Why I Didn’t Rebel – A Book Review

why i didn't rebelA good percentage of Christian parents wonder what will happen once their children grow up and leave the house. Some of them worry that regardless of how well they have done in raising their children, there is the inevitability of rebellion of some kind or another. Is it as inevitable as some parents think? Is this kind of defeatist mentality destined to become a self-fulfilling prophecy? Can rebellion be avoided?

Rebecca Gregoire Lindenbach addresses these questions and more in her book, “Why I Didn’t Rebel.” As a young adult who has managed to avoid rebellion, she writes from her own experience and shares not only that experience but the experiences of others, both good and bad. Lindenbach mixes her experiences, the experiences of others, and the insights of some professionals as well as she tries to disprove that rebellion is as inevitable as many have made it out to be.

From the start, Lindenbach defines rebellion as not necessarily rebellion against parents or earthly authority but against God. She says that questioning authority is not necessarily a bad thing, it’s where that questioning leads people that’s important. In her own experience, that questioning led her to come to her own conclusions in a healthy and constructive manner.

Much of what Lindenbach shares in “Why I Didn’t Rebel” is about contrasts. She shares some extreme cases that have resulted in wayward children. When rules are embraced over reasons, children have rebelled. Reasons encourage growth and personal responsibility versus rules simply mandating behavior. This kind of behavior management is about performance rather than heart.

Lindenbach shares that communication is essential as well. Opening lines of communication between parents and children is essential. The intention of that communication needs to be about getting to know your children rather than simply getting information from them. When parents create space for their kids to share openly without fear of repercussion, the likelihood of rebellion was diminished.

Healthy and reasonable expectation setting was also important to Lindenbach and many of those whose experiences she shares. A willingness of parents to admit not only their own faults and imperfections but also the faults and imperfections of their children was important to avoid rebellion. Parents who had unreasonable expectations for their children would often raise children whose own self-awareness was so skewed that rebellion seemed inevitable as well.

It’s hard to refute the logical way that Lindenbach shares her information. Multiple times while reading “Why I Didn’t Rebel” I felt as if she was oversimplifying things. After all, Lindenbach is writing from her own experience of being raised as a child, not from raising children of her own. It’s easy to retrospectively look back and speculate on the reasons and rationale for why a child turned out the way that they did. It’s a completely different thing to speak from the experience of having raised children who didn’t rebel.

It would have added a different perspective to this book had Lindenbach’s own parents offered some insights along the way. Although her mom is an author and blogger herself, she shares no insights in the book. While Lindenbach may have avoided adding her mom’s voice in order to establish herself, I think her mom’s voice may have added validity to the opinions and views that she shares throughout this book.

That’s not to say that “Why I Didn’t Rebel” isn’t worth the read. I thought it was worth the read. Lindenbach’s voice is not the only one shared here, as mentioned before. She offers insights from others who have and who have not rebelled. She also offers the insights from psychologists and others who had a professional perspective.

A lot of what Lindenbach shares in “Why I Didn’t Rebel” aligns with the research done by the Fuller Youth Institute that led to the Sticky Faith movement. That bodes well for “Why I Didn’t Rebel.” In some ways, “Why I Didn’t Rebel” felt like a more organic version of “Sticky Faith.”

For anyone seeking to steer around the rebellion that may seem inevitable for their children, “Why I Didn’t Rebel” is worth the read. Lindenbach does adequate research and presents enough practical experience of her own and her peers to prove that rebellion may be much more avoidable than they have believed.

(This review is based upon a copy of this book which was provided free of charge from Booklook Bloggers. 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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Hopeless Romantic?

I’m not sure just what it is, but every single time my kids have a school program, I’m trying to hold back tears.

EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. 

Fall. Winter. Spring. It doesn’t even matter what time of year it is, I’m like a basket case in my seat as I watch my kids do things that surprise and amaze me, that make me smile and cry all at the same time 

It’s not like these programs are tear-inducing programs. No hint of Hallmark here, but somehow or another, they still find ways of hitting me right in the chest.

