Thursday, March 26, 2009

This week Norah was sick... here's a picture:

Bringing Down the House

I am extremely clumsy today. I’ve tripped over a couple of chairs and almost run into a few doorframes and it’s not even lunchtime. My head is pounding, my eyes are burning and my whole body is saying, “Come on man, go to bed!” So, what is to blame for this sudden loss of equilibrium, coordination and energy? Well, Norah got sick at about half-past midnight and I was up all night with her while she lost her cookies into an empty trashcan again and again. Watching a little kid get stomach sick is one of the sadder things I’ve experienced in my life… It’s really hard before they can talk because they don’t know what’s happening and their confusion at your powerlessness causes them such horrific panic. When they are a bit older like Norah is now, it’s sad and sweet at the same time: sad because that pale face tells the whole story of how awful they feel, and sweet because they try so hard to be brave.

Last night as Norah started her sickness, Christy and I were running around like maniacs pulling sheets, grabbing towels and starting the bath. Christy was trying to console Norah by asking how she was doing and telling her how sorry she was. She looked at Norah and said, “Poor baby.” Norah said, “No, not poor… I’m okay Mom.” After we cleaned her up we pulled our two couches together and covered the smaller one in towels. We laid Norah on that couch and I sprawled out on the other one telling her, “Hey, this night will be great! We’ll just have a slumber party, okay?” Those sweet little eyes looked so vacant as she nodded her head and tried hard to smile. I got Norah some books to read and told her that if she felt like she was going to get sick to just say my name and I would help her up and grab the bucket. We lay there for a while, Norah reading her book while I read old emails and web pages when all of a sudden I heard it…

“Daddy?” It was the smallest, scratchiest and faintest sound my baby girl has ever made. It was a plea for help! She could feel herself getting sick and so she cried out as loud as she could, which was three steps below a whisper, and I was like a man possessed! I know I was only three feet away from her on the next couch, but if I had been across the desert I would have gotten there just as fast! At the sound of that needy cry, my heart exploded with an intense ferocity and I just had to get to my girl! I would have gotten to her if I had to swim the whole ocean, fight armies or tear the whole house down with my bare hands! The needy cry of my hurting child awoke something strong in me and it reminded me of our heavenly Father…

Psalm 18 says, “In my distress I called to the LORD; I cried to my God for help. 
 From his temple he heard my voice; my cry came before him, into his ears. The earth trembled and quaked, and the foundations of the mountains shook; they trembled because he was angry. Smoke rose from his nostrils; consuming fire came from his mouth, burning coals blazed out of it. He parted the heavens and came down; dark clouds were under his feet. He mounted the cherubim and flew; he soared on the wings of the wind. He made darkness his covering, his canopy around him— the dark rain clouds of the sky. Out of the brightness of his presence clouds advanced, with hailstones and bolts of lightning. The LORD thundered from heaven; the voice of the Most High resounded…” When we cry out to Him, even if it’s three steps below a whisper, He tears heaven apart, bringing down the house, riding clouds and hurling lightning to get to us! Now I know how it feels to be Him when your precious child calls out in need, and it makes me want to cry out to Him more and more!

Thursday, March 19, 2009


This morning I met my friend Jack at a coffee shop in Knoxville to sit and talk with a bagel and some tea. We’ve been meeting like this together with Tom every Wednesday for well over two years now, so we have ‘our table’ and ‘the usual’ thing we all order. There’s even a guy that sits across from our table who’s always there, drinking coffee and working on his computer. Well, this morning that guy was not there… In fact, his normal table across from us was occupied by another man who had no companion, no computer, no newspaper or book of any kind. He was alone with his coffee and he was right beside us, just sitting there. The weird thing was that he was leaned up against the wall in such a way that his shoulders were open toward us and he was totally facing us. Undoubtedly he could hear everything we were saying and he seemed to be boldly listening in on our conversation. It was totally awkward! It felt as though Jack and I were like some sort of zoo exhibit, our booth was the cage and he was the zoo patron, just watching us share our breakfast.

