More Than Just the Talk – A Book Review

more than just the talkWhen I was young and reaching the age when boys begin to notice things they didn’t notice before, my dad handed me a book and said, “Read this. If you have any questions, ask your mother.” That was my first exposure to sex education. Of course, the sterile book that they had handed me was nothing compared to the stimulating conversation that I would find among my peers and classmates during reading group time at school. Unfortunately, words in black and white hardly prepared me or educated me in the same way that conversations about blow jobs did with my friends.

That was a long time ago and the times have certainly changed. Sure, that’s a phrase that most every generation seems to use on the one that comes behind them, but in the realm of sexuality, there is not much question that what we are experiencing today is unparalleled compared to what we had seen before. What was once forbidden and not talked about is generally plastered on the front page of the papers or “rag sheets” in the checkout aisle of the grocery store. Whereas, once upon a time it might have been acceptable and even effective for parents to have one talk about sex with their children, that one talk is no longer enough. It has to be a conversation that lasts not minutes, but months and years.

Jonathan McKee makes his living researching youth culture and speaking to and writing about youth. I was exposed to him when he came and spoke at a youth weekend at my church. He’s the real deal, not pulling any punches in presenting the hard facts about youth and the youth culture of today. While there were times that he felt a little “salesman-y,” his material was spot on, informative, and relevant.

In his book “More Than Just the Talk,” he presents research and statistics that some parents might not be comfortable in addressing. The extent to which the youth of today is bombarded with sexual information is astounding as compared to the past. A sexual lifestyle and the glorification of sexual promiscuity and licentiousness is everywhere: books, magazines, movies, music, and even video games. McKee gives just a few examples of just how explicitly this is the case. He says that kids will learn about sex regardless of whether or not their parents tell them, so shouldn’t it be up to parents to present them with information before they find it out for themselves?

Because of the vast difference between the culture of today and the culture in which most parents grew up, there is a tendency to overreact when faced with today’s culture. McKee encourages parents not to overreact but to interact. In fact, he repeats this over and over again throughout the book. Overreaction results in your children thinking that this will be the reaction every time they bring something to you, causing them to go elsewhere with questions, concerns, and problems.

McKee stands firm on the principle that sex is a beautiful thing which was designed to be enjoyed by a man and a woman in marriage. With humor and biblical support, McKee presents his case for constant conversation between parents and children when it comes to the area of sex, intimacy, marriage, and all things relating to these issues. He aims right at the questions and issues that are most facing the youth of today, taking whole chapters to deal with tough questions that are based upon questions that he has heard from youth who have heard his talks or who have read his blog.

He explores the ideas of how far is too far, of how to address your son and daughter individually regarding sexuality, masturbation, same sex relationships, fleeing sexual temptations, pornography, surviving past mistakes, and more.

While there are occasions that he might come across somewhat preachy or even self-promoting, one must realize that this is what he does for a living and also realize that self-promotion shouldn’t be frowned upon when the information that is being offered and shared is as relevant as the information McKee shares.

Jonathan McKee presents his case from a Christian and biblical point of view, so some might come to this book with a different worldview and disagree with some of what he says. Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. While that is the lens through which he looks, speaks, and shares, he doesn’t hesitate to use current and relevant statistics and information from the medical community to support these views. Even he admits that “the Bible tells me so” won’t get you very far when it comes to convincing today’s youth of the appropriate approach towards sex, sexuality, and sexual relationships.

Some of the material in this book might be shocking and after reading it, I can understand how McKee has encountered parents who simply throw up their hands in surrender to say, “This is too much, I can’t do this” in regards to guiding and directing their children in this area. It’s not always the most comfortable read nor are the statistics particularly encouraging, but the information and helpful considerations that McKee presents in this book can go a long way in helping to begin conversations with youth that will help them to address issues with you rather than apart from you.

(This review is based upon a copy of this book which was provided free of charge from Bethany House. These opinions are my own; I was not required to write a positive review, nor was I compensated for this review.)