Maybe some of it has to do with the fact that during every single program, at least once, I am wishing that my mom and dad were there. But I think it goes way beyond that. I think it stems from the fact that there is pride (not the bad kind) that wells up within me as I see my kids doing things that make them stand out. How can a mom or dad NOT be proud of their kids when they’re doing what kids should be doing? 

I’ll be honest, it’s an emotional time of year for me anyway. All it takes is one song to throw me back about 30 years. I’m transported to my childhood home with smells and sights and sounds that have been eternally etched on my brain. I can picture everything. Christmas tree. Pajamas. Presents. Green rug. Hi-Fi circa 1975 or thereabouts. Evie singing “Come On, Ring Those Bells” from that Hi-Fi stereo, complete with the cracks and pops that only vinyl can offer.

But like I said, I well up any time of year. These kids always blow me away. I guess it’s yet one more picture of grace that I see in my everyday life. I realize just what I have that I don’t deserve. I realize how far short I fall from being who I really wish that I was, and yet my kids still manage to keep plugging along without the help of therapists…..at least for now.

As I sat there on the hard bench of the cafeteria bench watching my middle child perform in his holiday play, I was just blown away. The kid can act. The kid can memorize. The kid can work a room. The kid can make a joke. While my eyes welled up, so did my pride as I thought, “What have I done to deserve this?”

It’s a time of year when you really see the difference between the “haves” and the “have-nots”….at least if you really look around. As much as I keep wanting, it’s a time of year that I am reminded just how blessed that I am 

Here we are, two weeks from Christmas, and I’m blubbering at the sight of an inflatable Rudolph in the neighborhood…..it might just be a LOOOOONNNNNGGGGG 2 weeks!

Deep down inside, I’m a hopeless romantic, but I guess I hide it well. Maybe it’s self-preservation and self-defense, but regardless, there’s way more emotion down deep than most people who just get a casual glance at me would really expect or imagine. I’m fine with that.

There are a lot of things to hope for during this time of year, but my biggest hope is that I can be half the man that my children and wife deserve. I am a blessed man, blessed beyond measure.

Now, let me go find a good Christmas movie to continue with my blubbering!!!

Grab A Hand

father-son-holding-handsI’ve been volunteering at my kids’ school as often as I can. My mom did such an incredible job of this when my brother and I were kids that she modeled it well. I consider myself fortunate that I have the flexibility to volunteer and I know that the window of opportunity for this is much more limited than most of us really consider.

Last year, my oldest son signed up for running club at the school. It’s an after school program that encourages fitness but also rewards kids for pushing themselves. The gym teacher who runs it gave out little colored running shoe keychains to mark accomplishments that the students had made in their own progress.

My oldest is fairly cerebral and would much rather read a good book or play a video game than throw a ball. He’s found some activities that he likes and we’ve done our best to encourage them. So, when he expressed his interest in this, I jumped at the opportunity to encourage him by not only signing him up, but by volunteering myself to be a part of it.

Over the years, I’ve watched those who have gone before me in their parenting styles and skills. I’ve done my best to glean good practices from them that I have seen and mark those other practices that have not proved to be quite as effective. One of the practices that I’ve seen work so well for parents of multiple children is “dating” their children. This just involves taking them out one on one to do special and fun things together.

The things that I’ve chosen to do with my kids haven’t been grandiose or extravagant. Sometimes it’s just a trip to Home Depot or Goodwill. Involving them in the most common tasks can easily help them to feel important and involved. Activities like this running club have proven to be super beneficial for my relationship with my son as well.

The other day, after the club had finished and we were all walking back from the field to the gym, my son walked alongside me and grasped my hand. At that moment, I felt like the child as I glanced around to see whether or not anyone else was looking. I wasn’t embarrassed to hold my son’s hand, but I was surprised that it didn’t seem like something that was even on his radar. We walked back to the gym, hand in hand, talking about the day and his run. As we walked, I took a mental snapshot, capturing that moment in my brain because I knew that moments like that were fleeting and I wouldn’t have them forever.