I felt so spied on! All of a sudden I found myself speaking more quietly and measuring my words so carefully that I’m not sure I really said much of anything. Eventually the man left, but it shocked me just how comfortable he was to be right there in the middle of our business, although, I don’t guess I should have been so shocked… it seems to me that the boundary lines of privacy and propriety are getting weaker and more blurred all the time. The accessibility of wireless internet connections have given rise to social networking services where just about anyone can find out what just about anyone else is up to at any moment. Myspace, Facebook and Twitter (to name just a few of these services) allow people to proclaim their current status in 100 characters or less and publish this information for the world to see.

The funny thing is that there is absolutely no quality control or accountability when it comes to the truth of these published items, so people understandably post the most flattering pictures of themselves and the most witty and clever things they can come up with. In other words, people stalk their friends, but they only get the controlled information that those friends want them to know. When you want know what someone interesting is up to, you can connect yourself to their Twitter account so that you are notified when they update their status… and this is called “following.” Famous people such as Martha Stewart and Shaquille O’Neal have thousands and thousands of “followers.”

This morning, as our privacy was being awkwardly invaded by the new guy in the coffee shop, Jack and I were talking about all this stalking, tweeting and so-called ‘following’ when he said, “I wonder what Jesus thinks about all this.” – Good point. What does Jesus think about a world full of people so desperate to be known and accepted that they invent a version of themselves to publish at random for all the world to see, a people so curious and insecure that everyone obsesses over watching everyone else when no one is looking and a world full of ‘followers’ who think the term refers to simply wanting know what so and so is up to… Do we know what He meant when He said, “Follow Me,” and expected us to give all? Have we forgotten that He always sees all of us and that when you cry out to Him, He accepts you completely? People are trying so hard to fill up a hole that He put right there inside them on purpose. To know and be known, to be valued, no cherished and totally accepted… it’s something we all want but only He can do, and He wants to do it! He’s just waiting to be asked!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

It Won’t Always Look Like This

One of the coolest things I’ve experienced in the past few years has been watching little kids play together on their own. I love just sitting on the outskirts of their little world and listening to the games, stories and scenarios they invent. I love how differently the drama plays out depending on the gender that has the most kids or the oldest kids… in other words, when there are more girls, it comes across like the dramatization of a Jane Austen novel, while boys in charge tend to convince everyone involved to help them explore the expanded universe of Star Wars. Kids pretend to be animals, parents, favorite cartoon characters and spouses. Lately Anna has been pretending to be a unicorn, but not just any unicorn… this mythical creature is actually a domesticated house pet complete with an owner named Norah (who is supposedly telling the unicorn what to do, although it usually sounds like the other way around).

Some of our kids’ best friends are Tatum and Arlo Craven. Tatum is three and awesome, and although she cuts up with the kids like crazy, she’s never actually spoken to me… Arlo is one and he’s just the bomb. The problem is that the rest of the kids are so much bigger, faster and stronger than Arlo that he winds up being sort of the punching bag of the group. Not only does he constantly have to play the kinds of girly games that his 11-year-old self would punch his lights out for playing, but he sort of gets pushed around. Sometimes the girls are just treating him like a doll or whatever, but sometimes Norah has pushed him. Every time this has happened we have disciplined Norah, but the last time, after she apologized to Arlo, I was putting her coat on to leave their house when I told Norah, “You know, you’re not always going to be able to push Arlo around.” Arlo’s dad Lucas started to laugh because he had given Tatum this same speech not long before, about how little baby boys grow up to be really strong guys who don’t like to be pushed or put in headlocks…

Yesterday I was reading Mark 14 where Jesus was on trial before the Sanhedrin in the middle of the night. They had been trying to get rid of Him in earnest for two and a half years and they finally thought they had the evidence they needed. They apprehended Him and brought Him before the high priest Annas. The trial was a mess. Matthew says many false witnesses came forward and their testimony was so all over the place that a verdict couldn’t be reached. After Annas questioned Him, the guards smacked Him and then took Him to Ciaphas the high priest who finally got frustrated and just asked Jesus point-blank: “Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One?” “I Am,” said Jesus, “And you will see the son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.”

