Letters to my Children: You Talk too Much

Dear Adeline,adeline

From the time you were born, you have always had so much to say.  Each morning, before the first bite of syrup-soaked waffle brushes your lips, you have already burned through a small book of observations, comments, songs, questions, random thoughts and unusual mouth sounds.  Each night you spend your last moments, using any unspent words from the day to reject the advances of sleep.

The daylight between those two moments find your brother and I staring at each other in confused disbelief as your mind rotates from one line of thinking to another without missing a beat…. while your Mother just smiles at you like a woman who is on the inside of a secret.

Lately, you have been learning a lot about Jesus, His death on the cross and His resurrection.  You have been talking all about it:

“Daddy, did you know that Jesus died on the cross for our sins??”

 “Three days later he just rose again from the tomb!”

 “Jesus took all of our sin and POOF, they’re gone daddy!”

 “When Jesus died on the cross he broke our sins and we are free!”

 “Can you believe that Jesus died on the cross?”

 “No matter what we do, God still loves us.”

You’re voice is so animated; your eyes are wide and wild. You speak with a smile as you repeat this surprise over and over to anyone and everyone who will listen.  You talk about Jesus as though He is the greatest person who has ever lived, as though the cross and empty tomb was the greatest event in all of history.  When I hear you tell the story, I actually believe it is good news.

As people get older, they don’t talk about Jesus…. at least not like you talk about Him.  You speak so matter-of-fact about Him, you seem genuinely surprised at this unexpected gift, and you assume that others want to hear this amazing story.  But we grown-ups tend to talk about the cross in muted tones and in “appropriate” places.  We know that the answer is Jesus, we just aren’t as amazed as we used to be.

I don’t know why we don’t talk more about Jesus.  I suppose you talk about someone to the extent that you have let him in to your life and allowed him to reshape who you are.  I know for me, the moment my life intersected with your Mother’s, it has never been the same. Then we had, Evan, and a few years later you came along.  Then the surprise that is, Malina, happened and now I find myself forever changed. I don’t know a life that is outside of the one shaped by my family and I welcome any opportunity to talk about you guys to anyone who will listen.

Your brother and I might be tempted to say you talk too much right now. But in your impressive display of words are cradled the very depth and length and width and height of God’s love.  The reason you seem so surprised and amazed and filled with Joy is because the good news of, Jesus, is surprising and amazing and the source of lasting joy.

May you always see the wonder that is Jesus, and never stop talking about Him.

Love,

Your Dad.

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I’m Voting for Obama

Ok this is an experiment.

I am not actually talking about who I am voting for in this blog, but I am curious….

I’m curious about the gut responses of those who would read a title like that.  I’m also curious about how many people simply read the title and refused to read further.

Sure, I could have used “I’m voting for Romney” all the same; but let’s face it, such a statement, in our geographical context, would not have received the same thoughts and reactions.

This is what I know: Come Sunday, November 11, you will find yourself sitting in a row with someone at your church, who voted for a different candidate than you.  You will worship, proclaim “Christ is risen”, share the cup of communion, or serve beside someone who has given their life to Jesus, received the promise of the Holy Spirit, and STILL voted for the other guy.

Could it be, that the greatest challenge for the body of Christ, and thus the greatest opportunity for the display of love and unity that comes with corporate surrender to Jesus, will not be Tuesday….but rather Sunday morning.

I pray we will not participate in a new form of segregation — not based on the color of skin, or one’s heritage, or one’s financial makeup….but rather one’s vote in the booth.

So be involved, study all that you can, vote for your candidate….and then be prepared to love   the winners AND the losers.

Carrying Death in His Hands Part II

To read Part I of this short story, click here.

Death in His Hands Part II.

The walls of their home danced with shadows as Uriah and Bathsheba sat by candle light and rehearsed the story of their individual lives until they moved in step once again.  Uriah, said very little about the fighting that had taken him away from, Bathsheba, many months ago.  Occasionally she would ask a question that moved closer to the memories of combat, to which, Uriah, would respond by questioning the King’s decision to call him home, away from his men, away from his duties.

David & Uriah by Rembrandt

Bathsheba, could also not bring herself to mention the unseen battle she was engaged in just a few months ago; a battle that led to her surrender, led away like a captive to the sinful desires of a King whose eyes fell on Bathsheba one day as he walked the balcony of his palace instead of the fields of war.  She recalls every detail of that night with a strange mix of fondness and regret. She remembers all of the moments along the way to her King’s bed when she could have stopped, whatever the cost, she could have stopped….why didn’t she stop?