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A Racing Accomplishment

2015-03-28 11.32.10When I went to the doctor back in November, I had known something needed to change for a while. I had been operating at such an unsustainable level that I knew that there was a breaking point in my not too distant future. Turns out I was right.

While the doctor didn’t paint any grave picture of my health, I have an easy time doing that just fine myself. I can admit that I gravitate towards being a hypochondriac. Anyone who knows me well enough knows about all of my ailments. Even my good friend said to me the other day, “You just have to have at least one ailment at any given time, don’t you?” Yup, that sounds about right. The jury may still be out as to whose fault these ailments are and whether or not I exaggerate, but there are certain things that you just can’t exaggerate.

It was almost as if I had just been looking for an excuse to get my butt in motion. Now, I’ve never been a big runner in my life. I did track when I was in high school, but I mostly did field events and if I ran, it was never more than a 400. Distance was never my thing, I was a sprinter. But I still thought that running might be the way to go. Running is big in my community and it seemed like the best way to start.

And start I did. I had a friend draw up a training plan and schedule for me and I was off. I ran three or four times a week. I ran in the rain, I rain in the cold, I had the beard icicles to prove it. I was determined.

As one of those “creative” type people, I’ve never been big on early mornings. Early mornings were reserved for travel, sunrises, and people who loved those things. Late nights were my zone. In college, grad school, and seminary I would stay up into the wee hours of the night. My productivity level seemed to go up as the night waned on.

I made a few efforts to run in the evenings but it just never worked. I think my energy level was gone by the time the evening hours came around. So, I set off to get up before anyone else was up in order to run. Once I got into the rhythm, I just went with it.

I can’t say that I really enjoy running. I enjoyed the time allowed for the discipline of running, but I don’t have a gift for running and other than the time alone out in the dark while the world is waking up, there’s not a whole lot appealing to me about running.

I have friends who are talented runners, it seems that running comes naturally to them. Me, not so much. I had to work to try to get myself to a pace which barely beats other people’s walking pace. I wasn’t running for records, I was running to get myself in gear and moving towards a healthier lifestyle.

My friend told me to sign up for a 10K in Richmond as I started out. I thought to myself, “6 miles? Really?” Biking 6 miles was never a problem, but like I said, distance was never my thing and I didn’t even know if I could run a mile, let alone six.

Pride can be a very good motivator and it certainly proved to be just that. I wanted to make sure that if I did this race, I would finish and I wouldn’t have to stop and walk along the way.

I trained and trained, and trained some more. I found that I was able to do more than I thought that I could. With the help of social media, I had a lot of people supporting me, tracking me as I posted my weekly runs. I got advice from people who had been doing this way longer than I had, I got encouragement from others who had been before where I was now. I was spurred on to better things with the support of the digital world.

Driving downtown Richmond on Saturday morning, making my way towards the beginning of the race, there were butterflies in my stomach. That’s not something that happens to me very often, I just don’t generally get nervous about things, but it was actually not the first time that I had experienced that over the weekend (but that’s another post).

Where do you put 30,000 people?

Everywhere!

The city was bustling and billowing with all the people. Even for an extrovert like me, it was a little overwhelming and intimidating, especially for the first time.

I met up with my buddy who had been my informal coach. He had offered to run the race with me, which would set him back substantially from his normal pace. Quite a sacrifice, I thought. It’s nice to have friends like that.

He stayed with me the entire race, past mile marker after mile marker, looking back to make sure he hadn’t lost me, to make sure that I was still there and hadn’t stopped.

Mile 1…Mile 2….Mile 3….Mile 4….

There were costumes everywhere too, it was part of the culture of this particular race. He spotted a panda bear and made his way over to me. “You’re not going to let a panda beat you, are you?”

Of course not. How could I?

Keep running…..keep running!

And so, I kept going and going….all the way to the finish line….and the panda didn’t beat me!!!

I had set my sights fairly low, like I mentioned, simply wanting to finish and not walk any of the course. Secretly I had wanted to try to finish in less than an hour, but that didn’t happen. It took me just under 5 additional minutes to get it done.

