When I was in ninth grade, I got an electric bass guitar for Christmas and immediately joined a band. My goal was simple: I wanted to be a famous rock star. I wanted to get radio play and I really wanted my face to wind up on the cover of Rolling Stone. I wanted to find myself staring out of newsstands and coffee tables all over the country. I wanted my little face to be all over the place... internationally known. I wanted some kid in some foreign country to know who I was and have my picture pasted up on their wall.
Well, that ship has sailed and that dream never came true... not completely anyway. You see, part of it actually did come true this week and what has happened is so much cooler than anything my fourteen year-old self could have possible hoped for. Yesterday we got a letter in the mail from a boy named Shaukan Happy Musoke. He lives in Uganda and he’s one of our World Vision kids. He wrote us a letter that goes like this:
Dear Christy and family,
Much greetings from your Ugandan son Shaukan Happy Musoke; how are you dear, and well done. How is Lee your husband? How about Anna and Norah? I love them so much. I have hanged your photo in our dining room for everyone to see you. A lot of greetings to you from my sister. She is now 16 years. I am now back to school after a long holiday of two months. I wish you well in all.
From Shaukan Happy Musoke
Wow! Our picture is hanging up on a boy’s dining room wall in Uganda! Our hearts are in Uganda! Who knew that for so little, you can receive so much. We love someone so far away who loves us back. Now he knows Jesus and one day we’ll get to know him forever in heaven! Our Ugandan son... no, our Ugandan brother!
In Luke 16, Jesus told a story about a loan officer whose boss was about to fire him. The guy didn’t want to do manual labor for the rest of his life and he was too ashamed to beg, so he came up with a plan... You see, back in those days, loan sharks would charge excessive amounts of interest and they weren’t supposed to charge any! So this guy who was about to get fired went around to all the debtors and told them to slash down their debt to the principal and forget the interest. What happened was that the debtors were so thankful for this guy that they became his friends... the kinds of friends who would help a brother out who just got fired. Even his boss recognized the shrewd genius of the plan.
Jesus interpreted the parable by saying, “I tell you, use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings.” What if you use the money you have now to support ministries and people who are bringing others to know Jesus, so that when you get to heaven, there are all kinds of folks there because you gave? That’s why we’re here! We’re here to send our hearts out and do what we can to bring more and more people home with us. When I go home to heaven, I want there to be a welcoming committee... folks who love me who are glad I came! Don’t you?
Here's a song I wrote a few years back about that little dude no one likes who shows up in Luke 19 while Jesus is on His way to Jerusalem for the last time. Zacchaeus to me is one of the most interesting folks in the New Testament because of the dramatic change he makes in such a short time... how does a person really go about changing who they are? What kind of change can Jesus bring about? That's what this song is all about:
This week, while digging around through some old memories, I found a video that I made on Norah’s second birthday where Anna starts to whine and complain about basically everything because she’s jealous that her little sister is getting presents, cake and lots of attention. For a while she complained about the gifts, then the weather, then the fact that she wanted to go see some geese instead of playing on the playground. By the time we got home, she was so over the whole thing that in the middle of Norah playing with one of her presents on camera, Anna shouted out, “I want it to be MY birthday!” This video simply cracks me up because Anna is the sweetest and most gracious and thoughtful little girl... in fact, most of the time it’s hard to imagine her having such a selfish outburst, but hey, she was a little kid once like the rest of us! She had to grow into the girl she is now, and her having that moment on film is really kind of hard to believe...
Have you ever watched a movie where the bad guy turns into a good guy at the end? Now, have you ever gone back and watched that movie again? It’s hard to see that antagonist the same way because you know they’re gonna change! It’s not that the bad stuff they do isn’t bad, but you’re not as freaked out or tense about it because you know that in the end, Scrooge is going to be Tiny Tim’s best friend... in the end, Darth Vader is gonna take off that mask and Anakin Skywalker will finally smile on the face of his son... in the end, Edmond Pevensie and even Eustace Clarence Scrubb come to love Aslan... in the end, that food critic, Anton Ego in “Ratatouille” becomes Remy’s biggest fan in Paris... in the end, Professor Snape... well, I better not tell you everything that happens there, but you get the point! When the bad guy changes, and you watch it again, you see that person in a whole new light... why? Because, you know the end! You know how awesome they will be when it’s all over!