I was so thankful for that moment. I was thankful that I had established a relationship with my son where he felt comfortable, even in 4th grade, grabbing his dad’s hand with his peers all around him. I was thankful that the affection that I’ve tried so hard to pour out on him was coming back to me. Not that I poured it out to get it back, but the return was an added benefit. I was thankful that it gave me a glimpse of the future relationship between my son and I, when we move from being father and son to being friends.

It was only the grabbing of a hand, but it meant a lot to me. These are the moments that legacy is made of, how we are remembered and how we remember. They happen when we least expect it and they certainly can’t be contrived or created. I’m hoping for many more, but I won’t try too hard to make them happen, I’ll just seize the opportunities, make myself available, and hope that they continue to come towards me.

Telling the Stories

While visiting family in Connecticut the other night, we all found ourselves sitting around a table listening to my wife’s grandmother tell stories. She told stories of trips that she took when my wife was young, stories of trips she took when my father-in-law was young, and stories of trips she took when she was young. We all laughed as mental pictures ran through our minds.

As I sat there at the table listening, I was struck by the fact that I was participating in something special. It was something that has been going on for generations and generations. Stories were being passed on, not by writing them down, but by the oral tradition of storytelling.

I wondered how many people before me had done similarly. Many of them might have done it around campfires or candles or lanterns that barely lit up their meager homes. Here I was taking part in something special.

After my mom and dad died, I didn’t have any major regrets. Our relationships were good and there was nothing between us that had been left unsaid. There was no bitterness or anger, no resentment or animosity, there was simply love, respect, and appreciation. If there was anything that I regretted it was not paying more attention when I came across situations like what happened the other night. I regretted not having asked the millions of questions that run through my mind even now. I regret not having heard, ingested, and memorized the stories that I so desperately wish my parents had passed on to me.

Not too long ago, one of my kids had taken to asking my wife and I to tell him a childhood story every night when we laid down with him before bed. It was a bigger challenge than I thought that it would be. At first, I kind of thought that it was a drag, what did he care what I did when I was his age. Then I began to realize just how important these stories were to him, to the point that I found myself thinking about what story I might tell him that night as I daydreamed throughout my day.

Stories are important to us. We are storied people. We can write things down and pass them on that way, but there is something about the oral tradition. There is something about hearing a story weaved out before you. From my own experience, I think some of my stories grow when they are told orally. The fish might be bigger, the car ride may have been longer, the rain may have been harder, and every detail that I tell may just grow a little bit with each telling of the story. That’s part of the fun of it.

All of this talk of story just solidifies in my mind how important the next few weeks will be for me and my family as we go on our adventure. As we weave our way across the United States, I wonder what stories will stand out the most to my kids. I wonder how they will tell them a few weeks from now, a few months from now, and a few years from now. I wonder how they will grow. I wonder how much longer the journey will get as they pass these stories on to all who will listen.

I’ve got to find a way to remember some more of the stories of my childhood. I know that they’re there in the recesses of my mind, waiting to be mined and dragged from their hiding places. I’ve got to give them some more thought and make sure that I share as many of them as I possibly can, after all, my kids might not always ask me to tell them and there will eventually come a day when I won’t be around to tell them all the things that I never had the chance to.

How Do I Keep From Crashing?

crashImagine yourself, relaxing, sitting back and just taking in every moment. There is nothing pressing for your time as you move slowly through the day. Your phone isn’t ringing, there is no one vying for your time and attention. You’re a little bit off the beaten path but feeling as if you’re completely disconnected (in the best way possible) from the real world.

Times like this may be few and far between for you and for me, but what happens when we find them and experience them? How do we react in the moment? How do we react when we leave that moment?

During my time away last week, I had a good deal of down time to myself. I was able to read, write, and relax without much distraction. If I was tired, I could rest. If I wanted to watch a movie, I could watch a movie. There was no one hanging on my heels, asking me boatloads of questions, and needing my undivided attention for every minute of every hour.

