Touch Me

hug emojiAs this exercise in sequestering ourselves and social distancing continues, it’s fascinating to make observations about how others are dealing with it all as well as make observations about how I am dealing with it. Some days are diamonds, others, not so much.

Some of us just come to a certain point and then we shut down. Others of us may feel as if we’ve hit our stride, that we were made for this kind of isolation. I’ve always said that I can tolerate a lot when I know that there will be an end to it, the problem becomes when that end is elusive or it keeps changing.

Among the most confounding things about this virus is the sheer unknown nature of it. “Experts” are on the media regularly sharing their views, but those views don’t seem to hold up very well as twenty four hours later (or less) an opposite and equal viewpoint may be shared. It seems exponentially more frustrating than parenting, every time you think you’ve got a handle on things and know what to expect, a curveball is thrown that puts you once again at the mercy of factors that are out of your own control.

During this time, I’ve watched my introverted teenager become a virtual social chair. He’s adapted well with his small friend group to set up virtual weekly movie nights. The kid who I’ve worried about regarding his social habits seems to be adapting like a boss to a situation that has the rest of us cowering and crying, “Uncle.”

One thing that has seemed to stand out to me through all of this is our hunger for contact outside of our computer, tablet, and smart phone screens. Virtual connection can only last so long before we feel like it pales in comparison to the real thing. As great as our HD or 4K technology is, it doesn’t offer up to us the flesh and blood humanness of what we offer each other when we stand face to face, hearing each other’s breath and staring into each other’s eyes.

We need each other, and while we may go through periods when we try to convince ourselves to the contrary, those periods are unsustainable. We were made for community, we were made for contact, we were made for touch, physical, mental, emotional, spiritual. To remain untouched is to feel unloved.

You may have heard countless stories of orphans in far off countries who were never picked up as babies only to experience significant emotional issues later in childhood and life. We may think that we’re stronger now, no longer babies or children, no longer helpless, able to stand strong on our own, but there is no denying our need for contact.

Encouragement can only go so far when it happens virtually. I’d love to think that my effectiveness is just as strong on a screen as it is in person, but if I truly thought that, I would be wrong. Community cries out for community. There’s a reason why the writer of the New Testament Book of Hebrews wrote not to forsake the assembling of yourselves, the gathering together of our communities.

While I am not calling for a casting off of the physical restraints that now stand in place for our protection and the protection of the most vulnerable among us, I do know that something has to give.

Maybe you’ve seen one of the latest emojis that Facebook has offered us, the “virtual hug.” It’s a poor substitute for the real thing, but it seems that’s all we have right now. So we press on, longing for touch, longing to connect, and waiting for the day when it will be safe once again to do so.

A Different Kind of Love Story – Book Review

different kind of love storyGrowing up as a pastor’s kid can be tough. It can be even tougher if your dad is famous. Couple those things with the usual every day trials of being a teenager and all that entails, you can have quite a recipe for an emotional, stressful, and anxiety-ridden experience.

Just ask Landra Young Hughes. Her father, Ed Young, Jr., is pastor of a mega church in Houston, Texas and the author of a number of books. She is a twin who has felt she doesn’t always measure up to her twin sister.

In “A Different Kind of Love Story,” Hughes chronicles her struggles with an eating disorder and all the anxiety she faced when her parents came under public scrutiny. She shares the lies that she told herself. She shares her inability to be honest with the people she loves about the struggles that she was facing. She shares about coming face to face with an enemy who only seeks to steal, kill, and destroy.

“A Different Kind of Love Story” is an honest confession of the struggles that Hughes faced. She doesn’t candycoat it or pretend that the struggles don’t continue after the outward signs of the disease she conquered were no longer evident. Her struggles continue to this day.

While this book was written for a specific audience that wasn’t me, I appreciate the candor with which Hughes recounts her story. She bravely shares and confesses the lies she told herself, the lies she told others, and the steps she took to get to a place where she is healthier than she was before.

If you know someone, particularly an adolescent female, who is struggling with identity, image, and fitting in, Hughes’ book could be a helpful resource. If for no other reason than to let them know that they are not alone, nor are they unlovable or unredeemable. Hughes writes in such a way that she can help her reader, especially those in the midst of the struggle she describes, know that they are not alone.

