Good

sunset“There is no one on earth who does what is right all the time and never makes a mistake.” Ecclesiastes 7:20 (GNT)

I love being a dad. Of all of the things I get to do in the world, this is unequaled. These two little ones bring so much laughter, warmth, and joy that I feel beyond blessed. Then there are those times—parents know what I am talking about here—those times where the same sweet, wonderful kids suddenly lose their minds. They act as if any sensibility they did have was suddenly snatched away by some spiteful creature. As a result, in a moment of irony, I lose it as well and enter the land of temporary insanity. All those lovey things that I know to be true disappear in my mind. And just like that, I begin question my ability to be the dad that I need to be. I ask myself,

“Why am I not perfect?”

I ask this question about practically every area of my life. Why do I lose my cool when I am parenting? Why am I not impeccable at my job? Why can communicating with others be such a struggle for me? I’ll even question why I am not better at painting a wall. Does this ever sound like you? If you aren’t sure, consider these things: Are you able to take a complement? When someone tells you something nice or praises you, do you respond with a simple “thank you”? Or do you expend energy pointing out why they’re wrong? Or diminish what they saw in you by saying “it’s not a big deal”? Do you ever quip back with something negative? In a world of Pinterest and social media, it can be hard not to have a perilous relationship with perfection. On the other hand, there are also those who can take a compliment, but are stingy handing them out. They have a hard time dealing with the imperfection of others. People might perceive them as arrogant and impatient. But whether you struggle to measure up or feel like you’re the only one who does, these are still tarnished relationships with perfection.

Perfect is not normal. Good is. 

I have heard on more than one occasion that I am a good dad. It feels really nice to hear that. But compliments like this also send my mind also racing through all the times I’ve lost my cool or have let my kids down. I immediately start degrading the words of someone who was genuinely trying to share their opinion of the quality of father I am. It’s just the worst. When that happens, it’s because I have missed the point. They didn’t say I am a perfect dad; they said I am a good dad. The old man Solomon said, “There is no one on earth who does what is right all the time and never makes a mistake.” This serves as a reminder that there are going to be days that I get it right and days that I miss the mark. In fact, that’s exactly why Jesus came to do what he did. He has brought hope to the imperfect humanity that is us. We are reconciled with God because none of us are perfect or good enough. We all miss the mark. Knowing that Jesus did this and that he loves me, I am motivated and strive to be best that I can each day. And when I see growth, I know that God is doing a good work in me. That is good. I believe that is what makes me a good dad. Besides, if we were all perfect, the world would be a pretty boring place, don’t you think?

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Amazing

IMG_3345When Jesus heard this, he was amazed and said to those following him, “Truly I tell you, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith.” Matthew 8:10 (NIV)

If you ever meet my son, you would love him. He is so sweet, kind, funny, loving, and just one of the best kids I know. He loves a good hug, he’s always trying to make jokes, his laugh is infectious, he loves to dance and sing, and wants to be a friend to everyone. He is, without a doubt, one of my most favorite people in the world. (Coincidentally, today is also his 7th birthday!)

A couple of weeks ago, we were enjoying a football game when the quarterback scrambled and leapt over a defender for a touchdown. It was one of those moves that they replay over and over and put on SportsCenter. With eyes wide my son exclaimed, “That was amazing!” It was amazing. But in that moment, I was more amazed by the genuine enthusiasm and wonderment from my offspring. It stopped me in my tracks. As I looked at him relishing the moment, all I could think was,

“I wanna be more amazed.”

We all witness plenty of astonishing things that happen every day, but for as many that are celebrated, how many more are missed? Oftentimes it seems like things have to be over-the-top exceptional to capture our attention. Maybe this is because we live in such a sensationalized world. Maybe it is because, when we have seen something more than once, it loses its luster. Personally, I can find ways to take what is marvelous and desensitize it with logic. I’ll take a beautiful sunset and minimize the beauty to nothing but particles scattering light rays to create color that is perceived by our eyes. Are you with me? Is this you?

And yet, when I am amazed, the world is a much more interesting place.

Innumerable stars brilliantly lighting up the sky at night. Amazing.

My children staring back at me, telling me that they love me. Astonishing.

The peaceful quietness of a perfect snow fall. Breath-taking.

Little seeds growing in the dirt to provide us food to live. Incredible.