It was peaceful!

But I knew that there would come a time when I would have to go back to reality, when I would have to face the responsibilities that surround me on a normal and average day. I also knew that facing that reality would most likely hit me like a brick to the side of the head, hard, painful, and leaving me worse for wear.

No matter how hard I could have tried, I don’t think anything would have prepared me well for my reentry into the real world after my time away.

After sitting in my car for six hours (even my lunch was purchased at the drive-thru, a mistake I don’t know that I will duplicate), I arrived home to smiles on everyone’s face. One child was playing in the cul-de-sac, one child was watching TV, and one child was hanging on Mommy’s heels. Everyone exchanged hugs and I sat down to do my best to catch up with my wife.

Now, let me add a parenthetical detour here and say that my wife and I do our best to communicate as often as we can. I have found that face to face communication isn’t very easy with three children. There seems to be a radar on these little ones that goes off as soon as some amount of meaningful conversation begins to take place between the two adults in the house. It doesn’t matter whether kids are happily engaged in activities at the commencement of said conversation, somehow or another, as soon as the first meaningful words begin to emerge from either of our mouths, the interruptions commence!

We pushed through our conversation and into dinner, doing our best to be gracious through all of the interruptions and distractions. I kept my voice calm and even, all the while I was mentally reminding myself of the fact that in five or ten years, these kids will have turned into two-headed monsters who may or may not care what their mom and dad thinks.

Now, I had changed my plans to be back for my daughter’s pre-school program. My wife took her and my oldest to the school to get ready for that, while I took my younger son to baseball practice. He was none too happy about going to practice for some reason or another, and it eventually reared its ugly head.

After being asked to sit in the dugout because of his reaction out of frustration to a drill his team was doing, I grabbed him and we went to the car to try to ensure a decent seat at his sister’s program. My own frustration was more than brimming to the surface. I was ready to spill out any moment and the thing that caused the spill to take place was my son’s coughing to the point of spitting up, right in the back of my car, right when we got into the parking lot of the school for the program.

I called my wife to tell her of the latest development and of our impending lateness. As I drove home, my phone vibrated with a message from her asking how my son was doing. Still not having sufficiently cooled off, my text response was inappropriate. Unfortunately, in the close quarters at the school program, my oldest glanced down at my wife’s phone and saw my inappropriate response……[sigh]

Ugh! How many parenting fails could I possibly achieve in one evening? I thought that I might be setting a record for fails per hour considering that I had only been home for about two and a half hours at this point.

By the time we got back to the school, the program was over and we had missed it. Of course, this just set me off even further. I can’t even imagine what my blood pressure was at this point. I thought to myself, “Weren’t you just really calm for the past few days? How did the wheels come off so quickly?”

I’ve obviously not found the remedy for reentry. In my experience, it seems that the more relaxed and unwound that I get, the greater the challenge for me as I reenter the world of my own daily grind. They almost seem exponentially connected. The further retreated from reality I get, the harder it seems to get back into that reality again.

I’ve still got some time to work through this, to see if I can find a way to ease through the constant reentries that I will face in life. I am hoping that over the course of my sabbatical, I can work on reentry more. We’ll see how it goes.

Books I Read In 2015

books to readI read a total of 53 books over the course of 2015. I had written up a plan with titles at the beginning of the year to try to be more structured and intentional about my reading throughout the year. Overall, I did all right with my plan. I didn’t read everything that had been on my list, mostly because my list was much more extensive than I had considered at the beginning of the year.

In 2014, I read 39 books (here’s my post). My original list had 33 books on it but I only read 7 of those 33 books. I began reviewing books for my blog that year and that continued in 2015. So, I thought I would do a little bit better going into 2015. I posted my list and thought I was being more realistic.