With courage, grace, and love, Hughes has recounted her story so that others may hopefully avoid some of the same mistakes she made and avoid believing the lies that she herself believed. And if they’ve already started down the wrong road, Hughes offers a welcome companion for the way back home.

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

 

Loving Well

Too often, it seems, we can get caught up in the day to day routine that we forget about the quick passing of time. Then, when we experience the loss of someone special, we realize that we took for granted that they would always be there and never really said the things that we wanted to say to them.

When my wife’s grandmother turned 80, we celebrated her with a special birthday weekend. Five years later, we were celebrating her again and the decision was made that we would celebrate her every year thereafter. In my opinion, it was a brilliant idea. We would celebrate this incredible woman while she was still here rather than waiting until she was gone.

Having just celebrated this matriarch again a few weekends ago, the poignancy of the weekend remains. Why do we wait until someone is gone to celebrate them and let them know just how much they mean to us?

I have attended and presided over many funerals, it seems like a prevailing sentiment at each and every one that people wish that they had expressed themselves, their appreciation, and their love to the one who has been lost. They wish that they had more time and had said the things they had thought about before they had lost their loved one.

The brilliance of what my wife’s family has done over these last years is that there has always been some intentional sharing of what we appreciate about my wife’s grandmother the most. Imagine the scene with children, children-in-law, grandchildren, grandchildren-in-law, and great-grandchildren sharing about their love for this woman who has impacted each and every one of them. No waiting to share after she is gone (which I assume will still happen someday years from now), the day to share becomes today.

How often do I share with the people around me how much they mean to me? Am I intentional about telling them I love them now, or will I wait until they’re gone and regret that I didn’t say it more?

Loving well means that we let people know how much we love them now, not once they’re gone. Let them appreciate how much they are appreciated. Let them understand their value now. Let them know just how important they are to the people around them.

Truth In Love

Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.

Ephesians 4:14-16

I have been leading a group through a study in Paul’s letter to the church in Ephesus. Last week, our study brought us to the passage above. The phrase that jumped out to me which I have continually heard quoted was, “speaking the truth in love.”

Hanging around with church people, I’ve heard this phrase used countless times.

“I really need to speak the truth in love to him.”

“She felt that she had to speak the truth in love to me.”

“Just speak the truth in love, man.”

Having read the passage and heard the phrase as often as I had, I was somewhat surprised at how it hit me this time around.

First off, Paul’s words here are spoken into community. Relationship is assumed. Deep relationship. Truth speaking is something that is earned, it isn’t a God-given right or obligation. Speaking the truth, regardless of how it is done, is rarely well received when done to strangers or those with whom we have limited or no relationship.

In a culture that seems to have an ever evolving definition of truth and which seems to grow ever more offended when some version of the truth is spoken to them, it seemed a fairly relevant verse.

As a society, we’ve pulled away from honest dialogue, in my opinion. We are quick to be offended and yet generally disregard whether our words are offensive to someone else. We get triggered for one reason or another because of the “insensitivity” of someone’s words.

Rather than practicing good listening, we would much rather say our piece and get it off our chest, not concerning ourselves with how it’s received. I read a quote the other day that said good listening is listening to understand rather than listening to respond.

This has been a journey for me. I grew up in a family that encouraged getting everything out on the table. We were never mean about it. We didn’t seek to hurt or offend, we simply sought resolution with honesty as much as possible.

Over the past few years, I’ve adopted a practice of considering a few things prior to speaking. I used to justify my truth speaking by saying that I needed to get something off my chest, justifying what I was about to say by convincing myself that holding it in would not be healthy.

Sometimes, I would convince myself that the person to whom I would speak truth needed to hear what I had to say. I didn’t necessarily consider how they would hear it, just that it was important for them to hear it.

As time has gone on, I’ve asked myself whether I legitimately have the other person’s best interest in mind. Getting something off my chest is not good reason to speak the truth. An obligation to let someone hear truth is not good reason either. My heart needs to be for that other person’s benefit, well-being, and growth. If I love them and want to see them grow, then truth speaking may be justified, but I do have to consider how I present it and whether or not someone will be willing and open to hearing it.

Last week, a good friend of mine called me to engage in a conversation about which we didn’t see eye to eye. He politely asked if I had some time and then calmly explained the situation to me. There was no hint of anger or frustration in his voice, just curiosity and a desire to learn.

