A Prayer

Lord, I want so badly to sleep. I’m tired enough, but my mind is whirling like a light on a police car. The baby is asleep (finally), David is asleep and Jen is sleeping behind me right now.

I’m awake, though. I want my mind to quiet down, but Galatians 2:20 is on my mind

20 I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

and I am aware I need to ask your forgiveness anew, because dying to myself is no easy thing, not when I have to do it every day and my instinct is to live for myself.

I need to be forgiven, though, because it’s hard to forgive.

My discipleship is weak, and it needs to be strong. Forgive me my weakness and strengthen me.

Forgive me my impatience and quick frustration and speak your peace to my heart thirsty for it.

I’m thinking of this trip coming up for work and how easy it would be to slip into old patterns of thought and sin and addiction. But the thing is,

I have been crucified with Christ and it is no longer I who live, but Christ living in me

and when I remember that, things make a little more sense.

But I still need your help, God, because like I said before, dying to myself is not easy. Not when I have this many shortcomings, and I feel like the 1st Lieutenant of sinners.

Forgive me my trespasses, and deliver me from evil.

And right now, God, Lord, Most High, I really just need one simple thing. Besides forgiveness, and deliverance, and strengthened discipleship, and so many other things, please just help me to sleep.

Tomorrow, well…today now, is coming really soon and there is much to do.

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Stimulus and Response

When my older boy gets in trouble, he’ll go to any and all lengths to explain why it wasn’t his fault. He will happily throw anyone under the bus in order to divert any negative attention from himself. His mom and I are in the process of trying to teach him about responsibility (and accountability, for that matter).

What I’ve been thinking about lately is that so many people these days need to learn that lesson as well. God may well be creator, sustainer, beginning and end, but we have ultimate responsibility for our lives and the decisions we make.

We choose direction in our lives by how we respond to the circumstances that occur in it, whether they are positive or negative.

Concentration camp survivor Viktor Frankl says:

“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.

I think that is so true. I would also say that how we respond affects the lives of others and not just our own.

Frankl also says

Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.

That is also true. The other day I told my son about something that happened at work a couple years ago that very much could have affected our future, and certainly my ability to provide for my family.

I was driving to a remote test site down a dirt road, and I was last in a group of four or five trucks. Consequently, I was eating a great deal of dust. There was no wind and the dust just hung in the air. Everyone was also going very fast, and the main group began to pull away from me.

It was then several things happened at once. I realized I couldn’t see the sides of the road. I hit some bad washboards in the surface of the road and began to fishtail. I attempted to correct, overcompensated, and veered offroad, flipping my truck over and destroying a government vehicle.

That was bad. Had I not been wearing a seat belt, it could have been much worse.

I had to go before a review board and account for what happened. I could have tried to avoid blame and responsibility by blaming all sorts of things and people, but something told me not to, and I just told the truth: I was speeding, even though I couldn’t see well. How could I deny it was my fault?

I told my son (and I firmly believe) that what saved my job was that I accepted responsibility for my actions. The stimulus was the accident. My response was to be honest, even though I knew the cost could be great.

I’ve also been trying to admit to my son when I make mistakes, and to apologize when that is what’s needed. I think one of the larger problems these days is so many people have forgotten how to do that.

Rather, people blame their circumstances for things that happen in their lives, or to excuse the things they do. They blame parents, or teachers, or friends. They blame anyone rather than say, “Yes, I did it. I shouldn’t have. I’m sorry, please forgive me.”

We usually do not ask for the negative things that happen in our lives. We don’t have any control over the people that do or say hurtful things, or sometimes literally do hurt us.

But between the stimulus of what happens and the response we make lies a space…

We get to choose our response. With honesty and the acceptance of personal responsibility lies growth. With blame and denial lies stagnancy.

I think that’s where we are now as a society, as a generation.

Our place in life may not be our fault, and sometimes that place truly sucks. Or it could be completely different. Maybe everything is great.

It’s how we respond to those circumstances that determines the true course of our lives.

Life can and often will be so tough. Mine was, at times. I believe what brought me through it to the place I am now is the millennia-old sacrifice of a Nazarene carpenter a world away from Arizona.

I didn’t know much about Jesus at the time I was going through certain things. Yet when he brought healing to the person I am now he also brought healing to the person I was then.

Or think about it like this:

The stimulus was God saw what the world was becoming and had become. It was a fallen and often Godless place, and it needed something to change or all would be lost.

The world needed a savior (and it still does).

God’s response was to send his son as propitiation for the world’s sin and brokenness–for its fallen nature. That response gives us freedom.

If we look at the sacrifice of Jesus on our behalves as stimulus, I wonder how we will choose to respond?

Would that affect our willingness to accept personal responsibility for our actions (and reactions)?

I believe it would.

What would happen if we admitted our wrongs, or gave thanks for our “rights?”

