Team Colors

2 06 2010

I bet you didn’t expect to see that logo on one of  my posts. It seems out-of-place doesn’t it? I’ll explain…

We experienced an Amazonian rain today so Jeni and I took the boys down to The Fun Factory to play with Oliver and Samuel. I chose to wear the Wake Forest T-shirt that I bought on my annual road trip with my friends to see FSU play football.

I thought nothing of it until I noticed a guy walking in proudly wearing a FSU T-shirt. Had this been any other day and I was wearing one of my vast array of Seminole shirts we would have interacted in some way. He might have said, “Go Noles.” Or maybe I would have said, “nice shirt.” This exchange would normally lead to further discussion about if we attended the university or hailed from Tallahassee. We might discover mutual friends or find out we were at the same games, etc. Our shirts could conceive a conversation that might birth friendship. But not today.

Today I felt like a fraud. I didn’t even say hi to my collegiate companion. Instead of connecting with a potential friend, I retreated as a perceived foe. I felt like I had compromised my true self in the name of convenience.

As I write this I realize how silly it is to have felt like a traitor because of a T-shirt, but I did. I know that I am a Seminolious- obnoxious. Those who are close to me are not shaken by my displaying the wrong colors. (Quick disclaimer, those colors will never be ora*** mixed with bl** nor would they be ora*** mixed with gr***. Just felt I should clarify

But that guy, the alien Seminole walking around North Carolina unashamedly displaying the garnet and gold, doesn’t know me. He missed out on an opportunity for encouragement in his foreign plight. He just saw one more enemy, albeit a feeble one.

Who among us hasn’t been in a similar situation? Maybe we were being told an off-color joke and even though we knew it was mean-spirited we laughed. Perhaps it was noticing someone who needed assistance of some sort and instead of freely offering support, you pretended not to notice. Have you ever seen someone else make a stand for something and when the time came to throw your hat in the ring, you were more concerned about keeping the sun out of your eyes…

This is what Peter did. He promised Jesus that he would never deny him, if fact he swore he would die for him. But, when a little girl called him “all in” he folded like a bath towel in the hands of a cruise ship attendant. He had entered enemy territory and tucked his team colors into his satchel, proving himself to be a hopeless coward.

We have all been there. A friend was about to make a terrible mistake, and we utilized our right to remain silent. We knew the right thing to do yet we cowered and did the wrong thing instead. We knew the idea wasn’t ours but we hogged the praise like an early riser taking a super long shower.

But we don’t have to do it anymore. We can go into our closets or dressers, grab our game day shirts, and proudly display our true colors.

We can speak the truth, love our neighbor, forgive our family, embrace the hurting, support the fallen, or teach the ignorant.

You and I have the privilege of being the hands and feet of Christ. Being the light of the world and salt of the Earth. We can shine like stars. We have the hope of the nations to share with a hopeless world.

But we can’t do it wearing the enemies clothes.


Nice mud

13 05 2010

 A few weeks ago Jeni was inspired to become a gardener. Mrs. Nita goes to our church and she volunteered to help Jeni get started. True to her word she showed up one afternoon with a “tear up the ground machine” (see picture over there) and some gifts for our boys to put in the garden.

By the time those eager ladies were done we had not one, but two plots. Each of them large enough to park a couple of cars on! So the gardening began. Jeni bought a bunch of seeds and plants and went about planting in both plots. Flowers in the front and food in the back. The boys helped her rake up rows and then plant the plants. Just like that, the planting was done and the watering began.

Have you ever been in a large stadium that was only partially full, that gives you an idea of what our garden’s look like. A fair amount of plants within a huge plot… sparse a best. The picture above depicts our gardens quite well. But after a few days Mrs. Nita came back over and she said the darndest thing. “Jeni, your gardens are beautiful!”

Ummmm, have you actually seen the gardens? Those gaping rectangles of mud where lush green sod once grew, those gardens? Those plots that more closely resemble Popeye’s chest hair than a fertile garden, are you sure you saw those? Are you sure you didn’t mean to say, “good start,”  “those have potential,” or “nice mud?” Beautiful?? Really?