We talked for nearly an hour, sharing with each other our perspectives, seeking clarity and understanding, all the while being honest and open. At the end of the time, I couldn’t help but marvel at the blessing of this friendship. More than two decades of a relationship had allowed us to come to a place where we could calmly and lovingly discuss an issue that seems to have divided others. It wasn’t because of how amazing we are as people, just because our friendship has been time-tested and we’ve grown to have a love and admiration for each other that has allowed us to speak the truth in love with no fear of offense or triggering.

I’ve grown tired and weary of those who consider themselves Christians who assume that it’s necessary to speak the truth in love no matter what. I don’t think that was Paul’s intent with these words, especially considering that he was writing to a specific faith community who were entrenched in life together. We speak differently among our family than we do outside of our family, at least we should.

God is showing me the importance of keeping my mouth shut. That doesn’t mean that I never speak my opinion. It does mean that I am going to be far more honest within my “family” than outside my family. More often than not, I will seek an invitation into honesty through relationship and wade into those waters with humility and love. After all, truth speaking doesn’t really make much sense if nobody’s listening.

How Do We Disagree?

In the early hours of the morning on Sunday, a gunman entered the Pulse bar in Orlando and began shooting. By the time that the dust had settled from the attack, 49 people were killed in addition to the gunman himself. He was eventually killed as well by the police.

As details of the attack begin to emerge, some things are becoming clear. The gunman identified himself with ISIS, the terrorist group. The gunman had been interviewed by the FBI because of sympathies he had expressed in the past. The gunman exhibited unstable behavior in the past and his motives and anti-LGBT attitude seems to have been driven by his association with ISIS and their views.

Any shooting, in my opinion, is a horrific tragedy. This shooting is no exception. We’ve seen this happen too often over the past years, people going about their lives in their schools, in clubs, in theaters, and other places before their lives are upended by someone choosing to use violence to express their views and allow that violence to speak for them.

Why is violence the way that some choose to express their disagreement? That seems to be the $1,000,000 question. Is there no other way that we can express disagreement over issues than using violence? As I think through this tragedy and the 49 killed as well as all of the wounded, I can’t help but wonder about how we disagree with one another?

Granted, it seems that this shooter had a lot more underlying issues than seeming disagreements, but I think that the question of how we disagree still remains. Are we allowing for places in our culture and our society in which people can disagree and actually dialogue about those disagreements? Are there forums in which people with differing opinions can engage with one another in healthy and productive means?

Social media has been both a help and a hindrance for people to express their opinions. When we voice our opinions simply to make them known, we don’t invite conversation. At the same time, I think that we’ve gotten a little lax in engaging each other over differences, choosing instead to simply state that it’s fine for you to believe what you believe and me to believe what I believe, as long as we don’t end up working out our disagreements with violence.

But as I consider my own children, I have to think that how they are taught to disagree will be heavily dependent on what I teach them, both in word and action. That’s not to say that they won’t learn from what’s around them, but nurture and nature are both instrumental in our formation. How are my children learning to disagree?

Diversity can be a good thing, but if we all don’t understand the differences or seek to try to understand the differences, diversity is just another word that we throw around. To simply hold to beliefs because it’s “what we know” or “it’s the societal norm” is not a sufficient reason. If we believe something, hold firm to it as a belief and ideology, we should understand why we believe it. Can we become an apologist for our viewpoints and beliefs?

Not only should we be able to defend and affirm our beliefs, but if we have done the hard work of thinking for ourselves, we shouldn’t feel threatened when we encounter someone who disagrees with our beliefs. The one exception is when the someone that we meet who disagrees with our beliefs takes it upon themselves to use violence to do their convincing, as was the case with this man in Orlando.

I have many friends who hold differing opinions than I hold, but I’d like to think that we can agree to disagree and still engage in meaningful conversations without violence or hate. I don’t know that I will ever convince them of my beliefs and vice versa, but I don’t think that should prevent us from continuing our friendships.

How do you disagree? How well can you defend what you believe? Is social media simply a platform for you to trumpet your beliefs? Or do you seek to grow in your understanding of your beliefs as well as the beliefs of others?

There is an irony in a blog post like this. I fully understand that this has the potential of being the very thing that I don’t want it to be, but I’m also trying to ask more questions to point all of us towards the process of working out the answers for ourselves.

