Friday, June 27, 2008

Well, here's our newest baby picture and... it's a boy!

All Around Us

Well, we’re halfway through the pregnancy of our third baby… twenty weeks down, and twenty more to go. I wish there were some way of knowing what our new little one is thinking during these days. I wish there were some way to measure his level of awareness. What are the days like in that warm little private hot tub? Last night Christy and I sat on the couch and watched as the new baby kicked against his temporary hacienda… I love watching the surprise in Christy’s eyes as she experiences what must be the strangest feeling ever - having another person inside you jostling around…

The really interesting thing to me is that pretty soon he’ll be here and when that day comes, he’ll open his eyes on a world so big and amazing; and yet, he’s been here all the time, he just couldn’t see it. When he comes, it will be into a world alive with colors where before there had been only darkness. He’ll hear clearly the sweet singing of his mom, the music of his dad and the sweet voices of his sisters where before it was all muffled and damped. Before waking into the world, he had all he needed for nutrition, but when he comes, he’ll begin to taste. He’ll replace the warmth of the womb with the amazing sensation of being touched by tender, loving hands. Eventually he’ll smell flowers and fruit. He’ll walk and run and laugh and cry amid sunsets and thunderstorms. There is simply a whole world of unbelievable and seemingly endless wonder awaiting our baby boy in just twenty weeks.

And yet, as I said, he’s been here all the time. This world; this wonderful and imminent explosion of sensory experience has been happening all around him the whole time… he just doesn’t know it. I don’t know what my unborn baby’s concept of reality is like right now, but it’s possible he thinks he’s got it made. I mean, he’s warm, comfy, nourished and gets to (sort of) hear a sweet voice that he’s gotten quite used to… Well, you and I know better. We know that it’s much cooler out here in the real world. It’s much better out here where there are strawberries, rainbows, warm quilts and kisses. If only he knew…

I was reading 2 Kings 6 this week and was reminded that we’re a whole lot like unborn babies… See, one time the king of Aram wanted to kill the Lord’s prophet Elisha, so he found out where Elisha was staying and sent his army to surround the city. Elisha’s servant woke up the next day, looked out the window and became scared at the sight of the ambush, but Elisha just read his morning paper and sipped his coffee saying, “Do not be afraid… Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” When his servant was not comforted by this seemingly unwarranted enthusiasm, Elisha prayed that the Lord would open his servant’s eyes. The servant looked again and saw the hillsides covered in a vast army of flaming chariots and angelic soldiers!

There is a heavenly reality all around us to which we belong that is more real and wonderful than this world will ever be. We can’t see them; but there are, on our side, forces enough to quench our fears. Right now we see only the shadows and we hear only the rumors. Then, we will know better. You see, there are awaiting us wonders and delights the likes of which we could never imagine. If we but knew what God has in store for us, we’d never stress, fuss or cry again, but only laugh and laugh until we arrived home…

Here's a pic of Norah... who by the way is pumped to be the big sis of a new little brother!

Friday, June 20, 2008

My guys right after rappelling at Young Life's Frontier Ranch in Buena Vista, Colorado

Hiking up to Chimney Rock...

And of course, the undisputed champions of the camp-wide volleyball tourney!

The Full Message of This New Life

So, I just got back home from an amazing week of summer camp at Young Life’s Frontier Ranch in the Colorado Rockies. We always tell kids that they need to come with us because it will be ‘the best week of their lives.’ Now, that’s a big thing to say to a high school kid… (especially when everyone of them drives a nicer car than I ever will) but the amazing this is this: I have taken kids to Young Life summer camp five times now and have never heard a kid say at the end of the week, “Lee, you were wrong man. That week wasn’t all that great.” No. Every single kid who has ever gotten on the bus with me has had their mind absolutely blown by the phenomenon that is Young Life camp… but why?

It’s really simple, actually. In John 10, Jesus said, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” Young Life camp seeks to show kids life as it was meant to be lived. We give them adventure, great food, hilarious skits, true community and a time where everyone gets together to sing, clap and listen as we hear the message of Jesus everyday. From top to bottom, stem to stern, the Gospel of Christ fuels every single thing that happens at Young Life Camp. Every detail is intentionally designed to make kids feel like super stars. They are celebrated, cheered, treasured, served and loved by the most enthusiastic bunch of adults around and the message is clear: “This is just the tip of the iceberg… the God who made you is simply crazy about you!”

From the time they arrive at camp until the moment they leave, there are a ton of other high school kids they don’t know who simply serve them all week long with a great big smile on their face. These other high schoolers (called ‘Work Crew’) greet them with applause off the bus, carry their luggage, fix and serve their food, wash their dishes and clean their toilets all week long without uttering a single complaint! It’s only on the second-to-last night that our kids find out that these Work Crew are high schoolers just like themselves who are giving up their summer to serve them without even earning a pay check!

It was a non-stop week of swimming, hiking, rappelling, horseback riding, go-carts, Frisbee golf, a ropes course, a giant swing and some of the most picturesque and breathtaking views in the whole country! It was a week without cell phones, iPods and tons of the distractions that cause so much teenage drama. It was a week of discovery, relationships, laughter and tears. Not only did we watch high school kids we love experience life, but we got to watch as many of them came to life, rescued and renewed by Jesus. It was a week of life as it was meant to be.

On the day before we got to camp, I woke up in an uncomfortable seat on a bus while thirty-nine other folks slept their way across the great plains. I grabbed my Bible and read this verse from Acts 5… “and tell the people the full message of this new life.” I knew that this was exactly what we were doing… offering kids life… life in Jesus… life as it was meant to be lived… life to the full.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Happy Birthday!

