Preparing for the Unavoidable

WillMy wife and I just met with a lawyer today to get a will made.  I have to admit, it’s kind of weird to think about.  You know, the whole “I’m gonna die someday, so let’s prepare” thing.  It really does reinforce the reality that life is short and that death is inevitable.

It’s strange to think of my boys living without me here.  That after I’m gone, all of my stuff will get divided.  That’s assuming that life will go as “planned”, without any tragedies or surprises along the way.

So, as I write this morbid post, there is the understanding that death is not a popular topic.  Some people avoid it like the plague.  On the other side of the coin, there are those who have a faith that welcomes death without fear.

Where do you stand?  Does the thought of not existing rattle your bones?  Does the uncertainty of “what’s next” cause fear and panic?  Are you looking for the “back” button so you don’t have to read the rest of this post?  For those of you who settle in this camp, I understand.

This world is full of uncertainty.  We think we have control, but we really don’t, at least not permanently.  The thought of losing that control is scary.  In order to tame the fear, we’re given self-help books to cope with what we are feeling.  We’re given drugs and medication.  We’re given advice on how we can “be our better selves.”  While some of these things are ok, they aren’t the solution to the fear, only a band-aid.  Death is still a reality, no matter what efforts we put forth.

There are also folks that face death with hope and courage.  They have faith that greater things await on the “other side.”  There are many different religions that believe very different things.

I happen to believe in Jesus Christ.  I believe that the Bible is the storybook of His life and a guide for ours.  I guess I can be tagged as a “Christian”, but I prefer the tag of “in a relationship” instead.  The relationship is not based on anything that I do, but on what Jesus has already done….contrary to the box that religion likes to place people in.  My relationship is fluid, constantly changing and full of grace.

Through my faith, I trust that a place called Heaven awaits.  I obviously have no idea what it’s like 1st hand, but I hear it’s pretty cool…..no sickness, no pain, no guilt or shame, no jealousy or envy, no death, only life, only peace, only joy….sounds pretty good to me.

The cool thing is that this hope is available to everyone…..without religion, without rules, without guilt or shame…..only belief in Jesus…who He was, what He did, and what He provides for those who love Him.  We don’t have to be afraid.

Or we can choose to believe in nothing.  It’s a choice that we have the freedom to make.

As I plan ahead, it’s not out of fear.  It’s out of the need to provide for my boys, that’s all.  I love my life here, but I know my next life will be awesome, far beyond any stretch of the imagination.

God Bless,

Paul

Little Eyes Are Watching

Dad and sonLately, I’m trying to be more aware of 2 little sets of eyes, always watching me.  My boys pay attention to everything that I do.  They repeat the words that I say, mimic how I move and observe my reactions to life.

My main job as their dad is to show them how to be men…..men of integrity, men who love Jesus, men who respect women, men who are servants, men who are humble and men who embody love.  As I attempt to achieve this, I’m always praying for opportunities to teach them things.  Whether it’s big things or small things, it doesn’t matter.

For example, we were on our way to dinner last night and there was a truck in front of us that had just broken down.  It was stuck at a light, right at an intersection.  I decided to jump out and help push the truck through the intersection, over to a safe place.  We made it happen and all was well.  I hopped back in the car and we were on our way.

My boys thought it was pretty funny to see me out there, pushing this random truck down the road.  I’m sure it looked funny.  After the laughter subsided, we had the chance to talk about the importance of helping others.  It worked out well and I thank God for the opportunity to share the lesson.

That was a positive lesson to teach my boys.  On the other hand, I’ve also had the humbling experience of teaching them how NOT to do things…..based on my mess-ups of course.  They’ve seen me lose my cool in traffic, screaming “idiot!” at the car in front of me.  They’ve experienced my wrath directed at them for something small and unnecessary.  They’ve seen me get frustrated at doing projects around the house.  The list could go on.

When I mess up, I try to apologize quickly.  I’m a firm believer that a true man is one who is willing to admit his faults.  To admit when he is wrong and to have the courage to say, “I’m sorry.”  So, when the opportunity presents itself, I like my sons to know that their daddy isn’t perfect.  Better yet, I want them to know that I don’t expect them to be perfect either.  I think love and respect grows when there’s the freedom to be less-than-perfect.

Overall, there’s a lot of responsibility in being a dad.  It’s a responsibility that I’m willing to shoulder.  Actually, it’s one that I’m honored to shoulder.

It’s cool to know that I can set the foundation for their future….with God’s grace and help for sure.  I know they may choose a different direction as they grow older.  I just hope that the learning and love that they learn now will somehow provide a level, solid path for them to follow throughout life.

I’m a blessed man.

God Bless,

Paul

Wrestling With My Boys

Father sonA question that my son asks almost every night when I get home is, “can we wrestle tonight?”  My boys and I love wrestling, we’re pretty good at it.

We come up with our own versions of “superman”, “airplane”, “hit daddy in the face with slippers”….you know, cool, painful games like that!  I love it.

