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Who is on Your Heart’s Throne?

There is a podcast I use to follow and I recently picked it back up and started following it again called www.crosspoint.tv. The pastor of this church, Pete Wilson, started a new series called “Empty Promises” that basically centered on idolatry and what we seek after that only Jesus can fulfill. Things in our lives that we consistently meditate on to the point of consuming us, and in the end, it’s never enough. Now idolatry can be anything that takes the place of God in our lives and it’s not necessarily always another god like Buddha, Baal, or anything else we typically think are idols. Idolatry can also be things like appearance, success, money, relationships, acceptation, and anything that we think we need in our lives that can deliver us to that next stage and make us “truly happy”.

I admit I really hesitated on writing this post because throughout this series God has opened some pretty dark doors I’ve had in my life that I chose to keep shut. Doors that I didn’t want to acknowledge therefore I would continue to live my life as I always have. I chose to post this because of the possibility that there are other readers out there who might be caught up in the same idolatry that I am, and are screaming to get out. Therefore I’m choosing to be obedient, and reveal something that honestly not very many people know about me.

I guess you can consider me a likable guy. I am like this because I am a people pleaser. I am always making light ended conversation with people, making them feel comfortable, and if I can get you to laugh or smile then my job is done. What you don’t see on the exterior though is this incredible need to feel accepted. I long for it. If I’m not accepted by one person then it literally consumes my thoughts until I can either resolve in my mind that I’m right or I can convince this person to like me. But it goes deeper than that. To be accepted I feel that I need to have the “perfect” life. I need to have the job to appear that I am successful. I need to have the money to make my family feel secure and in my mind the life “they” deserve. I need to have the house that I’ve always wanted, and take the trips to build memories with my family and friends. If I feel that I am lagging in one of these areas, I take drastic measures to change my situation. If I don’t feel that I am making enough money I hit the career sites frantically looking for the next job that will fix all my problems. In my mind I’m looking for the right salary that will make everything right, the right benefits that will allow these vacations and family time, and the right job that will turn heads when I tell them what I do for a living. When I do this I end up robbing myself when the phone doesn’t ring or the “Although your qualifications are impressive….” email that always follows. I am robbing myself because when you consume yourself with something and you don’t get it, you feel like a failure.

Another setback of mine that comes with being a people pleaser are my highs and lows. Now my wife, the one other than God who knows me the most, will tell you that I rarely get depressed. My depressed days, on an outward appearance, will typically play off of me just being in a bad mood. If I get an email at work that praises my actions, recognized for something great I did, or as a soloist, complimented on a song I sung, then I am on an extreme high. However with extreme highs come extreme lows. If I am chastised for something, do something that has let someone I care for deeply down, then I am in an extreme low. It might not show, other than a bad mood, on the outside, but on the inside I am devastated. Being in an extreme low I begin to revert back to the fact that I need to “fix” my situation taking me right back to the paragraph above. It is a continuous cycle because I am constantly trying to find the one thing that will fulfill my life that in the end will never be enough. I am seeking a fulfillment that can only be filled by none other than God.

It may seem after reading this that I am a non-Christian, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. I know without a doubt that I am a child of God’s, and I accepted Him into my life to be my Lord and Savior. However, being a Christian does not mean that every day will be a day of perfection. In fact God uses the circumstances in our lives so that His love, grace, and mercy can shine through brighter than ever before. I have simply replaced God on the throne of my life with this overall need for acceptance. Whatever is on the throne of your life, this is what consumes your thoughts, desires, and actions. God has sat on my throne many times throughout my life, but every now and then I replace Him. Not intentionally and not in one swift movement, but I slowly replace God with other desires of my heart. When God is sitting on my heart’s throne then I am truly at peace with my circumstances regardless of how large or small they may be. I have no doubt that God allowed me to pick back up on this podcast at this particular time, because He needed me to hear this series. He needed me to realize that He is not on my throne seat and He wants what is rightfully His. After going through this series I came home the other night to an empty house. This is a very rare occasion, but the family was over at my in-laws and I needed to pick up a few things before joining them myself. In the quietness of my bedroom I laid face down on my bed and with great conviction I spoke with my God. I asked for forgiveness for replacing Him with this feeling of acceptance. I asked God to take His place back on His throne, and I asked God that His name be praised through the circumstances He allows into my life. No job, no income, no, appearance will ever give me what my God can give me. I will be provided for because my God will meet my every need. All of these things that I feel will make my life complete mean absolutely nothing because they will never fill the void I am looking for. My God has given me and will continue to give me peace as long as He is on the throne of my heart.

 
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Posted by on May 18, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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To Be A Godly Daddy, Treat Mommy Right

Early in the week a foul stench descended upon Rushing Estate.

No, it’s not “Hamlet,” but it is a tragedy of Shakespearean proportions for our bushy-tailed friends who like to visit our attic.