The other day, as I wrote the date at the top of the page in my journal, I got excited. Why? Well because it was one day away from my birthday. Then, after getting really pumped about what the next day would bring, I realized how strange this was… I mean, it’s just Thursday. It’s just the middle of May. It’s just another day… why was I so excited? It’s not like I remember being born (thank goodness). It’s not like there’s anything particularly birthday-ish about that day. What was causing this completely tangible excitement inside me? Why was I getting so fired up about just another day? And then I figured it out… it would be just another day like every other day except for one thing: the people I love always make a big deal about me on my birthday.

On my birthday I sleep in really late and get birthday cards from Christy and the kids. She gets them all excited about my day and when they see me they go nuts with hugs and kisses and “Happy Birthday!” all around. My family and friends call and send gifts and tell me they love me and that they are glad I am in this world and it feels really good. Christy always makes all the food I love best in the world and there’s always lots of laughing and chilling. When I wrote May 14 at the top of the page and knew that my day was coming up next I got excited because (dare I say it) I knew that I was going to be sort of celebrated and that made me happy.

Last year on my birthday I was at a Young Life camp in Georgia on a week long assignment, doing skits and entertainment for tons of college kids while my wife and daughters were back home in Tennessee. I didn’t have any cell phone signal which meant that Christy and I didn’t talk all day. As a result, and for the first time in my life, I went through my entire birthday without one person mentioning the fact that I had been born on this day… Finally, when it was thirty minutes before midnight, my friend Andy turned to me and said, “Dude, I’m sorry… I forgot to tell you happy birthday.” I felt like Harry Potter in book one drawing my own birthday cake in the dirt.

You know, when Christians come together on Sunday mornings to worship the Lord, we are celebrating Him, offering Him gifts and telling Him we love Him. Our worship services are basically the people He loves making a big deal about Him and He loves it. He loves to be told by us that we need Him. He loves to receive our gifts of praise and thanks. He loves to be told by His children that He is loved. I wonder if His heart gets excited on Saturday… I wonder if He gets fired up looking forward to His day knowing that His people are going to come together just to celebrate Him. Let’s make sure He never has to wait to hear what He loves so much! Let’s really give Him something to look forward too!

Here's a drawing Anna did of a rainbow, a tree and a person... oh yeah and birds. There are far away birds and one close-up bird down on the bottom left:

Anna in her Chinese dress... stay tuned after the post to see Anna's newest thing: sculpting ducks!


Every now and again the kids go through a phase where one or both of them doesn’t want to take their nap. The phase usually begins with short or interrupted naps. It helps the kids’ case if we have some special day where finding time and place for a nap is out of the question. They’ll thrive right through that naptime as if to say, “See, I’m too big for naps…” But just wait until right before dinnertime when the meltdown begins! Sometimes they whine a little when we tell them, “Okay, go pick a book so that we can read it for your naptime.” Anna will say, “I don’t need a nap. I’m so awake and I just want to play.” The funny thing about those days is that as soon as she lies down, she’s out for the count for hours on end.

Here’s the thing… why does Anna need a nap? Why do we sleep? I mean, isn’t it weird as heck that you have gone completely unconscious for hours at a time every single day of your whole life? Can you imagine how much more productive we could be if we didn’t have to spend eight hours out of every day completely motionless with our eyes closed? What’s really weird though is this: Scientists have no idea why we sleep. I’m serious. Many theories abound, but when it comes down to it, no one really knows what sleep is all about and no one has a clue what dreams accomplish.

Back in the day researchers assumed that wakefulness was the natural state of the brain and that sleep gave the brain an opportunity to shut down. Now we know this to be untrue. The fact is, the brain is active whether we are asleep or awake. Most people believe that sleep is about rebuilding and restoring. The idea is that during the day we break down our body and deplete our stores of energy both physical and cognitive, and we need sleep to recharge. That may explain why growth hormone is secreted during sleep. Maybe the best clues to unlocking the mystery of sleep lie in what happens when we don’t get enough… we become irritable, uncoordinated and more prone to errors. We lose our creative edge and sharpness.

Some think sleep and dreaming are a way to process our problems… the idea there is that as we face difficult, demanding, confusing or emotionally taxing situations, our brain heats up. These folks believe that sleep and dreams allow us to cool off and decompress from the pressures of living. These are all great theories, but no one is totally sure exactly why we sleep. There are only two things I know for sure about sleep. One is this: I need it… everyday. I need to stop. I need to check out. I need to cool down, rebuild, restore and whatever else there may be. I simply have to take some time out of everyday, lie down, close my eyes and stop thinking.

The other thing I know for sure about sleep is this: God doesn’t need to. Psalm 121 says, “He who watches over you will not slumber; indeed, He who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.” He doesn’t need to chill out. He doesn’t need to rebuild His energy supplies. He doesn’t have to take some time to decompress from the problems and pressures of the day. He doesn’t get grumpy, He doesn’t make errors and He doesn’t lose His edge. Whatever the reason for sleep, it must lie somewhere in our overwhelming weakness, but this is for sure: God doesn’t need to. He’s not weak and He’s not sleepy.

Anna's Ducks:
Okay, so Anna started sculpting ducks with play doh which is pretty cool and all... I mean, they're good ducks, but then I noticed that there was more going on than meets the eye...

Look at the pictures and you'll see a mommy duck with a couple of baby ducks. She always makes them a family like that. Now look in the back, behind the ducks. I asked her what that was and she said it's a nest with the eggs for the next baby ducks who haven't yet hatched. See, she makes the mom, then she makes the nest and the eggs. Then, when it's time for the babies to "hatch," she takes each egg and makes the next baby duck. As in, both of those baby ducks were little play doh eggs a few seconds ago... I thought that was really cool.

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