Walking in Their Footsteps

Today I attended the funeral of my uncle; the second uncle I’ve lost in six months. Both of them were such good men. Strong, kind, God-fearing, family men. Small-town, friendly, hard-working, firm handshake men. Good men.

That word “good” kept coming up with every conversation about him. There wasn’t a better word to come to mind. Regardless of my limited vocabulary, it sums up his life really well.

They both had served in the military earlier in life. And as such, were treated with military honors at the funeral. (Can I just say how much I love that this happens, is required by law, and how they do it so respectfully). It is a beautiful site to see that flag draped over the coffin. There’s a sense of pride knowing they were willing to sacrifice their lives 60 years ago. But thankfully, they had 60 more years of a free life to enjoy. 60 more years of growing a family and doing good in the world.

Good. There’s that word again. They were good. They did good.

The family asked me to be a pallbearer. My hand was last to push the casket into the hearse. Standing there staring at the blue field of white stars, I had an empty feeling. Not so much that I was sad, but that there’s a hole in the world with him gone. “We lost a good one,” my aunt said about him. A good one.

Two soldiers from around the greatest generation. And not to compare, but I feel a bit unworthy. Here I am, the same age my dad was when I first went to a funeral. I’m a grown-up. I don’t remember becoming a grown-up, but I suppose I am one. I’m certainly old enough.

Whatever the vague line is that I had to cross to be a man, I suppose I did that, too. So, here I am standing in the shadows of two greats, buried in a pile of my 1st-world-problems, with the realization that my cousins and I are the one to fill their shoes.

Maybe there’s a better analogy… like walking in their footsteps. No one can fill their shoes or do what they did, especially in their times and circumstances. And it’s not a competition. To do what? Build bigger buildings? Drive faster cars? Fight worse battles?

Every generation wants the ones coming up behind to have it a little easier. And maybe in some ways it is, but in others it’s not. Humans tend to make a mess of things one way or another. There’s nothing new under the sun.

If I can do anything to honor their legacy, it would be to do good. To be good. What else would they ask for? What more could I do? To live my life so that in the end, I have a room full of people saying, “we lost a good one.” And maybe that’s enough to leave the next generation wondering if they’re also doing enough.

Today, someone brought my mom a 100-year-old picture of my great-grandfather driving a train out of a phosphate mine he worked in. They said the mine was enough work for the whole town to support their families. They started a church there. Doing good goes back generations upon generations.

Here we are. The grown-ups. The next generation. The ones with the baton in our hands and a stadium of future generations anxious to see how fast we’ll run.

Well, take a deep breath, because the time has come. Go forth and do good.

Food and Music Therapy

Currently, our foster kids are 13 and 11 years old. For an extended weekend, my wife volunteered to watch their half-siblings, both toddlers, to give their grandmother a break. My wife may whine a little in the midst of it all, but she has the biggest heart of anyone I know. See, for the rest of us, our selfishness hushes our heart before we get too attached. Her heart beats the living daylight out of any selfishness before she realizes that we’re now watching six kids for five days.

We suddenly realize that we may have an opportunity to let all four kids see their mom (whom we absolutely love) for the first time since last Spring. So we make plans on Saturday for her to take them and I will stay with our two kids.

I decide to do something different for lunch, since it’s now only three of us, and go to a new Japanese restaurant. Before getting settled in, my wife calls and tells me that the place “didn’t have the records”, didn’t really care to try, and left them no option but to leave disappointed. So now my wife’s just pleaded and balled her eyes out in front of strangers, the older kids are upset and confused, the younger ones are tired and hungry.

“Come meet me at this restaurant,” I say.

I get the waitress to get us a big table: 2 adults, 3 big kids, 2 little kids, 1 baby. I order a variety of plates and one sampling of sushi, just for the fun of it. Everything is being served just as they walk in. The restaurant is mostly empty, dimly lit, and quiet.

I can see the distress on their faces turn slowly to relief with every dish of rice, chicken, and soup. We divide everything up. “Can I try that!?” “Can I have more?” 

Then comes the sushi. Almost everyone tries the California Roll. Three of us eat the raw fish.

It was weird, and yummy, and fun.


As if that wasn’t enough for a weekend, the next day I had to drive the little siblings back to their family. The four of them have been like Velcro on each other for five days, and now it was time to separate the pieces. We meet in a parking lot and transfer bags and car seats. They’re about to leave and I try to get the older boy to come out and give hugs when I realize he isn’t because he’s trying to hold back his tears. 

The first few minutes of the drive back he was sobbing into his hands. The girl is stronger than all of us put together; she’ll hold it all in and put on a good face for her younger brother. 

I put on a CD of what is probably our favorite album from our favorite band, “Indian Summer” by Carbon Leaf. Track after track of good, catchy, poetic songs. No one was talking so I turn it up loud and let the music fill the lonely, empty air. I can sense them starting to get in to it a little. Heads bobbing. Humming. Drumming. 

Some of their songs have a melancholy tone. The sentimentality doesn’t allow you to listen without thinking. Then comes the best one with the repeated line “When all of your tears dry, let your troubles roll by…” Over and over and over again. Not like a nagging voice, but like a mother rubbing your back to calm you down. I’ve heard that song a thousand times and never cried. But I hear him sniffle. Then I hear her sniffle. Then I sniffle.

And by the time we make it home, the tight chest-pain of sadness had been released with a deep breath.  


Life is busy and noisy. Too busy to sit at a table without distractions. Too noisy to let an entire album play and soak it in. Too often we forget how to recenter and refocus. I, for one, am thankful that in a weekend of really heavy events, which is just a snapshot of a really heavy year, we were able to come out on the other side. Heads up, eyes dry, arms around each other.

If the world could use anything right now, I think it should be:

meals around a big table with the ones you love

and good music

Sing Me a Hateful Lullaby

Here we are in another political voting season. Against my better judgment, I decided to watch a debate online. For the most part it lived up to my expectations, but the thing that struck me was I didn’t personally like the candidate I’ll probably vote for. I wonder which candidate portrayed their authentic self? Should I vote on personality or solely on policy? Between the staged debates and endless back-and-forth commercials, I don’t know what’s real.

We’re in such an awful political climate right now, and have been for some time. Whether it ended up being Clinton or Trump, I said before the election that we’re all going to get what we deserve. The hateful rhetoric from both sides is disgusting. And both sides feel justified in their tone because they feel so strongly about the issues. YES, it’s from both sides.

John Adams is famous for predicting this problem by saying “There is nothing which I dread so much as a division of the republic into two great parties, each arranged under its leader, and concerting measures in opposition to each other. This, in my humble apprehension, is to be dreaded as the greatest political evil under our Constitution.” But Jefferson argued that it’s the nature of man to be divided in opposition to each other. And that makes sense. We tend to be binary in most topics. Think back to arguments on the playground – how kids would congregate to one side or the other. Most questions and situations are responded to by Yes/No, Left/Right, Up/Down, Right/Wrong.

So to a large degree, opposition is natural and expected. It’s healthy, especially in government. The last thing we’d want is a single platform to rule unchallenged, without anyone questioning the logic, responsibility, or cost.

But rather than have open-minded conversations, we pick a side and sit on it. Like choosing teams for kickball – you’re either for us or against us. The President in charge gets the full support from his side and only opposition from the other. Trump actually seems to have had some exceptions to this where his party isn’t always in lock and step with him. But where his party falls short, his supporters make up in being even more solidified, blind defenders.

It’s like we enjoy the game. But how can so many people be so riled up all the time? Is it worth all the angst?

This article made me sad:

The tl;dr version is “Ten months after Inauguration Day, the trend is holding: For late-night hosts, being sharply critical of President Trump is a winning strategy.”

The author surmises that The Tonight Show ratings are shrinking because it focuses more on fun and games rather than harsh jokes. Other shows seem to be moving from monologues into lectures about the President, and from classic jokes into sarcasm and low-brow low-blows.

I’m not sad for Jimmy Fallon; I’m sure he’ll be just fine. And truth be told, if we happen to stay up and watch any late night show, it will most likely be The Tonight Show, but for the same reason this article says his ratings are going down. If I’m going to be up till 11pm (CST), I want something fairly mindless and entertaining to get me by until I decided it’s worth the effort to make it to the bed. Yes, only 11pm. Not 11:30 or later. There are only about two bands that I will stay up and risk a less-than-7-hour sleep to watch live.

What I don’t want, as I prepare for sleep, is a bedtime story about how ridiculously stupid, crazy, psycho our president is. (I could leave the name of the President out, and this blog will be relevant for years to come).

My wife insists for our kids go to sleep at night calm and happy. If at all possible, we try to avoid problems or arguments and let the kids go to sleep at peace. Marital advice commonly repeated is to never go to bed angry. One tip on how to get a better night’s sleep says not to check email late in the day in case there’s something to upset you.

We’ve all lost sleep being too upset at something. I’ve stayed awake making up fake conversations that will never happen. Why in the world then are late night shows getting ratings by people hungry for angry criticism? Is this really how people want to spend their last few minutes of consciousness for the day? Please, rock me to sleep with a snarky, hateful lullaby.

Gone are the days where politics were confined to the water cooler, barber shops, parking lots, and newspapers. Now we have Facebook algorithms creating echo chambers, and with every like and click Pavlov’s dog is asking for more. The last and first thing we see everyday is more of the same infighting.

I would like to do a better job at this myself, setting aside the first and last few minutes of the day as sacred.

To wake up like I would wake up a toddler “Good morning, sweetie. It’s time to get up. We’re going to have a great day.”

To go to sleep the same, “Did you have a good day? It’s time to lay down. Have sweet dreams.”

We should treat ourselves in the same manner. Tomorrow has enough trouble of its own. There’s no point in worrying about it the night before, or waking up full of tension. Days are full of homework, drama, politics, noise, news, disappointnents and excitements. Surely, we could reserve the bookend minutes for things more fitting.

Save the dawn for “good mornings”, hugs, slippers, peace, hot showers, and coffee.

Save the dusk for “good nights”, snuggles, music, pajamas, peace, and warm beverages.

Maybe if we all did that, our political conversations would naturally morph into ones where we cared more about the people we are talking to than the points made. Maybe I’d have a clearer mind and know who to vote for. Maybe I’d see the stark contrast between the extreme scenarios and crave more meaningful moments.

Our country could use more peace. People could use more sacred moments.

Dad Revalations: Whatcha doin?

Last fall, I was working on putting up a fence around the back patio steps where there’s a significant drop-off around the perimeter. The social worker conducting our home study left no room for misinterpretation by saying, “um, so we’ll need to do something about this.” Point taken. By using anything I could gather from around the house, and only the necessary items from Lowes (like the fence part because my wife said the chicken wire from the garden wouldn’t suffice), I managed to get something up that resembled a fence.

The last piece wouldn’t sit level so I used the closest thing within reach which happened to be the kids’ yellow duck-head-handled garden tools. As I was scraping around the edge of the patio where my 2-year-old son loves digging in the dirt, he noticed I was doing one of his favorite activities. I could hear the tap-tap-tap of his little shoes running up behind me, a pattern that only occurs when he’s excited, like for bath time or we’re getting a piece of cheese.

“Daddy, whatcha doin’?!” and laid his little hand on my shoulder. If he’s asked me that question directly before, I don’t remember it. This may be the first time I’ve noticed it because I was doing something “manly” around the house (with a yellow duck-head-handle rake) and my son wants to know what I’m doing. This calls for one of those “Well, son….” type of responses. And now I totally sound like my dad.

My kid watches me. When he copies me doing something nice, it’s cute. When he copies me doing something less than admirable, I become hyper-sensitive to everything that I do.

Lately, I’ve been noticing how he picks up on what other people do. He’ll sing the songs his sister sings. Something about a robot from a Pinkalicious show. Maybe I spelled that wrong; I’m purposefully trying to not show interest in a show called Pinkalicious.

He also has picked up the habits of our foster kids right now and their favorite word, “No.” Supposedly, as a parent you’re supposed to ignore “junk behavior.” Maaaan, that’s hard to do when a toddler straight-face tells you NO, like a boss.

It’s the bandwagon tendency in all of us – to do what we see, what’s around us, what others are doing. Sometimes completely mindless, as in the clothes we buy from the store because it’s what they’re offering this season. Sometimes it’s a little intentional, like fixing our hair just a little different or the shows we watch. Sometimes we hear the singing of the Sirens and we float through the air following the scent of the next best thing.

Image result for cartoon follow scent

When I was a teenager there was this trendy saying that was used often, maybe you remember “what would Jesus do?” It was typically used as a litmus test for the various situations teens got themselves in. “Would Jesus pick this girlfriend or that girlfriend?” “Would he cheat on his midterms or would he…. not cheat on his midterms?” 

As popular of a phrase as it was, I’m sure it was very helpful to many people. But I think there’s a better question to be asked. Not what Jesus would do in the situation we put ourselves in, but what would He be doing? How would he be spending his time? 

If we want to know what it is He would be doing, we need to look at what he did:

  • He cared about people on a very personal, individual level
  • He spent time resting and in prayer
  • He was forgiving of those who knew they had failed, and critical of those who proudly said they had it all together
  • The woman at the well who, even with a past, was the catalyst for a whole community after having a conversation with Him
  • You have the woman caught in adultery and he protected her from attackers and showed her mercy saying “Go and sin no more”
  • The poor widow with the two coins he said was the greatest of givers
  • He challenged people to be better and have a stronger faith
  • He cared for the sick and hurting
  • He cried with His friends
  • He willingly gave His life and His life’s work
  • He prayed for others
  • and countless more examples…

We do what the apostles did, like when they said, “”Lord, teach us to pray.” We ask questions like,
“What should I be doing instead?”
“What am I capable of that I’m not currently taking advantage of?”
“Who needs me?”
“How can I help?”

Instead of navel-gazing, waiting for someone to fix us, we can have a broader perspective. We can look at life with a wide-frame lens from a higher vantage point and wonder what’s possible. We can take a moment to look around at the good things already happening and ask “God, what are you doing over there? I can tell something’s going on. I see You’re up to something. What is it? I want to be a part of that?”

Hopefully, it will be like the many times my kids’ shoes will tap-tap-taps up to me, lay their hands on my shoulder and say, “Daddy, whatcha doin’?!” I hope they find me doing great things. I hope they want to do those things, too.

Joseph, what was it like?

If you were able to take a trip in my stream of consciousness, it would be quite an adventure. Especially the times when I drift off during sermons. It’s usually because the preacher says something that triggers a thought, and I just go with it. One of the things I ponder quite frequently, is about the people who are mentioned briefly in the Bible and what happened in the rest of their story. The woman at the well, the leper, the Ethiopian eunuch. Their appearance lasts less than a day and only a couple paragraphs. The rich young ruler: he “left sad” but did he actually make a change or not? What happens next?!

But one story in particular sticks out, almost like this gaping hole in the storyline of the Bible — What happened to Joseph the father of Jesus? 

We know a few things about Joseph. Of course he is in the story of the birth of Christ, and again at the temple when Jesus is 12. We know he and Mary had many other children. He had a reputation; when Jesus began his ministry, people said “Isn’t this the carpenter’s son?”

But as a father myself, especially as a foster parent; what was it like to be given the responsibility of a child who wasn’t yours? And, oh yeah, He’ll also be the Messiah. What was it like to be chosen as the earthly father for the son of God? What pressure did he feel? 

There’s the song “Mary, Did You Know? I want to ask “Joseph, What Was It Like?”

Jesus came as a baby. Someone had to teach him to walk, eat, talk. Say “please.” Say “thank you.” We have three toddlers in the house right now. It’s hard for me to imagine a toddler that doesn’t occasionally cry about eating vegetables. So one could assume Jesus as a 2-year-old would do the same and Joseph had to deal with negotiating how many more bites were necessary before Jesus could go play. 

But Jesus, of course, was special. He was asking questions and talking with scholars in the temple at age 12. But it says when He left there, He was obedient to His parents. He grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man. Joseph had a hand in guiding this growth. How did he conduct himself? How did he parent? Did he maintain composure at all times? As Joseph, do you give Jesus rules to follow? Maybe instead he uses a more subtle and traditional approach and talks to Jesus in stories, or parables. How much Joseph-like mannerisms did Jesus learn and apply to His style of teaching?

How protective was Joseph? Was he paranoid that someone might want harm his kid? Especially after Herod’s slaughter. Did that feeling ever go away or did he have unfailing faith?

Joseph as the father would have been the one to lead the family in the annual Passover meal. As he broke the bread and passed the cup, did he grasp the full implication and symbolism of the moment? Did he grasp the magnitude of it all and, as a result, feel pride or weight? 

What if God had chosen one of us? What if we had the responsibility to take His message, Emmanuel – God with us, and care for it? What kind of example would we be living? How would we present ourselves on a daily basis? Would we feel like we had this inconceivable treasure in our possession? 

Would we celebrate more? Would we worry less?

What if we had been given the gift of the Son of God?

Well, that’s exactly what happened. 

The gift is yours.

Congratulations! For today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.

Dad Revelations: Comfort

There is nothing sweeter than the weight of a sleeping baby on your chest. This little soul has enough faith in you to hold and protect them during their most vulnerable, unconscious position. Of course, they don’t quite give it that much thought. But in reality, if a baby doesn’t know you or like you, chances are you’re not getting a nap out of them easily.

Almost every night I take my toddler boy through the bedtime routine. The same daily routine we’ve done for the past two years. I’m not bending over backwards by taking on this baby-duty, because (shhh!) it’s really one of the better jobs. Tickle time while we put on pajamas, relax in a rocking chair while he drinks milk, then snuggle (and burp) for a few minutes before he lays down. During that last stage, he knows exactly where he likes his head on my chest. Not to the left, but to the right. Just below the collar bone. His hands are either wrapped around me, mimicking my pats and rubs, or, when he’s really tired, tucked underneath him.

He is completely and totally at peace in the arms of his father whom he knows and trusts with every aspect of his life.


The other day my daughter fell off her scooter and took a nasty slide on the pavement. She came hobbling to me and when I saw her face, I knew something was wrong. There’s a difference (sometimes only parents can detect) between a fake-sad face and real-sad face. This was real. And boy was it. A bloody mess from chin to knees. And she came to… me. Of course, there weren’t too many options at the time. But if we were at the church playground with hundreds of people she loves, she would still call out for her dad. And I would sympathetically take care of every last scratch and bruise. I give her a drink of water to interrupt the constant cries. I hold her and breathe with her until she’s relaxed. Maybe even a silly joke to crack a smile.

She is completely and totally at peace in the arms of her father whom she knows and trusts with every aspect of her life.


We were talking not long ago about how sometimes poor people can be financially stuck in their situation. Without a safety net of relatives to help, and not necessarily the skills to get a job worth the time away. I have a hard time relating to that situation. I was given enough tools growing up that my job prospects are pretty strong. And I can walk from stage to stage in life knowing that at the very worst of situations, if it all came crashing down, I have my dad who will be there for me. He’s not the type to bail me out of a hole I dig myself. He doesn’t shy away from telling me what I should or should not do. But in most cases, I know that he has a room for me to stay in or a check to cover the cost. I know they would take care of my kids for a short or long term. I can live my life in full confidence that I’ll eventually be fine if the worst should happen.

I am completely and totally at peace in the arms of my father whom I know and trust with every aspect of my life.


Many of us who have strong families probably take for granted having a father in our lives. If asked, we would give a hearty reply about how much we appreciate him, but most days we float on the success that was being built before we were born. Maybe we should thank him from time to time.

Even more so, we take for granted the advantages of a Heavenly Father. It would be good practice to be in constant communication with Him to thank Him and remind ourselves of the great things we have been graciously given.

But there’s an opportunity for an even deeper communication. We could be thankful to Him like we would be a King who grants favor to His subjects. But more than just a king, there’s a relationship available. One that He longs for. In the same way that I have full confidence in my dad to cover my mistakes, I want to live without regret. In the same way that my daughter comes to me when she hurts, I want Him to be the first place I turn. In the same way my son knows just where to lay his head so he’s as comfortable as with any pillow, I want to feel that at ease.

Relationship requires time, and conversation, and living life together. It’s not simply a decision. Trust is built and becomes stronger. It begins when we recognize what’s He’s already done. We look back on our lives and see how He’s brought us to this point. We learn to trust in Him in the good and bad times.

In the toughest of situations, we are able to let out a sigh of relief knowing that we’re covered. When we need to rest, we search out our Father to help us relax. We live our lives in full confidence that He’s got this.

We are completely and totally at peace in the arms of our Father whom we know and trust with every aspect of our lives.

Dad Revelations: Identity

Our toddler is talking now and I thought it would be sweet to teach him to say something to make Mommy feel good. So I say, “Mommy is….?” and he says “the Best!” and pumps his fist in the air. It’s adorable. So we came up with words for each of us. Daddy is… awesome, his sister is pretty, and he is cute.

My children are gorgeous but something in me regrets the adjectives I chose for this game. I intend to mean it as a compliment. We tell our daughter she’s beautiful all the time and always have. And at the same time, she’s never been obsessed with looks. “Dressing up” to her is piecing together a hodgepodge of all the different things that a 9-year-old might think is pretty. This means wearing her “cool” boots, neon leggings, leopard print skirt, pink shirt, frilly scarf and all the necklaces.

Even though she’s undoubtedly pretty, she still has doubts. Like a phase of not wanting to wear her glasses, and would make up excuses to get out of wearing them. This is a girl thing, right? Guys have similar phases of questioning their looks, except we keep those feelings submerged where girls are more likely to scream it out loud and throw things at the mirror.

We try to emphasize the cliched “it’s not what’s on the outside, but what’s on the inside that matters.” Then top it off with a “you are beautiful in both ways.” She shrugs it off, we pray it resonates in her mind.

This is what experts say, parents’ words become a child’s inner dialog. The thoughts you have about yourself as you grow up are a reaction to the things you heard your parents say about you. Or what they didn’t say. Or what you perceived them saying. Words are flying at us from all directions and all people. A parent’s struggle to break through with words of truth is difficult.

  • If you only say it once, it may not stick. It needs reinforcing.
  • What you say may be contrary to what they’ve heard elsewhere. They need to believe you.
  • They’re likely to believe negative comments easier than positive ones.
  • They say something negative about themselves, and you do not disagree, they may assume it’s true or that you agree.
  • They hear snarky or sarcastic comments said out of frustration. “Well, I guess you just don’t care about homework.” They think “OK, right. I don’t care.”

We all have negative perceptions about ourselves and, at the same time, agree everyone else should believe positive things about themselves. It comes down to identity – who we are. More than what we do or how we act. Much of what we do is a reaction to either how we want to be perceived or to counter-act who we think we are. A few church secretaries I’ve met have been some of the grouchiest people. That’s not who they are; that’s who they have become by being in a position of gate-keeper for years – bombarded with requests, demands, questions, arguments, gossip. They’ve forgotten their identity.

This is the root of Christian hypocrisy. We act like jerks in traffic. Snap at the cashier and waitress. Scream about politics. Scoff at beggars.

We expect service and forget we are to serve.

We demand our voices be heard and forget to be slow to speak.

We work hard for our stuff and forget none of it’s ours to begin with.

We forget that we all share the same identity. We were all created in the image of God.

At a parenting workshop recently, the leader suggested we find our kids’ talent. Saying “we all need something we feel we are good at.” I agree but added to it. More than “you can do…” guesses, use more “you ARE…” statements. What if you’ve always believed you can play baseball, then don’t make the college team. Or you can dance ballet but break your leg. What hopes and dreams come crashing down if my good isn’t good enough. We need a stronger identity to rely on.

So we intentionally pepper in words of Godly identity to our daughter. Catch her in the act of doing good. Tell her, “You’re kind. I saw it on the playground when you helped the boy.” Notice the difference in attaching the identity to her, not just the action. We do this when we tell people they’re funny, not that they just said something funny. “I heard you compliment the girl’s glasses. You’re a great encourager.”

This is intentional, daily, creative parenting. But it’s worth it to have children grow up to know they are loved by God and are called to love and good works.

Dad Revelations: Sing Anyway

At work, I was asked to do a voice-over for an instructional video, so I had been using a recorder app on my phone to practice and playback. On the ride home, I was singing along to something on Country radio. Now, when the mood is right, and the weather is right, and the song is just right, there’s nothing better than singing along on a car ride. It was one of those songs that just felt good to sing. Out of pure curiosity, I wondered if it sounded as pleasant recorded on my phone. So I quickly tapped the record icon and let it go.

I should’ve let it go when I had the idea to record. I crossed the point of no return, when you can’t un-hear something you’ve heard. Listening to the playback, I certainly didn’t decide to turn around and head to Music Row. Let’s just say, it wasn’t good.

It was a bit of a hit to my ego. In general, I know I sing fine. I was in chorus, I lead singing at church, I know a bit of music theory. I’m like 3rd-place-karaoke-contest kind of good. Maybe it was just the phone’s poor sound quality… yeah, that’s it.

