Dear Daughter, If I could teach you just 25 things before you leave home

          I am the proud father of a 4 and a half year old teenager.  It wasn’t that long ago that I was changing diapers and warming bottles, and it won’t be that long before I’m filling out FAFSA’s and buying dorm furniture. Just typing that last sentence kinda scared the crap out of me.  So here is a list of random things that I want to teach my daughter before that time comes.  It’s obviously not a comprehensive list and it’s not in any particular order but it’s a start.

Dear Daughter,

If I could teach you just 25 things before you leave home, it would probably be a different list than this, but these are the things that come to my mind as I write so here we go.  Actually, before I even get to that let me remind you that just because you leave doesn’t mean you can’t come back… often.  Okay now I’m ready… I think.

  1. Failure is not an option, it’s a requirement.  You’re going to fail and it’s going to break my heart but every story of victory starts with a story of defeat.
  2. Ask more questions than you answer.
  3. Music will make it better but when necessary… music and ice cream.
  4. Be Feminine and be strong.  Those two are not contradictory.
  5. Live passionately.  Life’s too short to spend your time being bored.
  6. Don’t give your heart to a man who doesn’t take care of his own.
  7. Spend less money than you make and never finance toys.
  8. Love generously, but smartly.
  9. Never stop, stopping to smell the flowers.
  10. Believe in Magic.
  11. Intelligent women are sexy, loose the diets and find a good book.
  12. Smile a lot.  Your smile is like a warm bed and the cool side of the pillow.
  13. Love is about keeping promises.
  14. Family can often be found outside the confines of a picket fenced house with a mom, dad, 2 kids, and a goldfish.
  15. Saving should be a priority. Occasional splurging should be up there on the list too.
  16. Life is not always black and white.  Learn to embrace the grey and live in the tension.  It will make you more compassionate.
  17. Journal often.  It’ll untie the knots in your mind.
  18. Be brave.  Life is tough but if anybody can handle it, it’s you.
  19. No matter what, you will always be my beautiful little girl.
  20. Please don’t ever date a guy that would hurt you.  I don’t think I’d do well in prison.
  21. Leave work at work but take family wherever you go.
  22. Find good mentors.  They can help you avoid life’s potholes but they are also good at pulling you out when you step in one.
  23. It’s okay to get Angry at God.  He can take it.
  24. I have loved you longer than any boy ever will.

And Maybe most importantly…

  1. Please never stop giving me kisses.  They reorganize my soul.

I love you all kinds of bunches, 

Daddy

         P.S. Neither of us will ever be too old for you to call me “Daddy”. 

Advertisements

I Probably Disagree

So I haven’t blogged in a while.  Like 3 months.  Not because I haven’t had things to say and not completely because I’ve been too busy.  I mean I have been busy but I could have taken the time I just haven’t.  Here’s why.