Being that it’s Mother’s Day week and “Take Care of Gross Stuff” is No. 4 on my list of Things a Godly Daddy Should Do For a Godly Mommy, it is my responsibility to figure out how to fix the situation. (See below for the complete list, which obviously needs to include: “Fix hole over garage where squirrels get inside.”)

As I wrote on Darling Valerie’s Facebook about the event, I peeked into the attic and didn’t see anything in the distance, but I did see a few squirrels kneeling over a tombstone that said “R.I.P. Squeaky. He didn’t get that last nut: 2011-2012.”

One of the little guys perished somewhere around our kitchen, and now the entire front of the house is a fine mixture of dead varmint and Glade’s “ocean breeze” scent, which I’ve never figured out because what does a breeze on the ocean smell like, anyway? Seaweed? Whale gas?

Since I’m not brave enough to crawl through our attic to try to pinpoint the problem and I don’t feel like breaking down the walls to narrow it down, either, I shall follow a time-honored male tradition that goes back to King Saul letting little David fight his war for him: Hire someone braver to complete the task, and then take all the credit and reap the rewards.

It certainly worked for Jimmy Stewart in “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance.” He didn’t actually take out the outlaw from the title who “needed killin’,” but he did get the fame and the girl, while John Wayne let Stewart be the hero and then died sad and alone. When Stewart gets the truth off his chest, a reporter declines to publish it, telling him, “This is the West. When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.”

If you want to have a legend as a Godly Daddy, one of the surest ways to insure – though without a guarantee – that your children grow up with the right views of love and marriage is for parents to love one another and show it often.

My own mother I treat as a saint and would never speak ill of her or allow someone else to. She has raised four good kids, and that is a lot of diapers, kissing boo-boos and preparing school lunches.

Now, I don’t know how much research my Darling Valerie did before we got married, so hopefully she didn’t marry me based solely on the study that says the best marriages are those in which women pick men who are less attractive than themselves.

It surely wasn’t for my prowess with fixing things, clubbing mastodons or looking great in a Speedo.

But there are other things that will keep her excited to be married to me, so long as I follow through:

This is my Top 5 Things I Can Do To Show How Important Mommy Is To A Godly Daddy:

1. Be a spiritual leader – I need to be better about leading family prayers, especially at mealtime, and starting a Bible study with Val. Other than saying “God help us,” we are awful about not praying in front of our children.

2. Treat Mommy like No. 1 – I adore my kids dearly, but Val has to come first. If our mini Cooper has to wait a few minutes while Daddy and Mommy talk, even though he thinks it’s the end of the world, he’ll recover. Unless I’m in trouble, and then I need to go because, hey, he lost his Grave Digger monster truck and we have got to find it right now!

3. No vices – She doesn’t have to worry about me getting into alcohol or drugs, but I also need to stay away from that ultimate nachos at Buffalo Wild Wings. And wings and pizza from Papa Johns. And the Tour of Italy at Olive Garden. (You get the idea. I’m not fat because of a disorder or mental block. I just really, really like food.)

4. Take care of gross stuff – Diapers, vomit, bugs. So far Val has to take over for the former two because I need a gas mask to deal with foul odors, but I’m getting pretty good at the latter about not squealing like a middle aged woman who embarrassingly squeals like a teen girl at a Justin Bieber concert.

5. Treat others well – Be polite to everyone, including strangers and even (*shudder*) other drivers.

So Happy Mother’s Day to my Special Someone, and thank you for laughing at the same jokes over and over, staying home to raise our adorable children and encouraging me to be a Godly Daddy!

 (One more Squirrle Pic …. Sorry couldn’t resist this one) 

 
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Posted by on May 11, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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Stop being so stiff-necked

Our founder wrote recently about having to discipline his daughter. It certainly seemed as tough on Steve and his wife as it was on their girl.

It still feels like my mini Cooper is too young to understand when he makes bad choices, but at 2 1/2 I think we’re the ones who aren’t ready to discipline him too harshly yet. We need to discipline ourselves to crack the whip, so to speak

He hates, hates, hates taking his medicine twice a day, no matter how hard we bribe him or try to hide it in chocolate milk. 

I must have said 100 times, wouldn’t it just be easier to drink it in three seconds than go through the games? Likewise, it’s just a 30 minute drive to and from church and my in-laws’ home. Isn’t it easier to relax than spend the entire time whining?

I get so frustrated when he disobeys me because deep down I really don’t want to discipline him. We get along so well and have so much fun, why would he test me?

Then again, doesn’t God think it’s easier if I would do as Jesus says, and not, let’s say, wasting dollars in the vending machine at work for Diet Coke and Ding-Dongs instead of giving that extra money to the poor?

That little voice in my head – at least the one I listen to - says, “How many times did God and His prophets call the chosen people ‘stiff-necked’? Wouldn’t it have been easier to obey God and eat the manna from heaven with a big thankful smile than go through the effort of making and worshipping a golden calf?”

