Thursday, December 25, 2008


Risky Business

Whenever I lay my brand new baby down in his crib to sleep, I am absolutely filled with two equally urgent thoughts: please go to sleep, and just keep on breathing! I know it sounds weird but in the same moment, I want him to be quiet and I don’t want him to be quiet. I want the crying to give way to peace so we can finally chill a little bit, and yet I find myself going back into the room over and over again, leaning down into the crib and putting my ear right up next to his little face to hear those tiny breaths… His little lungs are smaller than a coin purse and his airways are like those little straws people use to stir coffee… sometimes it scares me to go to sleep, because what if… you know? It’s just all so precarious! Babies are so fragile and so many of them don’t make it! It seems like all of our time, energy and money are going towards just keeping this little dude alive… just making it through these early stages until he’s not so delicate.

This is what kills me about the Christmas story. It seems pretty risky! I mean, there were so many points at which this plan could’ve fallen to pieces. What if Mary’s delivery had gone wrong? What if Jesus had been breech? What if the chord had been all tangled up? These things happen thousands of times a day throughout the world, but Mary and Joseph didn’t have a labor and delivery room with heart-rate monitors and a doctor on call. There were no nurses standing by with a heated incubator ready to roll, fully stocked with diapers and those awesome striped swaddle blankets. They were in a stable, or in a cave or maybe on the street beside some house because they found a feeding trough where they could lay the baby in some straw and Joseph could lean down and listen to Him breathing.

It just doesn’t seem like a rock-solid plan, you know? I mean, what did the shepherds think when they learned from the angel that Christ was born and lying in a manger? I know they were probably still shaking in their boots from the terrifying sight of winged couriers on fire, but wouldn’t they have felt it strange that God had placed all His eggs in one pretty vulnerable little basket? Surely the Messiah should be in some high security crib surrounded by Israeli secret service, right? What was the King of heaven and earth doing in so dangerous a situation?

Well, the truth is that it wasn’t precarious in the least. Sure, babies are fragile; and yes, tons of them don’t make it, but this One was going to make it, no matter what. Why is that? Because God said so. He said so in the Garden of Eden right before Adam and Eve got booted out. He said so to Abraham when He promised the One who would bless all nations. He said so through Moses when He promised a true prophet. He said so when David sang about the coming King of Psalm 2 who would laugh at rulers and dash nations. He said so when David sang about the victorious warrior in Psalm 45 who would ride forth in behalf of truth, humility and righteousness. He said so in Daniel’s vision of the worshipped and mighty Ancient of Days. He said so when Isaiah told Ahaz that the sign and solution to all his problems would be a child who is God, born to a virgin. He said Christ would be born in Bethlehem and that His Son would be called out of Egypt, and it all happened, just as He said it would.

In Ephesians 1:11 Paul said that we were predestined “according to the plan of Him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of His will.” Dave Roper said that there is no maverick molecule in this universe. The Christmas story seems risky, but it wasn’t. And the same is true for us… sometimes it looks like everything’s falling apart at the seams, but it isn’t. He’s still in control, still running the show, still ordering and allowing everything in your life that comes into it and it’s all in line with the purpose of his will… His good, pleasing and perfect will. And that is why no matter where you are or what’s going on, you can have a Merry Christmas.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Our good friend Erin took our family pics at Judy's house...

Smells Like Home

Last Saturday I was walking beside Christy at Dollywood as I was stopped in my tracks by an amazing smell that came straight out of my childhood… no, it wasn’t the funnel cakes, (although that’s about the most delicious smell ever) it was something totally different… burning coal. I know, you probably don’t think burning coal is an amazing smell, but for me, it is. You see, my dad is a blacksmith. He literally owns two forges, a few anvils and tons of hammers, tongs, pliers, leather aprons and all kinds of really manly stuff like that. As a kid I would watch him take scraps of black and useless steel and pound them into works of art with fire and force. It was pretty awesome. I love watching the rock-hard metal turn bright orange in the belly of the white-hot coals. I love watching the sparks fly as the hammer beats shape to rhythm. I love hearing the hiss of the hot steel being plunged into a bucket of water to cool, and I love the smell of the coal.

When I smelled the coal of the blacksmith shop at Dollywood I was instantaneously transported back to the house where I grew up. For a moment I was a kid again. I didn’t have any bills or responsibilities and my only worries were getting to the park in time for the pick-up football game and finding all my darkest clothes before sunset for a nighttime game of capture the flag. It only lasted a moment, but that smell made me feel at home.

The other day I was reading the story of the baby Jesus being brought to the temple. I can’t even begin to imagine what it must have felt like for the Creator of the Universe to be trapped in the uncontrollable body and consciousness of an eight-day-old baby. How far had He come? How trapped and inhibited did He feel? He was helplessly wrapped in whatever scraps of cloth were lying around and carried six miles down the road from Bethlehem to Jerusalem by a couple of teenagers who were scared out of their minds. How awkward, uncomfortable and out of sorts must He have felt coming into the temple? And then He smelled it… worship.

Over and over again the Old Testament talks about how the sacrifices that took place in the tabernacle and then in the temple were fragrant offerings to God. The temple was like a barbeque that never closed… it must have smelled awesome! But I don’t think it was the roast lamb or beef that smelled so good to the Lord. He loved the smell of contrite hearts offering prayer, praise and gratitude with love. Maybe it reminded Him of home… His home, where angels never stop offering worship. And even though we don’t have the temple anymore, our worship is still the smell He loves. Hebrews 13 says, “Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise – the fruit of lips that confess His name.” When the baby Jesus entered the temple, what if the prayers and singing of His people were the smell that made Him feel at home in this cold, lonesome world? What if the songs of Simeon and Anna took Him back to the songs of angels?

I’m not finished with my Christmas shopping yet and there are less than ten days left until Christmas… I’ve been racking my brain trying to figure out what to get so and so, trying to remember what I got them last year and wondering if there’s anything I have received that’s re-gift-able… shhh, don’t tell. But I know what to get Jesus. It’s the thing He smelled when shepherds bowed. It’s the gift He opened when an old man held Him and sang… He wants to smell prayer, praise and gratitude. He wants love for Christmas.

And here is a family portrait drawn by Anna... complete with a big 'ole heart!

Friday, December 12, 2008

With Us

Anna is one of the most excitable people I’ve ever known. Tell her she’s going to the zoo or going to get ice cream or going to Wal-Mart to get new socks and she lights up like a Christmas tree, exponentially increasing in volume. Sometimes she bounces off the walls with such pure joy that it can be exhausting to be a spectator. Sometimes she flits around the house, jumping off of the furniture and dancing with wild abandon and then sometimes she gets shy and won’t really move. Sometimes she laughs out loud like it’s going out of style and then sometimes she won’t even make eye contact. So, what’s the story? Why does she go from totally hesitant to complete dare devil? Why does she fluctuate from boisterous to bottled-up… from fearless to fear-filled?