In Mark 10, a rich young man comes to Jesus and asks Him what it takes to get eternal life. Jesus tells him one thing, the guy says he’s done it all, so Jesus tells him to sell all of his many possessions and give to the poor, then come follow. The young man’s face fell and he walked away from Jesus because he wasn’t willing to part with his great wealth. What if Jesus asked you to do one thing and you weren’t willing to do it... how would you feel? How would Jesus feel about you? Would He be disappointed? Angry?
Right before Jesus mentioned the one thing this young man was unwilling to do, Mark tells us something really cool: “Jesus looked at him and loved him.” Jesus knows the future. He was constantly predicting stuff that happened before it happened... He knew that this young man was going to walk away, and yet, Jesus looked at him, not with anger or disappointment or frustration, but with love in His eyes... why? Because Jesus already knew the rest of the story and He knew that this moment was just part of this young man’s growth. Some folks even believe this was Mark himself who went on to give his whole heart and life to Jesus without holding back.
When I watch that old home movie of Anna, I have to laugh. I’m not frustrated or disappointed. You see, I know her now and she is so amazing... so generous and kind. Wow. That’s the way Jesus loves you and me. He already knows who you are going to be one day, perfected in His love. He knows that our stumbles and struggles are the things making us grow. He has already seen the end of this movie and that’s the way He loves us... the way He has, the way He does and the way He will when it’s all said and done.
P.S. Here's that old birthday video for those of you who'd like to see it:
This week is Compassion Sunday at Christ Community. If you've never been there, you should go check out Compassion International's website and look around at the profiles of children who need sponsors... It's staggering to think that you can do so much for so little that will really impact and change the lives of children trapped in poverty... I spent a while on the site one day, just reading stories and wound up writing this song. You can listen to it here or even download it for free:
One of the funnest things about being a parent is watching your kids acquire language. I love when one of the girls gets hold of a new word and just wants to use it, regardless of whether or not they know what it means. For instance, Norah has been loving the word ‘boring’ lately and I’m pretty sure she has no idea what it means. The other day I was brushing her hair and she said, “Dad, when you brush my hair it’s just so boring!” And I’m thinking, “Girl, I don’t really know how to make this process any cooler.” I mean, I guess I could try to brush her hair with one hand and juggle two oranges with the other? Brushing her hair doesn’t even take that long... and I’m sorry, but it is not all that boring! If she’s bored now, what’s she going to do in her sophomore year of high school when she has to spend hours upon hours balancing chemistry equations and reading Beowulf?!
For the past few months Anna has been saying the word ‘tempted’ and it’s really cute because she actually knows exactly what this word means and uses it correctly. Sometimes she’ll look up in the pantry and see a box of cookies up there and say, “Oh Dad, look at that box of cookies. I wish it wasn’t up there, ‘cause I just feel so tempted every time I see it!” Or sometimes, after she goes to bed, she’ll have to come out to use the bathroom and as soon as her bedroom door opens, I can hear her moan because she smells the popcorn I just made. She’ll hustle out to the living room and say, “Dad, I can’t believe you’re eating popcorn after my bedtime, that just makes me feel so tempted to run over there and get some of it!” Anna can’t stand the injustice of grown-up privileges. The fact that I get to stay up late, eat snacks after dinner or just go to a restaurant with friends occasionally is so frustrating for her! A while back I was trying to get her ready to take a nap she did not want to take and she asked me if I were going to take one. I told her I wasn’t and her face crumpled right up. She huffed and said, “I can’t wait to be a grown-up because when you’re a grown-up you can do whatever you want!”
I laughed and told her that there were many things about being a grown-up she could never understand being a six-year-old. I told her that depsite the way it appears, I can’t do whatever I want. Anna doesn’t understand about bills, taxes, changing interest rates and insurance premiums! she doesn’t know what it’s like to stay up all night with your sick child or watch your best friend endure labor and childbirth! She doesn’t really have deadlines or responsibilities yet. She looks at me and sees a guy who can do whatever he wants and yes, I can have girl-scout cookies for breakfast and no one will put me in time out, but that doesn’t mean I can do whatever I want... there are simply things she can’t understand about me.
