Life Without Love = Meaningless

As I’ve grown older and reached the ripe age of 37, I’ve come to realize something:  LIFE ISN’T ABOUT WHAT WE DO, IT’S ABOUT HOW WELL WE LOVE.

“If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing. If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing.” – 1 Corinthians 13:1-3 (NLT)

This verse is huge for me.  It’s a great reminder of how much God values love and how he could give a rip about what we do if love isn’t the motivator or result.

You could be the most devout church goer in town, but if you treat others like crap Mon.-Sat., you’re pretty much wasting your time.  You could be the CEO of a huge corporation and rake in the cash, but if you’re a cheat and unfair, you’re pretty much wasting your time.  You could be super generous, devoting your time to volunteer, but if you’re not loving to others, you’re pretty much wasting your time.  You see, God isn’t interested in the same stuff that we’re interested in.  The trophies and status symbols that our culture values are garbage to him.  He’s interested in eternity.  He’s interested in life change.  He’s interested in our character.  He’s interested in us being light when all else is dark around us.  He’s interested in stuff that will last, not stuff that is temporary.

God has given us relationships such as family, neighbors, enemies and difficult people for a reason…..to learn what love is….what HIS love is.  I’ve come to grips with the fact that I will never fully understand the extent of God’s love or Jesus’s sacrifice.  I will never fully understand the grace given to me daily, when I totally don’t deserve it.  I DO understand one thing though….I’m grateful for it and BECAUSE I’m grateful for it, my natural desire is to SHARE it with others.  I want others to experience the same love that I’ve received.  I want folks to feel the rush of loving others because amidst that sharing of love, God is there, waiting with a glowing smile and a big ‘ol bag of life change with our name on it.  That’s the good stuff right there.

You know what though?  We don’t HAVE to love at all.  We are given the choice to be selfish or to be selfless because that’s what love is all about….choice.  Friends, I sure hope you CHOOSE love, you CHOOSE Jesus, you CHOOSE that solid peace that goes beyond all understanding.

At my funeral, I don’t want people to talk about how nice my yard was or what kind of car I drove or how many hours at the office I put in per week…..I want them to talk about how I loved.  I want them to talk about how I cared.  I want them to talk about my role as a husband and as a father and how I took that honor seriously.  I want them to talk about Jesus and how He reflected Himself through me, even it was just a little bit.

Here’s the thing, love can be intoxicating to receive and terrifying to give at times, I get it.  There’s risk involved, it’s true.  God wants us to love anyways because maybe, just maybe, your smile or handshake or good gesture could alter the path of someone’s life.  I think that’s definitely worth the risk, don’t you?  Go get ’em!

God Bless,

Paul

The Night We Looked Into The Mirror Together

mirrorThe night was winding down and it was time to brush teeth and get ready for bed.  It was just me and Ben, my oldest son in the bathroom.  After we were all done going through the routine, I felt the need to have him do something different….something outside of our usual order of things……I said, “come here Ben, let’s look into the mirror together….what do you see?”  We stood there for a few seconds, my hands on his shoulders…my adult frame acting as a large backdrop against his small 8-year-old body.  It was a great dad/son moment for me….pretty cool.  He sat there pondering as his eyes wandered, investigating all of his features.  “I see my birth mark.”  That is the first thing Ben stated.  We went down the list of his other physical features like ears, blue eyes, hair, etc.  He then said “I think I look weird.”  I appreciated his child-like simplicity and honesty.  At first, his statement made me kinda sad, but it created an awesome opportunity to talk about some good things.

I think we’ve all gone through stages in life where we think we look “weird” or we’re not satisfied with who we are as people.  I know I have.  Growing up, looking in the mirror was a constant struggle for me.  For some reason, I was ashamed of myself…..I’m not sure why, but I was.  Because of this, my time with Ben in front of the mirror was special.

We were able to discuss how important it is to be different.  That we are all special and handcrafted by a God who loves us.  That we’re all weird, but in a good way!  That, out of the billions of people alive today, not one person is exactly like the other.  That Ben is special and every mark and crease and gap and color and detail makes up his very own identity.  Fantastic!

