Friday, March 28, 2008

Anna asked me to take this so I could put it on my computer...

Brave Daffodils

In the past few weeks I have had the pleasure of spending tons and tons of time with my daughters. There have been stretches where we’ve been together all day from beginning to end and I am learning so much! Not only have I found out millions of places in which I needed to grow that I was totally unaware of; (lack of patience, selfishness, the inability to laugh at myself and of course, the unfair expectations I have of a two-year-old who is just doing her best to be a somewhat-human in this world) but I am also finding out that my kids are funnier and more fun than I had ever realized. I feel like we have a tackled a hard situation head-on and have really and truly become better friends.

One thing I’ve learned about my kids is that if I will just shut up and listen, I’ll hear them say the coolest and funniest stuff ever. For instance, Norah calls elevators “alligators” and she calls fingernails (and toenails) “hand-tails.” Every single time I change her, she sticks those feet up in the air and says, “Oooh Dad, see my pretty, purple hand tails?!” Yesterday I was driving the girls around when I heard them talking about a book. I decided to listen in for a minute and it turned out that they were conducting a business deal whereby Norah was going to write the book and Anna would be the illustrator. I finally decided to dive into this conversation, asking Norah what the name of the book would be. She said, “Ummmmm, Caterpillar Juice.” Anna laughed and laughed and we proceeded to grill Norah on the plot and characters of this soon to be classic of children’s fiction.

Well, last week as we were getting in the car on a rainy, gray morning, Anna looked at our flowerbeds and exclaimed, “Oh Dad, our daffodils are so brave!” I chuckled and asked her, “They’re brave? Why are they brave?” She looked up after snapping her seatbelt and said, “Because, they’re blooming in the rain.”

I thought about that for a long time that morning… blooming in the rain. I thought about the tough time our family was going through and how difficult it’s been to hold on to joy through these weeks of hardship. I thought about Paul in Romans 5 saying, “We also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out His love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit whom He as given us.”

Anna was right. It was brave of those flowers to keep on standing up and bursting with spring color and fervor in the midst of a downpour of gloomy gray, but it wasn’t just brave. It was smart. Those flowers need the rain to grow. In fact, they can’t be beautiful without it. Suffering is productive. Going through hard times teaches us things about God we couldn’t have known otherwise. He proves His character to us when times are hard. He pours out His love into our hearts and we know Him more. Rejoicing in trials is brave and smart, because we (like the daffodils) grow in the pouring rain.

Here's a pre-release illustration from "Caterpillar Juice" in which the caterpillar is actually walking up the side of the glass of apple juice that it will soon fall into. You can also see that everyone in the picture is very sad because of the tears and frowns. Anna is on the left and there is an Easter Egg on the far right. I think one of the other crying people is Norah, but i'm not totally sure which one.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Norah Rose Lovin' the Park

A Day Off

Every Wednesday night as we wrap up worship practice, there is this euphoric feeling that sweeps over me as I realize that my week is almost over… you see, Thursday is my day off, so when we sing that last song on Wednesday night and I turn out the lights and lock the doors of the church, I’m done, and I’m off! I turn off my phone, turn off my alarm clock and uncoil for twenty-four hours. It’s an awesome feeling to have that day off, and it’s not a deal where my job is killing me or anything like that… I love my job and my life, but the Apostle Paul did talk about facing daily what he called “the pressure of my concern for all the churches” and it’s awesome to take one day a week and just lay that down, letting someone else deal with it and not picking it up again until Friday.

Today is Good Friday… the day we remember what our Lord did when He laid His life down to pay for our sins. Traditionally Christians get together on this day to observe a solemn and sacred time of remembrance by singing songs and listening to the Scriptures that tell of our Lord’s death. I have been reading the book of Numbers lately and in doing so, I have realized just how appropriate this is. You see, when Jesus died, it was during the feast of Passover. He was, in fact, the true Passover lamb, and Numbers 28 talks about that feast and how God’s people were supposed to observe it.

“On the fourteenth day of the first month the Lord’s Passover is to be held. On the fifteenth day of this month there is to be a festival; for seven days eat bread made without yeast. On the first day hold a sacred assembly and do no regular work. Present to the Lord an offering made by fire, a burnt offering of two young bulls, one ram and seven male lambs a year old, all without defect.”

They were supposed to observe Passover one day and then start a weeklong party the next day with a sacred assembly where no one was allowed to do any work. It was a full week of days off for the whole nation starting the day after Passover… well, almost everyone was off. There were some who still had work to do on the day after Passover: two young bulls, one ram and seven male lambs a year old… they had some pretty solemn work to do on that day, and that made me think of Jesus. On the day after Passover, when the whole country was having a day off, Jesus did His greatest work. Everyone stopped while He worked… while He paid.

I think God set it up this way because this is the whole picture of what it means to know Him. We can’t clean ourselves up or cover our wrong, but He can. This is what Sabbath is really all about. It’s not so much about resting, it’s about stopping… taking a day off from trying to do what we can’t do. We need to stop working for what we can’t pay for and let Jesus do the work for us. We need to lay it down, and let Him pick it up. When you get together with your brothers and sisters tonight, hold your sacred assembly and do no regular work, because it’s all been done. Just remember.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Last night Anna and I got all dressed up to go to hear the local orchestra throw down on some of my music!