I pray for the people of Orlando. I pray that all of those impacted by this tragedy, especially those in the LGBT community, might realize that there are those out there whose differing views don’t prevent them from still sharing in friendship and love with them. I pray that the peace and comfort of Jesus Christ might be made known in a real and palpable way to those who are suffering and I pray that we can continue to seek ways to peaceably disagree with one another. May those who are mourning and hurting know that they are not alone in their mourning and hurting.

Speaking of Now

Having eulogized both of my parents at their respective funerals, I know a little bit of something about speaking words of someone when they’re gone. I consider myself fairly fortunate to have had an open and honest relationship with my parents, enough that not many things were left unsaid between us when they finally died. There were no major regrets felt by me, nothing that I felt I should or shouldn’t have said. Sure, there are always things you wish you could have said more, but I don’t feel like I missed saying anything important to them.

The thing is, while I know they aren’t wasted words, speaking kind memories after someone has gone, they sometimes feel as if they could have been even more significant if the person of whom they are about had been present at the time of their speaking. Like I said, I said all the things that I really needed to say to my parents, but I never stood in front of them and gave them one big tribute the way that I did at their funerals.

It kind of makes you think about the value of words said while people are still alive. Do we reserve the strongest and most powerful words for people once they’ve passed or are we honest with them while they sit across the table, room, computer, or phone line from us? Do we tell them the things that they need to hear or just what they want to hear? Do we encourage them and tell them how much they mean to us?

I’ve had two fairly distinct situations in the last week where encouraging words were spoken over someone who is still here. I shared about one of those experiences the other day, celebrating the 85th birthday of my wife’s grandmother. It was neat to hear the legacy tributes that were shared, the encouragement to her of her faithfulness, devotion, faith, and selflessness. It was probably also great for her to hear those things. While she exudes confidence, I am sure that in her 85 years of life, she’s had some doubts here and there, wondering whether or not all the sacrifices that she was making were really worth the efforts and, well, the sacrifice.

But those words were spoken over her, not over her lifeless body, over her life-filled body with ears that can hear, eyes that can cry, and a brain that can process. Those words will mean the same and still hold their power and strength either way, but they are so much more satisfying to the giver when the receiver can actually hear them.

The other distinct situation was the small birthday gathering of a friend who turned 40. A bunch of guys gathered around a firepit to just talk and hang out. While I had had grand plans of having everyone share stories, I realized in the midst of the time that co-opting it from what it had organically become would have turned it into something that it was not and most likely would have devalued it in some way.

As the time wound down as these men stood around a fire celebrating this brother and friend who is moving into a new decade of his life, the one who was being celebrated looked around the circle and spoke encouraging words over each and every person there. I had to chuckle to myself as I thought, “Wait a minute, this is supposed to be about him, not all of us.” That’s just him though, always wanting to spur others along.

I couldn’t resist co-opting the moment after he had finished his journey of encouragement around that circle. I spoke words over him and we all circled up around him, laid hands on him, and prayed over him. It was a holy and sacred moment, a moment of which you don’t experience many in life. Heaven touched earth and I had a sense that the Father was pleased by what he was seeing.

Not only was the Father pleased, but I am pretty sure that the one who was being celebrated was pleased as well. I think he was glad to have been the recipient of this time and celebration. I think he enjoyed it far more than he would have had he not been there, right?

Words are important. It was a stark reminder to me throughout all of these events, a reminder that I sadly need more than I’d like to admit. We can be quick with words or we can be slow with words. Sometime we wait too long to share them, sometimes we share before we’ve really had the chance to think through just what it is that we plan to say. Either way, words can hurt. In the words of INXS, “Words are weapons, sharper than knives.”

But words can lift up, they can lift us out of the pit, the ash heap on which we currently reside, and carry us up to the mountain, or at least out of the muck and mire in which we find ourselves. It’s important that we share them, especially those encouraging ones, now rather than waiting until tomorrow. After all, none of us knows what today or tomorrow holds.

If you’ve got something to say, say it, don’t wait until it’s too late. The words will be much sweeter for you when they’re shared with someone who can be physically and emotionally present to hear them and appreciate them. Everyone likes to hear an encouraging word, so why not share one today!

Gathering Together

This past weekend, my family and I traveled up to Mystic, Connecticut to celebrate the 85th birthday of my wife’s grandmother. Although I got a cold on the way that was eventually shared with others in my family and everyone was a little cranky from all the traveling, the time together was nothing short of celebratory and even a taste of heaven.