Well, It’s simple really. When we’re with her, she’s fearless. When we’re not, she’s not. If Christy and I are there to catch her, she’ll jump with all of her might into the air from the fourth step up. If our arms are outstretched, she’ll leap off the edge of the pool every time. If we are breaking it down to her favorite Beatles song, she’ll dance like John Travolta, laughing hysterically! But if we’re not around… if we’re not with her, she’s not jumping, not diving and definitely not dancing. In order for her to cut loose and be free and full of life she only needs one thing: she needs us with her. If we’re with her, she’s good to go.

This attitude of Anna’s is really a very Christmas-y one to have. After all, Christmas is all about God coming to be with us… it’s the reminder that we could never be who were made to be without Him. After Matthew tells us about Jesus’ birth he says, “All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: “The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call Him Immanuel” which means, “God with us.” Jesus was born… God was here, on this earth.

It struck me this week that although the birth of Jesus fulfilled what Isaiah predicted, it wasn’t totally fulfilled until after Jesus’ death and resurrection. I mean, when Jesus was born, God was on earth, with a body and a voice and an address, but He wasn’t with everyone at all times. One time Mary and Joseph accidentally left the teenage Jesus at the temple in Jerusalem and panicked when they realized that He wasn’t with them. When Lazarus was dying in Bethany, Jesus wasn’t with Him, and He was glad He wasn’t with Him so that His disciples would believe. When Joseph of Arimathea laid Jesus’ body in a tomb and sealed it with a stone on a Friday night, Jesus wasn’t with anyone. He was dead and gone… but then Sunday came, and He arose.

2,700 years ago the prophet Isaiah made a prediction that a virgin would give birth to a Son who would be called, “God with us.” 700 years later a virgin named Mary did give birth to a Son. 33 years after that He died on a cross, and three days later He rose form the dead. Now He is alive forever and is really ‘God with us.’ Because He died and rose again, He can be with everyone who wants Him all the time. He can come all the way down inside our hearts to be with us… making us free, making us strong and giving us everything we need to make it through this life. Don’t you need Him? Don’t you want Him with you always? He wants to come in and be Immanuel… God with you.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Two very excited girls about getting ready to decorate the Christmas Tree!!

I’ll Do Anything!

During the past week, something has happened that has totally changed my life. I mean, it’s happened to me two other times in my life as well, but whenever it happens, I’m never prepared for it. When it happened the other day it made my heart skip a few beats and made my mind race. I may never be the same person again. Honestly, I cried a little… so, what was it? What was this earth-shattering, paradigm-shifting thing that happened? Ready? Okay… Jack smiled.

When you find out you’re going to have a baby, you experience this tornado of emotions, that depending on your plans and your place in life can be either really exciting, really scary or some strange alloy of the two. Then you go to your first pre-natal care appointment and they use this little JV ultrasound to let you hear the baby’s heartbeat and you’re in love. Whatever you were before that moment, you’re in love now. Over the next few months you get to see fuzzy black and white images of what is either your baby or a tadpole clinging onto a beanbag. The images become more and more human-like or rather, your baby does, and so your excitement builds. Finally, your baby arrives… after much toil, trauma and sacrifice, your baby is in the world and in your arms and there is nothing in this life that compares with that moment.

Then you go home and they scream all night long. You trudge through your days on the kind of sleep that tortured prisoners of war get and then change so many diapers and outfits that washing your hands becomes a reflex, like blinking or something. The whole time you’re thinking about how you love your baby more than anything, but soon you will be dead, and then it happens... You’re holding this person that has relentlessly taken absolutely all you have without ever saying “Thank you” or “You rock, Dad” and just when you are about to lose hope of making it through this season of life, they smile. He smiled at me. It wasn’t gas and it wasn’t an accident. You can tell the real ones. He smiled at me and everything was okay.

Since that time, I am a new man. I am not kidding, I would do anything to get this boy to smile. In the past week, I have made the craziest faces that a human being can possibly imagine without the aid of photoshop. I would sing, coo, jump up and down, hit myself on the head with whatever is around… you name it! If I could get Jack to smile by eating cold spam drenched in yogurt and balsamic vinaigrette, I’d do it right now… right now. Now that I know it’s possible to make him smile, it’s all in the world I want.

When I realized the change that’s happened inside me and recognized the fact that all I want is to make that little dude smile, I thought of David as a teenager writing the words of Psalm 19, “May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.” It’s possible for us to make God smile. It’s possible to please His heart and to put a smile on His face. Don’t you want that? Don’t you want to make Him smile more than anything else out there?! Isn’t the thought of pleasing Him the most exciting and intoxicating thought ever?! Don’t you want His smile like you want air? You can have it! You… right there where you are in the middle of your life… you can make God smile. Wouldn’t you do anything to see Him smile?

Friday, November 28, 2008

Anna and Jack on Thanksgiving, right before we headed out to Nan's

The Stone

Lately Anna has been collecting rocks. I know, that sounds like it could be very cool and in fact, some folks I’m sure have incredible rock collections filled with unique and highly interesting specimens, but that’s not what Anna’s doing… no, she just picks up regular old, random bits of gravel and gives them cool names like, “The Golden Stone.” I understand why she loves baby dolls and stuffed animals… I mean, they’re soft and cute, but why rocks?

Well, she may be onto something. Rocks may be cooler than I once thought. See, I have been thinking this week about the stone that rolled away from the entrance of the tomb where Jesus was buried. We don’t know a whole lot about that stone… Mark says that it was “very large,” while Matthew tells us it was “big” and that the guards posted at the tomb put a seal on it. We know that as evening approached on Friday, Joseph of Arimathea rolled it in front of the rock-hewn tomb after they laid Jesus’ body there, and that’s pretty much it until Sunday morning. I have been thinking about that Friday through Sunday morning… what dark days those must have been. I bet they were gloomy, soggy and gray days. The disciples were huddled up in secret wondering if they were next and for the first time since it was made, the world was without Christ.

I wonder what that stone was thinking… I know, I know, rocks aren’t alive. They don’t have brains and therefore cannot think, but suspend all that for just a minute and hang with me. Just a week before all this happened Jesus told some guys that if people stopped praising Him, the rocks would cry out. Was Jesus anthropomorphizing? Was He speaking figuratively, knowing that there would always be people praising Him? I don’t think so. I think He was serious. I think that if everyone on earth were to stop praising the Lord, rocks would start singing! If Jesus had obeyed the priests during the triumphal entry and told all the people to stop praising, I believe the limestone and granite of Jerusalem would have invented Rock n Roll long before Elvis ever entered the building.

So, what was that stone thinking as it sat there all sealed up, flanked by guards from Friday night through Sunday morning? Just about everyone who loved Jesus spent those days cowering in fear instead of lifting up praise… was every tongue on earth silent? What if that stone was getting ready to sing? What if it was champing at the bit to declare the praises of the One who came and died? What if that stone started shaking and creaking a little bit by Saturday afternoon? What if, in the middle of the night it just started moving a little and straining at its seal as dawn approached? Matthew 28 says that, “There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it.”