In Exodus 33:5, the Lord doesn’t pull any punches when he tells Moses to shake his finger at the stubborn Israelites and let them know how close He is to getting that switch from the tree in the backyard to exact some punishment: “Tell the Israelites: You are a stiff-necked people. If I went with you for a single moment, I would destroy you. Now take off your jewelry, and I will decide what to do with you.”

Whenever I’m frustrated by Cooper’s 2-year-old antics, I need to just look at the above picture of him at the allergist’s office after he made it through the trauma of testing, and remember just how precious he is and how much he loves me and relies on his Daddy and Mommy to get through the tough times.

If only I would apply that same sense of comfort of resting in the arms of a loving and sympathetic Messiah when I am going through tough times.

 
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Posted by on May 2, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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Message to my Employees

Last Fall I noticed my employees go through a slump that I knew all too well. It’s that slump where you are not content with your current situation and your mind starts turning to find ways to fix it. When you get in this state you become tunnel visioned with this task and when it doesn’t happen as fast as you’d like then depression can set in. I’ll be honest, I’m going through this right now. I found this email I sent to my employees. Not only was it a great reminder to them but as you can see it is an ongoing reminder for me.

I wanted to share with you a struggle that I’ve had earlier in my career that you might be going through now. It’s that feeling of being stuck, not having any ambition, and basically not knowing what you want to do with your life. I would always beat myself up over these thoughts because as a person it always felt that I was a failure in life because I feel so bad about my current status. I saw friends of mine take the leap into their own businesses and succeed. I saw my peers get breaks in life that I wish I had and it always felt that life was leaving me behind. These feelings would always lead me to look for new opportunities in other fields but then again finding more disappointments at every turn. So the question was, how do I correct this feeling, and how do I do my current job and feel good at the end of the day? For me I prayed, read my bible, and consulted with very close friends but at the end of the day this is what I determined about myself.

  • My Job does not define me. Yes I am a banker, but I am so much more than that. I am a son, husband, father, friend, musician…and the list goes on and on about what attributes I have in this life that truly define who I really am.
  • I am in a respectable career: If you think about it, banking is a respectable career, it always has been. Whether you are a teller or a president you are a banker and that is a good job to have. I dare say people admire you for being a banker and will seek your advice when needed.
  • I offer a necessary service: At the end of the day I help people. Practically everyone has a bank and depend on us to manage their financial picture whatever that picture may look like. Yes sales, deadlines, and other “corporate pressures” like this can interfere but I’ll be honest with you our bank is a breath of fresh air in this area compared to other banks I’ve worked for.
  • I matter. Yes, employee wise I can be replaced but I still matter. I matter to my family, I matter to my friends, I matter to my church, I matter in this life.
  • Finally the reoccurring assurance that my peers, friends, and mentors remind me of, we are all still young! Who says we have to be at the top of our game at this stage in our life? We are simply      on a journey. Do we settle on our current state? You can if you want to, but I dare say we all have ambition to do more. Whether if it’s as a banker or in a field that more closely fits our dreams. We have the time to accomplish this. Let’s not be so tunnel visioned on getting to the prize where we miss out on the journey there.

Since I realized these facts my outlook on getting up every morning to go to my job, and getting over the mundane day to day duties has decreased if not completely gone away. I still have “those” days but I am quickly reminded of these facts I just mentioned. The reason why I shared this with you, is I remember being there, I remember the feeling, and since no one was there to remind me that I wasn’t the only one going through this, I thought I’d let you know. I appreciate each and every one of you for your diligence to give excellent service, and maintain a professional outlook on life. I close all of my personal correspondence with a phrase that I try to live by daily, Out Live your Life, so…

Out Live Your Life,

 
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Posted by on April 30, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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Knit Together

It was a cold March morning when we had Olivia in Belleville, Illinois.  The grandparents had come and gone and it was a quiet evening for us as we sat in the hospital room.  I enjoyed watching Sara cuddling Olivia before we would lay her down.  Olivia would be snuggled into Sara like they have been life long buddies. I often wonder if before we were born, if God held us to His chest and embraced us.  I wonder that because so often when a baby is born, the only thing to get them to be calm or quiet is to lay them on your chest and cuddle them up close to you.  In Psalms 139:19, the psalmist David wrote “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.” I marvel at the love of God for His creation.  In awe, I sit here and think of how we are comforted by God and His embrace.  The trust and love we have just through the simple embrace of the Father.  In Psalms 22:9, we read “Yet you brought me out of the womb; you made me trust in you even at my mother’s breast.”  There’s a time that after you and I leave the womb that we loose trust in the Father that knew us and knit us.  I am eager to get back to where I completely trust in Him who knit me together in my mother’s womb.  To embrace Him once again.  To understand that when He carefully put me together, He had every ounce of me put together to serve Him.

 
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Posted by on April 27, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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Make Good Choices

We are in THAT stage with our 5 year old daughter Emmerson. It’s the stage where we have to constantly remind her to make the right choices during the day. The choices can consist of should I obey my parents/teachers? There are the choices of not listening when asked to do something or even better, making her point known even after we have told her NO! There is an overall theme here and it’s centered around “Doing Her Own Thing”.

