Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Father's Day

Father's Day 2008 is just around the corner. As far as I am concerned, my kids have the best Dad around. If you have any doubt, just ask their Mom. I'm not the best Dad because of anything special in or about myself. My kids make me the Dad that I am. I am as proud as can be of my children. They are more precious than anything else I have...aside from their mother.

My son, Phillip, is incredibly talented. He will be 9 come August. He loves to sing, he has a tendency toward the dramatic, and he is always flitting about. The flitting (dancing) gets on my nerves, but I am beginning to think it might be OK to acknowledge a natural talent for dance in there too. Phillip has a courage that I never had at his age. He can stand in front of hundreds of total strangers and speak, sing, act, dance, you name it. When he was four I took him to Carowinds. He heard an announcement that the karaoke show was about to start. He asked me what it was so I explained it to him. He wanted to go watch. People were picking songs from the list and signing up to sing. Phillip begged me to let him try. Only problem was, we don't listen to the kinds of music they had recordings for. I asked if they happened to have Jesus Loves Me or something for kids. They did! So, Phillip sang Jesus Loves Me in the karaoke show at Carowinds. He got a standing O!! Phillip is mature beyond his age. In fact, that is one thing we share in common. When I was his age, I was always more comfortable around adults than I was around kids. Phillip also has good taste in clothes. If I could afford it, I am sure he would be the best dressed kid in school. He does the best he can with what we can give him. He even has an eye for fashion for other people. He often comments on what he sees people wearing. He has helped his mother shop for clothes. His opinion counts. Phillip is a really neat kid. I am truly blessed that God has given him to me for a while.

My daughter, Sara, is my beautiful princess...my little Bug. I started calling her Bug when she was born and it stuck. She will turn six this year. Sara Bug is a wonderfully generous little girl. She is quick to share whatever she has...even to the point of giving it away. Once, we were in a restaurant that had a collection box with a picture of a little girl by the register. She asked what it was for. It was for sick children or something like that. Sara wanted to put money in the box. One day some time later, we were in McDonald's and she found a 5 dollar bill on the floor. We asked the only person nearby if it was his and he said no. So, I told Bug it was hers since she found it. She got so excited about that money. Before I knew what she was doing, she ran over to the register and stuffed the money into the Ronald McDonald House collection box. It never even occurred to her to spend a dime on herself. One lesson Sara somehow learned early was that we should love everyone. She isn't always great at it...but who is? Sara is my independent child. Many times, she will do the complete opposite of what she is told or asked to do. My wife and I have jokingly said to ourselves that when we want Sara to do something, we should tell her not to do it. You know how there is always a line that shouldn't be crossed? Well, Sara was put on Earth to test those lines. Even when the line is explicitly defined by her Mom, or me, or whoever, Sara Bug will push the line just to see if it moves. She was in kindergarten this year. Her teacher gave a daily mark on a calendar for how her day went. Smiley faces, straight faces, and, of course, sad faces. It took Sara a while (to Thanksgiving) to get into a smiley face rhythm. The accompanying notes (sometimes epistles) would invariably explain that Sara was too bossy, or that she tried to take over the teacher's job. That's my girl! Bug was born to be the boss. God must have some idea of how I can do a good job with Sara Bug. I worry about that. I'm glad He doesn't.

Both of my children have been saved. I can't tell you how important it is for me to know that, while God has entrusted Phillip & Sara to me for a season, He has adopted them into His family in Glory. Sara asked Jesus into her heart just a few weeks ago. Phillip was saved when he was 6. That is great news, obviously. Some parents might rest in thinking they have done what God would have them do. But that is not all there is to it. Now, I need to take my role as Dad to the next level. We don't believe in "Fire Insurance" salvation in our home. We believe that Jesus calls us to a love relationship with Him. Bug already knows she should love everyone. Now she needs to learn how Jesus loves her and wants to show His love in and through her. Phillip has been saved a while longer, and he is beginning to show some growth. He likes to read the Bible. I love to listen to him read. Once in a while, he has an "Aha! moment" as he is reading. His eyes light up with understanding as he connects what God is saying to his own experiences.