Matthew tells us that the guards were so afraid that they passed out as if they were dead. Of course they did! They had been standing there with that freaky stone creaking and shifting all night long! Matthew says the angel rolled the stone back and then sat on it. I bet he didn’t have to push very hard. In fact, I bet he sat on it to keep it from rolling away at a break-neck speed, coursing through every little town to sing out, “Death is done and Christ has won!” While everyone was crying and full of despair, a stone said it first. It sat beside an empty tomb. The tomb wasn’t really even a tomb anymore. The death was gone, the seal was broken and the light was shining in. I want to be like that stone! I want to be the first one to declare it today! I want to be different than I was… Don’t you?

Friday, November 21, 2008

He Knows

Do you know what it’s like to try and wake up in the middle of the night when you’re absolutely worn out? Do you know what it’s like to be so tired that you would gladly endure tortures upon waking if you could only sleep a bit more? Do you know what it feels like to have eyelids that aren’t merely heavy, but wrought of barbed steel, oppressive in both weight and pain? Do you know how sweet it feels to close eyes like that and simply go back to sleep? If you’ve ever had a newborn baby, you know what I’m talking about. You know what it’s like to hear a little choke in the middle of the night, fly out of the covers and try to hustle over to the bassinet while you stumble and sway in delirious confusion because your equilibrium is nowhere to be found. You know it’s like to be so tired that you honestly believe death is next. Well, that’s where we are right now with our new baby, and if you think I’m being overly dramatic, it’s because I am exhausted!

I always want to be the most involved and helpful dad I can, which means that I try so hard to wake up and help Christy in the middle of the night when Jack is awake to eat or be changed. Sometimes I’m right there when she needs me, ready with a diaper or ready to swaddle him back up for sleep, but many times Christy looks over and sees me dead on my pillow while she looks after our boy. Well, the thing she doesn’t know is that even though I appear to be peacefully sleeping, I am actually waging a war inside my head. Part of me is screaming, “Come on! Get up!” While the rest of me is saying, “You don’t know the power of the dark side!” I try so hard to get up, but sometimes it seems like I just can’t. Christy could be dead to the world and if Jack breathes too heavily she’s fully awake, but there are times I wouldn’t wake up if Jack were wielding a chainsaw in the middle of a circus. Christy is always super sweet about it of course and encourages me to just stop fighting it and go to sleep, but still the battle rages on.

Yesterday I was reading about the night of our Lord’s betrayal in the garden of Gethsemane in a book by a guy called G. Campbell Morgan who was one of the most awesome preachers and thinkers around the turn of the twentieth century. He was talking about how Jesus kept finding His best friends asleep in the moments of His greatest agony and sorrow and the way in which He dealt with them. If you read Mark 14 in the NIV, you get the feeling Jesus is chewing them out for sleeping. He says, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Enough!” But Campbell Morgan says there may be more to the story. You see, the Greek text didn’t have all those question marks and exclamation points. He said it could be read, (and in fact reads this way in the KJV) “Sleep on now and take your rest: it is enough…”

Wanting to get to the bottom of this, I looked up that word ‘enough’ in the Greek and it’s a word that means ‘to have’ or ‘to receive.’ It’s used in Matthew 6:5 when Jesus says that people who pray in public to be seen by men “have” their reward in full. So, Jesus wasn’t really saying, “You’re still sleeping? Enough!” as in, “Stop it already!” He was probably saying, “You’re still sleeping? It’s okay… have it… receive that rest.” It was like He was saying, “You can’t watch with me for one hour? That’s okay. Rest up. I know you want to, but your body is weak and tired. It’s okay; Judas isn’t here yet. I’ll stay up and watch.”

When I realized this, I burst into tears! How many nights has Christy taken care of Jack while I furiously wrestled my own heavy eyes and gave in to sleep?! Oh the number of times she has looked at me with that motherly calm and said, “Just go to sleep, baby.” Campbell Morgan said that in this scene we see the motherly affections of our Lord. Wow. This is what I love about Jesus… that even in the moment of His deepest distress when He was staring down the barrel of the wrath of God, He’s motherly in tenderness and care. When I’m sleepy and ought to be awake, He knows. He knows we are but dust and He cares for us even still.

Friday, November 14, 2008

One Smile

A month ago my baby boy was born and not only was this an awesome event in its own right, but it also meant that I had a legitimate reason for missing my 10 year high school reunion… Whew! That was a close one. Old acquaintances were like, “Lee, are you going to the reunion?” And I was all, “Oh no… I can’t. We just had a baby… man, hate I missed that!” It saved me from having to give the real reason, which is that I just really didn’t want to go! Look, it’s not that I’m hateful or that I look back on high school as a terrible experience or anything… it’s just that high school reunions seem to me like a big race or contest. I mean, high school was a big enough race on its own, right? Who’s the coolest? Who’s the most beautiful? Who’s going to get the best grades or into the best school? Who gets the most girls? Who can lift the most weight or run the fastest mile?

Then college comes and you get to start all over in a world where no one’s really competing… everyone’s just trying to make it. Then you graduate and get a job and before you know it, ten years have flown by and you’re supposed to go back home and hang out with all those old people you used to compete against or were mean to. The only difference is that now everyone can legally drink a beer. I just imagined this awkward evening filled with conversations about important mergers and innovative manufacturing techniques with guys pretending to like the taste of champagne. I wondered if anyone would jump to their feet in the middle of it all and suggest that everyone grab a slushy from Kenjo and carpool out to laser tag (because that’s what everyone really wanted to be doing).

The thing is, I’m sure no one did that, and I bet the reason has something to do with the fact that we’re all still trying to impress each other. We’re all still in high school trying to have the best outfit or the coolest car. And I’m not just talking about my peeps from the class of ’98… everyone is like this to some degree. We’re all trying to please someone and some of us are trying to please everyone. This of course is impossible and often leads us to do or say the things we hate the most about ourselves.

This week I was reading Mark 14, which opens up at a dinner party in Bethany where Jesus was the guest of honor. It was in the home of a guy called Simon the Leper, which is interesting because lepers didn’t usually throw parties, but maybe Simon used to be a leper and was healed by Jesus, so he showed his gratitude by having Jesus over and inviting all his friends. When I picture this atmosphere, I can’t help thinking about the reunion I missed. Maybe the place was filled with people Jesus had healed and who had not been together since before they were sick. Either way, it was a party; and wherever people are gathered together, everyone is watching and everyone is on stage…

Mark tells us that in the middle of the festivities a woman came in with a jar of perfume worth anywhere from 20 to 40 thousand dollars. She broke the jar and poured the perfume on Jesus’ head. The music stopped, the people gasped and the fragrance filled the air. It was uncool. It was awkward. It was humiliating for everyone. She was bowing down and worshiping Jesus in the middle of a crowded room! All the other guests had spent the night trying to be the coolest and she was making herself the lowest. She honored Jesus in front of everyone and she got made fun of. She got chewed out. People said she was stupid and irresponsible, but she didn’t care. Why? She wasn’t racing anyone. She wasn’t trying to please anyone but Him… her Lord. She was after One smile, and you know what? She got it. Jesus said, “Why are you bothering her? She has done a beautiful thing to me… wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.”