Next, the conversation led to purpose and exploring God’s plan for Ben.  I asked him what he thought he was created for.  He said, “well I know one thing that I was created for.  I think I am a peace-maker.”  That was awesome to hear.  I wish I was that insightful when I was a kid!  He then asked, “do you think God has a plan for me?  Do you think He has a plan for you, dad?”  I obviously gave an enthusiastic “absolutely!” and explained that we are all created for a purpose.  That, as we go through life, our purpose will hopefully become clearer.  I also explained that even though I’m an adult, I’m still trying to figure out my purpose, but I know it’s out there, ready for me to find!  He nodded his head in agreement, shifted his eyes to the side as he pondered the conversation, we gave hugs and “I love you’s” and then we were done.  Simple stuff, yet such a sweet space in time.

I’m learning that our children often become what we speak into them.  As parents, we are shepherds, doing our best to guide our little ones down the right road.  Although we can’t force our children to become anything or anyone, we can sure clear a path for them, love them, speak confidence into their lives and pray for them….trusting that God has them in His hands.

I invite you to join me in being intentional with our kids our nephews and nieces, our cousins, our friend’s kids….basically any kids that we have contact and relationship with.  They need us….oh yes, little imperfect “us.”

We are responsible for molding the next generation…..what a privilege and honor!

 

God Bless,

Paul

 

 

 

Why The Simpler Things Can Be Better

004Kids don’t typically care about fancy stuff.  As long as they’re entertained, they’re happy.

You know how it is….you spend a lot of money on a fancy toy, thinking the kids will be totally stoked and over-joyed…..and they may be excited for a moment…..until you come into the room and see them playing with a toilet paper roll, or a rock, or a box.  Meanwhile, that shiny, expensive toy is in the corner collecting dust.  Pretty funny.

A few weeks ago, I sent my wife away to the beach and the boys and I had a guy’s weekend.  We had a lot of fun eating junk food, watching baseball, bowling, farting, burping, etc.

Although we did a lot of fun things, sitting in the back of my truck, at the airport, eating burgers and watching airplanes was my favorite.  I think the boys enjoyed it too.  It was simple-fun, you know, memory stuff.

It seems like, at least with my boys, the experiences that cause life to slow down a little are what matter the most to them….the times where conversation is shared and time has no hold.

Don’t get me wrong, they love video games and new toys and shiny cool stuff.  Usually though, after a while, most of it ends up in the closet.

Finding that balance between shiny stuff and good ‘ol fashioned interaction is tough, especially in this day and age.  Kids are adaptable though and over time, they’ll follow our lead if we’re consistent and deliberate.

As a dad, I’m more interested in creating memories vs. stockpiling toys.  Hopefully my boys will find more value in relationships vs. stuff someday…..I think they’re on the right track.  For now, they’re just kids, figuring stuff out and I’m ok with that.

A great reward for me would be 20 years down the road….while drinking coffee or something, my boys start bringing up memories from their childhood.  The simple, good memories of laughs shared, experiences had and freedom felt.  I hope to experience this kind of reminiscing someday….God willing.

God Bless,

Paul

 

Dads, We Are Blessed

Dad and son shavingHey you dads, future dads and dads at heart, I have some words to share with ya.  With Father’s day coming up, I’ve been reflecting on my own role as a dad.  Here’s a few thoughts:

God has given us a blessing.  An absolutely rewarding, challenging, humbling, legacy-filled blessing……..the opportunity to be fathers.

Our role as fathers shouldn’t be taken lightly.  Our kids are watching us in many ways:

  • How we interact with others
  • How we treat women
  • How we respect their moms
  • How we lead
  • How we follow
  • How we handle problems
  • How we show grace to others
  • How we serve and who we serve

I think it’s important that we remain true to ourselves and to who God created us to be.  We each have certain skills and abilities, strengths and weaknesses.  Amidst the expectations of society, it’s really easy to lose focus of this.

The daily pressures that we face to be “manly” all the time can feel overwhelming.  I’ve personally struggled with this at times.  Culture tells us not to show our tears.  I encourage you to do the opposite……show your tears and humbly admit when you’re wrong.  Show vulnerability.  Your kids will respect you more for it.