The other day, my oldest had a great day at kindergarten.  He got a medal thingy for being safe and responsible, along with some other kids in his class.  I was really proud of him.  I told him that he could have some ice cream after dinner for a reward.  He was pretty excited.

So, after dinner, the boys and I were goofing around and I noticed that it was getting late.  We hadn’t had ice cream yet, so I gave my son the option: either we could keep wrestling or we could stop wrestling and have ice cream instead……he actually chose wrestling over “cookies and cream” ice cream!

I tell you what, that made this dad’s heart melt.  It made me realize how important our rough-house time was.  To me, it doesn’t seem like a big deal really.  To him, it’s interaction with his dad who loves him.

So, of course I caved after that.  He got ice cream and wrestling….I know, I’m a softy.  I was happy to give in that night.

Some nights, I don’t feel like getting beat down by a 6-year-old and a 2-year-old.  You know what, no rest in the world is more important than creating memories to last a lifetime.  I’m blessed.

God Bless,

Paul

What Saved My Marriage

Couple on BeachDriving to work this morning, I was praying for my wife and reflecting on our marriage.  I was overcome with awe and thankfulness for what God has done.

We’ve been married for 10 years now and the journey has been beautiful messy.  By “beautiful messy”, I mean that it’s been real.  It’s been full of good times and bad times, challenges and triumphs.  Through the messiness has come a beautiful connection and a meaningful life.

A few years into our marriage, we were at a crossroads.  We each had our own ideas of how to do things and we butted heads constantly.  My pride vs. her stubbornness…..epic battles happened all the time.  We were young and had this marriage thing figured out…or so we thought.  We each knew everything about everything and the something that the other knew meant nothing because that something wasn’t the very thing that was the “right” thing.  Clear as mud?  Good.

We chose to press on and make our marriage work.  If I were to be honest, we didn’t choose the right road by our own effort.  It has been God’s constant grace and patience along the way.  Sure, we needed the courage to respond to His direction, but I give credit to Him for the healing that has taken place.

God works in the most ordinary ways sometimes.  In our case, He changed our hearts.  I became less prideful and more humble.  She became less stubborn and more open.  Surely the road has been challenging and painful.  I thank God for the conflict though.  It’s taught us how to fight well.  We’re really good at it.  It’s taught us how to take the focus off ourselves and place it on Someone else; our Saviour Jesus Christ.  It’s amazing what has happened.

As the years have gone by, we have both realized how important it is to keep God at the center of our marriage.  When we have God as our filter, we look at each other differently.  There’s a hue of patience, a shadow of grace and a reflection of beautiful imperfection.  Sure, we still battle sometimes, but that’s normal.  We do our best to let God be our referee.

It’s a trickle-down effect really.  When God comes 1st, we love each other differently, better, gentler.  When this happens, we become less consumed with each other and more interested in others.  When this happens, we become God’s hands and feet, thus allowing Him to place us where He wants us.  When we are placed in the right place, we are fulfilling the purpose for which we were created.  When our purpose is being fulfilled, we are content, our cups runneth over and God is glorified.  All this in sync allows us to be better partners, parents and friends.  It’s beautiful.

To be realistic, sometimes we suck at putting God 1st.  We’re two imperfect people trying to navigate through life.  It’s the same for all of us.  The only thing that we can do is throw up our hands daily, trusting that as we trip, because we will, God will place a pillow in the right spot to catch our fall.  All we can do is get back up, brush off our knees, give each other a kiss and forge on.

God saved my marriage.  The unfortunate part is that He was there the whole time.  Maybe we just needed to skin our knees a few times to figure that out.  Afterall, God seems to be more concerned with our journey vs. the end result….even if the journey is messy.  What a blessing to know that there is room to be less-than-perfect.

God Bless,

Paul

Forgiveness is Like Tug-O-War

Tug o warWe have all been wronged, hurt or heartbroken at some point in our lives.  It’s unfortunate, but it’s true.  We live in a broken world, full of broken people.  We are all selfish in our own right, but some people allow the selfishness to control their lives, eventually hurting others in unimaginable ways.

Once the pain has been inflicted, we have two choices: to heal or to marinate in the pain.  Certainly, the healing process is different for everybody and I’m not trying to minimize the deep scars that can often take years to repair.  I’m just presenting the crossroads that are undeniable as we face the decision to press forward.

Forgiveness.  That word alone can evoke many emotions.  It has been used in a loose, flippant way over the years.  It’s a word that is often kept in a box and pasted onto Hallmark cards.  It’s much more than that really.

First off, let me explain what forgiveness is NOT.  It is not a free pass given to the person who hurt you.  In other words, it doesn’t validate or release the other person from the pain caused.

As far as I’ve experienced, forgiveness means freedom.  The freedom isn’t from the mental, physical or spiritual scars left necessarily….although it certainly can be.  The freedom is from the person who caused the pain.  Holding on to the person who caused the transgressions takes effort.  It takes energy, both emotional and physical.  It’s as though, by not forgiving someone, we are able to control the situation that has already occurred.  All that does is replay the pain over and over again, every day.  It’s not a burden that we are meant to carry.