As I was thinking about all of this, Matthew 8:10 just struck me; “When Jesus heard this, he was amazed.” Wait, what? So Jesus (aka God), the all-knowing creator of the universe and everything in it, was amazed? Surely, Matthew, you jest?! Tell me that this doesn’t blow your mind a little bit. God not only witnessed everything, he also created everything. Yet here he is, God incarnate, amazed at one man’s faith. This guy is one of billions of people who have lived on earth and Jesus stands amazed. Let that soak in.

I wonder how often God is amazed? Is he amazed at the same things that amaze us? I have no clue. I’d like to imagine that he is amazed about what we perceive as even the most insignificant of things. What do you think? I’d love to hear from you. Comment below and tell me what amazes you? Do you think God continues to be amazed by things? If so, what do you think they are? And as you go through your day, take time to be totally captivated by something in your world. I know my son will.

Party

NTSLifeIsBeautifulThen Jesus said to his host, “When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or sisters, your relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.” Luke 14:12-14 (NIV) 

This past Friday I was honored to be a part of the Tim Tebow Foundation’s Night to Shine* prom event. My church welcomed more than a few hundred people from the special needs community to an evening of limo rides, karaoke, a red carpet entrance, games, dinner, photo booth, and dancing (so much dancing!). Every guest was paired with a buddy whose privilege it was to experience the night together; there were people serving meals, assisting in bathrooms, helping with activities, and even a crowd of paparazzi asking for autographs and selfies  as guests walked the red carpet. I am so grateful for the Tim Tebow Foundation’s vision and the support they provided to make the event happen in multiple locations around the world and for all who participated to make this wonderful night happen.

When I finally had the chance to sit down, eat, and rest my tiring feet, I looked up and saw all that I needed to see to make the night unforgettable. A dapper young man and a dazzling young woman were alone on the dance floor dancing their hearts out as everyone else ate. Fascinating and memorable moments filled the night, but this one stood out above the rest. In that brief amount of time all that I needed to know about why we did this, why it was worth it, and how significant the evening was, spun and jumped and smiled and glided across the dance floor.

It was extraordinary.

Living in a world where we are daily inundated with pain, suffering, ugliness, and tragedy I cherish these moments. It’s marvelous that this portrait of hope and beauty came from people often marginalized and forgotten—people who are treated as an inconvenience, humans thought by some to be something less than just that. The best things often come from the most unexpected places. But I selfishly live my life thinking I know where God is going to do something great. When will I learn?

God gives His best gifts in disguised packages.

There is that passage from Luke 14 in which Jesus tells the guy throwing the party that, “inviting the rich or your family or friends is easy and they are people that will take care of you. Instead of inviting them, throw a party for people who have no way of returning the favor. If you do this, you will be blessed.” I don’t know about you, but I’m often spending my time with people who I think can give me equal or more than I give them. Convenience can be a tricky enemy. Yet, Jesus draws me somewhere out of my element. He takes me to places where I can truly see how beautiful this life is. And that’s when I experience what it means to be blessed. I hope and pray that I continue to have these opportunities and experiences. May you walk through the door when the chance comes your way. You won’t want to miss the party.

*If you’d like to see a bit of what Night to Shine was like, check it out here.

Diets

waffles“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” Philippians 4:8 (NIV)

Here’s the thing about diets – nobody asks the husky fellow who gorges on cake and cheeseburgers how he does it. Instead, they seek out the fit person who demonstrates the discipline of eating good, healthy food. I’m the guy that loves a perfectly cooked burger and an icing encased piece of cake. But if I ate that every day, misery and regret would soon consume me. Nobody would seek me for nutrition advice.

It’s easy to eat junk food and not very impressive.

This is much like living in negativity. It is easy to be negative and, in the long run, it is not very impressive. For me, being negative is like junk food to my soul. It seems right in the moment and there is a sense of power when I do it. However, over time my soul becomes malnourished and my view of life fills with cynicism. I know this because it has often been my modus operandi. I can form a cynical opinion with ease. It has made being a friend with me difficult and even lead to the demise of some very valuable relationships. I have discovered that as people, we have an uncanny ability to pinpoint what is wrong with other people, the world, and even ourselves. If you need evidence, read Facebook.

The world doesn’t need more critics.

That is not to say that criticism doesn’t have a place in life. It absolutely does. Some of the most important changes in the world occurred because someone spoke up against the status quo. But I have no need to be better at that. My heart longs to be filled with good. I want to be disciplined in seeing goodness around me. I want to bring life and love with the words that I speak. My relationships could use a little more positivity on a regular basis.

I think I need a better diet plan.