The other day was one of those days. I got my afternoon phone call from my wife Shannon with the dreaded words “Emmerson has something she needs to tell you”. The phone was handed to Emmerson and all I heard was a sobbing mumbling little girl who apparently did not have a good day. Through the sobbing I was able to make out some words like “Daddy, I (sniff sniff) bad day (sniff sniff) today. I (snot bubbles) disobeyed my teacher (sniff sniff) and wasn’t doing what I (snot bubbles) supposed to do, and got in trouble”. I asked to speak to mom, which Shannon translated that day’s events saying Emmerson was not obeying her teachers and  she was using the chalk when she wasn’t supposed to, not doing what the rest of the class was doing etc etc. Well when I was growing up we lived by the golden rule (at least our Golden Rule) “You get in trouble at school, you get in trouble at home”

Emmerson did receive her punishment that evening which included writing a personal apology letter to her teachers for misbehaving and being disobedient. That night as I was sitting with Emmerson by her bed after prayers I told her the very thing that I tell her and her brother every night before they go to sleep. I sit them down, look into their eyes and say “You make me very happy, and very proud”. I then went on to tell her that no matter what she does in life, I will never ever stop loving her. There is nothing in this world she could ever do, for me not to love her. When she does do wrong I told her that it breaks my heart because I know she can do so much better, but I will always love her.

After I gave her kisses and hugs I went back to my easy chair and pondered how identical my relationship with my kids is, compared to my relationship with Jesus. I put myself in my kids place knowing that I mess up all of the time. There are things that I’ve knowingly done (doing my own thing) that I knew broke God’s heart. Every time I break God’s heart though and ask forgiveness, He is there to remind me that He will always love me, and I (His own creation) make Him very proud. My kids see this compassion from me, and now as a dad I see more clearly the same compassion from Christ.

Does this mean that I can continue on with my mischievous ways without persecution? Absolutely not. Just like I as a dad have to punish my children, my own sins have punishments. Proverbs 29:15 says To discipline a child produces wisdom, but a child who does his own thing brings shame to his parents. Without discipline we would sin without knowing. Without discipline we would be so unruly that we would eventually cross someone the wrong way who can end us. Without discipline we would never know the full sacrifice and cost for our sins. We are to be disciplined so that we remember how much we hurt the ones we love, when we are faced with future sin. So as I ushered my daughter out the door this morning I gave her a command that her mother and I give her every day “Make Good Choices”. God knows I need to tell myself the same thing.

 
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Posted by on April 25, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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Life Beyond Easter-Forgiven/Not Forgiven

The sugar high has worn off, the plastic eggs have been emptied, the deviled eggs have been eaten, the ham has been devoured, the crosses have been taken down, the productions have come to an end, the church pews are emptied, and the fake grass has now found its way to the trashcan.

It has been a few days since you and I put on our best suits (okay, just you. I had class with a bunch of 5 year olds with glue and crafts ….I am not stupid …) to go to church, some of us for the first time in a year. Now that all is said and done, what’s next? I was reflecting as I was reading Max Lucado’s Cast of Characters this morning on this very thought; “What happens once Sunday is over?” We dream of chocolate Easter bunnies and passion plays but when it is all said and done, it’s just another faded memory.

Once the stench of death had left the tomb and the grave clothes had been removed, the tomb remained vacated. There was no longer a body to be viewed, a death to be mourned, or a memory to be remembered.

It was the day that the earth shook and the trees trembled at the sound of Christ defeating the enemy and winning another victory for the team. The King of kings would take a step into time and visit those that He loved and would serve them once more.

Could you imagine the life of one of the disciples, Martha, Mary, or the mother of Jesus after the resurrection of Jesus? In just a few verses, we are given a glimpse of these days and in such detail, we are told a story not only of the resurrection of Christ but the reinstatement of Peter. Peter, who had denied Christ, had been fishing off the Sea of Galilee with some of the other disciples. They hadn’t caught any fish all night and they were dog tired. Something interesting occurred. Jesus stood on the bank of the river and saw that these men were struggling for fish. They had been out all night and now, they were going to have to leave defeated so they thought.

Jesus called from the shore saying “Fellows, have you caught any fish?” (John 21:5) The disciples called back to Jesus, not knowing who he was, “no.” They had affirmed that they had caught nothing that day and they didn’t know who this stranger on the shore was. But Jesus would assist them once again in their lack. “Throw your net on the right-hand side of the boat, and you’ll get some!” (John 21:6). Casting the nets in faith, they caught 153 large fish and their nets hadn’t been torn.