I’ve been becoming increasingly aware of the weight that follows a person arround who has put themselves in the public eye.  Now I understand that I’m not really in the public eye.  I mean I’ve got what…? 32 followers at last count.  I’m not exactly the new viral internet fad but people might read this.  And the thing about a blog is that it’s in writing so I can’t exactly fudge my way out of it if I say something incredibly stupid.  If somebody calls me on something that I “said” I could (1) deny it, (2) claim that they took what I said out of context and re-explain it, or (3) just walk away and hope they drop it. 😉  You can’t really do any of those when what you say is in writing.  I mean I guess you could but it’s in writing.  What if I change my mind a year from now.  Oops too late it’s already been more or less published for people to read on the internet.  And to be honest one of the big reasons that I haven’t written recently is becuase I’ve been thinking a lot about issues that are very emotional and heated debates and I’ve been coming down on the side that I feel is the minority among many of my peers and I don’t want to get emotional and write something that I’ll regret later after offending a majority of my close friends.
I’m rambling but it’s because I’ve had a lot of ideas that I’ve wanted to get out but have decided to keep in.  Part of that is because I’m still working through a lot of them and I’m not ready to firmly state my position or defend it.  The interesting thing is that many of these ideas are probably politically incorrect even in my own personal social settings.  I’m in a stage in life where I’m developing a lot of my thoughts about the world and really ironing out some interesting portions of my worldview and I’ve been coming to some conclusions that might set me apart from some of the people that I come in contact with most.  Without going in to too much detail and either offending someone or opening up a can of worms that would best be left shut… I feel like I’m developing views of parenting, politics, marriage, women in ministry, parent child relationships, and evangelism that are very different and quite often contrary to the typical view held by most evangelical conservatives. Oh and I really really liked “The Shack” and would recomend it to anybody, christian or non-christian.
I guess I’ll be a little more specific.  I would consider myself an evangelical Christian and it’s kindof unwritten that people who are evangelical christians typically believe certain things.  For instance, and I really don’t want to start arguments on these topics, Most evangelicals that I know are complementarian, republican, and believe that spanking your children is not only okay but necessary.  I on the other hand am egalitarian, independant, and will probably never spank my daughter.  These are just some of the issues that I’m developing opinions on that are contrary to what many or most of my peers, coworkers, and fellow christians seem to hold.
The point of this blog though is not to start debates over whether it’s right to spank your children or have women as pastors in churches so if people comment with regard to those issues I’ll be disapointed.  The point of the article is this question:  Is it okay for me to end up with different opinions than my mentors, parents, friends, or even my wife?  How different is okay?  We strive in our culture to be open minded and understanding of others beliefs but how far is too far?  Now don’t missunderstand me… I still believe in Jesus as my Lord and Savior, I still believe in the trinity, in the sacrificial atonement, etc. etc… but there are several non doctrinal beliefs where I’ve found myself on the otherside of the fence.  What do you think?

"I want to suffer"

As I was preparing my lesson for youth group this week I was really moved by the section of Mark that I was preparing. In Mark 2:17 Jesus tells us that those who are healthy do not need a doctor but those who are sick do. He then explains that he came, not to call the righteous, but the sinners.

This statement from Christ hit me in two different ways. First, I personally identify with the outcasts of society, if only a little. Being a Christian my whole life, there have been times when I become painfully aware that I am not part of the rest of society. I never went to a high school party; I’ve never smoked, chewed, or randomly fooled around with someone I barely knew and because of that I don’t fit in. There have been times where I’ve been proud of my innocence and times that I’ve been ashamed. There have been times where I’ve been made fun of for being a prude or a Bible thumper and I’ve honestly lost people that I thought were friends because of what I believed about God. It brings me comfort to know that Jesus came for those that don’t fit in, that his heart was for the “least of these”.

The second way that this passage hit me is seeing Jesus passion as a physician for the sick. As I read through William Barclay’s commentary on the book of Mark, the thought of Jesus as a physician really moved me. Jesus came to the poor and broken. He lived his life on the edge for the outcasts of society and he intentionally pissed off the Pharisees (Mark 2:6-12) so that they would kill him so that he could give his life for the outsider.

I’m reminded of a friend of mine who was going through Bible College around the same time that I was and I remember a conversation where he looked me in the eye and said, “Andrew, I want to suffer”. I’ll never forget it because it struck me right between the eyes. My concept of the American dream was challenged and found wanting. He explained that he wanted to live his life in a country where he had to pray in order to survive every day. He wanted to reach those that the evangelical world had written off and actually hated. He wanted to spend nights on the streets in dangerous parts of town getting robed by men armed with scissor blades in order to reach “the least of these” with the gospel.

My friend’s passion for the “sick” mirrored Jesus passion identically. Christ’s goal was to suffer. He came to the earth in order to die and reconcile the world to the father. He looked down at a fallen world and said “I want to suffer for them”. As a pastor, living in America, where my faith isn’t challenged on a day to day basis it’s easy to become complacent and comfortable. It’s also easy to get relaxed inside my own little group of friends and my youth group. But Christ calls us to reach out to the lost and the broken, the outcast of society. As Christians we need to remember not to get comfortable like the Pharisees in Mark 2 and ostracize the rest of the world from us. We need to remember that Christ came to seek and save the lost and he commissioned us to do the same. It’s time to step outside our comfort zones and reach out to a dying world.

Fatherhood is…

It’s been a while since I’ve written anything and it’s not because nothing worthwhile has happened either. I’m a proud new father of a baby girl and in the months leading up to the big day there was a ton of things flooding my mind regarding fatherhood. As soon as she was born it was like my brain fell out of the back of my head. I know all the long time parents reading this just cocked their heads to the side and their now doing the knowing nod and smile. All the Junior High students reading just had an epiphany and are thinking, “that same thing must have happened to my dad”. I know I don’t have a whole lot of fatherhood experience but here’s what I’ve learned so far.

Fatherhood is like a mental black hole. I’ve sat down numerous times to try and blog about the experience and… nothing. It’s not that my heart isn’t full of love for my baby girl, ‘cause it is. It’s not that I don’t feel or think anything worthy of blogging about her, because I do… I just can’t find the words. I’m speechless. She’s 3 weeks old today and I’m finally catching my breath and my thoughts are finally starting to form at least partial sentences in my brain. I still feel almost like life just restarted and everything that I knew I have to learn all over again.

Fatherhood is a new level of… everything. It hasn’t been as overwhelming as I suspected or in the ways that I expected but then again, I’m a fairly laid back guy and don’t stress out very often. I have had a couple moments with just me and Zoe where I’ve gotten lost in the moment and shed some tears but I definitely expected more waterworks. I couldn’t even get through the vows at my wedding without balling and expected much of the same in the delivery room but it never happened. Fatherhood is a new emotion. I’m not sure what to call it. It’s also a whole new level of tired, (there’s the knowing nod and smile from veteran parents thinking “you have no idea”) and a vastly different intellectual journey than any I have ever been on.


Fatherhood is weird. The only word coming to my mind is weird. I mean it’s awesome, and emotionally incredible, and I’m blown away at how this little 8 pound, helpless, baby can just melt my heart. But it’s still weird. I wish I could verbalize it for you better but I can’t. I now empathize more with that “you’ll understand when you’re a parent” phrase that I have always hated. It’s something that I think you probably have to experience in order to understand.

Fatherhood is… well an experience that has definitely changed my life.

What if the Bible wasn’t?

Youth pastors, as a general rule, are a pretty interesting collection of people. We’ve been known to grow goatees and wear cargo shorts on a regular basis but we’ve also come to be known for certain other things. If you ask students of a ministry what their youth pastor tends to teach you might hear a variety of things. Don’t do drugs! Don’t have sex! Respect your parents! All typical battle cries of a youth pastor. But youth pastors also tend to harp on spiritual disciplines. Read your Bible, Go to church, lather, rinse, repeat. We even get to the point sometimes of putting out a guilt trip to those who didn’t read their Bible this week in the hopes that they might “feel the spirit tug on their heart” and read their Bible next week. But this summer, my view of the Bible has changed.

Now before the fundamentalist inside you starts writing me hate mail let me explain. I’ve always known that scripture was important and I’ve always understood that the reading of my Bible was essential for my growth as a Christian, but over this summer my view of the latter has slightly evolved. My view of the inerrancy, validity, and necessity of scripture has not and will not change. I still see scripture as the infallible, authoritative and inerrant word of God. But recently I’ve begun to ask questions with regard to my involvement in the scriptures. As I think of some of these issues I’m reminded of the movie, “Book of Eli”. If you haven’t seen the movie, Eli has the last copy of scripture and is trying to transport it through a post-apocalyptic world to a place where it might be copied and sustained. This concept of a post apocalyptic world in danger of forever loosing something that we as Christians, and as a society, have held dear for so long is rather frightening at first glance. What would happen if the Bible was somehow gone tomorrow? What would I do? What would you do?

Could Christianity as a whole, survive without scripture? How ‘bout the church? Could Christianity survive without church? As I pondered questions like this I was led to the core of my belief system and the basis for my life. These were foundational questions, because I’ve built my whole life on scripture and I’ve structured my career as well as my whole worldview around and in church. I’ve spent the last four years of my life pursuing a Bible degree. What if it was all gone tomorrow? I’m still here, God is still here, but I have no Bible, no Church, no Christians…

It was and is still a scary thought but I find comfort in the fact that my faith is not solely grounded in a book not even in the Bible. Sure, scripture is a foundation for a defense of my faith and is valuable as a source of trust but my faith goes deeper than the words printed in the 66 books that we call inspired cannon. It also goes deeper than the church which I’m very thankful for. I’m glad that my faith isn’t based on the church or on other Christians but that’s a different blog for a different day.

My faith is grounded in a relationship with a personal God. That relationship, no matter the circumstance or the dictator, cannot be taken away. The Bible could be taken away, church and the freedom to worship in public could be gone as soon as tomorrow but no one and nothing can remove my relationship with my creator. God has been revealed to us through creation according to Romans and I’m convinced that our relationship could, and would continue without the spiritual discipline of reading my Bible.

Now this idea comes with a lot of implications and I’d like to put out those fires before they start. I’m not giving license here to ignore the spiritual disciplines of reading the Bible and going to church. They are very beneficial to our growth as Christians as well as the furthering of the kingdom. I’m also not trying to downplay the importance of scripture. It is vital. What I would like to do is bring balance to our view of spiritual disciplines. There are those out there that would adamantly proclaim that it is impossible to maintain a healthy, growing relationship with God if you are not in your Bible and at church regularly. I have to respectfully disagree. Spiritual disciplines are tools in order to aid the Christian in their walk with God. They are not a walk with God in and of themselves. Let us remember the point of our ministry… It is not religion, or spirituality, or legalism. Paul tells Timothy that “the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.”

Too many times, as Christians, we get frustrated with what we call unfaithfulness. We want to read our Bibles for 10 minutes per day and what happens… we oversleep or forget and then we beat ourselves up and confess our blatant sin at small group each week. To be honest, that was me, and as I look back on it I see a lot of unneeded legalism and guilt in a life of a person who was truly pursuing God with all his heart. Was God really disappointed that I overslept and failed to give him that five minutes. I really don’t think so.

Now, balance is balance and while it would be legalistic to get to the point where you are depressed every time that you fail to spend an extra 10 minutes in your Bible, it would be lazy and sinful to completely forsake the word and claim that it’s not necessary. Balance is the key in almost every area of life and I think it ought to be our goal to strive for that middle ground, especially in areas such as this.

What’s in your wallet?

I’ve always loved people watching.  There is something about people, some type of X factor that just is fascinating to me.  Though the food is rarely good I’ve always loved going to the food court at a mall just to watch people.  I love trying to guess what kind of person they are based on their apearance and manerisms.  As far back as I can remember I’ve always enjoyed just watching people.  From interesting haircuts, to clothing choices, to group dynamics and the way highschoolers act differently from college students and adults it’s all just so intriguing.  Recently I’ve found another interesting facet of people watching and it involves the way people chose to spend money.

Now… before I get into this I want to give a brief disclaimer.  I’m not saying any of these ways is outwright wrong I’m just simply making observations about the irony I see. 

It’s interesting to see from a distance what people spend their money on because I think it speaks to what they value as a person.  For example, Is it just me or is there something inherently awkward about seeing a new Corvette parked in front of a Tace Bell?  Have you ever had a conversation with someone about how they are trapped in credit card debt while in the same breath bragging about their designer clothes, iPhone, huge tv, and a brand new watch?  Ever seen somebody driving a car that looks like it just survived the atom bomb, roling on really nice crome rims and bumbin a killer sounds system? 

All of these are examples of people spending money on what they value.  I’m not saying that it’s wrong for a Corvette to go through a drive through or for someone to wear nice clothes but I think that the way we spend our money sends a message to the people around us about what we value.

I wonder what my bank statements say to my peers?  What might your credit card bill reveal about you, if your friends had access to it?

Summer of Reading

So I decided that it would be fun to put up a current and recent reading list.

After graduation from a Bible college and having read text books for the last four years of my life I decided to take a bit of a journey and read some stuff that I hadn’t had time for in the past four years.

To start off the summer I went through a spy novel stint where I read several of the splinter cell novels that sport Tom Clancy’s name on the front, but are not actually written by Tom Clancy. I’m not sure if this is common knowledge and I just missed the memo but very few of the Clancy books on your local bookstore’s shelves are actually written by the man himself. I’m still not sure how I feel about being deceived into purchasing a book with a famous authors name on the front, only to find out it’s written by some random no-name guy trying to sell books. I give the Splinter cell series a solid C. They are entertaining but average, nothing spectacular.

After getting sick of the spy novel books were the girl always seems to get shot about half way through the book, I turned to the classics. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Fin are fabulously entertaining. Mark Twain is incredible. I got lost in a fantasy world where I sailed a raft down the Mississippi, fell in love with Becky Thatcher, and was scared out of my mind trapped in a cave with Injun Joe. I loved these books and will definitely read them again. Solid A
From here I read about 100 pages out of the book Wicked which is the prequel to The Wizard of Oz and deals mostly with the origins of the wicked witch of the west. You may be asking yourself why I’d want to read something like that and if you are it’s probably because you’ve never seen the musical. If you haven’t… It’s SPECTACULAR. I couldn’t really get into the book though. It’s pretty slow and the little green baby that bites off peoples fingers kinda creeped me out. The play at ASU’s Gammage theatre gets an A++ but the book… I’m going with a C-

After Wicked I read about 150 pages of “The Brethren” by David Baldichi. It’s got a really interesting premise involving the CIA trying to rig a presidential election, but it was too slow and I lost interests. There are a couple of these books that I feel bad rating because I didn’t finish them, but if they aren’t interesting enough for a full read then they aren’t interesting enough for a good grade. C-

Next was Dan Brown but not what you might think. He’s got a book called Digital Fortress and I freaking loved it. There are plot twists and interesting characters as well as end of the world suspense that kept me up till almost 3:30 one morning because I just had to know how it ended. Definitely would recommend this book. The only thing keeping the book from an A is a couple minor holes in the plot towards the end but it’s definitely a B+

After having such a good experience with Dan Brown I tried reading the Davinci Code and while I do feel it is very well written and gripping I’ll be honest and say that the bad guy really makes me uncomfortable and after loosing sleep a couple nights in the row thinking that he was coming to get me I gave up on Davinci’s code. I’m going to have to go with a C+. It was written well but I just couldn’t take the bad guy so… Ya.

In the last week I read a book by Ravi Zacharias entitled “The end of Reason” in which he combats what he calls “new atheism”. This new atheism is spurred on by guys like Richard Dawkins (the author of “The God Delusion”) and Sam Harris (author of “The End of Faith” and “Letter to a Christian Nation”) who both claim to be intellectuals but write books un-intellectually whining and throwing a fit about religion and how horrible it is. Ravi Zacharias breaks down Sam Harris’s book and logically points out the flaws in his arguments while providing answers from a Christian worldview. This book was really good and I definitely recommend it. One hundred twenty-eight pages, so it’s short and it’s an easy read but if you’ve ever struggled to know why an atheist would ever be an atheist this book reveals a lot of those answers. Ravi Zacharias does a great job of breaking down arguments and rants from the atheistic side, showing where they stem from on a worldview level, and then revealing the truth. I give it a strong A

Currently I’m reading a book called “Prayer and the art of Volkswagen Maintenance” by Donald Miller. (“Blue like Jazz”) I like Miller but I don’t always agree with him. I feel like he and I usually asks the same questions about life and ministry but I usually come to a completely different answer than he does. I’m looking forward to this book. I’ll have to let you know how it turns out. I haven’t gotten far enough in to the book yet to grade it but I’ve enjoyed the first chapter or two.

Hopefully I didn’t bore you with my summer reading selections. If there is anyone actually reading this blog I’d love to hear about what else you’re reading. Thanks for following.

Andrew