As they continued to talk, Bathsheba felt the tension draining from her body. With each kiss, each touch, she was reintroduced to the man who years ago took her hand and brought her to his house.  The hour was late, and so she rose, took the hand of her husband, and led him to their bed. Uriah first walked willingly behind her, then stopped suddenly, as though he recognized the moment.  “Bathsheba….I….can’t” he said quietly. “Tonight, as I sit by your side, my men, my brothers, are sleeping under the stars, burying the dead and preparing for another battle.” “How….how can I live with you in this house as though I were unaware?” Bathsheba stared into her husband’s eyes with great longing….but even greater admiration.  Uriah, leaned forward and kissed her on her forehead, lingering for just a moment to breathe in the fragrance that was unique to his wife. He then turned, moved toward his bag, and spread out a bed on the ground.

“I’m pregnant, Uriah” Bathsheba whispered as she watched her husband prepare for bed. “I’m pregnant with King David’s child….I’m….I’m so sorry”.  She could not speak the words any louder, just as she could not foresee the series of events that an evening with the King would set in to motion, and the devastating consequences for everyone involved….

Carrying Death in His Hands Part I

After a month away, I am back to writing. I decided to start my blog again with a retelling of a familiar (maybe too familiar) story in the bible.  You can read the story in 2 Samuel 11 by clicking here.  

Carrying Death in His Hands.

Uriah, stood in the doorway of his house….his bones ached from exhaustion, his mind tortured by images of battle, his senses taunted by the sights and smells, and familiarity of home.  He could see her by the open window, rays of afternoon sun flirting with her black hair that hung like curtains around her neck. Just the sight of her frame brought back memories of a life outside of war, and filled Uriah’s eyes with tears as the longing of his heart found expression on his face.

David & Uriah by Rembrandt

“Bathsheba” He whispered through parched lips.

Bathsheba’s hands froze in the dough she was kneading. She looked up but could not wrestle her body to face him. “Bathsheba?” Uriah spoke firmly this time, leaving no doubt she could hear him. She turned toward him, eyes pooling with tears; she wiped the remnants of dinner preparation on her gown as she bounded toward him. Uriah dropped the sack in his hand and ran to hold her. The force of his hug consumed her and sent them both stumbling across the room. He pulled back from their embrace to study her face again. Bathsheba’s eyes were a mixture of colors and textures; splashes of joy and hope; streaks of shame, shades of regret.

“What’s….what’s wrong Bathsheba?” Uriah asked, confused by the mixed greeting in her expression.

Bathsheba wrestled her face into submission, forcing the corners of her mouth to rise against their will until she presented him a smile. “it’s….it’s just been so long, and….I wasn’t expecting you….I have nothing ready, nothing prepared for….” Uriah placed his hands on each side of her face, and guided her lips toward his.  “I’m home….with you….everything is….perfect”.

Uriah embraced her tightly. Bathsheba knew that everything was far from perfect. The child growing inside of her, was now a constant reminder of the double life she had entered into. As she held her husband, she could see the walls of the King’s Palace behind him, invading the open window of their house, dividing the couple joined in embrace, and conquering a love she once believed was as strong as death.

She needed to tell him….he needed to know the truth….

To my Wife: 5 things I remember about our wedding day

Well it was hot….                                                                             

The church was packed, it was over one hundred degrees outside, and part of our decorating was obstructing the intake for the air conditioning units.  Not to mention the fact that we had unknowingly ordered winter tuxedos that appeared to be lined with the latest North Face warming technology.  Some assumed I was crying….they just couldn’t see the sweat rolling down my young face.  But through the sweat and the tears, I could easily see you as you walked toward me.

And you were beautiful….

It wasn’t just how you looked in the dress or the way you wore your hair up. You were beaming, from every look and each smile, you lit up the room that day….as you still do today.

We were so young….

I look at the pictures and I see a couple just out of college, with little knowledge about anything further than the moment we were enjoying. Before jobs and bills and ministry and moving it was just you and I surrounded by friends and family and in the presence of the One who brought us together.  Many years from now, we will again be together — just you and I. When that time comes, I want you to  know you will still be my bride and my best friend.

And so broke….

Some things never change. I remember coming back from our honeymoon and packing all of our belongings into the smallest Uhaul that was available….with room to spare.  Most of what we filled our first apartment with were still in boxes, having received them as wedding presents.  That first apartment would now fit in our basement.

But God has been so faithful….

What an amazing journey so far….so much more than I expected and far more than I deserve.  Marriage and then fatherhood is forever shaping and sharpening me into more than I ever would’ve become on my own.

And you’re still so beautiful….

You are so much more than that picture from our wedding day.  The passing of time, having children, and the changes of life do not make you inferior to that young girl in the photo….to me, they make me love you so much more.

Happy Anniversary.

Bryan

On my Wife’s Birthday: The Reason I broke into your House

It’s simple really.

We had only been dating for about 8 months and it was my girfriend’s birthday. When you’re first dating, birthdays become a way not only to celebrate the person you are with, but also a way for the boyfriend to showcase his spontaneity, thoughtfulness, and apparently, his disregard for laws about breaking and entering.

