Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Clouds in his eyes


"What Carson?"

"I can see the blue sky!!!"

".....That's great hon'!"

"I'm looking at the clouds!"
"Really?....They're pretty aren't they."

"Yeah.....They are in Memphis' eyes!"
This is an example of the conversations Carson initiates as we drive, walk, eat, or do any thing. Meyson says she is "random". I think he may be right.

Then again.....maybe there are clouds in his eyes. And stars and dreams and.....mischief.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

The Boy Becoming a Man

I'm not ready!
Tonight was just a regular Saturday night. We finished up a very successful garage sale, had dinner, watched a movie together as a family, and.....I taught my 14 year old son how to shave. Meyson wasn't ready either. I'm not sure who was more nervous.

He's a good looking kid, *OK, a handsome young man* but he had started to look like he always had dirt on his upper lip and just below his ears. So.....tonight we took the plunge and it turned out pretty well. No need for band aids or torn up pieces of toilet paper! Our nervousness was enhanced greatly by the rapt audience of 2 very curious little sisters. Both Brianna and Carson just had to watch this drama unfold.

Things started out pretty funny as I thought the best avenue would be to shave in unison with Meyson mimicking my actions. We started of course, with the shaving cream, which Meyson claimed was suffocating him "Dad, I can't breathe; what if it goes up my nose? Will it poison me?" as he smeared it from eyes to chin. Once we got that under control things proceeded much smoother. *no pun intended* The mechanics of the thing aren't as easy to explain, however when you've been doing it by rote for such a long time though.

Meyson was worried about cutting himself; even if he never said it, I could tell, as he scraped the razor every way except across his skin. He took to it like a man and the biggest shock of all was after he cleaned up and...I...saw my son.....a grown man-child. My baby, my firstborn son is definitely on this journey now, heading pell-mell into manhood. Pray for me please.

I want to slow the ride to a crawl and give him a piggy-back ride, but I know the best I can do is point the way. I'm just some sort of wilderness guide now. In a strange way I'm looking forward to it as I write this. The possibilities in a young life, some good/some bad.....

Pray for us

Monday, April 7, 2008

"Take heart!"

May I be perfectly honest? I am a fearful man. Not fraidy-cat scared but intensely fearful nonetheless. I will ride a mountain bike straight down a hill or fly huge traction kites capable of carrying me up to heights of thirty feet or more. As a teenager, skateboards and big ramps drew my attention. Careening near out of control down a snowy slope or climbing perfectly unsafe rock formations seem to cover my inner fear for a while. But I am still fearful. Knee knocking, trembling, stammering, and ready to bolt afraid.

What, you ask, has me so doggone terrified? Everything! The answer, quite simply is…well okay, it doesn’t seem to be so simple. Let’s see…failure, that’s an easy one; discovery, someone’s gonna find me out sooner or later; success, but I thought we all wanted that. This list could go on and on. What will people think? What will I feel? What if I say or do the wrong thing? What if I make the wrong choice? What? What? What if…? Bad thought pattern here folks.

Choice. Let’s take a look at this word for a moment. Isn’t choice the very thing separating us as men and women from everything else on the planet? What choice does a rock have on its location or anything for that matter? A rock is a rock is a… well you get the picture. And animals (though they are very cute, intelligent, and even social) live by instinct and not by choice. Every minute of every day we get to choose our actions, reactions, even our thought patterns. Sure we have to deal with circumstance; and the thoughts, whims, and actions of others. We still have the incredible opportunity to choose our own thoughts and actions. Did I say opportunity? Sometimes I feel the more appropriate phrase would be “burden of choice” not “opportunity for choice.” And here we are; back to the source of everything that gives me the big olheeby-jeebies. Fear.

Fear has debilitated me and kept me in a fog for too long. I decided to confront it and see what my faith, my beliefs, and the promise of the Word of God Have to say about fear.

I sought the Lord, and He answered me; He delivered me from all my fears. (PSALM 34:4)

Now you’re talkin’! I can just sit back and be delivered of all my fears. But wait, I’m still feeling a bit uneasy here. Maybe I haven’t searched enough. The verse does say: “I sought the Lord.” Let’s see what else the Bible has to say about fear.

And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him. In this way, love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence…There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. (1 JOHN 4:16-18)

Oh man, to be made perfect in love! Sounds intriguing doesn’t it? I am starting to understand that if I want this fear to go away, something more may be required of me. Faith? Please don’t let me lose you here as I know we have all heard cliché after cliché and quick fix after slogan after mantra after…all that. What I am suggesting is simpler and deeper than I first imagined possible. Everything seems to point back to that little word: choice. Let us look at an example, from Paul's life, of faith and choice in action.

The book of ACTS, chapter 16:16-40, tells of the apostle Paul and Silas and an encounter with a slave girl. “The slave girl had a spirit by which she predicted the future. She earned a great deal of money for her owners by fortune telling.” The girl followed Paul and his fellows around shouting at and about them. After many days Paul became troubled and cast the spirit out of the girl in the name of Jesus Christ. You can well imagine the anger of the girl’s owners at the loss of such a nice income. They started a fuss, hauled Paul and Silas to the town square, riled up the crowd and the city officials who ordered them “stripped and beaten.”