When you feel weak and inadequate, turn to Jesus for strength.  Sometimes, falling on our faces out of reverence gives us the strength to stand firmly and confidently.  In fact, it’s right where God wants us to be.

Join me in praying for our families daily.  Let’s pray for God’s protection over our children during such crazy times.  That His guiding hand would cover them.  That God would go before them and prepare a way of blessing, that they may be a blessing to others.

This world needs more loving fathers.  Men who have found the balance of firm leadership and gentleness.

Never miss the opportunity to scoop your kid’s cheeks into your palms, kiss them on the face and tell them “I love you.”  Your words make a difference.

Look for the small moments. Teach them how to skip rocks, make sandwiches or pick berries.  Make farting noises, laugh out loud and be goofy.  It’s often in these in-between times that memories are made and legacies are left.

Think of the good men in your lives who have shaped you….be like them.

The words that I write come from my own experiences, failures and hopes.  By no means have I arrived.  This imperfect journey in fatherhood will continue for years to come.

Let’s be men full of integrity, love and strength, by His grace only……little ones are counting on us!

God Bless,

Paul

 

 

Campfire

campfirebeachsmallMy family just got back from a much-needed beach trip.  It was rejuvenating to say the least.

We ate, we laughed, we walked, we strolled, we kicked sand, we created memories.

I’ve wanted to have a campfire on the beach for a long time.  There’s something nostalgic about fires, sticks and s’mores.  Maybe it’s the sound of the ocean.  Maybe it’s the smoke-marinated clothes.  Maybe it’s the common bond of sitting around an open flame, sometimes silently.  I think it’s a mix of all 3.  Actually for me, there’s another factor……my sons.

For some reason, building a campfire on the beach is something that I want my boys to remember.  I want them to remember the long walk from the hotel to the beach, toting the wood, skewers and other supplies.  I want them to remember finding the perfect spot to gather.  I want them to remember crumpling up the paper, carefully placing the kindling and clicking the lighter.  I want them to remember the anticipation of dad finally opening the bag of marshmallows.  I want them to remember my hand on theirs as we gently, tactically toast up that perfect, toasty ball of sugar.  Lastly, I want them to remember the love shared.

There’s so many more “campfire” moments that I hope to share with my sons.  I didn’t learn a lot of “manly stuff” growing up, but I’m figuring it out as I go.

The actual “stuff” that I teach them isn’t what’s most important.  Love should be the fuel behind every memory.  Them sensing that love is what’s most important.

Someday, I hope to see them creating loving memories with their own families.  Maybe they’ll have their own “campfire” moments.  As long as love motivates them, even the simplest of times will ignite memories for generations.

God Bless,

Paul

BECOMING DUST AND LEAVING A LEGACY

LegacyThe thought of life continuing after we’re gone is a sobering reality.

We work hard, we form relationships, we fail, we succeed, we get sick, we get well, we eat, drink and attempt to be merry……then it’s gone.  We die and the only thing left is the legacy that we’ve formed while we were alive.

I mean really, these bodies of ours are merely vessels to house the spirits within us.  They’re temporary and we forget that so easily.

Who we are and the convictions that guide us affect generations of people.  How we handle adversity and how we show love to strangers….these are the things that stick.

To be vain is a temptation we all face.  Let us not allow our shallow conceit to override the love within us.  Our things and our worries and our fretting and our anger and our accomplishments and our sadness are a mere warm breath on a frosty morning.  Inhale, exhale, wait a few seconds and the steam is gone.  Such is life.

It goes quick, really quick actually.

When I’m no longer here, I hope that folks talk about my character.  That, through my imperfections, others would have caught a glimpse of Christ’s love through me.  That my sons would understand how to be men….not just regular men, but good men, humble men, God-fearing men.  This is the stuff that matters.  This is the stuff that lasts.

“As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him; for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust.  As for man, his days are like grass, he flourishes like a flower of the field; the wind blows over it and it is gone, and its place remembers it no moreBut from everlasting to everlasting the LORD’s love is with those who fear him, and his righteousness with their children’s children……”  -Psalms 103:13-18

What’s your legacy?

God Bless,

Paul