Dad Fail

A couple of weeks ago, my oldest son had a soccer game.  I’ve always loved watching him run around on the field, giving it full effort, working with his teammates, going for it.  To be honest, this last game didn’t really represent these things.  He wasn’t playing to his full potential and I could tell he was being timid out there.  As a dad, my competitive juices start flowing and I admit, it’s hard to be super positive after a game like that.

As we were walking back to the car, we recapped the game.  We talked about the challenges, set backs and some positive stuff as well.  I told him that he did great and that I was proud of him for getting out there and playing.  Then the dad-fail came….immediately after the compliment, I mentioned that he seemed a little tired, maybe intimidated and that he didn’t really seem to play like the kid I know.  Stupid mistake.

Soon after we got home, my son called me out.  With frustration in his voice, he told me that I had really discouraged him.  That I told him I was proud of him one second and then immediately went to something negative, deflating any encouragement given.  You know what, he was right, I messed up.

Sure, it’s ok to offer constructive criticism to our children, but at the proper time.  My timing was bad and I apologized.

What a great lesson for me to learn as a dad.  Sometimes, kids don’t need us to fix them or offer them advice.  Sometimes, they just  simply want to know that we’re proud of them.

God Bless,

Paul

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Living Out What We Believe

HelpingHave you ever read a great story, watched an inspiring movie or heard an amazing testimony that compelled you to take action in some way?  Maybe your perspective was changed.  Maybe you felt encouraged to take a leap of faith.  Maybe you felt empathy for someone or something because of your experience.

What you witnessed left you with the desire to act.  I would even venture to say that inwardly, you had no choice but to act, to change, to rest in the revelation.

For those of us who fall under the label of “Christians”, what does our faith look like?  Are we walking witnesses, trusting Jesus to guide our steps or are we tired and timid, wearing the name of Christ as clothing, easily removable at will.

I have been a Christian for a long time.  I was raised in the church and surrounded by “all things Christian” my whole life.  Becoming complacent is definitely something to watch when you’ve been around a belief structure so long.

It’s so easy to fall into the comfortable trap of doing Christian things, checking off the list for Christ.  Going through the motions without allowing the heart-change.

Unfortunately, I think there are many Christians who fall under this category.  Wandering around like a bunch of zombies, following tradition, rules and procedures, all the while, forgetting about their 1st love, Jesus Christ.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been there.  Looking back, I was a judgemental jerk at times.  Using my bible as a weapon, not for love.  I’ve grown up since then, but I’m certainly not perfect either.

Here’s the thing, when we’ve been gripped by God’s love, it SHOULD transform us.  It SHOULD mold us.  It SHOULD flip our freaking worlds upside down!

I’m not saying that we suddenly become theologians or scholars or saints.  What happens is actually quite simple.  Our perspective is altered, our heart is more sensitive and our love for others increases.  Most importantly, our view of eternity and God Himself becomes more intimate and real.  It’s a supernatural thing, not a common sense thing.

What we need these days from Christians, more than ever, is conviction of the spirit and the courage to love boldly.  I speak for myself here.  It’s something that I pray for constantly.

By conviction, I mean the yearning or urging to live out what God has worked in.  To be a witness in our words AND deeds.  That’s the key.

Now someone may argue, “Some people have faith; others have good deeds.” But I say, “How can you show me your faith if you don’t have good deeds? I will show you my faith by my good deeds.” – James 2:18 (NLT)

To clarify, it’s not just a do-good thing.  It’s a have-faith-in-Jesus-and-the-rest-will-follow kind of thing.  It comes naturally over time.

The world is dark.  Would YOU be bold enough to be the light that brings hope?  Would YOU be bold enough to be the love amidst the hate?  Would YOU be bold enough to share the story about a man named Jesus and why you have chosen to follow Him?

Faith without action is dead.  Action without faith is dead.  Let’s let others see Jesus’s imprint on our deeds, our words, in our lives and sparkling in our eyes.  It’s what we were created to do after all.