This is an amazing moment. Ciaphas was staring at a man he thought was simply a poor, blue-collar, redneck… homeless, in ratty clothes with a face that would soon be unrecognizably broken by the fists of his men. And Jesus knew that by calling Himself God, He had sealed His fate… they would execute Him for blasphemy, and they wouldn’t even need any more witnesses, but before anything else happened, He basically told the high priest, “Do what you’re going to do, but know this: I am the Christ, and I won’t always look like this… You’re going to see this face again, but different.” Jesus told Him that next time He would be seated beside God, coming on the wings of the sky. Paul tells us in 2 Thessalonians 1 that Jesus will appear “…in blazing fire with His powerful angels.” He’s coming back! And when He does, He won’t be poor and broken. It will rock this whole world. I’ll be surprised if our retinas survive the experience! No one will have to ask, “Are you the Christ?” because every heart will be shattered by the blinding glory of the Creator of life and love. That day really is coming… and it's not going to be like anything we thought! The King is coming... get pumped!

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Jack is eating some solid food and LOVES it... he was going crazy for some eating!!!!!

And poor Norah has been a little under the weather this week, but sweeter than sugar...

Shhh… He’s Sleeping

On almost every day of the week I wake up early, bust out of the house early and start my day before the sun even thinks about coming up; but once a week I stick around and handle diapers, waffles and cartoons. This day is also known as Monday, and it’s Christy’s day to sleep in. On Christy’s sleep day I try to get everyone up, fed and out of the house on some errand or other as quietly as possible so that she can get the opportunity to just sleep until her body wakes her up. Some days we are successful in being quiet enough and some days we explode into such an outlandish cacophony of fits, tears and discipline that I’m surprised the Cops aren’t involved.

If my kids knew how to bribe, they could play me like a fiddle on Monday mornings. They could earn any imaginable amount of underhanded candy and movie time just by threatening a good loud argument over some toy… They could easily work the angles and get triple-decker ice cream cones for breakfast all for the measly price of keeping a lid on it during her Monday morning lie-in, if only they knew how much I am willing to pay for that peace and quiet. You see, nothing pleases my heart more than pulling off a successful sleep day for my hard-working girl; and nothing (and I mean nothing) stresses me out more than unnecessary noises that threaten to prematurely end that same sleep day…

Now, I know this might sound weird, but what if I cared as much about Jesus getting his nap as I do about Christy getting hers? What if I was just as concerned with keeping it quiet so He could sleep the way I am for her on Monday mornings?

You see, a week or so ago I was reading that familiar story where Jesus calms the storm… you know, Jesus was teaching His disciples a bunch of stuff and when evening came He told them to get into the boat and head to the other side. While they were crossing the Sea of Galilee, such a furious storm came over them that the disciples thought they were going to die. In the midst of all this, they realized that Jesus was asleep on a cushion in the stern! They woke Him up, yelled at Him and He proceeded to tell the storm to “Hush,” which it did, and then He rebuked their lack of faith, saying, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?” If you’re anything like me, you’ve heard that story a million and five times and every single time, you’ve gotten the same thing out of it… Jesus has the power to calm the storms of my life… right… got it.

But what if that story had gone differently? What if, instead of freaking out, panicking and waking Jesus up, the disciples had quietly grabbed a blanket and shushed each other while trying to cover Him up without waking Him? After all, they didn’t wake Him up so that He would calm the storm, they woke Him up so they could yell at Him right before they all died… but He said they were going to the other side and nothing was going to stop them from making it. What if they had just trusted His words and let Him sleep? What would it look like for me to stop waking Him up in the midst of the storm? What if, in the middle of storms, I stopped trying desperately to solve the problem while losing heart and faith, and instead just quietly trusted my Lord and let Him handle it and rest.

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