But I look back and see that I was able to accomplish something that I had set out to do. Not winning any awards, true, but personally, it was a victory for me, and you know what, I might just have caught the bug.

Someone’s mentioned another race in just a few weeks, and while I’m signed up for a shorter one in less than 2 months, another 10K in between might be something that I can do. After all, I’ve come this far, why stop now?

A Journey of Grace

It’s been a while since I’ve written anything substantial here, at least it feels like that to me. Part of that has been due to this season with so much going on, preparation for this thing or that thing, involvement with the kids, being consumed by work. It’s been hard for me to find space to breathe lately and I feel like I’ve been running and running, but I can always find time to write.

I guess that part of the problem is there have been some things weighing on my mind lately. I continue to look around me and see or experience conflict. Ironically, I’ve been reviewing a book for a publisher that deals with that very issue. I snickered to myself when it came in the mail a few weeks ago. It was one of those moments where I was like, “Did I really agree to review this? What was I thinking?”

As I get older, I realize just how much of life is living in tension. I’ve said before that tension can be a very good thing when it’s used properly. It can lead to growth when we use it for our good. At the same time, as an engineer, I know that tension can lead to failure and destruction. Too much tension not applied properly or without any relief can be deadly and detrimental to moving forward.

In the world of social media, I find myself blessed to have a wide array of friends from all of my various walks of life. Childhood friends, high school friends, college friends, Asheville friends, Richmond friends, camp friends, seminary friends, and probably many more. It’s always amusing to see the diversity there and try to remember the ways that I originally connected with these people to begin with.

In the midst of the diversity, not only culturally but ideologically and even theologically, it’s sometimes hard to ride that tension. I’ve never been a big fan of dropping electronic grenades, you know, leaving comments out there that do nothing to promote conversation or invite dialogue. I would much rather engage in a conversation with someone (even if it has to be done digitally) to try to work through the tension.

I’m grateful for the many times that people have engaged me in areas where they disagree with something that I’ve written or said. Those times have been among the most memorable, beneficial, and growing for me personally. I’m grateful that people thought highly enough of me that they could come at me with something. I know that I’ve not always handled myself impeccably, but I’ve tried to exercise grace as much as possible along the journey.

The chasm between those with differing world views has seemed to grow wider and wider, which is not unexpected. You begin to learn and understand the “safe zones” where you can tread without fear of offense or extreme tension.   Living in the commonalities can propel relationships to a certain level and in the social media world, that can keep you going for a while.

But what happens when the chasm begins to grow for those with similar worldviews, or at least a claim to similar world views? What happens when you find out that your definitions don’t match the definitions of others who consider themselves to espouse the same system of beliefs that you espouse?

All too often, my own experience has seen people move to resolve their own tensions in these situations as quickly as possible. Usually, it’s a line in the sand, it’s a black and white statement that clearly divides rather than unites. There is no dialogue, there are just harsh statements that don’t invite conversation but rather ostracize and inflame. Ironic that in an effort to resolve tensions they usually end up more inflamed.

The place where I have been in recent days is that tension of not knowing what to say, of how to respond or react, of how to engage with grace and love. I constantly ask myself the question, “What am I missing?” It seems like human nature to assume that the other person is always wrong and we’re right, the antithesis is too humble, right? So, I try to ask myself more questions, to explore what I know, to look at things from a different perspective again.

In the waiting time, in the tension, my heart drops. I feel the tension, I feel the divide, the chasm, growing ever wider, separating us, preventing us from seeing eye to eye.

At the end of the day, we may simply agree to disagree. I’ve struggled with that as well. How do relationships survive when we come to that conclusion? Sure, they may fair better than those with deep and dark dividing lines, but it seems that those agreements on our disagreements still change the relationship, they still do something deep down. I don’t know what it is, I could probably figure it out if I really stopped to think about it, but dealing with the tension isn’t comfortable or cozy. Sometimes it feels like being on the bomb squad, just waiting for the moment when something might blow up in your face.