What if you only cared about pleasing One person? What if you honestly didn’t care what anyone else thought about your life? What if you weren’t trying to please them, but would do anything to get the smile of Jesus? His is the One opinion that matters and as long as it’s the only one you want, it’s the One you can know you have.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Here are the girls with the Jack-o-lantern they designed. And here's Jack (not-so-lantern) as a bumblebee for trick-or-treating:

I think his first Halloween was a bit underwhelming... He slept the entire night and then didn't eat any candy on account of the lack of teeth and all.

A Life of Love

A couple days ago a sweet brother went home to be with our Lord. Mr. Wallace was 88 years old. His daughter Diane has been one of our family’s sweetest friends; and the more I learn about her dad in these days, the more I see why she’s so sweet. On Monday, as Di walked me to the elevator at the hospital, she told me that her daddy was her buddy and that he was always sweet and loving. His kids said that he was always singing… that his beautiful baritone voice was always lifting up Jesus. Diane said that she used to love to harmonize with him. They say he made every one of his kids feel like they were the only one in the world. They knew their daddy loved them.

The other day I was reading in Mark 13 where our Lord said that there are days coming where the sun will be darkened and stars will fall from the sky. He said that the universe is going to be shaken and that everyone is going to see the Son of Man coming with great power and glory. When I read it I realized two things: Number one, I can’t wait for that day! I’m so ready to go home and leave this old busted world to be with the One who loves me like nobody else! Number two, I don’t have too many days left! You see, Jesus went on in the next few verses to say that no one knows when this Day will come, therefore, “What I say to you, I say to everyone: Watch!”

We may not have very many days left! We may not have too many more chances to be sweet, loving and always singing praises. When that Great Day comes and everyone everywhere sees our Lord firsthand, don’t you want to be known for love? Don’t you want to be famous for being sweet? Don’t you want to have the reputation of one who just can’t help singing His praises? That’s the kind of guy Mr. Wallace was.

You know, there are so many people who have spent their whole adult lives recovering from their fathers… desperately clawing to get out from underneath the oppression of needing and not achieving his approval. Don’t you want to be like Mr. Wallace? Don’t you want the people in your life to know that you love them? It is no small thing to be sweet. It is no small thing to sing praises. It is no small thing to give love. In Ephesians 5 Paul says, “Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”

There is a Day coming that Jesus said to be on watch for. I don’t think that means grabbing your telescope every night and waiting for all the stars to fall with the shaking of the sky. I think watching for the Day is about being ready. In other words, whatever you want to be on that Day, start being that person today. You want to be known for singing? Sing! You want to be known for sweetness? Sweeten up! You want to be able to look your Savior in the face as one who is famous for love? Then go ahead and start loving! You may not have long to live a life of love.

Friday, October 31, 2008


The other day I heard Anna’s voice calling me into her playroom where she wanted me to come and see the zoo she was building. Someone had given her these little plastic animals and she decided that they needed a place of their own, so she got down the big tub of little wooden blocks and started building. When I walked in the room, I saw this perfect little block zoo with an entry way and separate pins for the giraffe, the elephant and the lion. I said, “Wow Anna, that’s a great zoo. I like how everyone has their own space.” She told me that was so they wouldn’t fight.

Anna loves to build stuff with blocks, and she pretty much rules at it. She builds everything from castles to cabins, hospitals, towers, bridges, causeways and even entire cities. She populates her vast and intricate creations with this army of tiny plastic bears who sleep on little block beds and drive little block cars, vans and trucks. This is an endless world of fun for Anna that only has one potential problem… hurricane Norah. My almost three-year-old also loves playing with blocks, but for a different reason. See, Anna thinks the fun in blocks is to build them up and imagine life in the little world she has made, while Norah stacks blocks on top of each other for the pure joy of knocking them down. Oh, how many times have I comforted the broken-hearted Anna as her beloved buildings were mercilessly demolished by Norah stomping through the playroom like Godzilla in Tokyo?

For weeks now, we have been in the middle of a global economic crisis. The world’s markets have tanked so many times that I’ve lost count. People have used words like “Great Depression,” “Crash” and even “Armageddon.” In the chaos of the sub-prime mortgage crisis, the half dozen record losses in the stock market and the failing and bailing of some of the world’s largest banks and financial institutions, some people are really, really worried. Some folks have lost thousands of dollars and others have lost simply everything… savings, retirement, kid’s college fund, you name it. Some folks are losing more sleep over their money than they ever have in their lives.

It seems to me that some people are discovering that they have spent their lives, their time and their energy building a world for themselves out of little wooden blocks… a little block city with block cars riding on block bridges to their little block houses. And now they are watching all that work and investment crumble. Look, there is absolutely nothing wrong with spending all day long building stuff that won’t last out of blocks… as long as you are five years old. Jesus said, “Everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.” Last Sunday Tom told our congregation that he had some very good news about the financial crisis. He said, “For those of you who have invested money into the kingdom of God, your investments are secure. You haven’t lost a thing.”

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Anna holding Jack...

There You Are

As I type this, my son is one week and one hour old. It feels like only five minutes ago that we were packing our overnight bag and heading out to St. Mary’s hospital so excited to finally see our baby. Christy was amazing… after each contraction, that incomparable smile broke over her face as she laughed, joked and even sang selections from South Pacific. It got harder and harder as the night wore on into morning and then it was over and Jack was here… in our world and in our arms. He was so cute and so small and (as always) I couldn’t stop crying. Paba was clicking pictures while Christy was kissing his tiny head and I was just so grateful everyone was okay. Watching a birth is like watching a death… not like the death of someone very old or someone at the end of a long sickness, but like someone dying in battle. It is like a death that is chock-full of vigor and life. It was like she was dying for him. It is a wonder that anyone makes it through birth, and yet they do. I shouldn’t say it’s just like watching death… rather, it’s like watching death and resurrection.

There he was. After all the waiting, dreaming and wondering, there he was. After all the appointments, measurements and ultrasounds, there he was. After all the sickness, sympathy and shower gifts, there he was… Jack. We actually debated over his name for months and only really decided in the midst of labor, but as soon as we saw him, we realized that he really was Jack after all… who else could he be? He was so sweet, he didn’t even cry when he was born. They tried to make him cry and he gave them a couple of little splutters, but then he quieted on down and fell asleep on Christy’s chest. He was the sleepiest baby ever. I remember Norah always having those eyes open, just looking around at everything, but Jack’s were glued shut. Tons of people were running around talking, checking stuff, messing with him and looking at him and still he was so sleepy. He wouldn’t open those eyes for anything.

But then he did. Christy started signing this song to him, and he opened his eyes. What’s more, he turned his head until he found her… the one singing the song. It was a Psalty song we sing to our kids that says, “I cast all my cares upon You, I lay all of my burdens down at Your feet, and anytime I don’t know what to do, I will cast all my cares upon You.” Christy was so excited to see his dark little eyes open up and wondered at how they sought her out and then remembered that this little guy had been listening to that song for months as Christy’s sweet voice sang it to our girls at bedtime. It was one of his favorite songs! He had been listening to that song (muffled as it was) for his whole life and finally he saw the face of the one who sang it, gazing on him in love.