Finding out that you’re having a baby is one of life’s most exciting and amazing blessings, but in our house the excitement is mingled inseparably with fear… you see, Christy gets so sick for months on end during pregnancy and it’s not that having our wonderful kids isn’t worth all that, it’s just a rough season to be staring down the barrel of. Sometimes people ask me, “Does Christy get some morning sickness when she’s pregnant?” and I always say, “Well, it’s morning sickness in the sense that it starts in the morning at about four weeks and goes non-stop till around sixteen weeks.” Sickness and pain can be some of life’s biggest downers because no matter how much you want to feel upbeat and good, you just don’t. I knew as soon as we saw the positive pregnancy test that this was going to be a long and hard road, so I got myself mentally prepared for months of whatever was coming…

It’s so hard to watch someone you love go through the fire, and I guess it’s the craziness of love that brings this on, but there have been so many times that I have longed to take Christy’s sickness on myself. Now, don’t get me wrong, I don’t think I could handle it any better than she is or anything… I just don’t want her to go through it. But as Aslan says, “You only get your own story.” My goal has been simply to serve and to make it through this season (how ever long) with our heads up on the other side. Simply put, my objective has been survival. I know, I know, we’re supposed to be “more than conquerors” and all that, but hey if I’m being honest, we’re just trying to make it through this one!

Then I got a call from Christy yesterday and she sounded different. I asked her how she was doing and she said she was great… I was a little mystified because, I knew she was sick, but that’s not really what she meant. Then she began to tell me about how she just realized that to simply survive this thing was not enough… that she was going to go crazy that way, so she reached out for the Lord and she said, (and her voice so sweetly broke as she said it) “My Lord has been so tender with me today…” The Fairest Lord Jesus met her where she was and somehow gave her peace about all she was going through… Late last night she said that she wasn’t even going to wish away the sickness because “for some reason He wants me to have this.” I just had to watch, listen and learn as she showed me how we were going to make it through this.

Psalm 55 says this, “But I will call to God, and the Lord saves me. Evening, morning and noon I cry out in distress, and He hears my voice. He ransoms me unharmed from the battle waged against me…” and then down in verse 22 he says, “Cast your cares on the Lord and He will sustain you; He will never let the righteous fall.” Thank you Lord. Thanks for loving my girl so tenderly…

“A bruised reed He will not break, and a smoldering wick He will not snuff out.” Matthew 12:20

Thursday, March 06, 2008

The two big sisters... On our day off we got Vietnamese take-out from "Kim Son" and took it over to some park benches by the Science Museum. The girls liked hanging out on this stump...

Who Were We Missing?

On Sunday night as kids were leaving church after High School Bible Study, Christy called my cell phone and asked if I was in a room alone. I told her I was and without very much warning, she hung up the phone on me! I was a little baffled, but my heart started beating very quickly because somewhere in the back of my mind I knew what was up… Well a few seconds later my phone buzzed again and when I opened it up I saw that I had a picture message from Christy’s phone. I clicked ‘open’ and there it was… a positive pregnancy test! We were having our third baby!

Now, we didn’t exactly plan on having this baby, but at the same time, whenever Christy and I talked about our family and future, we just couldn’t say that we were totally done with kids. I mean, we love our two girls and couldn’t be happier; but we just weren’t ready to say for sure, “Yeah, this is it for us,” and now we know why… there was one more of us in the plans of God! As soon as I saw that picture message on my phone, I knew by the hammering heart in my chest that the reason we couldn’t decide to be done was because we were still missing someone! And then this feeling overwhelmed me from the top of my head all the way down to my toes: Who were we missing? Who was this new little person going to be? We know who Anna and Norah are, but what will this new face look like? How will this new heart beat? How sweet will it sound when I first hear my four favorite words, “I love you, Daddy” from this new mouth?

Well, we have a long time to wait… we’re only five weeks along, so it’s going to be months and months before I actually get to meet my newest treasure, but it’s already happening… What I mean is, all the DNA is in place for our newest baby and right now cells are rapidly replicating and specializing to put together this brand new person to just the right specifications. Even after the birth there will be change upon change as this unique personality forms and grows. One day we’ll know who this new person is, but until then we wait and love the new baby at every stage…

In Revelation, Jesus says that He will personally give stuff to those who overcome. He says this in chapter 2: “I will also give him a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to him who receives it.” One day, when I see Jesus face to face, I’m going to finally be the person He’s always had in mind for me to be. On that day I will be the fulfillment of His unique plan in making me and He will give me a new name… one that expresses all that He intended for me. I’m not there yet, but everything I need to grow is in place inside me and everyday I’m changing and become more His. What an incredible thought… that God knows who I’ll be, that He knows who He’s missing in me and that one day I’ll be all He ever wanted me to be. And just like my new baby, even though I’m not there yet, He knows I’m growing and He loves me at every single stage.

Cluster Map