I think that sometimes we look at God this way. We look at our lives and the choices He’s made for us and we don’t like it. We figure He can do anything, right? So, why is He making my life so hard? Truth is, there are things about being God we just don’t get, and we’ll never get it! When Job was wondering why in the world all that horrible stuff had happened to him, God showed up and asked Job a question. “Where were you when I laid the earth's foundation? Tell me, if you understand.Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know! Who stretched a measuring line across it? On what were its footings set, or who laid its cornerstone-while the morning stars sang together and all the angels shouted for joy?”
There are just things we don’t get and we can’t understand them because we aren’t Him. We don’t know why He does what He does, but we know He loves us because Jesus died for us! This week I was reading Psalm 119 and read the coolest verse. It’s verse 68, and I want to just hold it up like a banner, covering over everything in this day and everything that happens in it: “You are good and what You do is good.” I don’t know everything because there are things I can’t understand, but I know He loves me, so I’m just going to say, “You’re good!”
Folks, it's a difficult thing. You write a song and you think it's good and you hope like anything that someone else other than you thinks it's good. It's very uncomfortable and makes you feel vulnerable and exposed. Then someone tells you they like it and in the elation of that moment, you can only think of one thing: "I wonder if anyone else besides me and that one person will like it." But alas, writing songs is a bit like giving birth and we all know that no one thinks your kids are as cute as you think they are, so in the end, only the parent (or author) can see how beautiful and gifted and amazing their own little baby (or song) really is.
Jack is changing so much every day. Since his surgery, he is constantly more mobile and verbal. He pulls up, stands up and even walked with his little walker yesterday! He has really started to communicate with us using some basic sign language and has even started trying to say more difficult words. It’s been a blast to watch him grow so much since he got the tubes put in. But he’s still a baby... and no matter how fast he crawls and how good he’s getting at walking, when he sees Christy or me, he drops down on that bottom, throws his arms out wide and starts fussing with that old, familiar baby grunt. He’s no where near as fussy as he was even a couple weeks ago, but he still has some of those baby-ish traits.
When he’s hungry, he looks at us and cries as if to say, “Hey, you two! I’m hungry! Do something about it!” When he’s in pain, he stops everything, locates us with his eyes, throws those arms up and cries as if to say, “Hey! Get over here and make it all better!” When he crawls himself into a corner and can’t find the way out, he cries for us. When he loses his pacifier in the middle of the night and can’t see it, he cries out for us. When one of his sisters takes something away from him, he looks at us and cries. Sometimes when I simply walk in the room he throws his arms out and cries... he just wants to be held and loved on! This guy is growing everyday, but he still has the whole baby thing down, and he treats us as if it’s our job to make all of his problems go away... which, it pretty much is.
the other day I was reading Mark 10 where Jesus’ disciples decide to bounce the parents who were bringing their little kids to Jesus. In their opinion, Jesus had more important stuff to do than mess with little kids, but Mark says that this made Jesus upset. In fact, it’s one of the very few times the Scriptures explicitly say He was angry. Sometimes we assume He was... like when He turned the tables over at the temple, (it never says He was angry on that particular occasion) but this case is different. Here we know for a fact that this made Him mad.
“People were bringing little children to Jesus to have him touch them, but the disciples rebuked them. When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it." And he took the children in his arms, put his hands on them and blessed them.”
The thing that really gets me about this passage is that when Luke records the same scene, he says people were bringing their infants to Jesus. The disciples were trying to keep babies away from Jesus, but Jesus insisted they be brought because there are things about the kingdom of God that babies understand even though the rest of us have forgotten, and unless you are like a baby, you don’t even get it... but what is it? When was the last time you crawled yourself into a corner with no way out and threw your hands up in the air and begged God to help you? when was the last time you cried out to Him because you were hurting, confused and helpless? When was the last time that you flung yourself upon Him in desperation as if it were His job to clean up all your messes and give you all you need or to simply hold you? I think Jack understands that. This is what it means to know Him... It is His job. He’s your Dad. Fling those arms open! Cry out! He’s waiting...
What if everything you were going for was empty? What if everything you poured your heart into didn't really give you life? A lot of times, when people are running away from a life with God, they are chasing things they think can fill them up the way only Jesus can... what if you get a few years down that pike and realize, "Whoa. This doesn't give me what I thought it would. " What if the things of this world promise you peace, security, fullness and joy but they can't deliver?! What if they can't back up their promises? What if there was a whole other life out there for you with Someone who can deliver... Someone who can fill every gap and bring real peace? Would you go for it?
Here's a little pop song about that very question. You can listen or download it for free, here: