Thursday, August 7, 2014

Dear 67-Year-Old Me....

Twenty-five years from now, I will be 67-years-old.  

To the now me, '67' just seems like a forgettable number.  Nothing special about it comes to mind as it seems like just another mile marker on the road of life.  It is, however, one that I hope to be around for to actually see; tip my hat towards God for; and then keep driving on forward.  For some, sixty-seven is a very important age as it is the "current" number that our sage governmental leaders have chosen for we - the generous donors - to receive our full social security benefits....and yes, the word "current" is in quotes.  I guess the word "sage" could and should be too.

Honestly, I am not sure if being sixty-seven sounds like a looooong way off or an age that is rapidly approaching just around the corner.  Quite frankly, I am too busy doing the 'now' stuff to think about the 'then' stuff.  You see, I have five kiddos to train up, dreams to instill, band aids to hand out, opposite genders to swat away from the gene pool, and indelible precious memories to make.  Yes, 401k's are prudent and ROTH's are savvy, but smiles and laughs are investments too.

And no, I am not saying you shouldn't invest in your financial future now or to even live without a self-control button, so please don't hear what I am not saying.  One's future is not anything to be so cavalier about.  Still, I believe a massive group 'pause' is in order as we all should stop for a moment and just... breathe.  Breathe in a deep oxygen shot, check our life compass, and make sure our ship is heading in the right direction.  Yes, it is important we all do this from time to time.

But why do this now, you ask?  And, who says you should do this?  Max does.  Blame Max for it.  Max Schireson to be exact.  

If you don't know Max, don't worry.  I didn't know him before this morning and I really can't say I 'know' him even now because of reading his blog post.  But, I definitely can say that I do like Max's style.  

You see Max wrote a post (you can read it here if you would like) about why he was giving up the "best job [he has] ever had" to spend more time with his family.  He is simply tired of missing out on too many of life's precious family events versus being at work all the time.  Rest assured, it wasn't an easy decision for him, but a necessary one nonetheless.  

Max goes on to share how this decision also has the potential to cost his family millions of dollars in future revenue.  Such an impact no doubt would greatly alter the financial future for his family... and likely that of his family's family.  Decisions like these are never easy.  It was a real struggle for Max and his circumstances... just as it is for millions of other working parents.  I suppose tough decisions - those that involve 'legacy talk' - always are.





But for me now, my struggle now is quite different than Max's.  (Well obviously for one difference, I didn't have a multi-million dollar price tag option on the table.)

You see, I have been the full-time stay at home parent for our family for more than thirteen years.  For the number nerds out there, thirteen years on the job translates to about 31% of my life.  In fact, for kicks and giggles, if you were to take the ages of our kids versus my tenure at home, the numbers would be:  eldest (62% of her life), #2 (65%), #3 (100%), #4 (108%), and the youngest (144%).  Whoa dang!

Like Max's choice for the now, mine of the then wasn't that easy either.  But still, I have no regrets.  Having a full-time stay-at-home parent was, is, and will continue to be an essential investment for our family.  My wife and I both work hard to make it this way and I am incredibly thankful for her work to provide this option for us all.  We have made it a top priority to have a parent 'stand guard' through our kids' growing up moments, the doctor appointments, the sick days, the school yard lessons, and the countless amounts of impactful life choices.  Even today, this decision has required many more subsequent - and just as hard - financial decisions and sacrifices to sustain this choice.

Nonetheless, I tip my hat to Max, his wife, and his family at the decision they have made.  Rest assured, the family investment is well worth the sacrifice.  But, as perhaps a little beacon, I also advise him to be mindful of the rough seas ahead.

The hardest part of being a full-time stay at home parent is suspending the usage of your own gifts in order for your kid(s) to learn and use theirs.  Homework takes time and instruction.  Ball teams take time and dedication.  Playdates take time and gas.  Meals take time and money to prepare.  Teaching about who God is takes time and abundant grace.  And, tender heart moments take time and emotional investments.  Time, time, and more time.

Do you see a pattern?  Time, and... time, and....  Everything takes time and something 'else.'  The real problem, however, is not actually the zapping of time, but the fact that the time clock that keeps ticking is actually ticking on two people's clocks... that of the kid's and that of the SAHP's.  You see, the clock doesn't stop ticking on your life when you are investing in theirs.  And sadly, there are only so many pebbles in one's own life hourglass.  

You see, sometimes selfish doubts creep in between the countless to-do items.  If you are a parent - especially a full-time stay-at-home one - perhaps you too have danced with these thoughts?  For me, they often take the voice of my gifts and talents as they say, "Hey Scott, remember us?  When are you going to want to play with us again?"  Yes, these thoughts really happen.  And, yes, the struggle is real.

Thankfully, these thoughts don't stay around too long and seem to pass quickly with the next kiddo smile, "thank you, Papa", or hug.   But still, that selfish struggle is real.

Sometimes I need to remind myself... as well as my future 67-year-old self... that staying at home was never about me in the first place.  

Thanks for the reminder Max.






Wednesday, June 25, 2014

If you ever wanna make God laugh....

**DISCLAIMER:  It isn't bragging about your kid when you are 
actually bragging about God. ** 


We all have heard the notion that if you wanna make God laugh, just tell Him your plans.  My life is evidence of this.  All too often I have made plans for my life and then God just shows up making His own decisions.  It has happened so much that I can often feel Him smirking beforehand.  Some of His decisions have felt brilliant... others not so much.  Still, as the clay in this life picture, all is well in my soul as the Potter can sculpt as the Potter pleases.

One brilliant example of His handiwork is the same one Sandy and I celebrate today.  Today is Zoe Layne McCallum's 9th birthday.  Yep, it is really hard to believe, but at 6:43pm today, the world got a little more sass in it nine years ago.  That's when our little Zubs entered it.  Yeppers, she makes me smile and I think she is pretty much amazing... and I blame God and her mom for that.




I love this kid.  She is as smart as a whip; as opinionated as a moody movie critic; and as strong-willed as anyone I have ever met (excluding her mom of course... shocker!).  She has a joyful spirit that literally makes her unable to contain it.  Plus, I think she is kinda cute.  Her cuteness is like kryptonite to my willpower.  When these two forces go head to head, sometimes... I... just... can't... withstand... it... and she can win the battle of our wills. 




Zoe is our youngest child and our last birth child.  She is our third daughter of our five kiddos... and she rules the house.  If she wants something, she will get that something.  On the flip side, if she does not want something, that something simply will not happen... period.  She has a strong spirit and she does not yield to anyone... especially her father, who happens to be four times her size.  And even if she does 'yield' (yes, do the finger quote thing here), you can pretty much guarantee a parting shot comment to be said by her just to let you know of her disapproval of said yielding... not that it was unnoticeable before.

Zoe is a rule follower.  If the rules make sense, they will be followed.  If they do not, the rules are hereby irrelevant in her book.  She also has a keen sense of justice.  Right is right and wrong is wrong.  She can't stand it when her siblings are not 'fair' to her and she will not yield on not getting what she deserves.

Still, she does have her weaknesses.  She does not enjoy being outside because getting dirty is just not her thing.  She doesn't understand why people actually enjoy getting dirty.  It is beyond her sense of understanding.  Hence, athletics are not her forte.  For her first season of soccer, we intentionally set the bar low - like really low.  Like most parents, we didn't consider it a good game if our kid scores a goal.  Instead, we considered it a great game if she just touched the ball... that rolled to a stop right in front of her... at her feet.  Hence, the low bar.  Alas, athletics are just not her thing... at least at this point in her life.  

Zoe excels at matters of the mind.  She loves academics, loves getting more knowledge, and she has a memory like no other.  She is a prolific reader and she absolutely adores all things dogs.  All dogs - as in any kind of dog.  She just loves them all.  As such, she wants to be a veterinarian.  Also, because of her infatuation with dogs, she has already decided to not need a husband later in life because owning a dog will be sufficient for all of her happiness.  I would like to think this is a passing thought at her age, but with her I just wouldn't be so sure.

Sandy and I see her in charge of something later in life.  Whether it be with a classroom or a company, her skill set speaks of being in leadership.  Being a CEO of whatever is completely within the realm of possibilities.  And with Jesus as her Savior... her options are endless.

But to be frank, I think my little Zubs is pretty neat because if my life would have rolled out as I had planned it to, she simply wouldn't be here.  No, she wasn't an 'oopsy baby,' not in the least.  Instead, Zoe was the planned blessing of the unexpected gift of my marriage to Sandy.  You see, Sandy wasn't even part of my life back in 2003, but now she is my life as we enjoy it together.  They just weren't part of my plans.  Clearly though, God had a difference of opinion... and I am so glad He did.  Yielding doesn't come easy for a lot of guys and it didn't for me, but I will yield to Him because I think He knows what He is doing.  (Jeremiah 29:11)

Happy birthday, Zoe.  You are a blessing to our family and your Papa loves you so very much.

And... thanks God!  To you goes all Glory and I yield to you.





Tuesday, March 18, 2014

My Boy....

So today, my eldest son turns 20 years old.  Yep, it has been two decades since MacKieson Royal McCallum said "Hey!" to the world... aaaaannnnnd he pretty much hasn't stopped talking ever since.

The world calls him by many names.  MacKieson, Mac, Big Mac, Mac & Cheese, Kisu, and even MacKenzie (if you are hard of hearing).  If you are family, it's usually Kieson, but if you are his grandmother, MacKieson is the rule.  As for me, his father, it's usually Bud or Buddy.  And for Jesus, well, He gets to call my boy "chosen" (1 Peter 2:9).

Rarely does a week pass that my Buddy and I are not compared to one another.  People - complete strangers mind you - will see the two of us together; do that 'head tilted to the side' thing; and curiously say with pointed fingers, "is that your dad?" or "is he your son?"  Lately, even when Kieson and I are not out and about together, I will still have people say to me, "Don't I know you from somewhere... have we met before?" My reply calms their curiosity as I ask, "Do you know a guy named Kieson?  That's my boy."  It's fun to see their non-verbals as they connect the father & son dots.

Yep, he's my boy and I love him so very much.  We walk alike, we talk alike, we look alike, and often times, we think alike.  He has been called my 6'1" 'mini-me.'  People will even comment on our similar mannerisms and that we resemble each other with how we share stories.

It has been said that we have the gift of always wanting to help others in need and that we have a natural ability for making people feel at ease.  So, that's cool I guess.

We care deeply for those close to us and we can be fiercely loyal.  We tend to have our hearts hurt because we choose to be led by them.  We are problem fixers at our core and we ALWAYS have an opinion on how things should be done... or at least be done better (which mind you is not a gift when used at each other).

Often, Kieson will wear his emotions on his sleeve, while I tend to be more even keeled.  Regardless, you can always tell when something is wrong with him because the air in the room changes.  Like his older sister, Kieson can shift the atmosphere of where he walks by default.  I am kinda jealous of this.  I think it must be one of his Christian X-Men mutant powers.  When this power is used for the good of others, it is simply amazing to watch in action; but when used for himself and his needs, it is flat out dangerous and gutting to witness.  While he is getting better at honing this ability as he matures, more sculpting is still needed.  But, he will get there.





I love my boy's smile.  When Kieson flashes that grin, I have literally seen people change their moods right before my eyes.  He also is not shy... at all... as in never.  I have seen him take the stage in front of hundreds of people to give a speech and hold captive every ear in the house at will.  Whether it is a sermon or a speech, a microphone in his hand can become an extension of his arm and within a few moments everyone will be paying attention.  Before the switch occurs though, I say quietly to myself, "here it comes... watch this!"  And then BOOM, he turns it on.  It truly is a thing of beauty to see it in action.  People just listen to him and for whatever reason he has been able to do this ever since he was a kid.  It's just a gift.


  

I want the best for my boy, even if this involves letting him make mistakes.  In my opinion, this is the toughest part of parenting.  It is always very difficult to see your child driving into a clear and evident pothole of life, then proactively advise them to turn, but still see them stay their course.  Yes, insert a deep "sigh" here.  Like me, he is stubborn and thick-headed, which explains a lot.  As such, I just have to let failure be the best teacher for him sometimes, even though I just don't like knowing this instructor.  His mistakes have hurt, some very deeply, but with each misstep we are reminded of our dire need for Jesus as Savior.  Through it all, Kieson is resilient and I admire this that about him.

I have high hopes for my son, as I suspect most dads do.  Kieson is covered in a spirit of excellence and favor.  As such, I can only teach and encourage him towards the destiny that is upon him, while also waiting patiently for it to be fulfilled.  My father was tough on me and I suppose I tend to be tough on my boys.  My parenting is based in love and I believe they know this.  I know God gave them to me for a reason, so I hope to give them back to Him well used.




I have always been Kieson's biggest fan and I suppose I always will.  He overwhelms with his gifts, his heart, and his joy.  When I look at him, I see a prince among boys.  He has a royal priesthood of great destiny upon him... and I simply cannot wait to see what he does for God's Kingdom.  Until then, I guess I will keep trying to get him there... and get there he will.  But, until that happens, I am just gonna' love him.

Happy Birthday, son.  I am so very proud of you.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Do You "Do Church?"



"Christ did not die on the cross so we can do church."  

I wish I was smart enough to have come up with this quote, but I didn't.  That brilliance goes to Bethel Redding's lead pastor, Bill Johnson.  

I encourage you to read the quote again, this time perhaps taking it a bit slower... allowing it time for more marinating.  I believe the words are powerful enough to change (or at least enhance) why you go to church.  I also encourage those in church leadership to say these words to themselves often; as well as over their flock.  It is always good to 'right the ship' and to steer from a direction not to be taken.  

From my experience, Johnson's quote speaks to a lie that many churches have bought into today.  Yes, a lie.  And don't worry, I use this critical statement with hesitation.  Why?  Because Jesus Christ is still the head of His church.  We must always be cautious when speaking about the Bride because of her one true Bridegroom.  And while Christ is no doubt without blemish, we as His followers do seem to be struggling to hear the voice of the Shepherd for how and why we 'do church.'  

Perhaps you should read the quote just one more time... "Christ did not die on the cross so we can do church."  By this third time, I suspect you have percolated a few reasons of your own for why you actually do go to church.  Perhaps these are a few:
  • The worship.  I love the worship at our church.  Our worship leaders are great and they play today's best worship songs.  It is like a concert at my church.
  • The programs.  My kid needs a youth group.  We would be lost without our support group.  My spouse and I need our small groups.  We just love our weekly bible study meetings.  
  • The preaching.  I just love our pastor's weekly message.  His teaching is so relevant to my life today.  His messages are the best that I have ever heard.  My pastor is amazing.
  • The people.  I love the sense of community at our church.  I just need to be around the Christ-loving people of my church.  I can sharpen them and they can sharpen me.

If this sounds like you (as it did me for many years), watch out and remember Christ did not die for us to just "do church."  While all of the above examples can be used for the good of His Kingdom, we must be careful not to let the product of the Church replace the purpose of the Church.  We must remember that we were created to glorify the Creator in and above all things (Isaiah 43:7; Matthew 5:15; 22:37-39; Romans; 11:36; Ephesians 4:10; Revelation 4:11;...).  




Be wary, brothers and sisters, if the pastor's message becomes more sought after than hearing the voice of the one true Author.  Be vigilant not to let a church program trump God's Presence.  And remember church, the worship is not for your enjoyment, it exists for His.  I suggest for you to stand alert to why you go to church... as you may just be making an idol out of what was always intended to be a relationship.  

Let's look at this often so subtle lie in a different way.  If you were to leave (or lose) your church, what is the one thing you would miss the most?  The people?  The message?   How about the programs?  Be real to yourself.  What would be the one thing you would miss the most?  If your answer does not involve "because God is moving there," then why go?  Why yolk ourselves to where He is not moving?

We as the Church have been given the Holy Spirit because we are called to host His Presence in all the things we do.  Yes everything.  The very intent of our own creation was for us to be with God at all times; together in relationship.  Being in His Presence has always been God's prime directive for us.  Even when sin was welcomed in by Adam and Eve and they were scared and sought refuge from His expected anger, our omnipotent God instead was without our relationship and asked in love, "Where are you?" (Genesis 3:9).  

We have a jealous God and He seeks our attention.  Being glorified by us is all that He wants.  Jesus died for this.  Christ even previewed how His crucifixion was for "our advantage" (John 16:7) in order for His Holy Spirit to be with us always.  Why was this needed?  Of course, in order for us to be in constant relationship with the Father.  Let us, the church, seek to be the attached branch we were designed to be (John 15:5).

If you are not hearing from God where you attend church, make sure to take notice.  If the Holy Spirit is asked to take a backseat at your church in order to provide a more timely structure for her programs, check to see if your church is attached to the vine.  Don't compromise on this.  Compromise can be the doorman to deception.  Having the Bride join together as a once a week item on a 'to do checklist' was never the plan; nor is the goal to 'keep the sheep busy with a church event planned for every night of the week.'   That is not the purpose of the Church.

Don't settle with your church.  Christ didn't die for that.  It is time for the pendulum of the church to swing back to where it was designed to be, which is to be in constant relationship with the Father through the gift of His Son provided by the Holy Spirit (John 15:5).  It is not about us.  It is about being with Him.

Press in and press on.  There is more.  Go get it!





To learn more about how to seek God's Presence; or Pastor Bill Johnson, I recommend the following:


Strengthen Yourself in The Lord.  Author Bill Johnson (Destiny Image Publishers, 2007)
Hosting the Presence.  Author Bill Johnson (Destiny Image Publishers, 2012)



Saturday, March 8, 2014

Just when you think you know a movie....

Okay, you can probably guess the name of this movie:



Of course you can... it's "Ferris Bueller's Day Off."  The 1986 classic coming-of-age film directed by John Hughes.  As you probably know, it's a movie that follows high school senior Ferris Bueller (Matthew Broderick), who decides to skip school and spend a serendipitous day in downtown Chicago.  Accompanied by is girlfriend Sloane Peterson (Mia Sara) and his sheltered best friend Cameron Frye (Alan Ruck), he creatively avoids his school's Dean of Students Edward R. Rooney (Jeffrey Jones), his resentful sister Jeanie (Jennifer Grey), and of course, his own loving parents.

I LOVE this movie.  It is a personal favorite of mine that I still find myself quoting quite regularly.  It is one those movies that when it is on the television, it HAS to be watched.  A sort of television black hole of required viewing.  From saying the classic lines of "Anyone???  Anyone???" to wishing you were actually cool enough to pull off the "Abe Froman, the Sausage King of Chicago" reservation bit, Ferris Bueller is simply one of the best comedies ever.

Plus, the car... yes the car, it was so "choice."  We must not forget that beauty:



As Cameron quotes, the car was a "1961 Ferrari 250GT California."  Continuing with, "less than a hundred were made.  My father spent three years restoring this car.  It is his love, it is his passion...."  Only to be finished by Ferris who interrupts with, "It is his fault he didn't lock the garage."

Released by Paramount Pictures, "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" had a budget of only $5.8 million, but went on to gross more than $70 million at the box office.  The movie was widely accepted then by both audiences and critics alike and it still remains popular today.

Yes, the movie has stood the test of time, but I have a question for you.  What would you say the movie is truly about?  Like me, I bet you have never seen the true point of the whole movie.  I had never caught it before, but a a few nights ago it was revealed crystal clear to me and now I feel like an idiot for not seeing it for all this time.  Is your interest piqued?  Read on.

"Scott, what are you talking about?" Is Ferris Bueller not a movie about a kid thumbing his nose at the "childishness" requirements of high school and the authority in place who make him go.  Is it not a hilarious movie about a high school senior, his girlfriend, and his best buddy who conspire to have a glorious day off from school in order to best the system, to out-duel those in power, all in order to win the day in the end?  Is it not all about a clever kid, albeit a tad spoiled and a wee-bit full of himself one, who is able to pull off the perfect skip day all the time making us all wanting to be more like Ferris?  Yes, it is.  But, I argue the point of the movie has nothing to do with Ferris at all.

Ask yourself, what was Ferris' true goal?  Why did Ferris actually need one more day off, his "ninth sick day" of the semester?


Cue to the 3:49 minute mark of the movie for a clue:  "This is my ninth sick day of the semester.  It's getting pretty tough to come up with new illnesses.  If I go for ten I might have to barf up a lung.  So I better make this one count."

Why is this one so important?  Why did it need to "count"?  If a kid could pull off eight previous days, as it was inferred, why couldn't Ferris just pull off another one?  Why is this one different?  The answer resides in fully looking at the situation.  Ask yourself, who else didn't go to school that day?  Yes, Cameron, Ferris' best buddy "since the fifth grade."  Cameron was home 'sick' too and little did he know that Ferris was about to rescue him in more ways than he could have known.

As it turns out, the movie "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" - beyond all it comedic fun and fluff - is actually a tender hearted hero movie down at its core.  Beyond all the antics, it is a movie about a good friend risking it all (in this case graduating on time) to save his best friend.  In the end, it is a movie about Ferris saving Cameron from himself.

Like all hero movies, there is the protagonist (Ferris), the bad guy (Rooney), the one in need (Cameron), and the heroic victory (Cameron ultimately confronting his unloving father).  And likewise, with most heroic story lines, there needed to be a heroic sacrifice.  In this case, it was... insert a tearful *sniff sniff* here... the car.  Yep, the beautiful, without blemish, 1961 Ferrari became the perfect sacrifice.  As we all know, Cameron ultimately "killed the car" in his state of 'enough is enough' in order to start being seen as a man in his father's eyes.  Yep, the car gave its life so Cameron could stand up and start living his.

Need more evidence. cue to the 1:29 minute 32 second mark of the movie where the 'day off' is coming to a close, the car is dead, and Ferris is saying goodbye to Sloane, his girlfriend:  Sloane: "Do you think Cameron is gonna be okay?"  Ferris:  "Oh yeah... yeah sure.  For the first time in his life... he is gonna be just fine."  (Cue the long pause as Sloane clearly gets the full revelation as to Ferris' true motive for the day off.)  Sloane:  "You knew what you were doing when you woke up this morning, didn't you."  Ferris:  "Me???  Nah."



Still need more proof, cue minute mark 5:23, which is very early in the movie.  We are actually told why Ferris is trying to take the day off.  Again, I just never saw it:  Ferris:  "Cameron this is my ninth sick day.  If I get caught, I won't graduate. I'm not doing this for me, I am doing this for you."  

I know, I know.  "Scott, aren't you spending a wee bit too much time focusing on some old 80's movie?"  Well, maybe, but I ask, did you ever realize it before?  Did you ever notice the soft hearted mission Ferris was on before?  I didn't and I am kinda surprised I have never caught it before.  After all the times I have seen this movie, quoted this movie, recommended this movie, I simply missed it.

The whole movie... all the antics... all the perfection... is just a movie about a guy setting out to rescue his best friend.  "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" in the end has actually nothing to do about Ferris Bueller and everything to do with his buddy Cameron.  The movie isn't about a kid seeking to have fun who ends up helping his buddy.  It is a movie about a kid who seeks to save his friend and uses fun to do it.  Who woulda' thunk?  

So, I guess Ferris was right in the end, "Life moves pretty fast.  If you don't stop and look around once and a while, you could miss it."

Friday, January 31, 2014

Twenty-One Thoughts for My Twenty-One Year Old Daughter

This is simply not possible.  I refuse to accept it.  It cannot be happening, because in my mind you are still my little Babydoll.... that little baby girl I could fit between my elbow and the palm of my hand.   Yep, you made my heart grow bigger when I first saw you then and you, like your siblings, still do now each time you walk through our home's front door.





Happy Birthday, my daughter.  You have an awesome life ahead of you and the world truly is your stage.  So, as you turn 21 today and as my dimming parenting theater lights are moving from me to over to you, first let me share a few thoughts:



Twenty-one thoughts from a papa to his little girl

  1. Dream big and dream often.  Nothing ever comes from not speaking them into existence first.  God has an abundant life for you.  Go get it!
  2. "The Golden Rule" is still the best rule.
  3. Laugh and smile everyday.  Today is yesterday's gift to you.  Treat it as such.  A great way to begin each day is, "Thanks God!  So, what are we gonna do today?"
  4. Always thirst to do better than you think you can.  Failure often happens when the expectation bar is set too low vs. not high enough.
  5. Marry a beautiful Godly woman and treat her like the queen she is.  Wait, that advice is for your brothers... never mind.
  6. Read your bible often; especially The Gospels and Proverbs.  The author seems to know what He is talking about.
  7. Take risks.  Being too comfortable too long is just existing in a plush prison.
  8. Treat people with respect and expect the same in return.
  9. Be on time for your commitments.  Remember, "five minutes early is on time and on time is five minutes late" 
  10. Often the best solution is the simplest one.  Don't overthink a problem and hence making it bigger than it actually is.  
  11. Obey the law.  Until you actually make the rules, you still need to obey them.
  12. God sees you as a princess... and so do I.  Your kingdom awaits you, m'lady.
  13. Be a good steward of His financial blessings and learn the benefits of compounding interest right now.  As in today.  Your seventy-year-old self will thank you.
  14. Don't get caught up in what other people think about you.  They don't know you as well as you do.  Seek the wisdom of people worthy of your respect.  Flush any opinions worthy of flushing.
  15. Watch out for boys.  I told you this years ago and it still is true.  And just remember that in my book, one might actually be acceptable one day, but not one will ever be good enough for you.
  16. Speaking of #15.  If a boyfriend doesn't treat you like a queen now, he won't treat you like a queen later.  Kick him to the curb immediately and move on.  Trust me on this.
  17. Jesus is THE ultimate trendsetter.  He is one cool guy.  Continue to get to know Him and life will go very well for you.
  18. Never stop learning.  Continue to invest in your mind and you will never be poor.
  19. Take A LOT of photographs, as in a scad of pictures.  Life is worth remembering and photographs allow you to relive those memories in an instant.
  20. The human body is an amazing creation.  Treat it as such.  Respect yours and demand others to do the same.  It is the most amazing gift you will ever own.
  21. Moms are amazing and you have had two moms that love you so very dearly.  I am pretty sure that means you must be very special.

If I could give you one more, a kind of 'one to grow on', it would be this... I love you, my Babydoll.  I did then, I do now, and I always will.   (Yes, my eyes are swelling as I type this and I am having a hard time finishing the sentence.)  


You are a very special young woman and I am so very proud to be your father.  While I know you are not a little baby girl anymore, please know you will always be so to me.  


As you spread your wings to begin to fly, please be sure to stop in from time to time to say hey.  I will always have a big papa hug waiting for you.






Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Small window, big impact....

Although the media will never get the blame with how it truly affects the development of the human mind, I think we can all agree the media, in all of its forms, can have a HUGE impact on all of us.  

Because our minds are all as different as the situation we live in, one message may affect one person completely different than that of someone else.  For example, watching Rocky IV may not have made my sixteen year old self really want to step into the boxing ring with a steroid injected Russian giant, but it did make me want to train like Rocky and Drago.  (Yes, Rock's inverted sit-ups were truly inspiring.)

Nonetheless, the media of my youth truly did make their impact.  With the following categories, here are the media artifacts that made their way deep into my soul by the time I was a teen.



The BOOK:  
The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein (1964)


No book (apart from the Bible) has affected me as much as this simple book about a tree who loved a boy so much that she gave everything she had for him.  

This simple, but impactful, book truly set the stage for my views on how to approach life as well as parenting.



The MOVIE:
Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971)


What can I say about this crazy movie and one boy's dream of winning that prized golden ticket?  It had a huge impact on me and how not to act as a child (i.e. not like Veruca Salt).  Charlie, despite his impoverished background, was a prince among boys.

Thanks for the remake effort Johnny Depp, but you may now be seated.
  


The SONG:
Cat's in the Cradle by Harry Chapin (1974)


Welcome to the classic folk song about every father's eternal dilemma.  We, as men, are called to raise a family, provide for that family, and somehow spend enough time with our sons so they in turn can do the same with their future family.  
While women today are no doubt approaching this same pressured choice, this pressure still remains higher for the husband/father... as it should be.  

Also welcome to a major reason to why I am a providing stay-at-home father.



The NEWS EVENT:
The Challenger Space Shuttle Disaster (1986)


Boom!  In a blink of an eye, the hopes and dreams of all wannabe astronauts were forever changed as a "major malfunction" ended the lives of seven heroic astronauts, one being the "first teacher into space."  

The plume is instantly recognizable as is the bitter taste that soon forms in the back of your mouth.  This moment taught me to savor each moment forever.



The ELECTRONIC ADDICTION:


Yeah Baby!  The Atari 2600.  Released September 11, 1977 and from then on forever changing the electronic home gaming industry into being the twenty-one billion dollar industry it is today (http://www.theesa.com/facts/pdfs/esa_ef_2013.pdf).  

I can still feel the single red buttoned controller in my prepubescent hand.  
All hail the first electronic babysitter. 


-------

Yep, there they are.  Each example still brings back a mixed smile upon my face and an indelible mark upon my heart.

Feel free to share your own in each category.


Saturday, January 25, 2014

"You're a little too Christian for me."

Time flies when you are being blessed.

Wow, where does the time go, because ten years ago today seems like a blink to me.  Are you like me and seek to keep a memory rolodex of the key moments in your life?  Do you enjoy looking back at the your tapestry to see how those moments made you who you are now?  I know I do.  I find it fascinating to remember how key moments occurred and how essential people have walked into God's plan for me. 

So, what was so great about ten years ago you ask?  Well, let me explain.  On January 25, 2004, Sandy and I began to date.  While we had become friends in the latter part of 2003, it was this date that we decided to take a true leap of faith to see what God had in store for us.  I know, I know, "whoa, big deal."  Or maybe, "Congrats guys!"  Or even, "whoopee... now where's the T.V. remote?"  That's a fair response I suppose.  I understand that our day is our day and it probably isn't a big deal to you.  Don't worry, I get it.  But, nonetheless, this is my blog, so for today, it IS a big deal.  So there... Ha!

In a way though, it is kinda cool to realize that ten years ago 'us' started.  You know a decade of stuff happened and the one big thing for us was 'us' actually beginning.  In my opinion, I think we all often just kinda glaze over the details of how our lives really fold out.  I think we often tend to forget the choices that we make can ultimately change the course of our history... and therefore influence the history of others.  We tend to forget how some random choice on a Sunday afternoon can ultimately be a very big deal for days, decades, or even generations to come.  I find it rather fascinating actually, but I guess I am just an overdramatic romantic. 

A lot of people know my story.  And, if you don't, perhaps I can share it with you someday soon.  Nonetheless, I can definitely say my life is filled with a collision of joy and pain and all of the emotions in between.  Yes, I am a very blessed man with a loving Savior, an amazing wife, and five kind of cute kiddos.  Still, it is a full knowledge of deep heartache in the past that gives those blessings of today their sweet taste.  Perhaps in a later post I may provide more details on some of those heartaches, but for now please just trust me that there was a lot of pain.





Nonetheless, ten years ago Sandy took a chance on one very broken guy as she helped put me back together.  In fact, I had a buddy once describe what she did as "breaking into jail" to rescue me.  He was spot on with his statement and quite prophetic actually.