Let’s live up to the label we place on ourselves, by God’s grace.  Go get ’em.

God Bless,

Paul

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Scars Are Cool

bruise on the boy's legThe other day, my oldest son fell off his bike and hurt his knee.  There was some blood and dirt involved.  You know, the usual carnage that we’ve all experienced as bike-riding kids.

He whined a little and had that, “I’m scared, make it all better!” thing going on.  It was pretty cute really.  Kind of a “welcome to manhood” moment.

So I did what any loving dad would do……I made light of it.  I started cheering him on and emphasized that scars were cool.  After that, I pulled out my phone and took some pictures.  His grimace slowly became a grin.

After the drama subsided, I was able share some of my own bloody knee stories.  I told him about the different scars that I’ve collected and the accidents that caused them.  He thought that was pretty cool and the pain/fear suddenly became a distant memory.  We were both now a part of the “scar club.”

My son felt comforted by the fact that I’ve experienced pain too.  That I’m human.  That I understand.

My boys want and need a dad who shows them his scars too.  I think all kids want that.  It opens avenues of trust.

You see, if our only role in a child’s life is that of power, a disconnect happens.  The transparency is lost and the door of communication remains slightly cracked at best.

My goal as a dad is to provide freedom.  Freedom to fail, freedom to hurt, freedom to be independent, freedom to choose, freedom to approach me with anything, anytime, anywhere……because I love my kids.  Period.

Within that freedom also lies boundaries and discipline.  There’s a fine balance there….one that will take me a lifetime to figure out, story by story, scrape by scrape.  By God’s grace only.

My son acquired a cool scar that day.  I acquired a full heart as we bonded over cool stuff like blood and dirt.

God Bless,

Paul

 

 

More Than a Crutch

ParachuteI’ve heard it said that those who believe in Jesus use Him as a crutch.  That “religious” folks can’t handle life on their own, so they need an “imaginary friend” to help them along.

From the outside, I can see why some people think this.  Until you’ve experienced the peace that surpasses anything that life can provide, it can look silly.  I get it.

As someone who follows Jesus, I would say the whole crutch thing is a little lame-sauce…yeah, I just said lame-sauce.  I prefer to put the crutches aside and think of Jesus as my parachute instead.

Crutches only support one part of the body.  A parachute means everything.  A parachute means life and without it, falling out of a high place means death.  That’s just it, Jesus is my everything.  I don’t just lean on him like He’s a piece of wood under my armpit.  I cling to Him for life because He is life.

If I ever start to just lean on Jesus for comfort, it’s ok, but it’s not the best.  He wants all of us.

 

God Bless,

Paul

Truly Living

HappyWe are meant to thrive and to flourish.  We are meant to live joyfully.  We are meant to live content lives, rejoicing whether we have a lot or a little.  We are meant to be filled as we fill others.  We are meant to receive, in order to give back.  We are meant to show love to strangers, to the undeserving, to all those around us.  We are meant to do all of this under the umbrella of God’s great love and purpose.  Trusting that He is pulling the strings.

In all reality, doing all of the above is freaking hard, if not impossible to do some days.  In fact, it seems like most days, we are in a constant battle against ourselves.  There’s a war raging against the peace that God promises.  Many times, it seems like we’re losing that war.

The worries, concerns, doubts, pains and fears that we deal with are normal……..but they shouldn’t define us.  The struggles are meant to strengthen us.  To teach us that we are not meant to handle life’s pressures on our own.  God is our Rock, our Dad, our Friend, our Creator.  He’s all-powerful, all-knowing, all-loving and He’s always available……if we choose to connect with Him.

Something that Christians often fail to recognize is this: people can get through life without God.  Folks can cling to other things like their stuff, accomplishments, nature, people, etc.  Is that how we were meant to live though?  To just “get through life”, day by day until we die?  To rely on the temporary, always aging, imperfect ways of things?  I would argue that we are meant to live for so much more.

