God Answers Prayers

prayer

This past week has been an emotional roller coaster.  On Christmas day, Dawn and I announced to everyone, our children included, that she is pregnant and that we are now expecting our 5th bundle of joy.  On Friday, Dawn had to go to the emergency room with some health issues that threaten the life of my unborn baby. As a result, she is now on bed rest until the doctor says otherwise.  I honestly spent the next two days crying and praying and feeling quite a bit guilty.  Let me explain why.  3.5 years ago, my youngest daughter was born.  Dawn had a really difficult pregnancy.  She carried our youngest transverse the entire pregnancy.  When it came time for delivery, she couldn’t make her way down the birth canal.  No big deal right?  Happens all the time.  Well, complication was followed by complication.  To make a long story short I was pushed into a corner behind equipment, unable to move from my position to watch the doctors frantically care for my wife and baby.  I told myself that day, I don’t think I could ever do this again.  And here I was, having another baby, and this time just as we get started, my child’s life is in jeopardy.  So, by Sunday morning my eyes heart from the tears that had flowed.  I went to church like a little trooper should and tried to put on my best smile, especially for our visitors.  What happened next I didn’t expect.  I found myself being honest and open about what was going on.  I wasn’t afraid to share how I felt and by the end of the morning I was hugging people that I didn’t normally hug.  I was strengthened in my hour of need.  I don’t think I have ever attended a worship service so edifying.  I needed my family.  I needed my friends and they were there for me.
I prayed for many things over this past weekend.  I prayed that God would save the life of my unborn child.  I prayed that God would give me strength to endure whatever was set before me.  I prayed that God would give me the courage to be the father I needed to be to the 4 kids I already have.  I prayed to God that the church would be supportive.  And I prayed to God that if the worst happens that he would be patient with me as I mourn the loss of my child.  By Sunday afternoon several of my prayers were answered.  God used the church here to give me strength.  I couldn’t have asked to be a part of a better family.  They held me, they loved me, and as a result I have the strength I need to do the rest.  I don’t know if you live in the Grinnell area.  I don’t know if you live in Iowa.  But, if you are looking for a church, I can’t suggest a better one.

Christmas Time is Here

xmas

Unless you live under a rock you know that Christmas is Thursday. Christmas had to be my favorite holiday when I was a kid. I know, most of you are thinking that it was my favorite holiday because I got to open presents. (I was a kid and I would be lying if I didn’t say that I didn’t enjoy opening presents). However, my favorite part of Christmas had to do with being with family. Since I got married, there really hasn’t been many opportunities for me to celebrate this special time of the year with my family (sure I have my wife and kids, we are always together), but I haven’t been “home” for Christmas much since I got married. In fact, in the 12 years that I have been married, I have only spent 2 Christmas’ at my mom and dad’s. What pains me more is knowing that I have missed out on some great family traditions. My mom’s family still gathers every year to celebrate the holiday. And have only been there once in the last 12 years. It was like walking into a strange home. This is so odd to me, because perhaps my favorite holiday traditions were spent with that part of my family. My Uncle Mark, my mom’s brother, would “kidnap” all of us kids and we would work on putting on a Christmas pageant our parents and Grammie and Papa. As a kid we loved it. As we become teenagers, the love died out, but looking back on it now and we were thrilled to be a part of it. Uncle Mark rarely used actual Christmas songs. He usually used a familiar melody and changed the lyrics up to have fun with the family. As kids we were always cracking up. (To be honest I think we were laughing too hard to say these silly things about our parents to actually speak coherently enough for them to get the joke). But they were great times. Last time I was home for Christmas, I got to watch some of the old videos. So did my kids. They watched as their dad made a fool of himself. Right along with his cousins and siblings. They laughed. I laughed as they laughed.

To me, this is what Christmas is about. Spending time with people you love. Laughing with them when you have the time. Because, the truth is you won’t always have that chance. In the 12 years since I got married, my other grandmother and grandfather have passed away. The family traditions on Dad’s side of the family have died. It breaks my heart. I can’t share that with my kids. Sure, I can share stories, but stories aren’t the same thing as experiencing it. I encourage you to make this year something special for your family. Laugh with your family. Play with your kids. Cherish all of these precious moments.