Next, the one that Jesus loved would notice that it was Him on the shore. I love Peter’s response. He put on his tunic and “jumped into the water and headed to the shore.” This was so inspiring to me because in verse 8, it says that “the others stayed with the boat and pulled the loaded net to the shore, for they were only about a hundred yards from the shore.” Peter didn’t care where he was in the sea and he didn’t care about anyone else but Jesus. His eyes were focused on the one that just a few days prior he denied. Peter wasn’t concerned if Jesus was still upset about that incident. He was only concerned that his Lord was on the shore and he wanted to get to Him.

My prayer is that we each day jump out of the boat and swim to Christ with no regret, no fear, and no condemnation. Peter had denied Christ. He had betrayed Jesus. He didn’t care. He just wanted to get to the Master. He wanted to receive all that Jesus had for him.

After Easter, what would we do? The chocolate bunnies have been eaten, the passion plays have been ended, and the sermons have been taught. Now, we swim into the arms of Jesus, the One who died for the sins of the one who had betrayed Him.

 
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Posted by on April 18, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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Why is this Treadmill making me Fat?

I know you’re thinking not another Treadmill thread! I don’t want to hear about resources spent on things I just had to have but never used. Ok we do still use them; they are just converted into clothing racks. No, I’m referring to what some call the Hedonic Treadmill. This is the cycle we find ourselves on when we up our lifestyle as our income progresses. The Hedonic Treadmill is a word picture that illustrates the idea that more money doesn’t always equal greater happiness. However, research has shown that the happiness money brings tops out at a family income of $70K. This is a nationwide number that reflects what it takes to care for all basic needs and a bit of comfort as well. Surely, living in a low-cost region like Memphis would bring that number down significantly. If this is the case, then why do we constantly forego things we know will bring us happiness to chase more money. Constantly working double shifts at the expense of time with friends and family is one example.

Here comes the tie in……

As one who strives to be a Godly Daddy, is it our responsibility to manage worldly expectations of our family and if so, at what cost? How many of us have set a target level of income that will allow you to meet your families Godly goals. How many of us have Godly goals that have been agreed upon with your spouse? I only say this because I have been on the treadmill for 10 years. By God’s Grace, my income almost doubled every other year for 10 years straight! After 10 years and a pile of debt later, I realized that this treadmill is not only making me fat, but also mentally unhealthy as well as taking me further from my family and God. Maybe there is someone out there that can keep their standard of living low while maximizing earning power. I guess I am just not that disciplined. So I felt like I had two options,  give up my standard of living or miss precious time with my new daughter. In today’s USA that is a tough decision because so much of our identity is wrapped up in our profession and stuff. I challenge you to accept a completely different option that God showed me. I was led to right size my profession and life. This has allowed me to accept God’s direction and change work environments. This was and is a huge leap, but regardless of the outcome, I will enjoy my life. By right size I mean have that conversation where you define what is truly important to you and your spouse. Out of this conversation will come an agreed upon goal for your family. I say goal because you may not be able to make changes quickly. You like me may have made commitments that take time to right size. This goal is our Godly Daddy journey. Each journey is different. I am not implying that everyone will get what they want in a career, but we can all understand the purpose of work and do it for our Lord.

As we celebrate Holy week, this topic makes me think of why Jews eat the Matzah all week. A cracker eaten in Freedom taste much sweeter than the best Steak in captivity. My prayer is that I will not choose to enslave myself and neither do you.

 
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Posted by on April 11, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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A Sporting Family

I believe it was David who wrote in Psalms, “The one constant through all the years … has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It has been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game: it’s a part of our past …. It reminds of us of all that once was good and it could be again. Oh… people will come … People will most definitely come. “
No, wait, that was James Earl Jones in “Field of Dreams.”
This is my favorite time of the year to be a sports fan.
In a span of one month, we see the March Madness of the NCAA Tournament, The Masters and Major League Baseball’s opening games.
Being that it’s all in Spring makes it even better. It’s a special time of year, when hope is renewed, the Tigers have a chance to win a title, the azaleas are blooming in Augusta and the Red Sox aren’t eating fried chicken and drinking beer in the clubhouse while their playoff chances are imploding.
Not that I’m still bitter or anything.
Yes, you could go outside and “enjoy God’s creation,” but instead of sneezing all day due to God’s special little allergens I will mostly be on the couch.
Growing up, my Dad and I had a fabulous world of enjoying sports together, whether I was playing golf, soccer and baseball, going to sporting events or watching them on our low-definition non-plasma TV.
When I was in college and a young single adult we stepped it up a notch and became traveling buddies as well. We saw the Red Sox play all over the country, including atop the Green Monster (I won’t tell you how much I paid for those – and it was completely worth it).
My favorite trip was the two weeks we spent in the UK, including going to the 2000 British Open at St. Andrews where I was dressed for rain and wind and ended up with the worst sunburn I have ever had.
I don’t think the Lord cares about sporting events, at least who wins and loses, but do I think he can use them as a way to keep families united? Of course!
Even though we spent many weekends playing rounds of golf together, it was these trips when our relationship grew and we became more of a big chocolate bunny with a gooey center.
Sorry, I have Easter candy on the brain.
Do I consider how my Dad raised me to be a good example for how I will do so with Cooper and Penny? Absolutely.
The main difference, however, is that I was not raised in the church. So that’s something special that I will bring to the table for them.
So, instead of just watching the Sox play in Spring Training in Ft. Myers, Florida, we can also quote Psalms to describe how glorious it is to be surrounded by blue skies, green grass, the crack of the bat and friendly faces.
Now, of course there is a slight chance that one or both of my kids might not share my love of sports, or even, *gasp,* rebel against me and pick another favorite team.
In that case, I will have to hold a special prayer meeting and excommunicate them publicly.
OK, that’s not true.
Will it hurt my feelings if Cooper and Penny don’t root for the teams I do? Notably, the Red Sox or U of Memphis Tigers? Why yes, of course it would. But I’d get over it.
Proverbs 22:6 says to “Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.”
Does this hold for rooting for sports? Probably not how Solomon wisely intentioned, but why not?
They may not take part in sports as I hope, but when they’re older they will certainly remember fondly as I do all the time we spend together.
I don’t consider it scary or worth worrying about, like, say, if Penny is 16 and starts wearing sweatpants with cute phrases on her bottom, or if Cooper decides when he’s 18 that he wants to ride a motorcycle and I have to take the possibly illegal step of locking them in the basement until they’re 30.
I think I would be acquitted in a trial of my peers, am I right?