I constantly remind myself of the grace that has been meted out on my behalf. Especially during this Lenten season where we are moving towards something, moving towards a resolution of sorts. Even in that resolution though, there is still tension. The Apostle Paul spoke of the now and not yet and we feel the tension that exists between what is and what will be. Some (or most) would rather one or the other and refuse to live in that tension. I probably ping-pong between the two options more than I would like to admit.

But grace surprises us. Grace offends us. Grace meets us where we are but never leaves us there, at least not if we respond properly to it. Grace moves us along the journey towards betterment, not in ourselves, but through the power of the Holy Spirit.

I’m grateful for grace. It helps me when I fail to embrace the tension in these situations.

In the meantime, I’ll continue to ask the questions, I’ll continue to wonder what I might be missing, I’ll continue to wonder why we can’t see eye to eye. Yes, it might affect my relationships, but I realize that now I only see in part whereas one day I will see face to face. Full redemption, restoration, and renewal will bring with it a lot of “ a ha” moments, I suspect. Until then, I’ll embrace grace as my friend.

Life Is _____ – A Book Review

Life IsAugustine said that our hearts are restless until they find their rest in God. I think Judah Smith would agree with his statement. The tagline for his latest book, “Life Is ______” is, “God’s illogical love will change your existence.” We will not find satisfaction and completeness until we find that in God. We may search in all kinds of places, things, and people, but they will always fall short of what God offers us.

Judah Smith explains that the premise of his book is “that Jesus shows us how to live life to the fullest.” He then proceeds to explain this throughout his book as he breaks it into four sections which complete the “Life Is ______” statement: life is to be loved and to love, life is to trust God in every moment, life is to be at peace with God and yourself, and life is to enjoy God.

With self-deprecating humor, fascinating and personal stories, and simple expositions of Bible passages, Smith explains the Gospel to his reader. He continually points to the things in this world which may claim to offer us satisfaction but explains how these things will always come up short in comparison to what God offers us. He presents the Gospel message, clearly stating that we don’t earn our salvation, it is freely given to us through Jesus Christ. We will always fall short when we try to earn righteousness, which is why we need Jesus.

Life change doesn’t happen through rules and regulations, they don’t create inner motivation. Only Jesus and a relationship with him can accomplish that.

This book isn’t written for someone who wants to dive into something theologically deep. Smith presents things in a simple and easily understood way for those who may be just setting out on a faith journey or who haven’t even begun the journey yet. His clear communication of some essential principles of Christianity are helpful for anyone who always feels as if they are being spoken down to by pastors and teachers of the Bible.

“Life Is _____” was a helpful reminder of our need for a savior and our inability to produce salvation on our own. I would highly recommend it for someone who has not yet met Jesus yet who is experiencing all of the storms that life inevitably throws at them. If you don’t know someone who can benefit from this book, then you’re hanging out with the wrong people!

(This review is based upon a copy of this book which was provided free of charge from Thomas Nelson Publishing. These opinions are my own; I was not required to write a positive review, nor was I compensated for this review.)

Sharing the Burden

In my Bible reading the other day, I was in Exodus 18, a chapter that I’ve probably quickly perused as I was on my way to what seemed to be more significant stories on either side of it. When you see the stories that bookend it, it’s easy to see how it could be passed over. Exodus 17 is when the Lord gives the Israelites water from a rock and when Aaron and Hur hold up Moses’ arms in order that the Israelites might defeat the Amalekites. In Exodus 19, Moses meets the Lord on Mount Sinai for one of his many encounters with him there. But in Exodus 18, Moses receives a visit from his father-in-law, Jethro, the priest of Midian.

Now, many people have different family dynamics and different relationships with their in-laws. I’ve always been blessed to have a good relationship with my wife’s parents, so imagining a visit from my father-in-law isn’t something that conjures images of drudgery or anxiety, it usually means a fun time and quality conversations. Having lost my own father, my wife’s dad is the only earthly father that I have left, making his visits even more significant.