What would happen if we were able to say “Yes, I did it. I’m sorry, please forgive me?”

Kids are Funny

David said school was early out today, and we thought that was 1130, so John and I showed up about 1115 to the school. We went inside to confirm the early out, and were told it was 130.

We had time to kill, so I took John to McDonald’s, where he showed no interest in his Happy Meal.

He seemed very interested in something on the ground, however.

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He sat his drink on the table and crouched down, and came up with this hanging out of his mouth:

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That’s right. A piece of old hamburger patty.

After jamming my fingers into his mouth to fish out the offending meat, he decided he was going to have a chat with the man next to us about the playground equipment.

He chattered like a monkey for almost a minute, and decided he was going to play with a Nintendo DS belonging to the man’s kid, who was about David’s age.

He chattered for another few seconds, the man picked up the DS and said “no habla ingles.”

John thought that was hilarious and started cracking up. He pointed at the man and said “funny.” Then pointed at the slide and said “funny slide.”

Kids….

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Of Baptisms and Third Row Conviction

Sometimes young people just…amaze and humble me. Now that I’m old, I can say that with absolutely no irony at all. Since joining the FCC youth ministry, I have seen a lot of what seemed like apathy from the kids I teach. I’ve seen a lot of sleepy eyes and thousand-yard stares from across the table on Sunday mornings. Consequently, I’ve allowed myself to somewhat…expect it from them.

Then, something like this morning happens, and knocks me off whatever high horse or soapbox I happen to be standing on at the time.

Jen and I were sitting down front at church this morning, and two rows in front of us were a half dozen or so of our FCC college-age kids, all in a row. It seemed like a lot of them to be all together, all at once, but it was also cool they were sitting together as a group, so I just made note of it and then proceeded to listen to Jeff as he began his sermon.

After communion and offering, Kari announced a young man would be baptized, and I saw a tall, happy-looking kid of about 19 come down the stairs and into the baptistry. Typically at our church, the person being baptized just sort of stands there, and waits for the person doing the baptism to say their part and then do the dunking. Not this kid.

He said his name (Tim), and that his friend (whose name escapes me) was going to baptize him. He had a grin on his face that probably had half the people in the sanctuary smiling. I know it did me.

He made his declaration of faith, and then his friend baptized him in the name of the father, son, and holy spirit. When Tim came out of the water he practically leapt with joy, and literally raised a fist to Heaven and said “YAY!!” I wish I would have thought to take a picture.

Never have I seen a baptism where the person being baptized showed that kind of joy. It made me remember that the things of the world I often allow to consume me–no matter how great or terrible they might seem at the time–are nothing compared to the joy that can be found in Christ.

I made it a point of going up to Tim after service to talk to him and the very first thing he did was give me a big hug. He was still smiling so huge I thought his jaw would crack. There were several people waiting to talk to him, and they all got hugs and that same smile.

What a great, amazing young man of God.

I hope some of the high school kids were in there to see the baptism. It was a beautiful thing.

What We Forget

This morning I read a headline for an article on CNN.com that made me stop and think for a few minutes. What it said was “Dad Claims Sandy Hook Shooter’s Body.”

I read the article, but what it said didn’t really matter. The title alone was sad, and terrible. Perhaps to most people–including myself–not as sad as the parents claiming the bodies of first graders. As a parent of two small boys, what those parents must feel is unfathomable.

Yet the shooter’s dad had to claim the body of a dead son as well, and in some ways it almost seems just as bad. To him it probably is. Not only does he have a dead son, who by most accounts suffered from sort of mental condition (the level or name of which remains unknown), but he also has to wonder where he fell short as a parent, as a father.

The young man who did this terrible thing was once a first grader as well. He was once an infant, and his father cradled him in his arms, as I cradled my son just last night, and you have cradled your children at some point.

So his father grieves the loss of what he remembers, while also wondering what he could’ve done to stop it, or if he, personally is to blame.

What must that be like, to realize your son perpetrated such a monstrous act?

Let me say briefly that I am not addressing gun control or any political agenda here, but we can’t blame the father for what his son did. The blame lies with the killer. The guns he took from his mother aren’t responsible–he is. Saying otherwise is like saying jetliners are responsible for 9/11.

In any case, I pray the father of the killer is able to find some peace with himself and with God. I hope we as a body of people–Americans, fathers, mothers, human beings–can take something away from this terrible lesson.

Love your kids. Teach them to respect life. If your child is ill in some way–especially mentally–educate yourself all you can about what it is that ails them.

And be there for them, no matter what it costs you. We will never know what was in the killer’s troubled mind that brought him to a place where killing people seemed like the thing he should do.

As for me, I will do my best to make sure I’m available for my kids, to be a dad at any and all costs. What I will teach them I have posted about before, so for today just let me say that as horrible as the act was the Sandy Hook killer committed, his father still lost a son, and that’s sad.