It may surprise you though, but I nearly sabotaged my own rescue.  Yep, I almost prevented it from happening before it we even began.  How did I do this you ask?  With my mouth of course as I once told Sandy seven words that she now jokingly reminds me of from time to time.  I once told her "you're a little too Christian for me."  Yep, I did.  Like I said, they are words that we laugh at now, but at the time they were spoken from a real concern in my faulty feelings.  It was no secret that she knew Jesus better than I did.  It also was no secret that she was living out her faith far better than I was at the time.  Also, she was definitely a few more laps around the Christian track for sure.  Still, I remember though being scared and intimidated of her deep faith.  Not scared of her, but scared of Jesus.  I was scared of truly living beyond the fire insurance that He provided.  For that reason, my ignorant statement of her being "too Christian" nearly sank the 'us' we were destined to become.

With immeasurable grace and patience, Sandy did not quit on me.  She found a way to put Jesus front and center in our family and we have never been the same since.  Scripture teaches a sower is to sow His seed bountifully expecting to reap a bountiful harvest (2 Cor. 9:6).  Please know, Sandy did just that.  While admittedly she may have had no idea of how our lives would turn out, her obedience was still promised a great return.
  




So if I could share one nugget of wisdom to each of you, it would be to never ever underestimate the little (and big!) choices in our lives that can wind up being necessary big course corrections.  For Sandy and me, it was ten years ago and our destiny was changed forever.

Thank you, my Love.  You truly are an answer to prayer and thank you for rescuing a guy like me.


Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Mirror Time...

The two tools you need for earthly success are a mirror and the desire to be better.  Here is what I see when a mirror is in front of me....





I see me.  I am a guy who is overly critical of myself and never content in my actions, all the while being overly sarcastic in nature.  Yeah, pretty much a recipe for a type A personality.  I fail amazingly at humility; the need for control; being content for long; and shutting my mind off.  If bored, my thoughts can be dangerous.  If happy, I will still want more.   If frustrated, stay clear.  Often times, the pursuit is better than the success and the thought outweighs the action.  I don't receive blessings very well, but I love to bless others.  I am gracious to others, but often hard on myself. Smiles are powerful, communication is key, and love always wins.  I love to do new things, meet new people, and firmly believe in the power of prayer and choice.  I can be relentless.  I can be apathetic.  But I recommend you to be careful in telling me that I can't do something because I just will.  A thank-you goes a long ways and a hug goes even further.  People tell me I am a good guy.  Sadly, my pauper nature only shows me how much more there is to improve upon.  I am working on this though.  I am learning this is not my identity in Christ.  I am still learning the ways of royalty.



I see a guy not motivated by money or material things; as both are just tools to this trade called life.  Yes, they are necessary; but no, they are not to be coveted.  I do however cherish my family.  I am a husband to one wife in mind, body, and spirit.  You mess with her, you deal with me.   Likewise, you mess with me, you deal with her.  Pretty simple.  She is truly amazing and I love her so very much.  She calls me Bunk'n.  I call her Love.  I am the father to five children.   Likewise again, you mess with them, you deal with us.  So just don't.  My kids are my opus.  I cannot think about not thinking about them and I would rather not try.  We are blessed.  We know this.  We live trying to remember this always.






I see a guy who has been through a lot.  Like many others, I have had a lot of pain in my life, but I have gotten up each time so I guess that is a good thing.   I fully know I did not do this alone either as I have an amazing group of loving family and friends.  I am also thankful for not having a hardened heart due to life's circumstances and my stupid choices.  Rude people anger me.  I just don't understand the need to be rude.  Selfish people also irritate me.  I don't trifle with people's hearts, so I expect the same in return.

I see a guy who looks back and sees the both good and bad instances in my life.  My old self would torch any bridge needing to be torched often due to ego.  Admittedly, I still smirk at some of those ashen ruins.  I may not burn bridges as much anymore, but I make sure to now erect some toll booths.  Pride is still my worst enemy as some ways die harder than others.  Yes, we are called to be strong, but it is never to be in our own strength.  My mouth used to get me in trouble more than it does now.  I am thankful for this maturity as well.  Those times were the words from an immature boy thinking he was more of a man.  I still have issues with authority because I don't get caught up in titles or power.  Again, I am working on this....

I see a guy who believes success is in the eyes of the content.  While I can definitely say my soul is content, I still know I am not done yet.  I look forward to our kiddos growing up,  spreading their wings, and changing the world.  I also look forward to growing old with my Love.  The air still leaves the room when she enters it and her touch still makes me swoon.  I desire to dream more and achieve more because that's just who I am.  Kneeled in front of the cross is where I always want to be.  I hope to bring more people there with me.




In the end, I see a guy who smiles when he looks in the mirror.  Perhaps that isn't success for you, but I know it is for me.  Who knows what tomorrow will bring, but I do know who brings it... and to Christ goes all the glory.



Monday, January 20, 2014

What a weekend... that's no lie!

It is said most people don't like Mondays.  I do.   Mondays allow this stay at home dad to return to normal routines.  You know, set times, meals, schedules, etc..  Yeah, I am that guy who finds comfort in the routine.  Go ahead and cue the control issues... or... on the other hand, don't.  Let's just laugh at that lie instead!  Read on....

This Monday, I find myself trying to catch ahold of the various thoughts crossing my mind as I am left with a blissful hangover from church this weekend.  My church was blessed to have Steve and Wendy Backlund visit for a three-day five-session conference.  The Backlunds spoke on our identity in Christ and the lies that we have all bought into through the years.  Their message is one that is simply complex as it penetrates far deeper than one might imagine.  To say the least, many personal lies were broken off this weekend, leaving me a sense of renewal that I haven't felt in a long time.