Say You’re Sorry

I am not a perfect father. I don’t proclaim to be a perfect father and my kids know I am not perfect. I have lost my temper. I have yelled at them. I have spanked them when they didn’t do anything wrong (I reacted instead of getting all the facts). I have lost my job. At one point in time I was incapable of putting food on the table. I have been prideful, hurtful, ignorant, and even selfish from time to time. I am not proud of those occasions. In fact, even as I write this list of things, memories of my failures come flashing back into my mind. It breaks my heart. I can’t stand the fact that I have let them down. They deserve better. And despite my best efforts, I will fail them again. Hopefully not today. Hopefully not tomorrow. But someday, when I am weak, when I fall prey unto temptation I will fail them.

I am not a perfect husband. (I don’t think one exists). I have fought with my wife about stupid things, like spending on extra $20 on a Christmas gift. I have fought about how to discipline our kids. I have fought over my parents, her parents, someone else’s parents. I fought for years to defend my right to overeat and indulge in unhealthy foods that were slowly killing me. I got mad it her for trying to help me. I hurt my family by being overweight. I hurt my wife by putting her in the position of having to worry about her future if I had a heart attack at a young age. I have lied to her. More than once. No. I am not perfect. I am not a perfect father and I am not a perfect husband. I am a failure in so many ways.

I say all of this not to get you down, or to make you think less of me. There are a lot of things my kids love about me. They love the fact I play games with them. They love the fact that they are provided for. They love that they are homeschooled. They love the fact that I am always there for them. My wife, I know she loves me too. Despite my failures, I have changed. I am not overweight. I am preparing for a future not just in the life to come, but in this life as well.

But, the most important thing I had to do was tell my kids and to tell my wife that I was sorry. My kids aren’t stupid. They know what I have done. And I can’t expect them to tell each other sorry if I refuse to provide them the proper example. Too often rebuke our children for trying to explain why they stole the cookie or why they hit their brother or why they were talking back to us. We do this and then when we get caught in a lie or we lose our temper we quickly justify it. “I wouldn’t have lost my temper if you wouldn’t have been running in the house.” Isn’t this the same mistake Adam made when he got caught in his sin? “The woman who you gave to me, she gave to me and I ate.” He was essentially saying, “God, had you left me alone, and not given me the woman in the 1st place I would be in this situation.” He tried to pass the buck of responsibility on to someone else. He was wrong. And when we do it, we are wrong. If you wrong your kids, don’t blame them. Apologize to them. If you wrong your spouse, don’t blame her/him. Apologize. Own up to your mistake.  And then… be better.  Stop making the same mistakes over and over again.

Planning for Success

college

It is hard to imagine that 18 years ago I was finishing up my 1st semester of college. In fact, I don’t like to think that I am actually that old. As I have been studying with a young man preparing to go off to college I can’t help but to think how helpful it would have been to talk to a person that walked the path that I desire to take. I love my father. I wouldn’t want another man to in that role. He did the best he could with what he had and sacrificed more than I could possibly imagine. However, he and I walked different paths. His path, when he was a young man, was not one looking to build a relationship with God. Mine on the other hand was. His path was not about finding a woman that would help him get to heaven. Mine on the other hand was. His path was not about finding a career that would put him in the best position to have God call him a success. (Albeit, he wanted to be called a success by his peers). I on the other hand was more concerned with what God would want call a successful life and not so much about what my peers thought. (my peers didn’t like my anyways and I doubted that would ever change). Since I didn’t have a person that would give me that type of advice I felt I needed, I thought I would share my thoughts on this format. Perhaps you are raising your own kids, perhaps you yourself are looking into college, or maybe you know someone who is. Whatever it may be, this is what I wished someone would have told me.

While there may be lots of fish in the sea, the best fishermen go to where the fish are. I remember being told that I shouldn’t be so set on trying to marry just one woman. That is, if that first girl didn’t work out, don’t worry about it, there were lots of fish in the sea. That’s true. There were. However, a lot of those fish aren’t worth catching. If you are wanting to fish for bass, you don’t fish on the bottom. If you want a good wife, don’t go looking along the bottom feeders. As a young man I needed someone to remind me that a needed to go looking in the right places. For me, that meant Florida College. It had the largest collection of Christian girls that I knew. I did find my wife there. But, it would have saved me years of heartache had someone told me to save my fishing for when the fishing was good.