Having lost both of my grandmothers when I was in college, having my wife’s grandmother has been special not only to me and my wife, but to our children as well. She turned 85 last week, but she certainly doesn’t show lots of signs of her age. Sure, she’s slowed down a lot in the time that I’ve known her, but she’s as witty and wise as that day. She’s thoughtful and loving as well, thinking so much of others. She’s always quick to send a card for special occasions but also just to encourage people and to let them know that they are being prayed for and thought about by her.

It’s moments like the ones that we spent last weekend that remind me what a celebration we will experience one day when we will be united together with all of those who have gone before us. Thinking about the laughter and the shared memories, the stories, and the fun only give a glimpse of what we will experience when we one day stand before our Savior.

I chuckled during the weekend at the fact that I’m about halfway to 85 myself. I could only look, act, and feel half as good as my grandmother-in-law if and when that day actually arrives for me.

With 85 years of memories, there are lots to share, but I was struck by the fact that many of the memories and stories that were shared were stories of encouragement, love, prayer, and faith. Her children and grandchildren shared of the faith that had been instilled in them through her. She and her husband had put a priority on that faith and it was evident throughout all of the generations represented this weekend.

As the years swiftly move past, it seems that time acts as a filter of sorts, filtering out the less important things so that what remains is what you can hold closest to your heart. That theory was affirmed this weekend. All five of my grandmother-in-law’s children were there along with all twelve of her grandchildren and all but four of her sixteen great-grandchildren.

Sitting in the lobby of the hotel, passersby would stop to observe the whole family, wondering what on earth was going on. What was this crowd that had gathered? So many strangers came up and wished the “birthday girl” a happy birthday. The celebration was infectious and contagious, it was neat to watch the smiles spread on the faces of those walking by, especially when they discovered what the celebration was all about.

The celebration of a life that is lived is usually reserved for after a person passes. I was so glad to be part of such a celebration that took place while we can still enjoy the company and presence of the one being celebrated. I don’t know how many more celebrations that we can have with my grandmother-in-law, but I look forward to every single one, no matter how far we have to travel, how tired we are, and how cranky everyone gets (including me).

I don’t know how long I’ll be here on this earth, but I do know that I’ve watched a number of people go before me who have set the bar high on standards for living. I’m not talking about how much money they made or how monetarily rich they were, but how rich they were in their relationships with others. Those who serve as examples for me have shown me what is valuable and I can only hope and pray that the example I set for my kids and their kids might be a fraction of what’s been passed on to me.

No Fear In Love – A Book Review

no fear in loveAndy Braner grew up in a conservative, fundamentalist church and it seems that his adult journey has been spent trying to overcome its effect on him. He realized that he had spent a lot of time getting to know about God rather than actually trying to know God and let him influence the way that he lived. As he unpacked his own experiences and why he was taught to respond to certain things in certain ways, he realized that much of the response that he had been taught was governed and fueled by fear.

Braner writes, “We are far too concerned with the outward appearances of daily life without really addressing the core fears brewing deep inside ourselves.” Instead of questioning and spending time in relationship with those with whom we disagree, he says, we attack. We don’t build relationships but build walls instead. He asks his reader to ponder what might happen if Christians began to look at people as people and relationships rather than battles to be won or arguments in which to triumph.

Somewhere along the way, Braner claims, Christians excelled in becoming defenders of the Gospel and of God rather than becoming examples of Christ to the world. In these efforts to protect God and the Gospel, we have actually created places where sin is prohibited and managed to such an extent that people can’t be open and honest with their struggle and where they can’t confess to one another because of the fear that’s driving them. God is not a sales pitch, Braner adds.

In embracing a culture of protection, we have feared the “other,” anyone who is different than us. We have failed to engage them and find common places of thought as starting points. Instead, we have created walls, building them up instead of building the relationships that are so important in which God could work. Braner suggests that we enter into relationships free of agendas and with a simple desire to know the other person and where they are coming from, regardless of the differences in opinions, beliefs, and ideologies.

Throughout this book, Braner shares personal stories about how he has found success in confronting his own fears and found ways to engage the “other” in his life. He shares of praying in a mosque, of engaging a whole group of Jehovah’s Witnesses and inviting them to dinner, of boldly mixing Christian and Muslim teenagers for a week of summer camp, and other stories. He says that, “The most compelling adventures are those that happen when we recognize fear, address it, and move to a place of reliance on what God is doing in the hearts and minds of others.”