I picture a tug-o-war battle.  The person who caused the pain on one end and you on the other.  As long as you are both holding onto the rope, you’re connected in some way, to whatever painful past that you had together.  Forgiveness is letting go of the rope.  Releasing the grip, turning around and moving forward.  The memory of the connection is still there, but the rope is on the ground.  Your hands are now free to embrace healing.  That’s how I see it.

As a Christian, my main motivation to forgive is based on what Jesus Christ did for me….He forgave me and offered me eternity….and I accepted.

I’m called to offer that same forgiveness to others.  It truly goes against every grain of natural inclination.  Only by God’s strength can I even fathom truly moving forward with love still in my heart.  It’s a supernatural thing that I can’t explain, but I’m thankful for it.

Please join me in letting go of the rope.  It’s a daily choice, but it’s a choice worth making.  We’re meant to thrive in the freedom that only God can provide.  Let the past rest in the palms of our Maker and He’ll take care of the rest.

“Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.”-Ephesians 4:32 (NLT)

God Bless,

Paul

Breaking Rakes and Other Things

Broken RakeWhen I was younger, I struggled with anger.  I’m sure it was a combination of things such as the divorce, bullying, low self-esteem, etc….who knows.

I remember hating yard work.  I hated mowing the lawn…especially mowing, ok pulverizing, over all the mole hills in our front yard.  I hated sweeping.  I hated raking leaves.

In fact, many times, whether it was raking leaves or using other tools, I ended up breaking them.  The tools didn’t break from my hard work.  They broke because of the aggressive force against my knee, or the ground, snapping them in half.  Not good.  My poor mom must have been so worried to see me angry so often.

My mom’s worry and prayers were warranted and for those worries and prayers, I am thankful.  I believe that they made an impact on who I am today.

Looking back, my anger could have gotten the best of me.  It could have easily taken me down the wrong road.  God’s protection was definitely there, every step of the way.

My heart and soul have been changed over the years.  I’m actually pretty mellow now…for the most part….except for the other day when my beard trimmer wasn’t working right and I broke it in half (true story), but other than that, I really don’t get angry any more.  By the way, the beard trimmer incident was embarrassing.  Nobody saw it, but I felt like that little kid, mowing over mole hills, breaking rakes all over again.  I let it go though, tomorrow’s another day.

We’ve all been shaped by our past in some way, haven’t we?  Some of us have been shaped for the good and some of us have broken our own array of tools.  What’s important is that we recognize where we’ve been, who we are, and the people that we are becoming.

In my case, some of my old patterns have shown themselves later, in subtle ways.  I’m thankful that I serve a God who knows me much better than I know myself.  Better yet, He sometimes uses even my greatest weaknesses for His glory.  Pretty cool.

Our past certainly doesn’t need to define us.  What it can do is add flavor to our journey.  Hopefully, our flavor will rub off on those around us….maybe even those who are facing the same obstacles that we once faced.  So let’s add flavor wisely!

“This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.”-Psalms 118:24

God Bless,

Paul

Snowstorm = Excuse to Slow Down

Snow footprintsWe just had a good snowstorm hit.  It’s lasted a few days and it’s been awesome.  Typically, with weather events like these, there comes the stress of driving, keeping warm and stocking up for the days ahead.

I noticed something a little different this time.  As I’ve gone on a few walks, there’s been a sense of hush and peace.  There were folks walking hand in hand, bundled up, enjoying the white stuff around them.  There’s that consistent crunch of snow with each step and the smell of fires warming the gray sky.  There were smiles shared and simplicity renewed.  It was refreshing.

I also walked to the grocery store.  It was busy, but not frantic.  It felt like a holiday.  Actually, it was better than a holiday because people weren’t as grumpy or rushed.  Time has felt slowed down and the slow down has been welcomed.

I’ve been able to spend some good time with the family and create some awesome memories with my boys.

The snow is finally starting to thaw out and life will return to normal.  I’m sure that all of our schedules will become full again and the frantic pursuit of success and happiness will regain control.

Here’s the thing…..what if I don’t want to return to the craziness?  Is it even possible to hold on to the simplicity and care-free attitude that I’ve experienced in the last few days?  I think so.

You see, it’s not about what we have on our plates that matters.  It’s the condition of our hearts as we accomplish the day-to-day tasks in front of us.  Peace and productivity can go hand-in-hand, it just takes effort and perspective.

The bible talks about trusting God, being still and not worrying about tomorrow.  I think these are some pretty good ingredients for a happy, peace-filled life.  One that pretty much goes against the grain of culture.

Surely, there will be those days where I lose my mind.  There will be those days where I’m tired and weary.  There will be those days where I’m searching for the reset button.  Honestly, that’s just a part of being alive……it also gives us the chance to look beyond our own strength and efforts.

As long as I keep my hand on the pulse of God, I can’t lose.  All we’re called to do is allow Him to lead us.  It’s through His leading that peace comes forth and it’s through that peace that we are able to see clearly and slow the heck down…whether the path is snow-covered or not.

God Bless,

Paul