Bittersweet

Supply lines are incredibly important. Tim Cook revolutionized the supply lines at Apple helping make it into the amazingly successful consumer electronics company it is today. In the military, wars have been won and lost because of supply line issues. If the front line gets too far ahead of their supply line, their progress will be slowed dramatically. If the supplies get too far ahead, they risk vulnerability and capture by the enemy. Continue reading “Bittersweet”

You Don’t Know What You’ve Done

To whom it may concern,

I don’t know who you are, but I owe you some significant thanks, and because simply saying, “Thank you” is not enough, I want to share this story of grace with you.

Last week, I logged into our Seminary’s online management tool to check into a class I was awaiting a syllabus on. Our classes for the Spring semester began yesterday, Monday the 11th. Upon logging in I saw the familiar alert exclamation points near the top of the screen, but this time something was different. Continue reading “You Don’t Know What You’ve Done”

The Struggle

The cost of sin is life
against which we strive.
Both life, and with it sin,
the struggle here within.

Salvation from shackles and chains,
in Christ only freedom remains.
But with chains we continue to play,
trying to make white out of justified grey.

Greater joy remains, yet, for those,
where love and obedience grows.
White fields and orchards ripe,
in Heaven, our greatest delight.

Trusting

To not know and continue walking
resting on God’s living Word, is
unsustainable in my own strength.
Seeking the joy of obedience,
the Glory of God shines bright.
In the dark we know he is leading: we strive to
never waver off the straight path before us,
God is working out His perfect will.

Un-Fiction

One month from today, you too can enjoy Waiting for Unicorns. Here is a glimpse of how it is hitting us as we read an advance copy.

The current read aloud at my house is apparently pretty good. I haven’t been around for much of it at all. I think a partial chapter at the beginning and now a chapter from the middle.

Paula reads it to our children, and you can hear the different voices of the characters as she reads. This work of fiction, though, is deeper than words and the paper they are printed on. She tries to hold back tears as she reads and she has to pause at times to swallow and continue. You know a story is impactful when these kinds of things happen. I put a hand on her leg, affectionate support, as she reads out loud while we drive. There is a resonance in this story that plucks a string of pain in her heart. “This book…” she swallows back more tears. She continues to read and my own heart is wrenched. I know the pain in her heart, and I can hear it in the words she reads, so descriptive and poignant. We’re at a part where the protagonist is remembering things. Hard things to remember, memories so real they feel like they are happening again as you recall the details, and the detail is lined out in this text. I’m there in the room that is described as Paula is reading. The world fades away, and it’s just me, the protagonist, and her mother. I feel defiance rise up in my throat against the threats I’m hearing joining with the story and the struggle, and tears well up in my own eyes as the picture of love that is being described in my ears. It is dangerous for me to drive like this. I’m going to have to pull my life over to experience the entire work in its fullness. A tear escapes Paula’s eyes and narrowly misses the rim of her glasses as it rolls down her cheek and onto the seat belt across her chest. This is real. The most real fiction I’ve heard in some time.

Thank you, Beth.

 

Identity

This morning, Paula and I loaded up the kids in the car and headed over to a couple’s house who are in our small group. We spent the morning helping them finish packing for a cross country move. They are using one of those pods that get dropped off in your driveway and you fill it up. Two other families from our small group came and helped. We all loaded up the pod with everything that they had packed in less time than expected. We finished well before lunch, and we got the joy of being a blessing to some dear friends one more time before they move away.

My mind was awash with so many things. I had to compartmentalize so much of what was going on in my head in hopes of gaining better focus on the task at hand. Since Paula and I have moved at least 13 times in our nearly 16 years of marriage, we’ve gotten pretty good at moving over the years. I was reflecting about the events of the day when I realized something about how the way the day went in respect to the kids.

They were quite well behaved today, and we often receive praise for their good behavior. A trait that I pray continues for years to come. But the thing I noticed while reflecting on the day was how I watch them. I’m like a hawk, even with my compartmentalized thinking on the task at hand, I am watching to make sure they are performing up to snuff. If they get out of line, I pounce on them verbally to make sure they notice what is going on and shift their behavior to fit the occasion. “How is what you are doing helping with what we are currently doing?” “Are you being helpful right now?” With so much work to do, and with their young capable bodies, I wanted to make sure they were assisting. Even my youngest helped holding doors open and shuffling boxes from the garage to the loading area and into the pod.

They all did a great job, but as I look back I have a few things I need to critique, and they have nothing to do with my kids and everything to do with me.

Why is it that I watch them like a hawk? My quickest response is that as their father, I am responsible for helping mold and guide them to send them out in life. Pointing out their faults is important to help them learn and grow from their mistakes and errors. No one would argue with this answer. It is a good answer. If I’m honest, this is only half of the truth, and it may just be the attractive facade of the truth.

The ugly core of the truth is that I take their behavior, good and bad, to be a reflection of my identity. If they are behaving well, then I get to look good. If they are not behaving well, then I look bad.