My 2015 reading list included 35 books. Of those 35 books, I read 11 of them (marked below with a +). The other 42 books on my list were a compilation of books that I read to review for my blog (marked below with a *, 19 total), books that I read to check out and preview before my son read them (marked below with a ^), and books that just kind of popped up along the way. Some books satisfied multiple categories and are marked as such.

My 2016 plan will be posted later this week and I hope that I’m getting better as I go.

Sam Allberry “Is God Anti-gay?”

The Arbinger Institute “Leadership and Self-Deception”

+* Dan Allender and Tremper Longman III “God Loves Sex”

* Mark Batterson and Richard Foth “A Trip Around the Sun”

Nadia Bolz-Weber “Pastrix”

* Andy Braner “No Fear In Love”

+^ Eoin Colfer “Artemis Fowl”

^ Suzanne Collins “Gregor the Overlander”

+ Suzanne Collins “Mockingjay”

Peter Criss “Makeup to Breakup: My Life In and Out of Kiss”

* Rachel Held Evans “Searching For Sunday”

Michael Frost “Surprise the World! The Five Habits of Highly Missional People”

* Andrew Gant “The Carols of Christmas”

* John Greco “Manger King”

* Don C. Harris “Think Red Ink”

* Jen Hatmaker “For the Love”

Gary A. Haugen “Just Courage”

Wesley Hill “Washed and Waiting”

+ Tim Keller “The King’s Cross”

Justin Lee “Torn: Rescuing the Gospel from the Gays-Vs.-Christians Debate”

^ Madeline L’Engle “A Wrinkle In Time”

* Amy Lively “How To Love Your Neighbor Without Being Weird”

+ C.S. Lewis “Out of the Silent Planet”

David Lomas “The Truest Thing About You”

+ Brennan Manning “All Is Grace”

* Jonathan McKee “More Than Just the Talk”

* Jonathan McKee “Sex Matters”

* Bill McKeever and Eric Johnson “Mormonism 101”

* Scot McKnight “A Fellowship of Differents”

* Matt Mikalatos “Into the Fray”

* Donald Miller “Scary Close”

* Dr. Linda Mintle “We Need to Talk”

Joseph Myers “Organic Community”

Larry Osborne “Thriving In Babylon”
Jay Pathak and Dave Runyon “The Art of Neighboring”

^ Ridley Pearson “Kingdom Keepers: Disney After Dark”

^ Ridley Pearson “Kingdom Keepers: Disney At Dawn”

+^ Ridley Pearson “Kingdom Keepers: Disney In Shadow”

Dr. Kara E. Powell, Brad M. Griffin, and Dr. Cheryl A. Crawford “Sticky Faith – Youth Worker Edition”

Kevin Roose “The Unlikely Disciple – A Sinner’s Semester at America’s Holiest University”

+ Veronica Roth “Allegiant”

^ J.K. Rowling “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix”

^ J.K. Rowling “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince”

^ J.K. Rowling “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows”

Francis Schaeffer “Art and the Bible”

* Peter Scazzero “The Emotionally Healthy Leader”

* Judah Smith “Life Is _______”

+* Sam Storms “Kept For Jesus”

John R.W. Stott “The Message of 1 Timothy & Titus”

+^ J.R.R. Tolkien “The Hobbit”

* David Vogel “The Truth With Love”

+* Rick Warren, Dr. Daniel Amen, Dr. Mark Hyman “The Daniel Plan”

August Wilson “Seven Guitars”

 

+ 2015 List

* Blog

^ Preview

 

Happy 2016 and happy reading!

A Broken Toy Christmas

Christmas with Steve and Jon-2I’ve had so many people make reference to this story that I’ve shared personally, via sermons and my old blog, that I felt the need to dig it out, dust it off, and retell it for the sake of those who have never heard it before. Maybe also for the sake of those who have heard it because sometimes a retelling can make you notice something else.