She was sincere. And she is a knowledgeable farmeresque lady. Her words haunted me for a couple of days.

How could she say that?
How could she believe that?

Then it hit me. She appreciated the garden for what it was right then and wasn’t judging it on what it might be one day. It was a perfectly plowed, perfectly planted, and thoroughly watered garden complete with the cute little signs and everything. It wasn’t fully in bloom, but it was beautiful. Do you believe her?

This truth slugged me in the kidney. I tend to expect the people around me to be in full bloom, and think of them as ugly. Instead of seeing people as they are… on their way to bloom and beautiful in the moment.

The person I am most guilty of this with is my wife, Jeni. I might be the only jerk in the world-wide web who does this, but if I’m not hopefully you can learn from our beautiful garden’s too. You see, instead of appreciating my wife as a maturing garden; I just get upset that she isn’t Eden yet. Instead of celebrating the shoots that are growing and the plants that are filling out; I stubbornly demand fruit. Instead of savoring the process of watering her and cultivating growth; I withhold what she needs and get mad at her for not appearing lush. Are you convinced I’m a jerk yet?

Husbands this lesson it for you. Parents this lesson is for you. Coaches, you too. Anyone who has people in their life that aren’t perfect yet should find this applicable. Even as you look at yourself in the mirror each morning.

We are a work in progress, but there is beauty in the work already accomplished. Just like a plant, first breaking through the soil as it strives to be close to the sun is beautiful; so is your wife as she strives to be what God made her to be.

A budding plant might be surrounded by tons of dirt. Your wife is surrounded by piling laundry, sinks full of dishes, mouths demanding food, groceries yearning to be bought, diapers needing to be changed, and on, and on, and on, and on, and on, and on some more.

It is easy for us to swoop in and only notice the “dirt” and fail to see the flower that is trying to survive in the midst of it all. We can get angry with that flower for being a little dirty, instead of brushing her off and appreciating who she is. Does it sting yet? I feel sick writing it, because it is true of me. Although, my prayer is that Lord willing, it was true of me.

Thankfully the flower blooming in my home already has branch of forgiveness and the leaves of love. I am thankful that she doesn’t see me as dirty and immature, but as beautiful just where I am and hopeful of who I am growing to be. Hopefully, we can see each other as Mrs. Nita sees a new garden. Hopefully, we can forgive those who see us like I have been guilty of doing.

Hopefully, we know that the master gardener, Jesus Christ, loves us just as we are and offers us the trellis of His Word to grow to full maturity and bear fruit for His glory. Amen.


12 05 2010

I often am the one who picks up Caedmon from his kindergarten. He goes for a couple of hours, three days a week and he loves it. When I arrived today his friend Gabriel was reading to him and Caedmon began desperately attempting to tell me something.

His teacher saw us talking and came over to share what Caedmon was so excited about. He had driven his wheelchair from his desk over to the table (about 10 feet) all by himself! (not exactly all by himself, but you’ll understand in a minute)

He wanted to show me so we wheeled him over to his desk so that he could perform his “trick” again. Caedmon has not been very successful driving his wheelchair to date because CP has had a more significant impact on the left side of Caedmon’s body so he is very right-handed. Whenever I have seen him drive his chair he would go in circles because he would only use his right hand on the right wheel. Not today!

He got a good push with his right hand and the chair began on its path towards the desk… with a slight slice. But then he bent down and reached across his body, gripping the left wheel with his right hand and tried to push.

This was a struggle for him and he was working at it for a few seconds before the help arrived. (grab your kleenex) In unison, his classmates stopped what they were doing and began chanting, “GO CAEDMON! GO CAEDMON! GO CAEDMON!” It was so sincere and so wonderful. He tried a little harder and he was able to get that left wheel to turn, “GO CAEDMON!” Then he popped his body upright with a Cheshire cat grin and effortlessly pushed the right wheel, “GO CAEDMON!” He bent back over and worked the left wheel, “GO CAEDMON!” In just a couple of minutes he had manipulated his chair over to the table and parked it smoothly into place, “YEEEEEAAAAAHHHH CAEDMON!” Yeah Caedmon for sure… but WAY TO GO CLASS!!