After they had been severely flogged, they were thrown into prison, and the jailer was commanded to guard them carefully. Upon receiving such orders, he put them in the inner cell and fastened their feet in the stocks. (ACTS 16:23-24)

Right about then is where fearful ol’ me loses sight of all choices. Beaten, jailed, and shackled. Nope, that just has me upset, hurt, angry, helpless, and without choices. Actually, I find this the way I feel most of the time as I react and shuck and jive just to get though another day without major fall-out! Earlier I mentioned mountain bike riding. Careening downhill, reacting subtly to terrain and obstacles, flying; if you will, by the seat of my pants is great fun even to my fearful self. Amazingly the real goal in activities like this is “don’t rock the boat.” Major changes or shifts when you are barely under control can and do cause catastrophic results. I have suffered torn ligaments, broken bones, scrapes and bruises in these adrenaline charged pursuits. Why then, do the everyday circumstances of life leave me breathless and weak in the knees? Perhaps this “seat of your pants” mentality works well in the fast paced, react and respond atmosphere of downhill cycling and traction kiting. I, however, find myself reacting and responding to circumstance and life much the same way. When I do this; choice gets relegated to “the path of least resistance” and ceases to be choice at all.

Let us take a look at Paul and Silas’ reaction or rather choice of action during this unfortunate set of events.

About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them. (ACTS 16:25)

You’re kidding me right? I had to read this again. “Praying and singing…” I would have been less surprised if the text said they were railing at the injustice of it all or crying out in defiance ‘what about the girl we liberated’ or even better; blaming something else. Paul and Silas chose to give thanks and praise and surely to seek Gods help. Why? What would give these men such poise, such peace? They chose at this dark hour to stand on the promises of their faith in Jesus Christ. Promises stated by Jesus as he spoke to the disciples at the last supper.

I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world. (JOHN 16:33)

“Take heart!” How encouraging just those two words. “Take heart!” They certainly set my blood to pumping faster with something like anticipation or maybe even hope. “Take heart!” There are other promises of strength, renewal, and peace all through the gospel message. These words all represent some of the things I seem to lack in my indecision and fear. Guess who suffers the most when I live life reactively, like putting out so many fires. Is it me? No, it is my children and the very people I seek to shield and guide and support. Those I love the most, those who provide me with support and love are the very ones affected by this dangerous react and respond way of life. “Take heart!” Here is a promise that God himself will restore us.

And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm, and steadfast. (2 PETER 5:10)

Many times in our lives we have been told to “just pray about it” or “we’ll pray for you.” And don’t get me wrong here. We should pray. Continually pray. Often, however, I catch my daily prayers resembling the “flare prayers” I throw out when the bike or kite pushes a little too far out of control. “Oh God help…..” The prayers of Paul and Silas were filled with praise and yes, faith. I once heard that it is not enough to merely seek Gods help but that we should seek and merit Gods divine intervention. This story finally gave me a clue as to what that statement means. Faith is an act of courage. It is an act of trust. The Word puts it like this.

Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. (HEBREWS 11:1)

The ending of the story about Paul and Silas in prison is amazing and we will get to that part later. Right now, however, I’d like to look at the parable of the ten talents and how that also shows the ineffectiveness of a fear filled existence. Jesus tells us in MATTHEW 25:14-30 about a wealthy man beginning a long journey. Before leaving he entrusts his property to his servants. To one servant he gave five talents, another he gave two, and to another he gives only one. A talent being equal to more than one thousand dollars, he gave them “each according to his abilities.” The first and second servants immediately went to work and doubled what they had been given. The last guy, however, took his “thousand bucks” and buried it in the back yard. He took no risk, made no choices, and played it totally safe. He thought.
Upon returning home after the trip, the “boss” wants to know how his investments fared. Of course he is pleased to know that the first two have been very profitable, but upon finding out that the last investment had been buried and “kept safe” he becomes incredulous. “What? Not even a lesson learned through loss? Not even interest earned from the bank? Could you be any more ineffective?” The servant was afraid of losing anything so he sat and fretted and did nothing with what he had been given. His actions brought no blessings, no lessons about good or bad investments, no…..nothing. The other two might have lost everything given them, yet they still would have had a story, a new perspective. Life! For in the end the fearful one loses even that because he refuses to reach out and trust anything except his own fear.

How different the attitude of Paul and Silas in prison. They had been abused and beaten and still; fear of man or circumstance or consequence had no bearing on their actions. Their hope in and fear of the Lord was greater than anything else.

The fear of the Lord leads to life: Then one rests content, untouched by trouble. (PROVERBS 19:23)

Find rest, O my soul, in God alone, my hope comes from him.
(PSALM 62:5)

So do not fear for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my…hand (ISAIAH 41:10)

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff they comfort me. (PSALM 23:4)

The Lord is my light and salvation- whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life- of whom shall I be afraid? (PSALM 27:1)