Zephaniah 3:17 says, “The LORD your God is with you, He is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing.” All my life I’ve been listening to Him sing love songs to my heart. Sometimes I’ve longed for the song and sometimes I’ve run from it. I’ve never really heard His voice, but I will one day. The Apostle says that, “…now we see but a poor reflection, as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.” One day I will awaken after death to that song I’ve heard my whole life… the song of His love. It won’t be muffled then, but clear. I’m going to open my eyes onto the very face of love… the One singing the song… and just like Jack, I’ll be thinking, “There you are.”

Thursday, October 16, 2008

He's Here! Jack Campbell Younger was born at 3:44 AM on October 16, 2008 in Knoxville, TN... and he flat-out rocks.

more baby pics after the post... oh yeah, and we made a video and posted it on Christy's site, so if you want to see the video, click here.

Maybe Today

What if it were today? I mean, what if it really, really happened today? After all the waiting, guessing, predicting and wondering, what if it all came down today? Maybe I should back up… with all the craziness that’s been happening lately, you might be wondering if I’m talking about another Great Depression or a nuke going off somewhere… no, I mean what if this were very day for our Lord Jesus to come back?

What if last night was the last time you crawled into your bed and the last time you set your alarm clock? What if this morning were the last time you brushed your teeth and the last time Al Roker gave you the weather on the Today Show? What if that pot of instant coffee was the very last you would ever make with sleepy eyes and morning breath? What if you’d already driven your last commute? What if you’ve packed your last school lunch or perhaps studied for your last math test? What if today was the end of all temptation, struggle and pain? What if today was the very last chance you had to trust in Jesus even though you can’t see Him working? What if this was the day for the shadows to flee?

What if you looked up into the sky and saw it tear in two and roll up like a scroll as time and eternity collided into the joyous singing of flaming soldiers coming to end all of your woes and worries? What if… what if… what if today you saw Him… the One your heart longs for more than anything? What if today you saw His joy-filled smile, looked into His tender eyes and instantaneously knew that every doubt you ever had was not only ridiculous, but a thing of the distant past… ancient history!?

Have you thought about this in a while? Have you sat down and given any thought to the possibility that Jesus could come today? We don’t know when He’ll come again, but we have His promise that He will come again. In John 14 He said, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.” We know He’s coming back for us. We don’t know when, but we know He will.

I was thinking… what if we knew when? What if you somehow found out (and from a reliable source) that He was coming back in twelve hours? If you knew for sure that He was coming back in twelve hours, what would you do? Now, don’t just keep reading here… take a minute. What would you do if you knew Jesus was coming back in the next twelve hours? Who would you call? Who would you apologize to? What bitterness and jealousy would you let go of in an instant? What temptation or sin would you laugh in the face of because you simply had no time or desire for it anymore? What worries, stresses, problems and struggles would just dissolve into a complete joke underneath the impending return of your Lord? What kind of ‘really important’ stuff would seem trivial and stupid all of a sudden? What would you do with your money? What drama and strife in your relationships would you turn into laughter and love? What on earth would you be afraid of? You know, I bet there are a million reasons why the Father keeps Jesus’ return date a secret, but isn’t it possible that at least one of those reasons is that He wants us to think that the day is today?

Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again… maybe today. Let’s just go ahead and act like it’s today.

Okay, okay, the real reason you're on this website is to see pics of the awesome new baby boy, right? Of course right! So without further ado... Jack!

Three Generations of Younger men...

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Hey! Anna's Five-years-old!! Christy made her a really sweet video for this momentous occasion and you can watch it by clicking here!

What You Really Want

Yesterday as I turned the car into our driveway I was exhausted. I turned off the car, grabbed my backpack and headed up the walk toward the house thinking about my rambunctious little girls… I was excited to see them, but also a little wary of having to referee them if their play turned into fussing and discontented arguing. To be honest, the idea of dealing with toddler property disputes after a long day of people, meetings and music seemed totally overwhelming. What I really wanted was a happy and quiet atmosphere where the day’s labors melt away underneath the haven of home rather than fester under the tension of preschool warfare…

Now, traditional wisdom would tell me that the way to get what I wanted would be to go inside the house, complain about my weariness in order to build sympathy and then quarantine myself in the bedroom for a lonesome rest. It would be quiet and peaceful… that is, it would be quiet and peaceful for me while Christy would be stuck with the natives. The other option available to me was to think of Christy first and how she had been doing this all day long… and to think of the girls first and how they wanted someone to play with. This second option was just to head into the house upbeat and energetic… ready to head into the playroom, get down on the floor and play with my kids. Well, that's exactly what I did, and you want to know what happened? Christy got a little break from doing absolutely everything, the kids were quiet, happy and sweet, I was relaxed and restful and there wasn’t even a hint of tension. It turned out that the best and fastest way for me to get what I really wanted was to put them first instead of myself.

I think that’s what Jesus was talking about when He said in Luke 9 that, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it.” See, it’s not just about being a martyr in a foreign country… it’s something everyone everywhere is supposed to do everyday: killing off your personal and selfish desires and living for someone else. It’s both the hardest and the easiest thing to do… it’s hard because the selfish will is about the strongest enemy we face; but in a way it’s easy too, because you get about a million shots at it every day, and every time you choose a cross you find that you get what you really wanted all along.

Here’s the thing: you don’t have to choose death to self… you can choose self, but you won’t like what you get. Even Jesus had to make this very same choice. On the night He was arrested He said, “Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and He will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels?” In other words, He didn’t have to do what He did. He could have chosen not to go through with it… at any moment, He could have snapped His fingers and the sky would have been rent open as droves of flaming warriors smote His enemies and swept Him up into safety, into peace, and into heaven. He could have done it at any point, but then He wouldn’t have had what He wanted most… you. He chose the cross because that was really the only way to get a life with you. You don’t have to make the ‘death-to-self’ kind of choices that get you what you really want, but why wouldn’t you?

Friday, October 03, 2008

The kids hung out with Aunt Jodie for the Young Life banquet on Tuesday night and as ever, she took some awesome pictures... Thanks Jo!

Tearing Off the Grumps

Look, there’s no way around it and no other way of saying it, so I’m just gonna say it: Lately Norah has been Mrs. Grumpy Gills. I don’t know if it’s because of the fact that we moved into a new house, the fact that she just started pre-school, the fact that she’s learning to go on the potty or the fact that she realizes that a baby is about to come, dethroning her from that position in our house. It’s probably some combination of all of the aforementioned major life changes, but whatever it is, she’s just grumpy. If anything (and I mean anything) happens to her, she loses control and we have had the hardest time turning off the fount of tears that erupts every time this girl stubs a toe or is asked to share. What are you supposed to do? When she goes down for a nap, she’s inconsolable. When she wakes up, she’s inconsolable. From seeing bugs to not liking her food and even thinking that she might possibly have seen a bug, she’s inconsolable.

