The Update

I’ve been fairly silent from a blogging perspective lately.  For that, I’m sorry.  Truth be told, I had vacation time early this week and basically spent Friday through Tuesday working on house projects, doing Christmas decorations or shopping (with a nice excursion for late burgers at Django with Angie one evening).  The result of that effort is that I’ve gone through multiple gallons of paint, changed some doorway hardware and we’re almost completely finished shopping/wrapping Christmas presents.  We’re devoting our December to love and availability, not chaos.  But you, my blog reader have been deprived of my blog (which may be a good thing, depending on your views of what I write).

I write today because I owe you an update.  In a blog post entitled, Whatever It Takes, a couple of weeks back, I asked for prayers for some friends that were trying to get pregnant with the help of modern medicine.  There was a group of us praying on this daily.  As we were promised by the people involved, we received an email Saturday morning regarding the situation.  Here’s what we got:

I just got my first blood test back this morning and I’m PREGNANT!!!!!

Thank you for all the prayers and support. I’m in such awe I don’t even know what to say. God IS SO GOOD!

My next apt is Monday, continue praying and I’ll send another update.

Really, the odds weren’t in their favor — they had every reason to emotionally hedge their bets. So to share with them the joy of seeing prayers answered after they made themselves completely vulnerable is an amazing feeling.  It’s a blessing for me whenever I get to be a part of God’s movement in the lives of my neighbors. I ask you now to continue to pray for a healthy pregnancy.

This goes for any reader of this blog: If you want prayers on something, ask us for them.  Angie and I don’t care what your beliefs are or aren’t; they’re not a prerequisite for our Father answering your requests.  It’s nothing special about Angie or me, we’re just messengers who really love carrying the message.

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Death by Fire

“There is so much sadness in the world. It’s hard to see the beauty.”

During a commercial break during the Bulls-Lakers game last night, I gave Twitter a final check for the evening.  There, in the midst of all pro-Derrick Rose tweets was the quote above, from a thoughtful female blogger in Chicago that I follow.  Honestly, her tweet knocked me off balance.  Less than 48 hours before Thanksgiving, her lamentation pushed my analytical side to evaluate my world.  Was it, too, filled with sadness?

A year ago at this time, Angie and I had just started marriage counseling with the esteemed Don Morris.  Divorce papers were still on the books, although we were in a holding pattern with them.  I was a couple weeks away from being diagnosed with clinical depression and anxiety.  There were only a few people on the planet that could weather my toxicity enough for me to discuss my life with them.  I was fully addicted to my self-reliance.  I was a disaster of epic proportions.

Last night, TD and I were watching a NatGeoHD show on the forest.  If you want evidence of a creator, I’m not sure there’s anything more convincing that watching NatGeo.  The elegant design of bugs and plants that depend on each other for life — really, the whole ecosystem of a forest is amazing.  After showing how the ecosystem works, the show focused on a lightning strike that started a forest fire.  Within a couple hours, a huge swath of forest was gone.  In a very short period of time, something that took years, even decades, to develop was wiped out.  If the story ended there, sadness would certainly be the sentiment.  But the story doesn’t end there.  Within days, new growth sprouted from the forest floor.  Plant life that is necessary to the ecosystem is able to grow in the absence of trees that had blocked the sun’s light and warm.  In the midst of a few burnt out tree trunks, life had erupted everywhere.  Into death and destruction, God breathes life.

Humbling to see that my Father does the same thing in His people that He does in creation.  Essentially, our hearts are a wooded garden.  In my garden, trees had grown so large that they suffocated the life out of me — the uniqueness and beauty of my garden was dead.  My metaphorical trees were my unwillingness to submit to Him — my overwhelming desire to do things my way and have them done in my timing.  The flowering plants on the ground were the aspects of me that He gave me to make me unique — but they were no match for the resources that were being stolen by the trees.  For passersby, those trees blocked the view of the desolation of the garden floor — only weeds that needed no light remained.  Basically, the trees were blocking the Son’s light and Spirit’s warmth from reaching my heart.  I was dried out and overgrown; completely vulnerable to a lightning strike.  When the perfect storm hit my life, lightning struck and wiped everything out of me mentally and emotionally.

Since then, the woman I resented for being the emotional equivalent of a garden gnome has become a constant stream of strength, vulnerability and love.  My wife is breathtaking.  The relationships that survived due to the strength of their roots were adequately pruned to allow for healthy growth.  Fast-growing and rapidly-spreading new relationships have sprung up all around me, bringing out new colors in the garden of my heart.  I even enjoy my job now.  I’m tied into the living water; no longer am I dry.  Life is abundant.  Joy is abundant.  Beauty is abundant.