So Penny, was away with her family back in Ohio and would be returning the evening of her birthday. I can’t remember when it hit me, but some time over that weekend, I had the perfect idea. I would get in to their house, decorate it with balloons and streamers and presents. I would then leave, and wait for the phone call to listen to her scream with joy.  Boys (at any age) will do some of stupidest things imaginable for the love of a girl. My stupidity was telling me to break in to a house and throw a party.

I arrived at her house with my box of supplies and presents. It was midday….no need to hide my love under the cover of darkness like a common criminal.

Now Penny’s parents used to leave their front door unlocked all the time. This stems from growing up in a rural (and honest) part of Ohio. I fully expected to turn the knob and walk right in….it was locked….I started to sweat.  My mind racing, I decided to walk around the house (that sat in the middle of a subdivision) and try all of the windows. I moved to the back of the house, and lifted on Penny’s bedroom window….it slid open. (Editor’s note: That window being unlocked had nothing to do with Penny and I….just so we’re clear)

Now the window was over my head and since I hadn’t planned on needing a ladder, and nothing was going to stand in the way of high school love, I lifted the window as much as I could and dropped my supplies inside. I then jumped up, grabbed hold of the window sill, and struggled with my little arms to lift myself inside. I can only imagine what this looked like to the neighbor who might step into her backyard to see my legs flailing out the window. I dropped into Penny’s room, grabbed my box, and started walking toward the living room to begin the birthday version of shock and awe.

That’s when I heard it.

Voices. Two people talking in another room. It sounded like a muffled argument. I dropped to the floor and listened. There was definitely someone in the house. I crawled on my stomach into the living room. Why would there be someone here? Were they being robbed? Breaking into a house out of greed? I broke into this house out of love for a woman! I crawled a little closer….it was quiet. Then I heard voices again coming from her Parent’s bedroom. My heart was pounding, I felt like Bruce Willis in every Die Hard movie I had ever seen.

Inching closer to the door, I could feel the adrenaline coursing through my puny body. The voices went quiet again….I strained to hear what was going on. That’s when I heard, “Are you tired of hard-water stains, or toilet bowls that won’t come clean no matter how hard you scrub?” Why was this group of thugs talking about CLR??

I cracked the door to find the TV was left on in her parent’s bedroom. After stopping in the bathroom to throw up, I got to work hanging streamers and balloons and setting out Penny’s presents.

Penny,

The reason I broke into your house that day, 18 years ago, is because I tried so hard to do on that day what I now realize cannot be done in one day or in a single party….to express all that you mean or how much I love you. There is no card, there aren’t enough streamers, and I could never find the perfect gift that expresses the gratitude I feel for you.

That is why I am thankful God has given me a lifetime to begin to express my appreciation for the gift that you are to me and to our children.

And if any boy tries to break in to our house out of “love for a girl” I will toss his butt in jail.

Happy Birthday.

Bryan

A Letter to My Son: Don’t Take the Easy Laugh

(This post is part of my “Letters to My Children” series. You can learn about it by             clicking here).

Dear Evan,

Your Dad loves to make people laugh….or at least I enjoy trying.  Maybe it goes back to being a middle child, always fighting for attention. Or maybe it reflects the insecurities that I have and try to hide. Or Maybe it’s just that I enjoy comedy…just like you.  At this stage in your life the bar is a little lower in the comedy department.  I’m almost guaranteed a laugh as long as there is a story that ends with the words “booger” or “toot”.  And if that doesn’t work, there is always the classic trip and fall routine.

But, Evan, there will come a time where in your own attempt to say something funny, or make people laugh, you will be tempted to turn your focus toward a single person, to make him the target of your jokes. It’s an easy laugh. We’re all awkward and different and we have plenty of soft spots in our lives where a joke can land.  But, Evan,…don’t do it.  Of all the times I’ve tried to be funny, the times I regret the most are the jokes that came at the expense of someone else.  Some of those moments I still remember to this day.

You will meet all kinds of people in life who seem to know of no other way to talk to each other than to hurl insults and put-downs, dressed in a joke.  People like that are not as strong as they appear. Most likely they are covering up their own hurts and fears. So if you become their target, just know that about them, and love them anyway. But never, never go through your life making your own targets out of others….This is not who you are.

I’m writing this to you and not your sisters (though they should probably read it too!) because at a certain age, this tends to be the way that boys “assert dominance” or gain respect, and though it will be hard to see at the time, those same boys end up neither dominating nor being respected.

Evan, You have infinite value to your Father in Heaven, and you are priceless to your Mother and I.  So make people laugh, and find the humor that is everywhere. Your Mom and I love the way you come up with just the right line, seemingly out of no where, that makes us laugh out loud.

This is a special gift….Just don’t waste it.

We love you Son,

Your Dad.