This blog isn’t so much about Caedmon but about the kids in his class and their incredible encouragement. I don’t know that we fully appreciate how powerful our words can be when people in our lives are struggling. Caedmon has a hard time with some physical things, but who of us doesn’t have hard times be they physical or otherwise?

Maybe we know someone who is struggling emotionally? Maybe a friend has lost someone? Maybe a family member is stuck and can’t get themselves where they want to go? Do you know someone who feels like they just keep going in circles and can’t get any traction in life? Maybe they need some encouragement.

The Bible teaches us that we need to “spur one another on” and “encourage one another.” God knows what he’s talking about, he created us after all. We all need encouragement because we all struggle.

Who among us wouldn’t want to see our hurting friend get out of the rut and begin moving again. To see them advance from feeling powerless to believing that they can do it! This is where the encouragement comes in. You are that momentum. You are that rooting audience.

Nobody put a hand on Caedmon’s chair, no one offered to push. Instead, everyone was generous with encouragement! At one point his teacher tried to help him steer and Caedmon moved her hand away and insisted on doing it himself; what a contrast to one minute prior when he was stuck and struggling.

The simplicity of the kids cheers were profound. No one coached, no one said “use you left hand.” Just, “GO CAEDMON!” To the kids, the goal was simple, get across the room. We, in our “maturity” can sometimes lose sight of the goals.
We demand perfection, when maybe our friend just needs to get across the room.
We expect sobriety, when maybe our loved one just needs to make it one more day.

Am I saying we should settle? Not at all. You better believe we want Caedmon to use that left hand. But, the kids don’t have that job. The kids job is to lovingly encourage their friend. The Physical Therapist will work on the left hand. PT’s make Caedmon work, encouragement fuels him for that work.

Not all of us are therapists, pastors, counselors, or addiction specialists; but all of us are friends. All of us can help by providing that fuel of encouragement. Who can you encourage today? Who can you write the note to? Who can you cheer?

Remember one very important thing. Those kids didn’t wait for Caedmon to have success to begin their chant… they cheered believing that their encouragement would help him succeed!

Let’s encourage someone today.

The Light Under The Door

11 05 2010

Early in the morning, when I am meeting with God by reading His word and praying, I am often interrupted by a knocking at my office door. It isn’t an insistent knock, but a soft “I’m out here in case you are wondering” knock. The sun is just coming up so I will open the blinds and turn off the lights in the room. The little person knocking in my door can be spared the rude brightness of manufactured light in exchange for the welcoming illumination provided personally by God.

I know who’s out there. It’s always the same little boy. When the other boys get up they head straight through the kitchen and towards our bedroom to jump in bed with Jeni. But not this boy; this boy has a different perspective. When he comes out of his room he sees the light underneath my office door so he scoots right over to it and begins knocking. I can almost see his light coming underneath my office door too. “Good morning Caedmon!”

I will pick him up and he will lay on the bed next to my desk and look out the window as the day dawns before him. I will go back to my first appointment of the day, with God. This morning while I was praying for Caedmon I opened my eyes and looked at him. Instantly I stopped what I was saying and reflected on the blessing  laying just a few feet from me.

I often struggle with how to pray for him. As many of you know he has cerebral palsy which affects the development of his motor skills. Do I pray for God to let him be “normal?” HOW DARE I DO THAT!! I don’t want him to be normal. In fact, I’d rather be more like him than be more normal.

My prayers this morning “for him” instantly became prayers “for me.” As I looked at him laying on his tummy with his knees pulled up by his ribs just looking out the window content and calm, I envied him.

I thought of the night before when he had one of his laughing moments that took his breath away. “God, please let me laugh like Caedmon.”

I thought of how passionately he loves his “best buddies.” “God, please let me love as deeply as Caedmon.”

I thought of how he loves food, all food and starts saying “mmmmm”(yum) before it even gets in his mouth. “God, please let me savor life and express gratitude like Caedmon.”