Braner questions where Christians are known more by what they are against or by what they are for. In our media-saturated culture, he sees that we have lost the art of healthy dialogue, instead tending to trade it for brief shouting matches between experts in which the winner is the one who yelled the loudest. He adds that, “This practice has done nothing to help us reach out and discuss things in a civilized disagreement. It promotes anger, yelling, and extremism.”

Overall, I didn’t walk away from this book feeling as if Braner had shared anything groundbreaking with the reader. In some ways, he dwelt heavily in generalizations to the point that he made it seem as if there are no Christians out there who are making in-roads in building relationships with those with whom they don’t see eye to eye. In fact, there were times that I felt his stories were shared more for their shock value than because the readers could actually benefit from them. If the average Christian falls into most of the generalizations which Braner lays out, chances are that they wouldn’t be impressed with his stories as much as they might be shocked and turned away.

I appreciate Braner’s heart shining throughout this book. The reader can tell that he is passionate about which he writes. He is passionate about building relationships with those with whom he doesn’t see eye to eye. If you have sought a third way, a way to engage the “other” without offending, turning off, or defeating, Braner offers his own stories as possible suggestions. If you fit into the generalizations of Christians that Braner shares, you might be better served looking elsewhere for a safer and more comfortable read. Braner doesn’t pull any punches and he does so with a purpose. While this book didn’t “wow” me, I don’t feel that it was a waste of time either.

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

Papa Bear

When I was a little boy, I was the youngest kid in the neighborhood. Most of the kids were at least a year older than me, if not more. Even my brother is four years older than me. While I wasn’t a small child, I was still the youngest.

There was a kid down the street who might have been labeled the neighborhood bully. He was the one wearing the heavy metal T-shirts. He lived with his mom, and to the best of my knowledge had no siblings. He had a reputation, at least with my family.

One day, I was being a four or five year old kid, riding my little plastic, orange push motorcycle and the next minute, I had gotten clocked in the head with it by this kid. Naturally, I cried and ran home.

As the youngest child, I was always the one to get sympathy. I was the baby and there were plenty of times that my mom would coddle me as the baby. On this day, I don’t know if I ever saw my mom so mad in my life. While all of the details remain blurry, I do remember being dragged down the street to this kid’s house. I remember his mom answering the door and my mom showing her the welt on my head from my plastic motorcycle. It seems to me that my mom’s concern was met with indifference from the mom, but don’t quote me on it.

I learned an incredible lesson that day: most parents love and care deeply for their children. In fact, they will do just about anything for them and when you mess with those kids, the hackles will come out and you’ll find yourself facing a very angry animal.

As a parent myself now, I can understand better my mom’s reaction. If you want to see the bear claws come out, mess with my kids.

I’m not naïve enough to think that my kids are perfect. Heck, I’ve spent fourteen hours in the car with them, if there’s anyone who knows better than me (other than my wife) that they are fallible and imperfect, it’s me.

But I know my kids. I know how they usually act. I know how they usually talk. I know when things just aren’t right. When I see something done to them that was not justified, when I see them being treated unfairly, when I see them hurting, I will respond.

At the end of this past little league baseball season, I wrote an email to the coaches for my older son’s team. I wanted to thank them for taking a kid who isn’t the most athletically gifted kid in the world and doing their best to make sure that he was encouraged, that he was educated and taught the game, and that he had a good time and enjoyed himself. I was grateful for their time and efforts and the investment that they had made in my son.

Recently, something happened with one of my children and I responded. As I reflected on my reaction, I think that I was a little surprised at just how much love that I have for my children. I’m not surprised that I love them, I was just surprised just how much I felt the burning within me at the thought of anything bad happening to them.

Continuing to reflect upon it, I thought about that love that I have for my children multiplied. How much does God love us? If I respond so passionately when someone messes with my kids, how much more will God respond because of his great love for us?

As a friend of mine said the other day, “Parenting is the most rewarding thing in the world.” He followed that statement by admitting how incredibly difficult it is as well. Your kids will challenge you, they will love you, they will test you, they will show you just what’s inside of you.

I’m grateful for my children, but I’m equally grateful for my parents, the ones who stood up for me, who loved me, who went to the mat for me. I’m also grateful for a Father who still does the same day after day!

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!