The apostle Paul gave some wise words when he wrote that we should think about “whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable.” More simply “if anything is excellent or praiseworthy.” When I do this I feel better about myself, my view of others improves, and I can see God more clearly. This is a good M.O. A much healthier way to live. A godly way to live. What do you think would happen if we spent more time looking for what is excellent instead of criticize? I think that cheeseburger and cake would be way less tempting than it used to be. Pray with me to have eyes to see all the good God is doing inside of you, me, and the world around us.

Handwriting

“You are the one who put me together inside my mother’s body, and I praise you because of the wonderful way you created me. Everything you do is marvelous! Of this I have no doubt.”         Psalm 139:13-14 (CEV)

It recently occurred to me how interesting handwriting is. I know, real exciting. But in my line of work, I get to see a lot of people’s handwriting. There are some that have penmanship that requires a specialist to translate. I’m fairly certain they are writing a form of English, but I can’t guarantee it. Then there are those whose handwriting is so elegant that they could make a fantastic living writing wedding invitations. I even know a lady who uses a ruler to write to make sure that all the letters are in a perfect line. She even uses it to sign checks! (It’s nothing short of extraordinary.) All of that is to say that everyone’s handwriting is specifically unique.

Unique, by the way, means one of a kind.

For me, being unique was a struggle. I always fantasized myself being someone different because I didn’t find personal satisfaction with who I was. My parents always provided more than I needed, yet I often envied what others had. Though I was a respectable athlete, jealously of the superstar limited my potential. I am moderately intelligent, but longed to be the smartest one in the class. Ultimately, I would sabotage my own individuality.

I never grasped that being unique was a good thing.

King David of the Bible seemed to recognize that he was unique and that God had everything to do with it. He is the one who authored the words, “I praise you because of the wonderful way you created me.” It has only been in the past couple of years (I am 35) that I have accepted the way that God created me. A phrase that I run on repeat in my head and share with others is, “God thought about you when He made you.”

I must remind myself that my uniqueness is absolutely divine.

When I recognize the divine uniqueness in, not only me, but every person, it is there that I see the beauty of what God has done. That beauty is stunning. “Everything you do is marvelous! Of this I have no doubt.” Yet, I recognize that I am human. There will always be the struggle to see the majestic way God created you and me. Regardless, I will strive daily to see the divine handwriting in all that God has created. Will you join me?

Heaven

5c1bbed6db895498c477f846e426ad97“May your Kingdom come soon. May your will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.” – Matthew 6:10 (NLT)

So my friend from way back in college called me and asked if I would come be the speaker for his church’s junior high camp. You should know this about me-I don’t do junior high. When I was in junior high, I didn’t like it. I tried to spend time with junior high kids, but was exasperated. I don’t do junior high.

But it seemed that now was the time for second chances.

I accepted the offer anticipating that God would help me bear the weight of speaking to these junior high kids. I had a few months to think about it and sweat it out. I knew that I would need lots of His assistance on this adventure so my prayer was that God would work through me to affect these kids in a positive way. God, as He does, came through. I don’t know about you, but when I was in junior high I could have used a few kind words from my fellow anxious and awkward peers. What would it be like if these pre-teens could say thoughtful and delightful things to each other?

So, with God’s help, I came up with a plan. I made cards that showcased a picture of a cat in sunglasses. (Because what could be more disarming than a cat with glasses?) I had the name of every placed on a different card. Everyone then randomly received a card with someone else’s name on it at the beginning of the day. They might know them, they may not. Their task would be to observe and write down three ways that they saw the goodness of God in the person they were observing. At our last session together, everyone would deliver the cards to the person they wrote wonderful things about and watch them read the words that were written. Oh, there would be like 103 of them exchanging words of life. It’ll work, right? Junior high kids can do this right? My friend reassured me that they could. So, we did it.

And it was beautiful.

Every single kid there wrote down something kind and amazing about the person they randomly received. Watching those kids excitedly receive their cards was miraculous. Life was breathed into their souls. Joy reigned over all. As I watched, I thought to myself, “This must be like heaven.”

Jesus once taught His disciples how to pray. In the midst of that teaching He uttered the words, “May you will be done on earth,as it is in heaven.” That day, I think I really saw a bit of what Jesus was teaching. Heaven on earth. What a marvelous experience to be a part of. There are times in life where I am just amazed that I get to be in the midst of some extraordinary happening. I don’t know about you, but I wanna see more of heaven on earth. Even if it is with junior highers.