 
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Posted by on April 9, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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Easter Reflections (Part 1)

” . . . the cup which the Father has given Me, shall I not drink it?” (Jn 18.11b)

Having ordered Peter to sheath his sword, Jesus rhetorically demands that Peter stick to the plan. Jesus had to drain the drink in front of him. And no beggarly fisherman was going to disrupt the swill.Jesus was not simply saying cleverly to Peter, “I’ve got to do what I’ve got to do.” He was using a clear image of what was at stake. The cup Jesus must drink was the cup of God’s wrath (cf. Ps 75.8; Is 51.17, 22; Jer 25.15, 17; 51.7; Ezek 23.31-33). No person, nation, or king had ever been able to down this cup to God’s satisfaction. There was always one more serving. There was always one more shot. God’s wrath was always on tap for those bellied up to test God’s stamina.

The cup was not merely Jesus’ to take, but his to drink. There was only one way to completely alleviate God’s anger . . . the cup must be consumed. Its contents cannot be thrown out, scattered, evaporated or sipped. The cup must be downed and kept down.

Now we see this image come to life. Peter could not see it at the time because of the glare off his dagger (though it was night!). It was not Rome’s anger or Jewish hatred Jesus endured. They did not give him the cup; the Father did. Therefore, Jesus must be consumed by God’s wrath. God’s anger must course through his veins, become a part of him, until the Father had crushed him lifeless (Is 53.10). Jesus must be ravaged by Father’s hatred of sin if we are to be lavished by His love for the church (Mic 7.18).

The cup of God’s wrath Jesus drank for us becomes the cup of blessing we drink to him (1 Cor 10.16). Now, God’s love and grace courses through our veins having become part of us. We now celebrate that there is not one ounce of God’s wrath reserved for the church (Rom 5.9; 8.1; 1 Thess 1.10).

Luther once preached, “[Christ] also took upon himself the full wrath and condemnation of our Lord God and drained that cup to the dregs, so that we would not have to suffer those things” (Sermons, vol. 5, p388). Not one drop of that cup remains for us as Jesus digested it all without so much as a burp. Resurrection without eructation is the church’s battle cry!

Gorge yourselves, brethren, on God’s delight. It is always on tap.

 
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Posted by on April 6, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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Fathers as Pastors (Redux)

My previous post introduced the dire need for fathers to be “pastors” in their respective homes. In this sense, we don’t need anything new in the church. We need to recover something old, very old.

It’s far easier to identify where we should be without seriously considering how we’re to get there. It’s often a long way from the ivory tower to the dirt road, but we must get our feet dusty if we’re to follow Christ on the narrow road. My post indeed begged the question: How do we recover what we’ve long lost? What are some practical steps to take on the way back to church and family health?

In no sense whatsoever do I claim to be an authority on this journey. I need far more gray hair, much older children and more scars to earn the right to be heard. Nevertheless, I’ll offer some thoughts that will hopefully invigorate a more robust effort toward biblical fatherhood.

In providing practical counsel on recovering the father-pastor role, I’ll enumerate some things not to do and then some on what to do. As I’m a father of younger children my perspective is mainly limited to that context. Perhaps some grandfathers might benefit from their relationships with grandchildren as well. And these are by no means exhaustive by any stretch of the imagination. They are catalysts for thought at best.