At first we thought, “Well she is just in a time of great transition in her life right now which accounts for the increased fussiness, so let’s just comfort her and hold her.” Now, you would think that this would cure all ills, but the more we would snuggle and hold this girl, the more wound up she would get! We were at a total loss and didn’t know what to do when I had this little idea… I didn’t know if it would work, but I decided to give it a try thinking that if I just distracted Norah from whatever was making her sad, she would get happy again. I mean, she’s two years old, you know? She probably just needs a little distraction. So in the middle of her next fit I just asked her, “Hey Norah, what’s your favorite… cartoons or play doh?” And though the tears were still falling, she stopped bawling long enough to say, “Umm… play doh.” I immediately followed up with, “Norah, what’s your favorite… shorts or dresses?” She smiled a bit and said, “Dresses.” So I said, “Norah, what’s your favorite… ice cream or cookies?” She laughed and said, “Cookies.” “What’s your favorite… rocks or mud?” She cracked up and said, “Mud!”

Over the past week I have been developing an arsenal of fuss-fighting techniques based on the principal that all I really have to do to break the sadness is distract her. Yesterday I came up with this thing where I make the fussiest, grumpiest looking face I can, and then tear off the grumps with my hand, exposing a joyful smile and then pretend to throw away the old curmudgeon-ish countenance. Norah thinks this is hilarious and she has actually started ‘tearing off the grumps’ and exposing that one-in-a-million smile that sets my heart ablaze.

I was thinking this morning that maybe these tactics are wrong… am I just putting a band-aid on something that is much deeper than mere distraction can solve? Is it really a valid joy if all I had to do to produce it was to ask her to think about her favorite things and talk about them? Is it so simple to just ‘tear off the grumps’ like that? Then I remembered the words of the Apostle Paul in Philippians 4. He said, “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” Then, a few verses later he says, “Finally, brothers, 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.” You see!? According to God’s word, joy is our choice! I think that as crazy as it sounds, we can decide to tear off the grumps and be joyful. I think it’s totally legitimate to break our melancholy by turning our thoughts off of the sad stuff and filling our minds and hearts with the things that bring us the most joy! So, what’s your favorite… the free forgiveness or the never-ending love? What’s your favorite… the new power in you, or the assured place in heaven? Doesn’t that make you want to un-grump?!

Also, back in May i turned 29 years old, and for my birthday, Christy said she wanted to take me to see one of my favorite symphonies... so we looked around at different concert schedules and I saw that the Nashville Symphony Orchestra was playing Dvorak's 9th symphony which is definitely in my top five favorites, and definitely my favorite composer. Well, the concert was last Friday and it was amazing... what's more, Tom painted me a portrait of Antonin Dvorak which is awesome and will now hang in our house until we go to our true home! Thanks Tom and Trusty, and Mom for keeping the kids!

Friday, September 26, 2008

The Real Deal

When I was in high school, I had really long hair, baggy and tattered clothes, a skateboard in the back of my truck and I played bass in a heavy metal band that was so loud we peeled the paint off of the houses in my neighborhood. I think most of the people who saw me thought that they had me pinned down at first glance. I was sort of automatically lumped in with kids who hated authority and loved marijuana. Of course, what most people didn’t see was the fact that I was doing pretty good in AP Biology II, was the president of FCA and an okay artist. I had a good relationship with my parents, I could sing every word of just about any Motown song and was pretty good friends with a bunch of old people at my church. I know it’s really stinkin’ cliché, but you can’t judge a book, you know?

Well, at some point in between the time when Christy and I got engaged and were married, I had a conversation with her dad about the first time I met him… It was after he spoke at our church one Sunday. I approached him after the service in my typically disheveled and grungy attire and shook his hand; and according to Bill, he wasn’t too pumped about me. Now, granted, I probably looked pretty shady, but I wasn’t really the kind of guy Bill always pictured would end up with his youngest daughter. Of course, we’re good friends these days, but at the time, he was just seeing the obvious: a hair farmer with clown clothes actively pursuing deafness.

One of the things I love about Jesus is that He sees right through everything superficial and knows who we are in the deepest places. He knows and cares about our real problems and needs. Like the time in Mark chapter 2 when some friends brought a paralyzed guy to Jesus and tore a hole in the roof to get him in because it was so crowded… Everyone could see the guy’s problem… it was obvious: he couldn’t walk. That’s why his friends brought him to Jesus. The whole room was waiting with baited breath for Jesus to heal his legs, but Jesus shocked them all by saying, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”

It turns out his legs weren’t the problem… at least, they weren’t the real problem. Somewhere in the depths of this guy’s heart he was filled with guilt for wrong stuff he’d done in the past and Jesus saw that. But here’s the thing: Jesus didn’t just see it, but it was the first thing He dealt with. It was all He really cared about when he saw the man, and in an instant this paralytic was free from a burden that far outweighed the shackles of being unable to walk. John tells us in the very first chapter of his Gospel that Jesus came to show us who God is and what He’s like… how amazing is it to know that God sees past all the labels and clichés? He not only knows who I really am, but the stuff He cares about are all the things that really matter most to me. He sees and wants to deal with the stuff that nobody else knows about and He won’t waste time on the legs when the heart is the problem.

Friday, September 19, 2008


Lately Norah has seemed kinda zoned out. Christy thinks she isn’t getting enough sleep which is probably true because she and Anna in the same bedroom equals one mol of laughing, singing, goofing off and oftentimes crying until the parental police squad descends upon the room with swift and terrible justice… as a result, Norah is weepy, fussy and out of it during the day. I’ve watched her walking around the house dreamy-eyed, quietly humming an unknown tune while pouring apple juice all over every inch of upholstery. When I flipped over the pouring of the juice, she just looked up as if snapped out of a trance. I’ve watched her poke family members with sharp objects without any apparent intent to harm… like she was innocent and being mind controlled by Lucius Malfoy or something. Getting her to clean up at the end of the day has been almost impossible because she just can’t focus… it’s like she hasn’t a care in the world.

You know, being careless gets a pretty bad rap. On the one hand, it seems really irresponsible and maybe even selfish, but lately I’ve been thinking that in the spiritual realm, it might not be such a bad quality to have after all. I read a familiar story this week about a man who went out and scattered seed on the ground… some of it grew and produced a great crop, but most of it didn’t. I’m sure you probably know this story inside and out, but in reading it again and just taking some time to think it through, I realized something kinda cool that I hadn’t really thought about before. I realized that growth is all about being careless.

In Jesus’ story, the seed falls on different types of soil, which represent different types of hearts… He said that some seed fell on the path and didn’t grow because birds ate it up… see, the soil on the path was too hard for seeds to grow in. It had been walked on too much. Some people have been walked on too. The things that have happened to them in the past have left them bitter and angry. Their hearts are hard like the dirt on the path and so the devil steals the word before it takes root. Jesus then said that some seed fell on rocky soil and that although it grew, there weren’t good, deep roots so it withered when the sun came up. He said that there are people who believe the word but then can’t handle ill treatment and the persecution that comes. They whither instead of grow. Then Jesus said that some seed fell on soil that was crowded with weeds that choked out the word… these folks want to believe, but they want other stuff more… like money and the things of this world.

