdom. What a difference a few months or a year makes in some cases. I am so excited to look at what God is planning for this generation. And I don't just mean "this generation" as in people that age somewhere in the world. I mean the actual kids I have ministered to over the last 10 years who are growing into powerful men and women of God. This world needs more Jakes, Annas, Shawnas, Davids, Rachaels, and DeAnnas. Yes, I missed many of the names that fall into this category, but the list is not meant to be all inclusive. I feel so privileged, and a bit overwhelmed, at having a hand in leadership for this movement.

Last night was another one of boys waking up regularly with fevers and ear aches. Please continue to pray for the health of our boys and family. It's such a grind right now. But this too shall pass.

I'm getting ready to go to the gym now and I can hardly believe what a joy it has been to begin lifting weights again. I have not done it seriously since high school and I really love it. I thank God for bringing that to me. It's probably the first thing that has resembled a hobby since my twins were born over 4 years ago.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

First Snow

It was the first snow of the season. I think I won the bet with my wife about when it would snow first. I won, but I didn't win anything. Kind of strange, I guess.

The last six months have been an incredible ride for me. I have taken on so much new stuff and have grown so much. The fact that I feel an urge to write (blog, whatever) is amazing in itself. I'm reading a few books right now and devouring podcasts like there's no tomorrow. Some of my favorite stuff right now is coming from Dave Ramsey, Bill Moyers and Rob Bell.

If you pray, I'd love for you to pray for our family. I think Ethan and I are the only ones who are 100% healthy right now. Colin and Liam are especially struggling with staying healthy lately. It's really wearing us all down.

I listened to an interview with Will Smith the other day. He says he's really successful because he loves living and people can tell and he works harder than everyone else. I want to be like Will Smith someday. Not the annoying laugh, just the contagious love for life and the great work ethic.