Do not:

  1. Organize a men’s conference or rally about biblical fatherhood. We don’t need another men’s conference that talks about fatherhood. The modern, Western church has become so bloated with programs that don’t translate into discipleship. Hence, men’s conferences create superficial environments that don’t often translate into long-term discipline. Let’s not convene a gaggle of men to talk about biblical fatherhood. Let’s hold one another in local churches accountable to being biblical father-pastors.
  2. Try to make up years of neglect overnight. It took us 2-3 generations to get where we are. It will take 2-3 to return. Therefore, we must keep a long-term perspective in view. We serve our children’s children. Spend some time repenting, enjoy the liberty of Christ’s forgiveness and then get on with it. But don’t try to over-burden our children with lost time. Start slow, small and sensibly. The best fruit is the fruit that grew steadily over time, not overnight. Most of what we do will be unseen and seemingly mundane. But over years and decades the fruit will be most tasty to the Lord.
  3. Rush children down an aisle and into a baptistery. Just because our children may say “Jesus” or even admit to repenting and believing, we need not rush them toward false assurances of salvation. Hopefully, they’re simply repeating what Mom and Dad say. The decline in church health has corresponded to the decreasing age at which we baptize supposed converts. God is sovereign in salvation. If our children are converted then our haste to baptize them will not make them any more saved. We have done and will do far more damage in hasty baptisms than delayed baptism.
  4. Assume your children’s salvation depends on you. God saves sinners. Our responsibility is not to save our children but to expose them constantly to the means of their salvation: the gospel of Jesus Christ. We keep them in the way of the means of grace and we trust God to change the heart.
  5. Suffer condemnation for failure. James reminded us “we all stumble in many ways” (Jas 3.2). How often Mothers’ Day sermons are sweet blessings to moms, but Fathers’ Day sermons are condemnations of sorry dads! There is only one perfect Father. Because of Christ we need not suffer condemnation for being sorry fathers. We confess, repent, receive God’s forgiveness earned by Jesus and then get on with it. Enjoy the providence of our Good and Sovereign God to do what most pleases him with our children.

Do:

  1. Immerse yourself in the gospel. It is the “power of God unto salvation” (Rom 1.16) and the means by which we are saved, are being saved and will be saved (1 Cor 15.1-2). It’s ironic that when we’re convicted about becoming better biblical fathers we rush out to get the next bestseller on the subject. We don’t need more books on manhood or fatherhood. We need the gospel. So open your Bible and glory in the Christ who died for sinners. Referring to John Bunyan Spurgeon once said, “Prick him anywhere—his blood is Bibline, the very essence of the Bible flows from him. He cannot speak without quoting a text, for his very soul is full of the Word of God.” May our children say the same of their fathers. If pricked anywhere we bleed Bibline.
  2. Buy The Big Picture Story Bible and read it regularly to your children. This is a fantastic resource that treats the whole storyline Scripture. Too often we teach the Bible (even to adults!) as a collection of short stories with morals
    at the end. We’re taught to be like Joseph, be like Daniel, be like Peter. But the Bible is the revelation of God about Jesus: God’s forever King over God’s forever people! We’re to be like him! You will find this book to highly valuable in developing a solid biblical theology. Perhaps consider Bruce Ware’s Big Truths for Young Hearts for older children.
  3. Avail yourself of historic catechisms to use in family worship. Tom Ascol at Founders Ministries has published some great, simple, short guides for such entitled “Truth and Grace Memory Books.” They contain Scripture memory aids, family worship guides and the complete traditional Baptist catechism based on the 1689 Second London Confession of Faith. Otherwise, you can Google your way to a wealth of historic catechisms. You will find even children unable to talk can sign their answers to catechism questions.
  4. Sing great hymns with your children. God has wired us to love and learn through music. Our children can especially learn great theology through the singing of solid hymns.
  5. Train your children in churchmanship. Make sure your children know the highlight of the family’s week is the public gathering of the church on Sunday. To do so, I would encourage re-enacting a simple worship service in the home. You don’t have to hold an hour-long session, but simply include the elements they’ll see on Sunday. They learn when to stand, sit, recite, sing, listen, etc. Also, I would highly encourage getting a copy your church’s order of worship beforehand. Practice the songs, read and review the sermon text, pray for the preaching and singing of the word. At least ask your pastor for the sermon text for next week. (If he doesn’t know then you have a far worse problem than your children!). Encourage them to listen for certain words and even reward them for listening well.
  6. Review the sermon with your children. Work through applications with them. This will help fathers become better sermon listeners as well. Read this article to get started on becoming a better sermon listener so as to develop your children into the same.
  7. Pray, pray, pray with and for your children. When Jesus’ disciples asked him how they should pray (Lk 11.1-4) he did not say, “Well, there’s a great new book out on prayer you should read.” He didn’t say, “Well, men, let’s review the particulars of biblical prayers in your OT.” He didn’t say, “You know, we should hold a class on prayer.” He said, “Listen to me pray.” The best way we grow in praying biblically, effectually and spiritually is not by studying prayer per se, but by praying! Get around God’s people who pray deeply and you’ll grow in your own praying. Our children will learn to pray as they hear Dad pray. Sinfully, all many know about prayer is “God is great, God is good, let us thank him for our food.” While not entirely wrong, it is sad that such is the extent of what our children know to pray. Get a church membership list and pray through it with them. Pray for missionaries and friends who don’t know Jesus.
  8. Bring your children with you into theological conversations with adults. Hopefully, Dad is having regular, robust theological conversations. If he’s not, then he is hypocritical to think his children should be godly when he is not. First, repent and then involve yourself in theological discussions because you love Jesus and nothing thrills you more than talking about him. When you do, don’t send your children to their rooms while the adults talk. Bring them in, set them on your knee and let them listen. Most will be over their heads. Some of it will be boring to them. But the collective result will be astounding as to what they pick up over the years.
  9. Take advantage of any and every situation to interpret the world in light of Christ. Our children need worldview that sees all things as Christ’s (Col 1.16-17), not just Sunday or their steeple. So, we should always be thinking of creative ways to bring Christ to bear on the yard work, scraped knees, red bottoms, changing the oil and evening news.
  10. Be patient. Paul’s “program” for discipleship is the one-on-one relationship between older men/women with younger men/women (Titus 2.1-8). That is “sound doctrine” to Paul (v1). If we’re honest, we’ve lost a generation or two of older disciplers. In any given church it is rare to find older men/women discipling younger men/women. Our senior saints are busy going to Branson and buffets but rarely invest in younger Christians. And most churches structure themselves to separate age groups so as to hinder biblical discipleship. Therefore, we’re in a situation where the church of our generation must raise up the next generation of older men/women to disciple our grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Let’s have a multi-generational view so that our great-grandchildren don’t have this discussion.