It struck me that these unproductive soils represent the hearts of people who have too many cares. Some folks care too much about this world and its stuff. Other folks care too much about what people think of them and still others care too much about the things that have happened to them in the past. Overwhelming cares leave a heart hard, shallow and crowded, but Peter said to cast “all your cares upon Him, for He careth for you.” It is not a bad thing to have a carefree heart… to let go of the past, to let go of trying to impress people and to let go of desires for things that are passing. That’s how you keep a soft, deep and un-crowded heart. That’s how you grow… letting go of cares you shouldn’t have and giving them all to Him. After all, He knows how to properly care for you. It’s not a bad thing to be careless.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Turning Loose

Today Anna started a pre-school program and next month she’ll be five-years-old. I’m smart enough to know what happens next: I turn around good and she’s off to college, an independent, grown-up, full-sized human… I know, I know, I’m overreacting. Look, it’s just that she’s going to school twice a week now for five hours at a time with a back pack, a lunch box and a binder filled with phonics worksheets! Today when she got home from school, she was so pumped… just flitting around the room like Tinkerbell and when I asked her for a hug, I didn’t get one… (pause for dramatic effect)

Sorry, I’m a bit emotional as I type this… it just feels like I’m already losing my little girl. I mean, she’s not so little anymore. She’s getting tall. She’s not so much adorable anymore as she is just really pretty. She has real-live knuckles on her hands instead of those little pseudo-knuckle dimples that babies and toddlers have. She’s got attitudes, opinions and tastes. She has favorite songs that are different from my favorites, and she has started to ask really hard and really awkward questions! I can’t believe she’s almost five! I just can’t believe it! Where did all those years go? And, did I do okay? Did I mess her up? Does she know how crazy I am about her?

I don’t have too many really clear memories from before Kindergarten, and now it seems that all those years from Elementary school through marriage just zoomed by so fast! How fast are these years going to go with Anna? Today, when I asked for that hug and didn’t get it, I realized something: For the rest of my life, I will be letting go. I am going to spend the rest of this thing turning loose of hugs and kisses, tickles and story time. Before I am ready I’ll hear that question dreaded by all daddies of little girls… “Who gives this woman to be married to this man?” Whoa, I know I’m jumping the gun here, but hang with me…

At first, when faced with the fact that my baby is almost five, I freaked out, but I’m okay now because this is actually a good thing. It’s good and it’s right. I want her to grow and to move on into whatever is next. I am okay with letting go of this life. I am okay with turning loose my daughters’ hands, my metabolism and (maybe one day) my hair. Life is about letting go. For the Christian, life is all about turning loose. It’s actually how we gain everything. Jesus said, “For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it.” Real life comes from turning loose all the stuff that would keep me rooted in this world where I am just a pilgrim passing through… letting go of my pride, my rights, my love of things and my dependence on money… letting go of anger, fear and independence.

As scary as it seems, I think I’m ready to turn loose. I’m ready to let my little girl grow up, (as if I could stop her) and become the woman God is making her into. After all, in just a little while, we’ll all be letting go of this life to enter the eternity we were made for where I won’t really be Anna’s Daddy anymore… in those happy days, I’ll have the incredible honor of just being Anna’s brother, forever.

Well, at least one of 'em is still just a little baby girl:

Friday, September 05, 2008

Christy found a big canvas, so we went out in the back yard, loaded down with paint and collaborated on a homemade piece of art for the new baby... Norah mainly covered her hands in blue paint.


Have you been “rickrolled” yet? A few weeks ago my boy Graham got rickrolled while trying to watch a trailer for the new Harry Potter movie… by the way, if you don’t know, rickrolling is the ridiculous internet phenomenon whereby you click on a link you think will show you a certain clip, but actually takes you to the 1987 music video of Rick Astley’s song, Never Gonna Give You Up. The actual Harry Potter trailer wasn’t due out for a few more days, but Graham got sucked in by some all-caps title… “Exclusive Harry Potter Trailer” or something like that… One reason this rickrolling thing has become so big is that people want to be the first to see those movie trailers. I can remember being in college when the first Star Wars prequel was about to come out… I watched that trailer a kabillion times online, so excited about R2, Yoda, lightsabers and a young Obi Wan Kenobi!

Christy and I love to get to the movies early so we can catch all the trailers… although sometimes you can tell that the funniest jokes were crammed into the previews… and sometimes the trailers are way more dramatic and way cooler than the movies they advertise! I just love sitting in a dark theater and seeing that huge preview screen wash the whole room in a sea of green. Sure, it’s fun to go into a good movie with absolutely zero knowledge of what’s going to happen, but it’s almost irresistible to watch and get a sneak peek.

I was thinking about movie trailers because of something that happened in the first chapter of Mark. It’s a pretty familiar story… you know, the one where the guy who had leprosy came up to Jesus, fell on his knees and begged to be cured? He told Jesus, “If you are willing, you can make me clean.” Jesus was overwhelmed with compassion for the guy and touched him. He was immediately cleansed but Jesus wasn’t finished dealing with him… Jesus looked at the now cured and very excited man and said, “See that you don’t tell this to anyone. But go, show yourself to the priest and offer the sacrifices that Moses commanded for your cleansing, as a testimony to them.” Well, you know the rest of the story… the guy totally didn’t listen to Jesus. He went all over the place telling everything that moved about what had happened to him… but what if he had listened to Jesus? Why did Jesus want him to go through the old-school priestly rulebook anyway?

Well, it turns out that the sacrifice Jesus told this guy to offer is in Leviticus 14 and it’s really very cool. If you were cured of an infections skin disease, you were supposed to take two birds, a bowl of clean water, a scarlet string and a piece of cedar wood to the priest. The priest would then tie the string around one bird, binding its wings and kill the other bird, pouring its blood into the bowl of fresh water. Then he would take the piece of cedar and the living (but bound) bird and put them down in the blood and water. Then he would sprinkle the cleansed man with the blood seven times, cut the string binding the living bird and release it. The healed man would get to see that blood-covered bird fly off into freedom.

What an awesome moment that would have been for this guy if only he had listened to Jesus! It was like a movie trailer for all Jesus would do to set us free… like a not-yet-rated sneak preview of the cross… There is blood, water and wood. One is bound, the other is free. The free one dies for the bound one. The bound one is covered in the blood of the free, its bonds are cut and it flies off into freedom. Coming soon to a hilltop near you… You know, I bet there is so much freedom out there just waiting on us to simply pay attention to Jesus… so much He wants to reveal to us, if we’d listen and just do what He says.

Friday, August 29, 2008

This next picture is one Anna took of Norah at the zoo... we think it's a really cool picture and that Anna has a very stylish eye for composition:


Well, it’s finally over. Yesterday we closed on our new house making it totally official that we’ve moved. Actually, the first thing we did was close on the old house… the house we sold and then, without getting out of the chairs in the lawyer’s office, we closed on the house we bought. It was pretty cool… we were actually homeless for forty-five minutes without ever leaving our seats. And so, after signing my name and initials so many times that I sort of started to forget how to spell my name and initials… you know, like they were just a bunch of strange, abstract shapes rather than actual letters that formed words… after doing that 1.5 million times, we were once again home owners! It was awesome.