The reality is that heir behavior is not an overflow of my heart, it is an overflow of their own hearts, and I can’t control what is going on in their hearts. God is the creator of their hearts, and knows their inmost being better than I do. (Psalm 139:13-16) Their heart motives are between themselves and God. My role as their parent is to help point them to Christ in everything, behavior included. The problem is that so much of the time, however, I do it because I don’t want them to make me look bad. This reality then, casts light on the true condition of my own heart. I’m an idolator, and the idol on the throne of my heart, when I do things with this motive, is a graven image of Jonathan Davis. I want to look good, and I’m using my kids to make that happen.

I need to be pointing myself to Christ in these situations. I need my heart changing to be more like Christ’s, and continually becoming a new creation. (2 Corinthians 3:18) The Gospel of Jesus gives me freedom to find my identity in what He did on the cross, saving me from my sin and putting his righteousness upon me. In this gracious freedom, I don’t have to be a slave to finding my identity in how my kids are behaving at any given moment.

Once the log is out of my own eye (Matthew 7:3-5) and I’ve got my identity right, then I can help show them the amazing grace of what Jesus did for their sins too.

Genesis 1:2

The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. (Genesis 1:2 ESV)

Such anticipation of what would come, such excitement. After this statement, God starts to create before our very eyes. The world he created is the same one we enjoy today. We breath air he made. Every cell of blood that flows through our body, he made. He is poised here, ready to leap into action. Not content to let this formless void of a world remain. He was hovering over the face of the waters in the beginning and he’s never left. He’s still here!

Raise

“You need a raise.”

“I need what?”

“You need a raise.”

This was a new conversation for me to have. We’ve struggled with money before, and more money would mean getting out of debt faster, but this really seemed to come out of left field. Suddenly we don’t make enough money? We’ve survived on less than half of what I make now, and I’d keep working here even if they cut my pay, but then again, I love this job, so my judgment is clouded. My wife’s argument is that I’ve been working hard for four years and it’s time for a raise. I think I could predict how the conversation will go if I were to bring it up and maybe I should, but then again, maybe I shouldn’t

As with most conflict, the issue that is brought up is rarely the real issue. Something deeper is at stake. I’ve been gone from home for most evenings the past two weeks on an install. I also have been dedicating a great deal of my free time to other activities.
I’ve been doing all these good things, but perhaps, I’ve been forsaking some primary things. My time in the word and prayer for the past couple of weeks hasn’t been where it needs to be. I haven’t spent time with my kids like I should, and my wife thinks I’m someone between a distant cousin and an all-out stranger.

Does this sound familiar? Sure it does, it’s called life as a Technical Director.
I didn’t make a vow before God and witnesses to work for my boss as hard as I possibly could for the rest of my life. I made a covenant with God and my wife. She’s an amazing gift and beyond what I deserve. I made a commitment to her to love her as Christ loves the church. Legitimizing family neglect because of ministry is heresy.

My first ministry is to my wife and kids. I’m their pastor before any other call God has put on my life. When my relationships at home start to suffer because of ministry, I’m sacrificing my family on the altar of pride. I’m worshiping in the temple of work and getting things done, rather than taking joy in the wife of my youth and finding my satisfaction in my relationship with Christ. You might bring up the argument that ministry is service to Christ, and you’re right, but let me remind you about what David wrote in Psalm 51…

O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise. For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it; you will not be pleased with a burnt offering. (Psalm 51:15-16 ESV)

David knew about sacrifice, but he also knew a ritualistic act couldn’t save him. Look at verse 17.

The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise. (Psalm 51:17 ESV)

David saw in his own heart that he was far from God, and God showed him the solution. A broken spirit and a contrite heart were greater than the blood of goats and lambs. Abiding in Christ, living a Christian life, and serving the church is about a heart relationship.
I need to care for my family above my work because this relational care is the model that Christ has given us of how he loves his church. If I love Christ’s church, then I’ll live out the best model I can of Christ’s love for it, beginning with my wife, followed by my children, and continuing to my neighbors.

The only way for me to live this out effectively is by letting it all be an overflow of my relationship with Jesus. So where does my job fit into this whole equation? The things that I love to do, making audio, video, and lighting merge into a beautiful looking and sounding invitation into experiencing God’s glory, is also an overflow. But it has to come after a properly cared for family or it’s just work and an idol of my own making.

Let’s show Christ our undying affection, and find our complete satisfaction in him through prayer and the word. Let’s take the overflow of that relationship and lavish it on our families, and THEN let’s work as unto the Lord with the strength he supplies to his everlasting glory. This joy is more than money can buy, and no raise would be enough for me to give up the great joy of serving God through leading my family.

Free

At our home, we’ve been on a debt crushing vendetta. When you enter college, the government requires that you take a short course on school loan payback. The idea is to remind you that the money you’re borrowing to attend school actually comes from somewhere and has to be paid back. I knew the time was coming, but I wasn’t aware that it would impact my heart so much. Regardless, now that we are working to pay it all back as quickly as possible, our budget has a new appreciation for cheap and free items. Continue reading “Free”