I thought of all the people he has inspired and touched. “God please grant me a positive influence like Caedmon.”

Then I thought again of his body. I though about that borderline hateful word, “normal.”

Oh that I could be more like God and look at people’s hearts and not their outward appearance. Would I really want a son who had a sense of entitlement? That took his family for granted? That complained about the abundance in his life? That was disrespectful? But, walked “normal.”

As a dad who is ignorant and a christian who is aware that, the more I learn the less I know; I still wrestle. I look at Lebron James, Michael Phelps, and Lionel Messi and covet their athleticism and accomplishments on behalf of my boys. I know how much I love my Seminoles, Atlanta teams, and US Soccer and imagine how awesome it would be to have my boys competing on one of them.

At the same time, I see the lives of many of those guys. Lives full of broken relationships and despair. Boys with the responsibilities of men, acting like… boys. I see these elite athletes with their better than “normal” abilities and all too normal lives.*

What does that say about me? Is that what I want for my kids? “God forbid.”

I have lost my way a little here. This isn’t a blog about what’s wrong in sports, or the dangers of fame and fortune. This is a blog about me recognizing that I wish I were more like my son than I wish he were more like me. About me realizing that “normal” is ugly and God is more creative than that. I can’t explain why Toby crawls better than Caedmon. But even more bewildering (and unsettling), is why Caedmon loves people better than I do.

“God, please let me be more like Caedmon… please.”

*(authors disclaimer. The paragraph about athletes bad choices was not speaking directly about James, Phelps, or Messi, but a generalization of the world of professional athletics. Those guys may be pillars of integrity, I don’t know them.)

** (authors disclaimer #2. I believe with every bit of my understanding of God that He absolutely can restore my son’s body to function… I can’t even write this. Function “normally?” What even is that? Function “like everyone elses?” What would that look like? It’s not the same even in my own family. Function “as God intended?” Who’s to say that Caedmon isn’t functioning exactly as God intended? I can’t. So, what do I believe? I believe in a perfect creator who makes no mistakes. I believe in a God who has a plan for Paul, David, Peter, Rahab, and Solomon all of whom were morally handicapped and He also has a plan for those with physical handicaps. He heals some, he doesn’t heal others but it is all for His Glory. So, I pray. I pray that Caedmon could run and jump. That he could play the sports he so loves. I pray that he will be able to go to the bathroom without our help. At the same time, I pray that he won’t be “normal.”)

“It Doesn’t Taste Good Without Raisins”

5 05 2010

Our son Jack-Jack was excited (OK, maybe not that excited but who’s counting) about eating Raisin Bran for breakfast this morning. First off, does anyone else know a 4-year-old who would choose Raisin Bran over Honeycombs? This is the kind of person who actually enjoyed Indiana Jones 4. (I still love ya Matt)

Anyway, as he neared the end of his foray into fiber he found the bowl filled with only milk and bran, to which he exclaimed “It doesn’t taste good without raisins.” Little did he know that his statement of the obvious would become fodder for this blog.
(The alliteration in the preceeding paragraph was Fantastic!)

The Bible tells us we need to be “speaking the truth in love,” which basically means, “If you are gonna give a kid his fiber, make sure you include the raisins!”

If you think of truth as the doctrine of the Bible, then loves becomes the raisins or that “spoonful of sugar.”

We tend to swing back and forth between two extremes. In one corner you have the “truth first Bible bashers” while in the other you find the” just love everybody and it will work itself out” group. As you might surmise, this is basically comparing eating a bowl of bran with eating a bowl of raisins. I don’t know which food represents which ideal, but I don’t want to eat either one of  ’em.