In the end, all this means work. Tons of hard, laborious, consistent work. We’ve been duped into thinking Christian discipleship, especially in the family, can be microwaved or accomplished with a weekend retreat. God has, however, designed it be decades worth of sowing, fertilizing, watering gospel seed and pruning its fruit. So don’t believe the hype, don’t over-promise, don’t try to impress God. Be impressed by God and do the hard work, by his grace and for his glory.

 

 

 
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Posted by on March 21, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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Families & Fitness

Steve asked me to share some of my thoughts on Family Fitness as led by Fathers. This is a subject that hits close to home for me. Before we get started I’d like to introduce myself, I am married to my very best friend and am the Father to 5 children (24yo Daughter, 22yo Daughter, 15yo Son, 13yo Son, & 8yo Daughter). We also have 3 Beautiful Grandchildren (1 boy and 2 twin girls). Our lives are quite active as you can imagine.

As the older kids grew up, I realized that we naturally drifted apart. In an effort to find some common ground with the younger kids, I began to search for ways to minimize the drift. Through the years as many of you have probably also done, I have taken many roles in my kids lives as it relates to Sports and Activities that they have participated in. Most of us have either Coached or Helped Coach our children in one sport or another. It is a natural occurrence for Fathers to be involved, as we desire to be a part (and yes even lead) part of our kids sports and activities. Over the years, I realized that I always seemed to be in a leadership role even for the kids sports lives and I wondered what it would be like if we all started off doing an activity at the same level. That meant finding something that we all could do from the beginning……..eyeball to eyeball, beginner to beginner. Enter the Dragon so to speak.

In 2008, the Denson Family began our first of many journeys into Family Fitness activities. We found a great  Family run Tae Kwon Do facility and the Denson boys decided to give it a shot.     Yes, all the Denson boys were going to do this. Now keep in mind that when we started this journey I had just turned 41. Ouch! For those of you who may decide to try such an activity, I suggest you start stretching right now. The point of taking TKD together was not to be fighters. The truth is that it provided us with the very unique opportunity of starting out even. None of us had any experience or area of expertise in the Martial Art we chose. We practiced at home together and in the facility together. We studied the Pattern Meanings and then applied the physical learning of patterns together. After three years of studying, practicing, demonstrating and supporting each other, we had the honor of receiving our Black Belts together.

The experience has been one of the most eye opening things that I’ve ever done. Through the process, I gained new found respect for the efforts that the boys were making to achieve each new Belt level. Why? Because, I was having to do every single thing they had to do. That was quite different than coaching and showing how to do things during practice. This was a whole new level of interaction for not only me, but my boys as well. I would recommend the experience to anyone looking for something new and different to do with your kids. Here comes a shameless plug even though I do not have any financial gain. If you live in Millington, checkout TKD-USA as a possible choice. They are family run, really provide a kid friendly & safe environment for you and yours. They even let Families train together! You just can’t beat that.

Now I would love to tell you that my fitness level had dramatically increased and my weight was great, but I can’t. Yes, doing TKD on a regular basis has health benefits; however, I still found myself overweight and on medications. Something had to be done and I began evaluating what needed to change.

Next time, we’ll look at the next chapter of Family Fitness and some lifestyle changes that DOES make a difference in Health and Weight management.

 
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Posted by on March 14, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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