When my wife and I were living near my father-in-law, I would spend time helping him do home projects around our house, learning as much as I possibly could. I was always anxious to gain as much insight and wisdom as I possibly could from my experiences with him, and he was always more than willing to dole out advice as long as anyone would listen.

What struck me as I read through this story this time was not Jethro’s visit to Moses but the advice that he gives. Moses gets up and takes his seat to serve as judge for the people. Moses’ duty was to judge over the people with impartiality as they brought their issues to him. It didn’t take long for Jethro to realize that Moses had to make a change, he couldn’t keep doing this job all by himself. In fact, Jethro’s point is seen clearly in verse 18 when he says, “You and these people who come to you will only wear yourselves out. The work is too heavy for you; you cannot handle it alone.” Jethro encouraged Moses to spread the burden, to share the load with others.

The advice that Jethro gave to Moses is advice that most of us who are in positions of leadership desperately need to hear from others, and probably need to hear even more from ourselves. We need to hear that it’s okay to share the burden, to raise up others who can adequately perform some of the duties that are weighing us down. We need to realize that it’s all right to delegate tasks out to other people, whether they are volunteers or paid workers.

The problem often is something in our own heart though, we aren’t always willing to pass on the burden. It’s as if we think it will be a sign of weakness if we can’t handle everything ourselves. We feel the need to prove ourselves and we have this insecurity lying within us that says that the more things we can hang onto, the more job security we will have. Why is that?

When we don’t share the burden, there are a few possible outcomes, but let me mention the two that stand out to me. First of all, we can burn ourselves out. In our effort to juggle everything, we will most likely find that we aren’t doing anything well. We can do everything to the level of mediocrity, or we can do a few things to the level of excellence. I saw this with my father while he pastored a small church by himself. He handled everything, and while it gave me a great example of servanthood, it also showed me the toll that it took on him. Sharing the burden isn’t a sign of weakness, it’s actually a sign of strength. If we are willing to delegate responsibilities to others, it shows that we are not insecure in our position and that we are willing to let others possibly get the praise for certain things. Sharing the burden puts the focus on the greater good rather than the good of self.

The second possible outcome of not sharing the burden is that when we finally move on from the position which we have occupied, when we exit the role that we hold for a season, it will be that much harder to find a replacement. Let’s face it, we see personality driven leadership all the time. If we think of certain companies, organizations, and churches, we can most likely put a face to them, associating that personality with whatever company, organization, or church that they are leading.

When it comes to companies and organizations, that might not be a horrible thing. Steve Jobs was the face of Apple for many years. Mark Zuckerberg has been the face of Facebook. Bill Gates has been the face of Microsoft. But eventually, a replacement is necessary and what happens then?

It’s also one thing for companies and organizations to have a face or personality behind them but when it comes to churches, there is only one face and name that we should really be concerned with: Jesus. If it’s about advancing any name other than that one, we’re doing something wrong. Sure, there will always be people who will make those associations between personalities and the churches that they lead, but those leaders can do a lot to combat that mentality, if they are secure and stable in who they are and if they are willing to share the load.

As I look at Exodus 18, one might make a good case that it was the starting point for team ministry. What incredible advice to receive from a father-in-law: share the burden. It’s kind of ironic, now that I think of it, that Moses, the one who kicked and fussed at God about placing him in a leadership position, would be the one who would need to be told to lighten his load and share the burden a little.

I need this reminder often and I feel like I’ve come a long way. Pride continually gets in the way and there are times that I want everyone around me to think that I am far from expendable. It’s incredibly reassuring to know that it takes more than one person to replace you and the tasks that you are accomplishing, but is that the point? Should that be our endgame, to make ourselves indispensable?

Those are the times that I need to get over myself and think about the greater good. Sharing the burden looks out for the interest of everyone, not just my own self-interest. Frankly, I think that there are a lot of leaders out there who need to learn this lesson.

Memory or Momentum

Last weekend, our church took part in a big weekend for our youth. Once a year they bring in a speaker, find host homes and volunteers, and invite youth to come be a part of this exciting weekend. We had over 250 kids involved and it was exciting to see.