One year, when my brother and I were probably about 11 and 7, respectively, we had been pretty terrible in the months leading up to Christmas. We were constantly fighting and getting at each other and my parents had constantly warned us that if we didn’t stop, “Santa” would be bringing us nothing but broken, old toys for Christmas. Now, regardless of the fact that we didn’t believe in Santa Claus (nor had we ever), we still used that language for whatever reason. My parents knew that both my brother and I were not believers in the big, fat guy in a red suite.

My parents were jokers, although not many of our friends and some of theirs didn’t believe it. They could joke with the best of them and I think my brother and I thought that they were kidding in this instance too. Our parents would never dream of withholding presents from us at Christmas, right? After all, everyone should get presents, right?

Regardless of their constant threats, Christmas morning approached with little to no improvement in our behavior. I guess we were just stupid enough to believe that our parents would never dream of holding out on us.

Christmas morning finally arrived and we woke up with excitement to see what might be waiting for us under that tree. Imagine the surprise on my brother’s and my face when we arrived at the Christmas tree to find that the only thing underneath it was a pile of broken and old toys with a note that said something to the effect of, “You’ve been naughty, and here’s what you get!”

My brother and I were devastated. Me being the younger of the two of us, I think that I was probably more so. I remember whining and crying and trying to convince my parents that this was unfair and unjust (trying to capitalize on the biblical notion of justice, because that’s what pastor’s kids do to win an argument, invoke the “God” excuse).

I’m not sure how long my parents let this whole thing go on. Like most things that happen when you’re young, it probably went on for far less time than it felt like it had gone on. Finally, after my parents had felt that their point had been sufficiently made, they went to a closet and pulled out all of the “real” presents. Replacing all of the broken toys under the tree were these beautifully wrapped presents. Of course, my brother and I played it up as if we knew our parents would do this all along. We were overjoyed by this gracious act, telling our parents that we knew all along that they would never do this to us, while secretly taking in a deep sigh of relief.

No matter how far I get away from this story, I just can’t forget it. Years go by, both of my parents are gone now, but I still remember the Christmas which has affectionately become known to my brother and I as “The Broken Toy Christmas.”

Parenting experts may call the exercise cruel and unjust, some people may think that it was harsh, and to be frank, I’m still not exactly sure how I feel about it. My leaning is towards the fact that my parents showed my brother and I an incredible amount of grace. What we deserved, based on our actions and behavior, was the broken toys. What they gave us were the presents that showed that despite our imperfections, they loved us. My parents had shown grace in a way that rarely gets seen in this world.

Too many people cower to the whines and complaints of their children. There rarely seem to be consequences when behavior that is less than stellar is displayed. Instead, parents idly threaten their children and then give them what they never deserved with no hesitation.

I didn’t have to go through years of counseling to get over this and yet I still remember the Christmas vividly. In a lot of ways, I can’t help but connect what my parents did to what God did for us when he sent Jesus to the world. The history of God’s people is full of stubborn and obstinate people who thought that regardless of their behavior, a loving God would never turn his back on them and would never mete out justice on them. They were right, but someone still had to pay the price. That someone was Jesus. He is the gift of grace that God gave to us. When we deserved nothing but “broken and old toys” God gave us the best thing that he had to offer: his only son.

As I raise my kids, I hope and pray that I can instill in them the fact that Christmas isn’t about getting what we deserve, it’s about receiving the gift of grace from God. Christmas isn’t about all the commercialism that is preached at us from Black Friday on, it’s the realization that no gift could ever compare to what we receive in and through Christ.

May we come to the realization that the best thing that we can get and give is the news of this gift of grace. May our hearts always be reminded of what we deserve and be thankful of what we receive instead through grace.

Merry Christmas!

A Long Time Ago…

Star_Wars_The_Force_AwakensA few weeks ago, my oldest son and I drove to the movie theater and bought our tickets for today. As we walked into the theater together, he said to me, “I’ve been waiting for this for half my life.” I looked down at him and smiled. As we walked to the ticket booth, I remembered the first time that I had taken him to the theater. Back when he was three and a half, I took him to the theater to watch Toy Story 3. I admit that I shed some tears at the end of the movie as Andy gave his toys away to the little girl, a sign that he was growing up.