Without love our offering of truth becomes a “resounding gong,” according to the Bible. Basically, we becoming an annoying nuisance to society and to our circle of influence in particular. But, failing to offer truth, by buying into the lie that pointing out a person’s blind spots is unloving or judgemental is equally detrimental. The Bible tells us that we are supposed to address sin in peoples lives, contrast the God of the Bible with the false religion of the world, and present Jesus as the Christ including His death, burial and resurrection (offer truth); but not to the neglect of love.  (here are a few examples)

Here’s how I see it. The Bible teaches that we love because He first loved us. It also teaches that God is love, and that no greater  loves exists that someone who would lay down their life for a friend. All of those statements are statements of doctrine… or truth. The whole idea of love is rooted in Christian theology. Without a truly selfless heart our “love” is self-serving and shallow. It doesn’t really consider others as better than us (as the Bible teaches). This “love” serves the one acting and not the one receiving… it’s not true love.

It is borderline evil to observe someone killing themselves with their choices and choose to avoid addressing those choices with them. Basically, we are loving ourselves by avoiding the more difficult path of conflict and reconciliation. Authentic, Biblical love gets involved.

The love of Christianity looks with compassion on those who are struggling and willingly gets into their mess to help them out. That’s what Jesus did. He entered our mess, even allowed our mess to be thrown upon Him in order to lovingly offer the truth of His forgiveness. That guy rocks!

Let’s remember today that our world needs raisins and bran.

My dad used to always say, in an effort to manage the house with 6 selfish kids living in it, “If you see something that needs to be done, do it.” He was referring to folding laundry, turning off a light, or unloading a dish washer; but I would like to offer similar more relational advice. “If you see someone who needs their raisins or their bran… give it to them.”

Your world is riddled with folks who need love through encouragement or sympathy and equally full of folks who need love through a swift kick in the pants.” You can be that love. You should be that love. The most unloving thing we can do is… nothing.

Hopefully this little thought was an enjoyable bowl of cereal 🙂 Enjoy your breakfast!


27 04 2010

On April 27th, 1968 my mom and dad began their marriage. 42 years ago they stood and told one another “for better, for worse, richer or poorer, in sickness and health, till death do us part… I do”

Unfortunately, more than half of the marriages that begin these days begin with one or both parties lying to each other. I say that because more than half of the marriages that begin these days end in divorce… not death. Basically, what more than half of the people really mean to say is, “for better, richer, healthy, and as long as you make me happy I will stay with you unless I “fall in love” with someone else.” It’s a terrible indictment on our culture and our character but it is not the thrust of this blog. 42 years is the thrust of this blog.

Were all 42 years hunky dory? At least one of them wasn’t and that would be when yours truly was 2! Were all their years richer? Nope. Were they always the picture of health? Sure weren’t. So why didn’t they quit? 5 words… “till death do us part.”

They made a promise to one another, a committment. When they didn’t feel happy, healthy, or wealthy they harkened back to their transcendent committment to one another and to marriage. They didn’t always feel love for one another but because of their committment to one another they chose to love one another anyway.

This is the picture God wanted painted when he used marriage as a metaphor for His love for us. And God displayed this for us time and time again.

Our relationship with God was perfect in the beginning until we destroyed it… but God remained steadfast.

We abused the Earth, one another, and God so much that God regretted creating usbut He remained steadfast.

God warned us against our desire for a king; yet we insisted and rejected God… but He remained steadfast.

We rejected God’s gift of Jesus by crucifying Him… but He remained steadfast.

God’s committment to His plan of redemption for mankind is beyond our capacity to appreciate. We (humanity) have not historically been easy to love (see here, and here, and here). If we are honest, we must admit that we as individuals are not real loveable either.

I am sure glad that God doesn’t view and practice “love” the way we have perverted it in our day. If God loved the way you and I love we would be in a bad way. Needless to say, God’s love is profoundly different from ours and the word that best describes it is committment.

42 years is impressive.
42+ generations is glorious.

My parents made a promise and committed to one another for life.
God made a promise and He is committed to you for eternity.

Each of my parents responded to the other’s pledge of love with the words “I do.”
God has made His pledge of love in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus… what do you say?

Thank you mom and dad for being married still today. Thank you for not being like the majority. Thank you for the stability you provide for your 6 kids. Thank you for the counter-cultural example you are to your 10 grand kids. Thank you for 42 strong years!

Way to go dad and mom, congratulations!!