As someone who feels strongly about the local church and about the next generation, I’ve always tried my best to work myself out of a job as I look to invest in the next generation. If today’s youth doesn’t start serving and owning their faith now, then their shaky faith will fall quickly when it comes under fire or experiences difficulties and challenges.

As the culmination of the weekend took place on Sunday morning, the worship leader was tying everything together as he led into one of the songs. His challenge to himself and his peers who had taken part in the weekend was to not let the weekend be just a memory but to let it be momentum, springing them forward to new things.

It was a fairly profound statement that was embraced by everyone who had heard it. Since I heard it, I’ve rolled it over in my mind, contemplating just what it means and how it applies not only to the youth who took part in the weekend but to everyone who heard those words and every one of us who seeks to follow Christ.

There is such a tendency for us to find what’s comfortable and to stick with it. It’s like that comfortable pair of shoes or pants that you get so used to that you just want to wear it all the time. The familiar and comfortable is attractive and once we find it, we don’t want to stray too far from it. The problem is that on the spiritual journey, we are not called to rest on our laurels or to become complacent in the things of yesterday. The process of change and transformation needs to continue every day, no slacking, no lagging behind, just forward movement.

I grew up going to Bible camps where memory was pretty much all that was made. I remember those days fondly, but from a spiritual perspective, there’s not a whole lot that I got out of those days. I remember kissing girls, pulling pranks, and meeting friends, but I don’t remember a whole lot about what I learned from a spiritual perspective or how I grew spiritually.

To be frank, I think that many of our churches are full of people who have made their spiritual experience a memory rather than momentum. They long for what used to be rather than asking God for a new glimpse of himself. They have memorialized to the point of idolatry the things of yesterday and their experiences, ensuring that anything new that might come across their path will be met with a considerable amount of resistance.

Trust me, I see the signs and possibilities in myself. I feel myself getting grumpier and more set in my ways as I get older, but fortunately, I’ve stood on my soapbox of change long enough that people will hold me accountable the moment that I begin to slip into that complacency. Not only that, but I firmly believe that the Holy Spirit will convict me if the patterns start to be exhibited in my life.

Memories are good, they can propel us forward in their own way, but they can’t sustain us any more than a picture of a piece of bread can actually give us the same sustenance as a real piece of bread. Memories need to be treated as they are: reminders of what used to be or of things that happened once up on a time. Momentum propels us forward, moving us ahead and pushing us towards new things.

The thing about momentum is that it’s hard to stop it the more of it you get. Bodies in motion will stay in motion until they meet resistance, but momentum can fight against that resistance. I want to build momentum, I want memories to be transformed into momentum, but the only way that can happen is if through a vigilant approach.

Last April, I went to a conference with my wife and our fellow ministry partners. Since then, I have worn a bracelet that I got at the conference as a reminder of what we experienced. As I stepped into the shower and looked down at my wrist the other day, I realized that it wasn’t serving its purpose very well. As much as I had wanted it to serve as momentum, it had simply become a memory and a memento for what took place nearly a year ago.

To make this transition, to move things from memory to momentum requires vigilance and intentionality, something that we might struggle with. Surrounding ourselves with people who simply affirm everything that we do and say will not lead us to this kind of change, it takes people who are not afraid to push back, to say hard things to us. They’re not always the most comfortable people to be around, but in the end, they’re so worth having around you….unless, of course, you want to just stay as you are, and if that’s the case, you might just find yourself as a memory.

Checking It Off

to-do listAt any given time, I feel like I’ve got about a thousand and one things going on. Part of it has to do with my ability to multitask. Part of it has to do with the fact that I just get restless and I can’t sit still doing the same thing for too long. The same reason that I’m reading four or five books at a time is the same reason that I am involved in multiple projects at one time.