Today, I get to share something with him and his brother that I never ever thought I would get to share with them: we all get to see Star Wars together in the theater. Not the original trilogy that came out when I was only four years old. Not the prequel trilogy that I saw in the theater 16 years ago with my wife (girlfriend at the time). This is different though, a new director, a new trilogy, a new generation experiencing Star Wars afresh and anew.

Is it all hype? Will it be a downer? From the first wave of reviews coming through social media and news outlets, it’s not disappointing too many people (there’s always at least that one). Still, you don’t want to get too excited, do you?

When moments like these come in life, moments that feel bigger than maybe they should, it’s hard to take it all in. You try to remember every look, every feeling, every moment as it passes by. When it’s over, you want to roll the tape back and experience it again because you forgot to capture something, but you know you can’t.

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away….

A little boy went to see “The Empire Strikes Back” in the movie theater with his mom and his brother. That same little boy would ask for Star Wars figures as rewards for good report cards. That same little boy would collect all the trading cards, would read all the comics, would play with all the figures. That same little boy went to the theater again a few years later when “Return of the Jedi” came out. I didn’t experience any of these films with my dad. He was around, but that just wasn’t his thing.

The hype built up as the time came for the prequels. I bought into it and remembered back to all of my old figures, more than gently used, sitting in a case somewhere. I went to the store and bought the new figures, I left them in their packages, I hung them on my walls.

Now those figures lie in boxes in the garage, still unopened in their packages. The books lie on the shelves. The movies have been purchased, first on VHS, then on DVD, then in special editions, then in anniversary editions, and finally in HD (high definition). They’ve been watched and watched and watched again and today, the generation that has seen it all from afar will finally get to experience a movie first in the Star Wars universe. They’ve seen Disney take over the franchise, they’ve seen it all cartoonized, they’ve seen it LEGO-ized, they’ve seen it Disney-ized.

By the end of this day, I’ll either be waiting for the moment that I get in line again for a second viewing of this film, calculating just when I think the movie will be released to Blu Ray, and smiling at what I experienced. Or else, I’ll realize that it was just hype, but I’m having a hard time thinking that’s going to happen.

We’ve gone into this Christmas season with expectation of what we’re really celebrating, but also expectation of what this day will hold. There’s no “Elf on the Shelf” in our house, there’s a “Tinsel Trooper” whose Star Wars themed antics have at least garnered the attention of two little boys, captured by the wonder of this cultural phenomenon that’s been around for nearly as long as their dad has. When they wake up, this is what they will see that their beloved Tinsel Trooper has been up to, and when they lay their heads on their pillows tonight, instead of sugar plums and presents, they’ll be dreaming of a galaxy far, far away and wondering when they can escape to it once again.

2015-12-17 20.46.36

A Reflection

mirrorEver have a comment that someone made leave you speechless or stop you in your tracks? Not in a bad way, but in a good way.

I was talking with a friend last night on the phone. She and her husband have become surrogate parents to me and surrogate grandparents to my children especially in the wake of my parents’ death. They’ve given above and beyond the call of duty and done everything that family would do for us. Other than the blood connection, there is nothing else that distinguishes them from family.

As we talked on the phone, she was commenting upon a sermon that I had given at church in the morning. She said, “I didn’t know your dad and I never heard him preach, but I can’t help but think about how proud of you he would have been.”

The lump rose in my throat and I was rendered speechless in that moment. A guy who speaks and writes for a living had no words to offer up.

Those words rang in my head for the rest of the evening. I reflected on just what that meant.

My dad and I were different people. While there are certain idiosyncrasies that have reared their heads to remind me of our connection, there are many differences between the two of us.

But there’s something to be said about a reflection. I couldn’t help but wonder the reflection that I have been of my earthly father. Those who knew him may see it more than others. Those who didn’t know him may get a glimpse of him when they see me.