Phillip & Sara have the best Dad around. I look forward to seeing them grow in life as well as in the Lord. This Sunday, when we celebrate Father's Day together, I want to give God the glory for giving me the chance to be a Dad. It is an incredible responsibility. But it is also a joy. My kids make me smile, they make me laugh, and they even make me cry. There is much that I have to look forward to with them. I hope to see Phillip grow up and use his talents to the glory of the Lord. I suspect Sara will grow up and take care of people. Her mother says she could become a lawyer because she argues so well. Where ever she ends up, I'm pretty sure she will be in charge. I pray that the best Father of all will hold my hand and guide me as I try to be the best Dad I can be.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Journey Through the Book

Have you ever read a book you just couldn't put down; A story so well written that you simply had to keep reading to find out how things turned out? For as long as I can remember, I have been an avid reader. I love to read stories about interesting people, in interesting places, doing interesting things. I judge an author's work by the way it draws me into the world between its pages. A well written book takes me to breath taking places, shows me the hearts of its characters, and causes me to react emotionally as though the events and actions personally affect me. A good book makes me laugh out loud, sit on the edge of my seat in suspense, hope for the best possible outcome, and even cry...heartbroken over love lost. A good book invites me to be an active participant; traveling along to its conclusion. A good book leaves a lasting impression on me. The characters become important enough to me that I care about what happens to them.

There have been a number of books that I have read through the years that stand out as landmark books in my life. As a boy I read The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster. I remember it as the first novel I ever read. I was inspired to read it by my fourth grade teacher, Dr. Demont. She read it to the class. We all sat and listened as Milo toured the Lands Beyond in his little electric car. He met many strange and wonderful characters along the way. In a land of uncertainty, he went courageously forward. I felt as though I was a passenger riding along with Milo and Tock, the watch dog, travelling through the countryside. Sometime later I got myself a copy so I could take the journey again.

Several years later, another landmark book became a sort of life saver in a difficult time of my young adult life. The book was Piers Anthony's The Magic of Xanth. At the time, I was living with a girlfriend under less than perfect circumstances. The relationship was pretty much dead to everyone but me. I was struggling (alone) against hope to keep things together. I was the only one committed to the relationship. I was behind in the rent, and we were a few weeks from being evicted. My father and I had a falling out over the woman I was so "in love" with. I was working in a job I hated with no future. I can't remember another time in which I was ever as unhappy as I was during those months. Then one day I met a man who lived in our building. Out of the blue he offered to let me borrow his copy of the Xanth book. I took the book home and started to read. In no time I was captured by the magic. I read it at home and even took it to work with me to read on my breaks. The story was so incredibly good that it literally occupied my every thought whether sleeping or waking. At work, while doing the mindless tasks of the job, I would think of the people and events of which I had read thus far. Over the next several days, all that I had been trying to hold together, my relationship, my home, my job, everything...began falling apart. But the impact of the losses was blunted by the The Magic of Xanth. The pain was somehow dulled by the fact that I was so involved in the lives of Bink, Chameleon, King Trent, and others. To this day, I am convinced that the man was an angel. God knew what I needed to get me through the mess I was in.

Through the course of my life I have read many, many books. Some books are so good that I can read them again and again. Of these, my absolute favorite work of fiction is J. R. R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings. I guess you might say that, to me, the best books are the ones that take you on a life changing journey through excitement, joy, love, adversity, pain, and even death.

Considering all the books I have read, none has the potential to impact my life as dramatically as God's holy word, the Bible. The Bible is vastly superior to any other book. It is alive and powerful. I can read The Hobbit a dozen times and the same actions will play out each and every time. But as the Spirit of God works in my life, the Bible can speak to me in a hundred different ways and still never exhaust its potential. Ironically, in spite of the limitless ways in which the Bible can teach me; no matter how many twists there may be in the plot of my life, I find that I allow the world's stories around me to crowd the Bible out. This is perhaps the greatest burden of my life. So much depends on how well I know the Jesus of the Bible. It seems wreckless to allow anything to cause me to stop reading. He is waiting there in the pages to show me how much He loves me. He wants to show me how big He can be in my life.

You see, the Bible is much more than a book. Sure, there are characters to love and some to hate. There are adventures to take, battles to fight, lands to conquer, friends to make, heroes to pull for, and villains to see defeated. But the Bible is also a conversation. Through His Word, Jesus, the Son of God invites me to interact with Him in a personal relationship. He reveals Himself to me as the sole provider for the life He intended me to have. He teaches me to have faith in the Father. His faith enabled Him to be victorious over the world. He offers that same faith to me so that I might have victory in my own life. He won't force it on me. It is mine for the taking.

My prayer is that the Bible will come to fill my every thought whether waking or sleeping. I pray that the Holy Spirit will draw me close and speak to me; teaching me to have faith in the Hero of my life. I pray that the Jesus of the story will shield me from the hurts the world would send my way. I would ask that Jesus teach me to surrender my life and will to follow His. His Word proves that He makes a much better hero than I. As I journey through life, I want to journey with the one who authored it in the first place. His vision for the ending is so much better than I could do without Him.