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!

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