I’m getting better at juggling them all, realizing that there needs to be some kind of method in my madness. For years, I prided myself on the fact that I was creative and my lack of structure and order lent to that creativity. Then, I woke up one day and realized that I was lying to myself and the lack of structure and order were actually squelching my creativity. So, I’ve tried to embrace the idea of routine and structure a little bit more, realizing that I could toss the routine and structure out for the greater good, but having it in place was helpful for giving me direction.

Over the years I’ve become a “list” guy. I love lists. It’s not uncommon for me to sit down and make a list before I head out on my errands for the day. In fact, going back to my home church around Christmas this year, the pastor talked about making a list and writing 2 or 3 things down and not moving on to something else until you checked something off that list. My kind of sermon.

Lists are great and helpful, but there’s nothing like checking things off of the list. I realized just how much I rely on lists and how helpful they can be to me this past week.

I’ve had a number of tasks that have sat untouched on my list for a while. The reasons why they have remained untouched are probably too numerous and extensive to cover in this post, but let’s just say that they were intimidating reminders to me and I was going to do everything possible to either ignore them or put them off.

The problem is, every time that I walked by my little white board with the list on it, they were staring me in the face. It was almost as if those few tasks were a weight that I was carrying around my neck, the longer that I put them off, the heavier they got and the worse I felt about them.

I knew in my heart that if I just took the time to wrap my head around them and give them a little bit of time, I’d be able to check them off of my list, cross them off of the white board so that they would no longer be staring me in the face. Yet, I just couldn’t bring myself around to conquering them.

But there were deadlines approaching, and to me, those deadlines are usually helpful. The problem can become when the deadlines are so far out that it’s easy to procrastinate and procrastinate. But that white board kept getting bigger, at least it felt like that to me. It felt like the letters were growing larger every day, looming over me, waiting to pounce when I was least expecting it. I realized that I just needed to tackle these items.

So, the other day, I stood in front of that white board, black letters looming over me like the shadow of a giant troll, seeking to crush me underneath its weight. I went about tackling one of those tasks that’s been sitting on that list for months, and within a few minutes, it was done and I stood, once again, in front of that white board, but this time, I was able to wipe something off of it.

I was surprised at how it made me feel. It was as if a weight had come off of my shoulders. Wow, if I had known that it would feel like that I probably would have done it a long time ago.

So, my list is a little shorter, at least shorter with things that had been hanging over me for a long time. There might be a little bit more jump in my steps and I will continue to use my little white board to keep track of all of the tasks that stand before me, some of them enjoyable and some not so much. But that white board stands as a constant reminder to me of the things that I need to get done, it’s accountability in black and white and if I can just remember how it feels to wipe something off the board, I might get to some of these things, especially the not so fun ones, much sooner than I might have before.

Among the Best

2015-02-27 10.22.3315 years ago today, I made one of the best decisions of my life. Well, technically, the decision was made before that day, but the culmination of that decision happened on that day. On March 3, 2000, I asked my wife to marry me. My life has never been the same since, and for that, I am grateful.

Now, granted, I’ve made a whole lot of bad decisions in my life, but I’d like to think that some of my better decisions might counteract those bad decisions, and this is certainly one of those decisions that I’d like to think that about.

She was still in school at the University of Connecticut at the time, so I had conspired with her roommates. Although there were a number of people present, it was only her roommates and me who were in on the plan. It was not uncommon for us to have game nights with our friends. She wasn’t into the party scene by the time that she got to college, so hanging out with friends was a perfectly acceptable way to spend a Friday night. So, we planned it out that her sister, who was at the same school, and her brother, and a few other close friends would come over to the apartment on that Friday night.

I wasn’t exactly sure how I was going to do it all so I was talking to one of her roommates who informed me that she was expecting that music would be involved, in other words, she thought that I might sing her a song.

No pressure, right?

Forcing creativity is a bit intimidating, but I concocted the whole plan assuming that it would come at some point. We would be playing a game where I would make up a question and then sing a song that I had written. No problem at all, as long as I could actually get the song written.

I’m generally a planner, so this was all in place about a month or more before the date actually came. I would set aside time every week to work on the song in hopes that it would be finally ready by the time the date came.