What’s best for me, may not be best for me right now. We live in a world of instant gratification. We assume the quicker the better. In fact, one of the reasons why I keep telling my wife we need a new computer is that our old one is not quick enough. The ones at the local library run circles around ours. When we take this idea of instant gratification to our career paths, family paths, college choices, etc we are setting ourselves up for failure. I went to college in Florida. I grew up in Illinois. I still remember the longest conversation with my father that last summer I was at home consisted of about 5 words. We didn’t talk much. He was not happy that I was leaving the state to go to college. In some ways I wasn’t either. I loved my parents, I really did and do. But I knew that staying was not the best thing for me in the long run. I needed to get away. Sometimes that what young people need to do. They need to realize that while it may be harder, it is often better. I put myself in a position to succeed in the long run. It was at Florida College I met my wife. It was at Florida College I finally broke out of my shell. It was at Florida College I find my life plan; to preach the gospel. I know had I stayed in Illinois. I wouldn’t have married who I did. I wouldn’t have broken out of my shell. (I was in my comfort place and was comfortable not growing)   And I know for certain that I would be preaching right now.

What’s best for my family is not always what’s best for me. My father wanted me to be a hog farmer. His dream was that I and my brother worked the farm together. I have no doubts that between the three of us we would have made that farm exceptionally successful. (My dad alone did a remarkable job). My father later told me how much my mother cried after I left. I didn’t realize the impact my actions had upon them until I got older. And as my children grow up, I will learn that all the more. However, I couldn’t let that keep me from doing what is best for me. I know the bible teaches me to honor my mother and father. However, it also teaches me that eventually I have to become my own person. Whenever a person chooses a college, a profession, a spouse, they need to remember that while mom and dad are important, each person must choose what is best for them.

My Heart is Broken

copboyhug

What a frightening time we live in here in America. As a young man, was not alive during the chaos that ensued during the 60s where we saw great leaders like Martin Luther King Jr, and the Kennedy brothers assassinated. I wasn’t around when protests seemed rather common. (Whether people were protesting the war in Vietnam or protesting discrimination and racism in the south). I didn’t see the hate, anger, bitterness that seemed to be a part of every newsreel I watched to learn about our nations history and what my parents group up in. What I do know is that I cannot recall a time in my lifetime that the people of this country were so divided and so angry. It seems like every other day I hear about another tragedy involving a shooting and a teenager. Brown and Martin of course were the big stories. However, there was the young boy in Cleveland that was also shot. He was holding a toy gun that had its safety orange removed so that it would look more realistic. The police officer had no idea it was a toy until after he fired. On a much lesser scale of violence, it seems like every week I am learning of another athlete in trouble with the law because he abused someone in his family. Adrian Peterson beat his son bloody, Ray Rice was caught on camera knocking his then fiancé and now wife out cold and then dragging her unconscious body out of an elevator, and numerous other less high profile athletes have been suspended by the NFL for similar issues while the legal system continues to play out. As I read of these types of stories and more, my heart wept.

How many more parents have to bury their children before something is done about it? How many more times does a woman have to take abuse before things change? How many more children must suffer at the hands of an abusive father, or mother before we open up our eyes? Sure, people are throwing out solutions. Some think that removing guns from police officers hands is the answer. Some people think that the NFL (and other places of employment) permanently suspending players is the route to go. For me, I don’t think this fixes anything. The issue is not whether or not the NFL hires aggressive players (it does, its football). The issue is not whether or not guns are easily available for anyone one. Those things only try to mask the problem or worse yet control the problem without fixing it. If the NFL stopped hiring aggressive people will this make aggressive people less aggressive? No. Will the lack of a gun make a police officer do his job better? No.

What really need done is fixing the anger, bitterness, etc that resides in the heart of the people. Let us go back and look at this Ferguson, MO situation. The family said they wanted justice. The legal system is what brings justice. It was determined, based upon information I am certain that none of us really have, that what happened that day while a tragedy, was not illegal. The police officer did what he had to do. He reacted within his rights to defend himself. Justice was served. As a result riots ensued. What was wanted was not justice, but vengeance.   When vengeance wasn’t served it spewed out onto the streets. Business’ were looted, burned, etc. As I looked at the aftermath, my heart wept. It wept for the city. It wept for this family, and it wept for the police officer. No one wanted what happened. And here we all are witnesses this anger, ripping apart this city.

Then, I saw the video of the young boy reaching out and hugging the police officer. This is what we need. Understanding. Love. Hope. As Martin Luther King Jr once said, violence begets violence. In order for this nation to heal we need to take a lesson from this young boy. Reaching out with love is the only way to restore peace in our hearts and in our nation.