But I love to sing, especially the ones that feel like they’re just right in your zone. Like it physically feels good to sing it loud. In college, on the 3-hour ride back to school after a weekend away, I would wear my voice out and be hoarse the next day. “OOOOOHHH We’re half way there, OOOOHHHH OHH, LIVIN ON A PRAYER!”‘

So what? So the recording sounded bad? What’s the big deal? It wasn’t FOR anyone else. I most definitely didn’t post it to the public. It doesn’t change the fact that I enjoy singing.

My daughter, as wonderful as she is, didn’t inherit a natural gift of music like I thought she would, having two fairly musical parents. We taught her how to clap on beat (which she’s got now) and get her to keep climbing up to the note when she’s not quite hitting it. But she loves to sing. And she’s so honest and sincere when she does. It’s the sweetest thing to watch and hear.

My toddler has picked up on music. He finishes the lines to “Wheels on the Bus” and “Jesus Loves Me.” He dances when it feels right. He claps along. He sings to himself when no one’s bothering him, completely incoherent words. It’s the sweetest thing to watch and hear.

Surely God looks at us the same way and appreciates sincere hearts. Time after time He acknowledges people with an honest and clear conscience, e.g. the giving widow, the Centurian; and in some cases punished those who did not, i.e. Ananias and Sapphira. More often than not, quality isn’t the top priority. In parables like the Good Samaritan, He purposefully takes the unexpected, to prove that He’s more concerned with the heart of the matter.

It’s the same reason why you will sit through your child’s elementary school concert, with a dumb smile slapped on your face, trying to get a clear shot with a camera, but never in a million years would you want to go to a different, random school to watch their concert. If you see your kid get a base hit in little league, you will lose your ever-lovin’ mind, and scream and cheer – a bigger reaction than any other game you watch this year. Why? Because it’s your child. Their success, happiness, or achievement means more than any of your own. Their acts of kindness or selflessness gives you a sense pride you wouldn’t feel about yourself or anyone else.

God loves us the same. And when we sing, the quality is secondary to the heart. I believe the heart will cause us to want to improve the quality as well; they’re not mutually exclusive. When we give a drink of water to someone thirsty, your Father is in the audience with a camera. When we swallow spiteful remark and choose to be gracious, your Dad is in the stands with a smile and a puffed up chest. When we love others they way God has loved us, He says “well done, good and faithful servant.”

Be less concerned about the tone of your voice, or if someone is watching or listening or judging. Sing anyway.

Dad Revelations: Stepping In

How many times have you done something stupid and would have been OK if God had just stepped in and stopped you from doing it?

The other night my daughter wanted to tackle homework all on her own. She didn’t even want us to know that she was going to do it. She told me to just let her “take some notes,” as in “leave me alone so I can get my homework done.” I caught on pretty quickly. But knowing my daughter and her inability to stay on task, a trait she lovingly got passed down from her father, I figured it was only a matter of time before I needed to step in. Bedtime was quickly approaching, but I wanted to give her space.

At the same time, our 8-month old baby is pulling up on everything. He’s just getting started, so obviously this is not a graceful act. The trouble usually happens when he gets slightly distracted, or so focused on one object that he misses his mark and bumps his mouth. From his level, the dining room chairs and coffee table are like a jungle gym. The only problem is that he’s still a Bobblehead. One curious turn of the head and we have a busted noggin’ against the chair leg.

With the baby, I step in and protect him at every possible moment. Of course, I do. He’s helpless. He doesn’t know better. And then, obviously, as he grows up I will begin treating him as I do his older sister. Loosening the reins as time passes. I step in when I need to, but at the same time continue to give her space to learn and grow. Especially when she’s demanding it…

This particular event with my daughter was over math homework. Her task was to subtract minutes across the hour break using a clock dial. What’s 30 minutes before 1:10pm? Now, I could point to the answer in a second, and explain the ‘why’ in a minute. But she’s reading, and thinking, and trying to find a relevant video, and getting a drink of water, and using the bathroom, “Um..Babygirl? I thought you were doing your homew… taking some notes?” Sure enough, it became late enough that I had to step in, and after a minute of pouting then redirecting, we finally got it finished.

Someday, she may be where I find myself, sitting at work and trying to stay focused, wishing she had someone reminding her to stay on task. Someday she’s going to get unreasonably angry in traffic, wishing she had someone to calm her down. Someday she may wonder why God isn’t stepping in to stop her from doing something stupid.