It’s moments like these that I wish he was still here. The old adage that if I knew then what I know now holds true. How I wish that we could have shared more moments of exchanging thoughts, ideas, philosophies, and other things. Our relationship was good, don’t get me wrong, but one of the consequences of loss is that we always will look back at what might have been, and this is no exception.

My father knew no strangers. While I wouldn’t consider my father opportunistic, he never missed opportunities to tell someone about the things that he loved and the people he cared for. He never stood down from his convictions and was never afraid to engage in healthy debates and conversations with someone with whom he disagreed. Never in a hateful or angry way, always in a loving and gentle manner, regardless of what came back at him.

While some of those characteristics are present in me, like I said, I’m very different than my father. But I think my friend was right, I think Dad would be proud if he watched and observed. I still have notes where he expressed that very thing to me, his pride at who I had and was becoming, as a father, as a son, as a husband, as a pastor, as a person. Those notes remain cherished pieces of a relationship that lives on within me.

I can assure you that if my father were still around, we would still engage in some healthy debates. We wouldn’t see eye to eye and our philosophies would most likely butt up against each other, but I think he would be proud to know the values he had instilled in me.

Yes, if he had been there yesterday, I think he would have risen up with pride for who I was becoming. I’m a far cry from perfect, but I’m a reflection of who he was for all to see. More importantly, I’m a reflection of my heavenly Father as well. Even further from a perfect image, but every day becoming more and more who I was created to be.

Lost

dollhouse-newSometimes, I feel lost. Sometimes, I feel as if I’ve lost something.

Star Wars was big when I was a kid. I collected all the figures and trading cards. I would spend hours upon hours using my imagination to create scenarios with blocks and figures. I didn’t need a screen to show me what to do. I didn’t need someone to show me how to pretend. I just did it!

I also grew up with an older brother. It was just the two of us, no sisters. So, other than my mom and my wife, the idea of relating to a woman in the same house as me is a bit foreign.

I can pick up a football or a baseball or a Frisbee and throw it around with my middle child. He’s content to throw back and forth for hours. I hope that more conversation will develop as we spend time doing that in the future. It’s something that I never really shared with my father, so I’m excited to be able to share it with one of my kids.

If I bring home a new video game or book, I can spend time with my oldest talking about the game or the book. I can hear his perspective and let him try out his strategies on me before he actually tries it out in the game. We can sit on the couch and play through a videogame and be perfectly content. It’s also something that I never really shared with my father, so I’m excited to be able to share it with him.

My daughter’s a different story. When I play with her, I begin to wonder what happened to my imagination, what happened to my childhood. She can sit there content with her dolls for hours upon hours and in five minutes, I’ve checked out and lost my patience. I muster up enough to continue playing, but then I run out of steam. I find some excuse to get up and check on something else.

I was never like this. I never had a hard time using my imagination. I never struggled to relate to my own flesh and blood.

There are plenty of places where we connect. She loves to cuddle. She loves to have me read her stories. She loves to be part of the things that her big brothers are part of. So, the struggle with relating isn’t as great as it feels, but it’s still there.

In the midst of my urgency to be moving and my discomfort in pretending, I realize that there is a stillness and quietness that I need to find. It might not be so much my imagination that’s been lost or my sense of pretending, but my sense to know and understand how to simply sit and be, enjoying the company and presence of this precious gift that sits just feet away from me.

I think I can keep pretending and make up stories, it’s the stillness and stopping that I need to work on the most. I am grateful that kids are resilient, they keep coming back even if we don’t “play” right. So, here’s hoping for second chances at helping with princess dress-up, to imagining a kingdom made of blocks, to seeing mermaids swimming through an imaginary ocean, to dollhouses that are strangely inhabited only by children. If it can be imagined, we can play it, and I’ve got to just let myself go.

These moments are precious and fleeting, they won’t be around forever. The last thing that I want is to wish that I could play dolls again, not only because that’s just creepy for a middle-aged man to wish, but also because the day will come when my daughter won’t want to play with them anymore. Until that day comes, here’s to seizing the moment!