Steve and Wendy were simply amazing.  Their ministry, Igniting Hope Ministries, is dedicated to ignite hope and personal victory in individuals, leaders and churches through a revelation of God's goodness in Jesus Christ.  And ignite they did.  With passion, scripture, and laughter, they simply blew us away.  And how did they do this you may ask?  By laughing at each lie we so easily believe.  Yes, laughing.  Literally.  Much of their ministry about how to live a resurrected life is based out of Psalms 2:4, which states: "The One enthroned in heaven laughs; the Lord scoffs at them" (NIV).  We too should do the same.







Sandy and I were literally at our church for more than eighteen hours over the course of the last three days and we still find ourselves thirsting for more.  It is like we are seeing the world through different lenses.  A veil has been lifted to the lies we were believing.  

The Backlunds are amazing and I highly recommend everyone to learn more about them and their prophetic ministry.  What a blessing it was to have them visit and to have a church pressing in for a deeper and more intimate relationship with Jesus!

While knowing the full biblical context will fall short in the short space provided, below are some quick Backlund nuggets to get a taste of how powerful the words and declarations that we speak of truly are:
  • You will only receive to the level of 'believe' your worth is
  • You can't imagine your way out of a situation, you must speak your way out
  • It is difficult to see how big of a thing you are part of when you are still part of it
  • You can't think a lie when you speak the truth
  • The future is in the mouths of intentional speakers
  • Instead of rehearsing how big your problem is, how about rehearsing how big your God is
  • It takes no effort whatsoever to be pessimistic
  • It is not that you are doing something wrong, it is that you are believing to something wrong
  • Negative worry is a misuse of God's gift of imagination to you
  • You are worth what was paid for you!  Speak as such and you will live as such.

Never underestimate how powerful the words you speak are... they truly can bring heaven to earth.  Thank you Steve and Wendy... you guys are amazing and that is no lie!




Friday, January 17, 2014

God Wants His Bride to Count to Three

You know that classic scene in the movie The Matrix where Neo's reality is about to unravel as Morpheus offers him a choice of the blue pill or the red pill.  We are told the choice of the blue pill would allow Neo to comfortably return to his veiled existence apart from the truth.  The choice of the red pill, however, would allow Neo's eyes to be opened to the full truth and revelation of the real world.  Of course to those who have seen the movie, we all know Neo chooses the red one and is forever changed... and we as Matrix fans said, "Amen!"


("The Matrix," Warner Bros. Studios, 1999)


It is no secret that The Matrix has many symbolic references to the Christian faith (i.e. free will, Trinity, supernatural abilities, the need for a Messiah, etc.).  The red pill/blue pill scene is just one of them.  Like the gift of free will, people have the choice to see the glorious (and sometimes painful) truth of God's reality by choosing the red, blood of Christ, pill.  Or, they can remain ignorant and in denial (which ultimately leads to destruction) and choose the blue pill.  As a follower of Jesus, all I can say is, "Thank you God.  Thank you for that precious 'red pill!'"

My life-changing choice to follow Jesus many years ago has allowed me, like Neo, to realize there is far more to my existence than what I could have ever known.  I no longer live in ignorance nor choose to seek to.  As a new creation, I have been given a full vantage point of God's law, God's grace, and God's glory upon me.  It is a beautiful collision and one that continues to be unveiled to me.

Still, even with this amazing grace, what God really wants for me (and everyone) is to keeping counting on to three.  Scripture argues there is a third 'pill' to choose from and this pill is far more precious than the first two.  This pill is His Presence.   Whether you are a follower of Christ or a pre-Christian, God truly wants to be in an intimate relationship with you.  Yes, the law (step one) will reveal His perfect desires and expectations of you.  His grace (step two) will reveal why you needed His son Jesus Christ as your Savior.  But step three, the one we don't continually seek to press into, is actually where the party really happens.  His Presence is where God's true beauty is revealed.  It is His Presence that literally brings Heaven to earth.  Being a friend of the Holy Spirit is the power source to all things heavenly and His Presence is the trump card that always wins any hand.


Whether it was Moses seeking the power and peace provided by God's Presence (Exodus 33:14), David seeking to bring the Ark (God's earthly Presence) back to bless Jerusalem (1 Chronicles 15), or even Jesus promising to send the Holy Spirit in order us to be better off (John 16:7) , scripture is filled with how God wants to be one with us at all times.  And even though we know this is His choice for us, we fail God and don't choose the same for Him.  All too often we, as the Church, stop after choosing Christ's red pill.  We fall short of destiny and just settle for salvation to be our finish line.  This is a tragic mistake for any follower to do because God desires us to continually count to three and give us even more.


With no doubt or argument, choosing Jesus Christ as our Savior is HUGE to our walk with the Lord.  It truly changes everything.  But we must remember that salvation is the starting point not the finish line.  We must press in always (through prayer, through constant worship, through doing as Jesus commands, through sanctification, through earnestly seeking the spiritual gifts, through sharing His spiritual fruit, etc.) for His Presence.  His Presence is the one thing.


Continue to count to three Church.  God's Presence will turn law into love; grace into treasure; and allow worshipping Him to be the only 'pill' we'll choose forever.  In God's Presence... there is no substitute.