A Father’s Day

Fatherhood doesn't always look like this.
My Father’s Day began around midnight on I-95, crawling through construction traffic, on the way home from a performance where a grand total of 5 people attended.
It continued with arriving home, taking the illuminated phone out of my sleeping teen’s hand, turning off the lights, locking up the house, and prepping for today’s service.
It does not look like many of the pictures you will see today, with smiling children next to proud, smiling fathers.
It looks like work.
It looks like missing some moments.
It looks like a struggle.
Of course, the pictures that we will see represent all those hours, some of which I am experiencing at this moment.
Please don’t misunderstand. I believe time with my children is the greatest and most important part of fatherhood.
But it isn’t the only one.
It is also the hours away. The times no one sees. Where no photographer is ready to capture the perfect moment of being a dad.
Those hours I know that my dad spent, late nights at a dental office that he started and kept running year after year; nights where I knew he would come home tired and needing rest.
Those hours where I’m sure the one thing he did not want to do was the thing he did.
Stay faithful.
Provide.
Make a way financially so that he could spend the time he wanted to spend with his family later on.
I think of the fathers called away to battle. The fathers on the front lines of assembly lines. Those that never got the chance to have the children rush into their arms.
And I realize I’m blessed.
I may not have every moment I want to have with my family.
But I will treasure every one, while working to fulfill every responsibility this role presents to me.
Because the picture I want my kids to see is a complete one.
One where they see me having fun with them, and also one where they see the dedication necessary to provide for them.
I pray every father will also know every moment, both those with your children, and those where you have to be away, are important.
Thank you, Dad, for fulfilling both of these roles extremely well.
I see a little bit of you in myself at this moment.
And it feels good.

A reminder to remember

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memories-407021_1280As we near the end of another academic year and my middle son’s impending graduation, I’m struck by the speed at which time has passed. It seems we started this family-learning journey just yesterday, yet it has been almost 10 years since we began. After moving our family 3 times, a plethora of career changes and many curricula switches, much of our homeschool past has faded into the recesses of my memory. But I haven’t forgotten everything.

I still remember how scary the word ‘homeschool’ once was.

I still remember the looks my teaching colleagues gave me when I said we were taking our kids out of public school. 

I still remember not knowing what to do first. Or second. Or at all. 

I still remember my timid entrance into the first co-op, surrounded by well-meaning but slightly confused moms trying to figure out what I was doing there without my wife. 

I still remember the weeks that I was sure the kids were learning absolutely nothing. 

I still remember my wife and I debating if we had made a mistake. 

However, I also remember how our children found their stride. 

I remember how they grew in confidence and in their ability to overcome challenges. 

I remember lots of laughter. Lots of time to enjoy our children. Lots of unexpected joy. 

And I can’t forget to remember, now that we’re nearing the end. Because that memory is what makes the next chapter of our family-learning so exciting.

I can’t wait to see what I’ll have to remember to remember next.

Battery Drain

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I put six batteries in a keyboard I was using. When I went to turn on the device, it had no power. I quickly assumed the batteries were dead, and threw all six away.
I went and got another six batteries. Again there was no power. But this time I checked the batteries and found I hadn’t pressed one all the way in. Of course, once the loose one was secure in its slot, the power came on.
I wonder how many times I’ve done that with God’s promises.
I installed them in my life, expecting immediate results. When I didn’t see the lights of success come on immediately, I threw out the entire bunch, rather than check to see if I simply hadn’t pressed hard enough.
I may have thrown out perfectly good promises because I neglected to press.
Fathers, mothers, families: Don’t throw out God’s promises for your children. Our power is limited. His is limitless. We just need to check the connection.
#LessonsFromABattery

Our Homeschooling Goal for 2015

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As we begin a new calendar year of homeschooling (we’ve been homeschooling since 2006), my family continues to have the same struggles that most home-school families go through. We worry over schedules, completed assignments, whether our kids have made adequate progress in their studies, and whether they will be prepared for college if they choose to go.

All of these issues are important to manage in the short term.  But the most pressing question we ask ourselves every year is, “Is our home-school helping our children to fulfill their purpose and destiny in life?”

As if that were an easy question to answer.

Even though my wife and I are tempted to focus on the ‘what, when and where’ of educating our children, the focus must be continue to be on the ‘why.’ Why is it that they need to be able to discern truth and beauty, and why is their spiritual growth even more important than their intellectual growth?  It’s because we believe they are not just preparing for a career, but for a calling.

The skills our children gain through studies of various subjects will help them to succeed in the workplace and in our modern culture. But the development of their character and their God-given gifts will provide the foundation for their divine purpose. I can’t determine the success of our home-school by their acceptance to a college, or when they are hired for their first job. These things are just tools that their Father will use as they pursue their true calling – to glorify Him through a selfless and joy-filled life dedicated to serving others in whatever capacity He designed for them.

Of course we have educational milestones we’d like our kids to reach, and we’ll continue to challenge them intellectually. However, if at the end of this year, our children are closer to God and more confident in utilizing the gifts that He blessed them with, then we will have achieved our primary goal for 2015. If we seek the Kingdom first in our home-school, then, as Matthew 6:33 promises, all these ‘things’ we often worry about will be added in due time.

Comments welcome: What goals have you set for your family this year? How do you plan to achieve them? 

September 11th – All I can Say

Nothing and everything.
Those words sum up what resonates in my heart on this anniversary of the September 11th attacks.
Nothing I can say or post will measure up to the bravery and selfless sacrifice of those that gave their lives that day.
Nothing we can do will lessen the pain of those that lost loved ones in this act of cruelty.
Nothing can explain why these things occurred.
Nothing can reason away the hate that such an act required.
But everything that we do from this moment on matters.
Everything we say to our loved ones, everyday, should be in love and in recognition of the fragility of life.
Everything that this day represents should hold special place in our hearts, and must not be reserved for any party or persuasion.
Everything that our loved ones gave on that day, and on battlefields foreign and domestic since that day, can only be properly honored by our dedicating ourselves to living lives worthy of their sacrifice.