During the fire, I only saw sadness in the death, destruction and brokenness.  I was grieving a life that I thought I’d ruined.  With time, I began to recognize that in the midst of destruction God was implementing a plan for my redemption and resurrection.  Last Thanksgiving, I thought I had very little to be thankful for, given the mess I’d made of my life.  This Thanksgiving, however, I’m thankful for the storm, for the lightning strike and for the destruction of the garden I’d poorly tended.  I’m thankful for the new life I’ve been given and the beauty that it contains.

the quitter

I’ve failed.  My first ever foray into the moustache world lasted 18 days before I removed it.  Why you ask?  Was it the ridicule?  No.  I provide plenty of attributes for someone to ridicule me about, the Mo didn’t really change the amount of ridicule I receive.  My son’s desire to pet my upper lip whenever my face was within arm’s length?  No, it was actually quite humorous to see him put his WTF? face on.  A newly acquired sense of being pro-prostate cancer?  No.  What ultimately led to the undoing of my Mo was the fact that it was annoying.  At a claustrophobia inducing level of annoying.  When I put on my mask to run a few nights ago and had Mo hairs tickling my nostrils, poking me in the cheek and curling over my lip, I’d had enough.  So, I’ll spend the rest of No-Shave November with a neatly trimmed beard.  If someone dies from prostate cancer because my premature Mo removal denied them of the awareness they needed, then I apologize and I’ll buy that person’s immediate lineal descendants a coffee to reveal my sorrow.  Seriously, though, how can people stand having prickly hairs of that length?  No wonder the NHL playoffs get so chippy.

I used to have a boss that thought my quirks were hilarious.  I don’t find them funny, but then again, I’ve always had them.  They seem to dwindling these days as my energy in keeping them up continues to be zapped by my children.  Regardless, I’ll always have a few weird rules/decision factors for myself.  Here’s the top 8 I’m most likely to invoke (and if you know me fairly well, you know why this is a list of 8 instead of 10).

1. I don’t wear a base layer article of clothing until it’s been washed.

2. I have to shower on a day before working out.  So, when I was doing 5:15 AM Farrell’s, I was showering every morning before hand.  Now, when I run at night, my morning shower is sufficient.  I don’t like being dirty before I begin sweating.

3. Pork?  Very rarely.  Mashed potatoes? Even more rarely.  Mayo?  Never.  If you plan on eating tartar sauce in my presence, expect me to not stand within smelling distance of you.  If you’re in a car I own, then expect to eat while holding your head and sandwich out the window.  If we’re on the interstate on the way to Kansas City, driving 80 mph, tough shit.

4. Excessively long hairs in places where I don’t typically have excessively long hair?  Infuriatingly distracting.  Same with fingernails of different lengths or spot missed while shaving.

5. Socks with the seam at the end of the toe rather than on top of the toe?  Never.  Seriously, who can handle this?

6. Boxers that coordinate with socks and undershirt?  Obviously.

7. Wear black and yellow together as the primary colors on my clothing?  Never.    Purple and yellow? Less often than never — there’s no message that can be taken from this combination that is positive.

8. Text shorthand and acronyms?  Nope.

Have any rules for life that make you unique?  Please share.

Having “The Talk” with Your Kids

I’ve made no apologies for my challenges to men to be better fathers to their kids.  It’s critical to future of our world to have quality fathers.  Now, out of my desire to see this role adequately filled, I give my readers this PSA to help them out.  Don’t be surprised if you’re incredibly moved.  I know I was…

 

unpopular perspective

I’ve been fortunate over the past few weeks to have multiple opportunities to converse with people who are bright, independent thinkers.  As I bore when I’m stuck at surface level for very long, critical thinkers carry a lot of value to me.  Yesterday, I had the opportunity to share some email back and forth with a friend whose mind has intrigued me since I was in middle school.  He’s confident, assertive, creative and approaches the world from a totally different perspective than I do.  What I find even more remarkable is that he and I reject some of the same things you find in modern society because they deny the truth — we just happen to have different ideas about what “truth” really is.

Fact is, we do ourselves NO favors when we surround ourselves only with people who see the world the same way we do.  A comfortable mind is a mind that is dying.  I’m a firm believer that we must be in position to have our notions challenged.  To think you have truth in your life without having someone challenge your notions is absurd.  If my beliefs are real, then they’ll stand regardless of the challenges to them.  If they waver, then it pushes me to question them at deeper foundational levels where they either become strengthened or they are fundamentally changed.  Failure to be willing to listen and weigh differing opinions typically means one of two conditions is present: a person is too prideful to open the door to the possibility they could be wrong or a person is so desperate to be numb (and/or myopic) that they don’t want anything stirred up.  Either condition is unfortunate because it prevents one from growing through seeking out the truth.  I respect very much those who will let me share my beliefs and those who address them respectfully, even when they think me a fool for believing that way.  It shows me where my position is strong and it reveals where my position is weak.  Ultimately, it allows me to understand both my neighbor’s perspective and my perspective better.

If the differences between you and another cause you to prefer distance, you’re not looking at the right things in that person.  Every person is built in the image of God, which means that everyone has characteristics worthy of our honor.  But I’ll warn you, if you start to honor those things in your neighbor, you may actually begin to care about them.  And if we get a bunch of people who care about others that are different from them, what kind of pandemonium will that unleash?  A changed culture where pride is reduced and numbness is lost?  Where individuals are honored even though they’re human and a reduction of hate?  A desire for your neighbor to be blessed that is more powerful than your envy?  Sheesh, do we really want this?  Loving everyone, not just those that are most like us?  Who’d stand for such a thing?  Who’d die for such a thing?

Today, I thank my friends and readers who disagree with me for continuing to read what I write.  I encourage you to tell me more often when you think I’m off the mark.