Well, after taking Christy back to the house, I went to Nancy’s to get the kids… they were not happy about having to come to the new house only to take naps. They pretty much whined about it the whole way home, and here’s the thing: they’ve been whining for days! I mean, just the other day I took them to Target to let them pick out brand new sheets for their new beds, which I thought would be a pretty cool thing. They were excited about this prospect for a while, but in no time they had dissolved to complaining about something. Later that day they begged us to go to a restaurant, which we had to do because we were basically homeless and when we got there, they complained like crazy! Never mind the fact that they were getting a new house with a big, fat play room. Never mind the fact that they were both getting new beds, new sheets, and some awesome food from McAllister’s… they were whining it up about everything! It was like a barrage of selfishness and take, take, taking without the slightest moment of gratitude. I felt like saying, “Hey! Chill out for a second and look around you… you’ve got it pretty good!”

Then I read this verse in Mark chapter 1 and put the shoe on the other foot… John the Baptist says, “After me will come one more powerful than I, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie.” You know, there have been so many times during this whole house buying process that I have freaked out and dissolved into a mass of blubbering complaint. I have whined and fussed time and again, wondering what’s going to happen and trying so hard to work the angles just to get what I want. I have freaked out, lost my cool and have had those feelings of “this just isn’t fair…” over and over again… the whole time forgetting something very important.

Jesus has been so ridiculously good to me. He has been so good, and here’s the thing: He doesn’t have to. I mean, I have been forgetting the fact that He is the Creator and sustainer of the universe. He commands mighty angels and even Satan must ask His permission before making a move. Jesus sees the faraway explosions of nebulas and He sees the blooming of wildflowers where no one’s ever been. He calls the stars by name every night and sets the sun on its course every single day. He is so high and holy, so absolutely exalted that I am lower than His shoelaces… whoa. And sometimes I forget that even though I am lower than His shoelaces, He spilled His blood for me. He gave His life until it was gone and He did it for me. I did not deserve this, and yet it’s true. I have nothing to complain about, nothing to whine about and nothing to freak out about. I have been loved and provided for beyond my wildest dreams by Him who is higher than all. I’ve got it made in the shade.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Live it Up

What a month… We are currently boxing up our house to move into a new one, the new baby is kicking harder than ever, Justin and Grace are about to get married, my little eight-month-old buddy Dylan has got some rocking new teeth, five awesome kids just got baptized, another awesome kid just met Christ, everyday I am more and more excited to come home to the girl I love and Michael Phelps just dominated water (which, let’s not forget is one of the elements) for like the millionth time. Whoa. My head is still spinning!

I guess it just feels like life is all around me. Everywhere I turn there seems to be this excitement and activity. Every night after the kids are in bed I can’t wait to tune in to the Olympics and watch greatness on parade along with the rest of the eyes in the world… just amazed at what humans can do. Pretty soon we’ll be sitting up on the hill on Friday nights cheering on the Wildcats underneath stadium lights and forgetting that we’re not in high school anymore. Then folks will be gathering at a neighbor’s house on Saturday afternoons to grill out in their orange t-shirts and watch the Vols, including themselves in this team of elite athletes by referring to them as “we.” I just love this time of year… school is back in session, which means that for those of us in Young Life, it’s go time. We’re back at the school too, just looking for folks who need Jesus and haven’t yet heard about this great love.

It’s weird. I feel like a little kid… I feel like Anna seemed to feel the other day when we told her we were going to the zoo! I mean, she was over the moon with excitement. She couldn’t have been happier if I had told her that we owned the zoo! I just feel like I can’t wait to wake up tomorrow and see what it is that God has for us… I’m actually so worked up that I can’t sleep… see, as I type this it’s almost 11:00 PM and I should be in bed, but I’m all filled up with I don’t know what! Excitement… expectation… life!

In John 10 Jesus said, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” All around us God is doing amazing things… just this month a really hardcore guy met Jesus at the Anderson County jail because of Tom’s preaching and even though you didn’t know about it, all of heaven was having a party! All around us there are new marriages, new heartbeats and fresh new starts. Sure, there are tons of not-so-happy things around us as well, but God reigns over them and is working them all out for good. We’ve only got this one life to live in joy. We’ve only got this one ‘fall of 2008’ to wake up excited and live expectantly. We’ve only this one day to trust God and live life to the full. It’s why Jesus came… it’s what He paid for and all around us, it’s happening. Life… real life, new life and full life is coming at you. Why not decide today to live it up?

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

He Made Time For Me

One of my absolute favorite Jesus stories from the Gospels occurs right at the beginning of John’s account… John the Baptist had been telling his followers that Someone was coming who was greater than he, and when Jesus finally showed up at the Jordan one day, some of John’s guys started to follow Him. They were seekers; interested in spiritual things… searching for God, looking for eternal life and wanting righteousness. They started walking behind Jesus. He realized He was being followed, so He turned around and asked these guys what they wanted. They asked where Jesus was staying… basically inviting themselves into His day. Jesus didn’t dodge them or blow them off. He looked at them and said, “Come and see.” Then follows one of my favorite verses: “So they went and saw where He was staying, and spent that day with Him. It was about the tenth hour.”

I love that verse so much because John, who wrote the Gospel, was one of those two guys following Jesus around like some kind of star struck tourist. The fact that he told us what time it was is very significant… When people have an important story to tell you, they always include details as a way to emphasize that this isn’t just another thing that happened… this is something they’ll never forget. By mentioning the time of day, John is basically saying to us, “I’ll never forget the day Jesus made time for me… it was 4 o’clock in the afternoon.”

I bring this up because I have a similar story that I’ll never forget. I was in high school and was troubled, confused and seeking like crazy. I had a lot of teenage drama all mixed up with a bunch of theological confusion and I felt like no one in my church really wanted to listen to me. A friend told me to call this one pastor in town who wasn’t even my pastor. Well, I did and I’ll never forget the next day. He asked if he could meet me for lunch, so the next day, we ate sandwiches his wife made for us on some park benches and he just listened to me unload my emotional and spiritual baggage for a long time. Then he caringly gave me this seemingly tender advice that wound up cutting right to the heart of my problem.

I was just a random kid with a bunch of petty and trivial problems who didn’t even go to his church, and yet he made time for me. I’ll never forget that. It was about 12 o’clock…

Not that I’m saying this guy was Jesus or anything like that, but he loved me like Jesus and he showed me who Jesus is, and who Jesus needed to be in my life. Nowadays, he is my pastor, and he earned it. I am writing all this because he just left for Spain and I already miss him. I am writing this because I want to say to the rest of the folks in our little church that God has given us a treasure in Tommy. He is the kind of guy who makes time for people. He’s the kind of guy who gently speaks loving truth into the midst of confusion and hurt. He’s the kind of guy who loves like Jesus, and I’ll never forget the day I met him.

Does anyone else have a good story about Tom Job? Leave your story as a comment!

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