When Words (including these) Aren’t Enough

To someone that has lost a loved one in the service of our country, I can only imagine that a Memorial Day social media post may seem a paltry effort to offer thanks and honor for that ultimate sacrifice. 

I know each person that does so, including me, does so in good faith in an attempt to honor our fallen soldiers. But I admit it feels unworthy. 

It may even be seen as a trite and simplistic way for those of us that has not endured that pain to assuage the ‘guilt’ we feel as we enjoy a day off. While those that have winced as three volley salutes were fired, and cried tears over flag-draped caskets, have to bear another day remembering the lives that they can no longer share a happy memory with, we that enjoy that blood-bought freedom can blithely post an American flag on social media and go about our merry way to our BBQ’s and beach days. 

No, a social media post or American flag cannot provide the proper honor. Nor can a parade. Nor a monument. 

Lincoln knew this when he wrote the words, “We cannot consecrate – we cannot dedicate – we cannot hallow this ground” as he attempted to speak words of honor on a battlefield where thousands paid an ultimate sacrifice for lives they would never see, and captives they would never know were freed. 

The only legitimate way to honor a person that has given up everything to serve a cause is to dedicate my life to that same cause. 

One can only judge whether I have honored those that have fallen by the fruits of the life I live, that their service allows me to live. 

Only if I stand boldly for the ideals they died for in the face of criticism and accusation; only if my children are taught that our rights are not given by decree or political whim, but ordained by divine Providence and protected only by the diligence of the citizen and the soldier; and only if I choose to make the song “God Bless America” more than lip-service, but rather work tirelessly in my daily life to make sure America is a land God would desire to bless, can I truly say that I honor those that gave their lives in battles both foreign, and domestic. 

And so, my Memorial Day tribute does not start, or end, with this post. It is only a reminder to myself of what it means to honor those that gave all. 

Lincoln states this better than I ever could. 

“It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us – that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they here gave the last full measure of devotion – that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain – that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom – and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.” 

The words aren’t enough. But to those that have lost a loved one in the service of our country, I pray that our lives demonstrate in some small way the level of gratitude we feel towards you and the sacrifice your dear one made for us.

The Wisest Day of the Year

 

I recently caught the flu. It was a miserable few days of aches and pains, sleepless nights and myriad medicines. Image

It was not improved by the well meaning but constant barrage of tips and advice from both family and perfect strangers on the best ways to combat this illness. It seems when we see someone trying to fight through something, we all become experts on that topic.

Such it is with the coming of a new year.

At the end of the year, everyone becomes a poet, a scholar, a historian, an alliterative genius. Even prophetic gifts are bestowed on those that haven’t read a passage from Isaiah since last Easter. We all seem to gain perspective and wisdom, and we can’t wait to share it. Just one glance at your Facebook or Twitter feed today is all the evidence you need. 

It certainly isn’t a bad thing to be reflective. But I wonder why we feel this urge to become wise and reflective from one 24 hour period to the next.  It’s common knowledge that most of our resolutions and revelations will be forgotten in a few weeks, yet we feel we must make some assessment of the past and a declaration for the future. It almost feels wrong not to do so. 

I believe God gave us a desire to know and share the wisdom that time provides us. We are innately aware of the principles of Ecclesiastes – “To everything there is a season” – and of Psalm 90:12, where Moses opines on our mortality, then asks God to “teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom”. Every human being understands that as time passes we are supposed to gain wisdom from our lives’ experience on how to live better. 

The problem is that time was never supposed to be our only teacher. 

As we were originally created, we were supposed to live eternally. Sin made that eternity a promise we would have to wait for. God saw that we didn’t learn what we needed to learn in our chance with eternity, so He gave us a tutor – time. Eternity is no longer an unbroken reality for us, but Ecclesiastes also states that ‘God set eternity in our hearts’. So, we know we are supposed to have an eternal view of life, yet we are cornered into a finite, time – based view of our reality. Now, like any  patient but frustrated tutor , Time tries to teach us what we could have learned from the Father directly, simply by listening to Him. 

Even with this gracious gift of wisdom, we then make another costly mistake, which makes all the pithy sayings and New Year’s declarations sound hollow. We make Time our ultimate teacher, and forget the Creator of time. Sure, we number our days, but we forget that Moses started the verse as a request to God to  “TEACH US”.  We apply our hearts to our OWN wisdom, and not His. That’s why I feel all the words we hear seem to fade quickly, with no staying power. We are lost in a swirl of good wishes, ideas, and hopes for every season that have nothing to do with our eternal destiny, because we traded out the wisdom of the Father for the temporary wisdom of a calendar and life experience. 

Times and seasons become our new idols, and the creator of Time is lost in the shuffle of grand expectations that, in the light of eternity, really don’t matter very much. 

I’m not knocking speaking good words over a season or a new year. I’m simply reminding myself that if I don’t acknowledge God’s command over my life and the times of my life, all my New Year’s declarations are just a crutch that will fail me just like any other earthly source of encouragement. 

If I don’t remember to worship the God of the season, then the season becomes my god. 

So as we read all the great things that we expect from 2014, just take a deep breath and realize that God doesn’t stress out during a earthly calendar page turn. What happens in the next year won’t be a surprise to Him, and therefore you can relax if you don’t have a witty promise to repeat, or a new revelation to declare over the year. If you are are a follower of Jesus, you can be content with the words He said as he left earth approximately 1,981 years ago. 

“And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”  

I think “always” includes 2014. That makes it a Happy New Year.