But time ticked on. 4 weeks……..3 weeks………2 weeks………1 week…….

It came down to days before this whole thing was to take place and the well continued to be dry…..I mean, BONE DRY! Nothing would come. I couldn’t get anything written, I mean, nothing. It seemed that the harder I tried, the harder it became. At that point, I knew that I needed some diving intervention.

I wasn’t going to settle for using somebody else’s song, it just wasn’t “me” to do something like that. It seems fitting, in retrospect, that the place where I would generally do most of my writing was in the sanctuary of the little Baptist church where my dad served as pastor for nearly 40 years. I would spend many a late night in there, playing the piano or guitar, hoping that the “muse” would find me. I had a key and would come and go as I needed to and I wasn’t afraid of disturbing anyone but the church mice.

So, I prayed and prayed for something that would be acceptable….

And it finally came, on February 29, 2000, just three days before the planned date. Talk about cutting it close. At some point, in the wee hours of the morning, ideas began to flow and they kept coming until I was finally finished.

Over the next few days, I did what I could to polish things up. I practiced until my fingers ached to get it just right. Everything was in place.

At the last minute, things always get even more hectic. This was no exception. M I practiced until my fingers ached to get it just right. Everything was in place.2015-03-02 08.14.43

At the last minute, things always get even more hectic. This was no exception. My wife’s sister decided she wasn’t so certain that she would be coming at the last minute. I told her that she really needed to be there, it was important, but I still never revealed the truth of what would be happening.

The day finally came, after coaxing and convincing, everyone was there, a few showed up a little late, but we were all there. We finally got around to the game and as we were going around playing, my brother-in-law nearly won the game right before my turn. Hadn’t thought of that possibility. My turn came and in the form of a question in the game, I asked my wife to marry me and told her that she needed to listen to a song that I had written.

When all was said and done, she said, “Yes.” We celebrated with our families the next day. And the rest, as they say, is history.

The other day, I found the notebook in which I had written the song. It’s always fascinating to watch the genesis of a song, especially one like this that meant so much to me. Good memories and I am grateful that I have a record of it all.

All along the way during the evening of the engagement, I had her roommates taking pictures to document the moment. I was so glad that we did that. Not long after we were engaged, my mom put together a collage of the pictures surrounding the words of the song that I had written for my wife. This is a picture of it. And in case you can’t read the words, here they are:

 

Your Love Makes Me by Jon Gibson

Chorus

Your love makes me more than I dreamed of

More than I wished for or ever thought I could be.

Your love makes me more than I could ever imagine

Your love is setting me free.

I always knew that God’s promise was true

When He said He’d provide all that I need.

But I never dreamed I could find such a love

That come straight from a story you’d read.

There was a day when I looked at you

And I saw a girl, no more than a friend.

Then something changed, how I looked, how I felt,

And I knew I’d found a love with no end.

Repeat Chorus

In your eyes lie the answers to questions

I ask of myself about who I should be.

You’re always there with the words

That can show me all of the things I can’t see.

A gentle touch or a warm embrace

Can change stormy skies from gray to bright blue.

Nothing could replace or compare to the love

That I am sharing with you.

Repeat Chorus

Bridge

When the seasons grow cold

And the storms cloud our way

When we can’t find the words

Or the right things to say

I will be there for you

I’ll show you my love by the things that I do

‘Cause your love is making me into all I can be.

When I open my eyes to the sunset

And see all the beauty of God’s mighty hand

I realize that the gift I’ve been giv’n

Is a woman intended to complete this man.

I see in you the true reflection of the One

Who once died to make us His own.

I stop and think what the world might be like

If I had to face it alone.

Repeat Chorus

 

Funny to look back at those words 15 years later. Some of them make me cringe at the “cheesy” factor while others seem as appropriate today as they were back then.

Today I am grateful for that day and the outcome of it. I’m glad that it turned out the way that it did and I’m looking forward to celebrating this day again and again, along with all of the other days that we can share together.

I love you, Carrie!