I honestly don’t know how much God steps in our lives. It might be more than I realize. Less than I’d like it to be? I’m not sure how all that works. But I can see the benefit in consequences. Ohhhhhhhhh I hate to say that. But isn’t it true? There are some life lessons you can only learn by experiencing them. My poor baby boy will soon stop pounding his head when he sits up underneath the piano bench. My daughter may, possibly, hopefully, someday realize that it’s better to go ahead and finish her meal even if it’s not her favorite. Someday I might realize that it’s not worth it to hit the snooze over and over again.

I try to be an example. I try to give her reminders. I tell her stories and take advantage of life lessons that are happening right in front of us. I will be there for her when she needs me.

God gave us Jesus as an example. There’s a collection of stories, accounts, and letters in the form of the Bible to be a reminder. We have the church to share life with and learn from each other. God is always there when I need Him (rather, He’s there whether I think I need Him or not).

My wife gave me a print of this cartoon for Christmas, from a cartoonist she knew in high school. Sums up this whole thought pretty well:

Make Good Choice - Wes Molebash

Yep, I think I finally understand how God feels about us.

Dad Revelations: Grace

The floors of our house were thin ice for a while. Our daughter has been getting upset easily – she’ll go from 0 to 100 in a second. Mostly just typical kid tantrums. I’ve been less patient. Once in a blue moon will I have such a bad day that I take it home with me. Those days have been happening more frequently. My wife has a lot on her plate and it’s usually the external forces that will set her off: hunger, stress, lack of sleep. When you have a baby, those things seem to pile up.

In times like these, your first instinct is not to think it’s all just you and the mood you’re in. The first thing is you blaming them for how they’re acting. I give my daughter no wiggle room. If she doesn’t do it the first time, then she’s being deliberately disobedient. If my wife is bothered by anything, then I’m annoyed that she’s annoyed. I blame her; she blames me…

and that’s how the fight began. Just kidding. Kinda.

Then later through a Facebook conversation I realized that I have a double standard with my family. My wife casually made a self-deprecating comment, “no one mistakes me for being a perfectionist.” All in good fun, but I took offense to the idea that someone else would be critical of her.

Compare that to all the times, the day before even, where I’m personally critical of her. Typically it comes across as me having expectations of her that she doesn’t meet. I set the bar high. In my subconscious I expect her to be happy, fed, productive, helpful, etc. The same goes for my daughter: polite, well-behaved, focused. Humans just don’t work like that.

I have no idea what they went through today. You’ve had those days that a snide look, a snarky comment, or a long meeting just sets you off? Well, how many times did my wife lose sleep for a crying baby? How many times did she get taken off track today cause he was fussy? There are the postpartum issues that make a mother feel inadequate, judged, or an all out failure. Can I even put myself in the shoes of my daughter who has seen a change in neighborhoods, schools, churches, friends and now a new brother? I diminish her feelings of loss and use the old-school “get over it” technique.

Still I have busy schedules, work drama, or car issues that I carry home and expect them to understand my dilemma. Why can’t they just give me a little grace?

Why can’t I see that all they need is a little grace?

Truth is this blog has taken me over a month to finish because every time I want to publish it we’ve had another dramatic episode. And if I wrote it with this polished solution, I’d feel like a hypocrite knowing that I haven’t perfected it yet. But hey, could you give me a little grace? No one’s perfect, right?

I can’t help but think of God’s grace for us. We have no right to stand in His presence, yet grace covers us. In fact, we expect it of Him. I’m OK cause I know “His grace reaches me.” Jesus came to display it in action. Time and time again showing grace to those who least ‘deserved’ it (note: you won’t ever deserve it, that’s why it’s grace).

So here He is: our model, our example, our blueprint. Take a second to compare the unwarranted grace you’ve been given and try, just try to do the same.

Rewritten: I need to take a second to compare the grace I’ve been given and try to do the same.

“But I’m right, and they’re wrong.”

“But I’m not being understood.”

“But they’re being critical.”

“But they’re disobedient.”

“But they started it.”

Yeah. So? Wouldn’t you want grace extended to you? You think they should because you know exactly what you’ve gone through. The bad day you’ve had. But they’re not going to understand, even if you try to explain it. In that case, show them grace. Don’t expect it. It’s vital from both directions.

Grace shouldn’t be given only when it feels justified. It’s an unwarranted, unexpected, unselfish gift.