Jesus is our hope.  He has already taken care of the dirty work.  He has offered us all the gift of salvation, of joy, of peace, of unsullied perfect relationship with Him…..we just have to accept it.  Again, we’re not forced to, but it’s there for the taking.  What a blessing and what a hope!  We should be the most excited people in the world!

Sadly, many “Christians” who claim to follow Jesus don’t look any different from the rest of the world.  They hit their alarm clocks at the beginning of each day and just survive…..that’s it, just get through the day.  Stop it!

Friends, every day is a blessing.  Every breath is a gift.  Every trial is an opportunity to know God better.  We’re meant to live in complete freedom, knowing that Jesus has prepared a place for us!

Living with this perspective is truly living.

God Bless,

Paul

I WANT IT NOW!!!

Throwing tantrumWe’re such an “instant gratification society” aren’t we?!  With technology booming and advancements in just about every area, it’s almost hard not to be in this mindset.

From DVR’s to fast food to internet shopping to phones to instant coffee to whatever….there’s a sense of entitlement in regards to the accessibility and quickness of things.  We all fall subject to this.  You know when you’re in the middle of something and your computer freezes up?  You wait patiently for the status bar to slowly creep across the screen because progress takes time, right?  Right?  Ummm, no, not so much.  You and I both act as though our precious time is being wasted in such a dramatic fashion, it’s almost comical.  Actually, it is pretty comical.

Just as we expect life to conveniently and quickly come together, we often expect God to work in the same way.  I know I do at times.  “God, I really wanted that job, but it didn’t work out.  Why did you let that happen to me?”  “God, I’ve been praying for peace and comfort, but I don’t feel any different.  Where are you?”  “God, I prayed that you would heal this person and they passed away.  Where were you?”  These questions sound familiar?

I think we’ve all asked questions somewhat similar to these.  We do so in expectation of an answered prayer quickly and exactly.  When that doesn’t happen, we tend to get discouraged, to give up.  It’s a natural inclination to sway in this direction, but WE MUST NEVER GIVE UP, EVER!

God doesn’t work on the same timeline as us for one simple reason; He’s not human, He’s God.  We only see what’s in front of us, merely guessing about the direction of our future.  God sees the whole picture.  Instead of going at our pace, He’s way ahead of us, waiting around the final turn, on one knee, arms stretched, awaiting our embrace.  He’s like a proud Dad, wanting our love and trust in return.

God knows us better than we know ourselves.  He knows what makes us tick.  He knows our insecurities.  He knows the exact things in our life that would cause us to turn to Him.  Sometimes, He allows the times of despair, because He wants us to seek hope and peace.  Sometimes, He’s quiet, because He wants us to pursue him more diligently, consistently and passionately.  Sometimes, He closes a door, because He has another door open…one we may not see yet.  He does all this because He’s more interested in our journey, in our character, in our ability to show love, than He is in our comfort.

The bible talks about perseverance.  You know, fighting the good fight and pressing forward at all costs.  It all sounds pretty glamorous and righteous, but it’s so freaking hard to do sometimes.  It’s a daily decision.

Practically speaking, if we desire to know God better, we just need to keep going.  We need to keep doing what we know how to do.  We need to keep praying, Keep seeking, keep hiking, keep working, keep singing, keep writing, keep reading, keep socializing, keep doing whatever it is that brings us closer to Him.  If you and I are open and our hearts are truly seeking Him, we will be changed, in due time.  That’s a promise.

Sure, sometimes God does answer our prayers quickly and exactly.  It’s really cool when that happens.

Most of the time, God seems to work a little outside the box.  Ok, a lot outside the box.  That’s good, because our “instant gratification selves” typically desire things within that perfectly symmetrical box.

God ALWAYS has our best interests in mind.  Slowing down and trusting that our relationship with God takes time is the key.  It’s worth the wait.

God Bless,

Paul

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