Purely Personal


KL 3Over the last few months our family has charged headlong into a series of firsts. Our oldest, Jacob, has naturally been the one to break us in on the first-time parents thing in just about everything he’s done over the last 18 years: teething. Walking. Kindergarten. Drivers license. High school graduation just over three weeks ago.

And last week: sent.

We use the S word a lot around the Summit. We talk about sending our best. We want to plant a thousand churches in forty years. Pastor J.D. encourages college students to give their first two years after graduation to ministry, unless God specifically tells them no (we call that “the Mormonization of the Christian church”).

So when our Student Pastor Jason Gaston approached me last year about involving Jacob in an immersive overseas summer project, I couldn’t necessarily lock my kid in his room and hope that the bug didn’t bite.

On Thursday, we put him on a bus that started a 40 hour journey to the Southeast Asian city that he and seven other Summit students will call home for the next four weeks. The eight of them plus two leaders will spend a month building relationships, looking for opportunities to share their stories, and engaging university students in everyday life.

Proud? Yep. (I’m a dad. That’s my job.) But this transcends the “You got an A” / “You won the game” / “You’re a special snowflake” kind of pride. This is a pride that’s broken on a foundation of gratitude: gratitude for a God who’s a better Father than I could ever be. Gratitude for his prompting in my son’s life to do something bigger than life. Gratitude for student leaders who have spoken into his life, discipled him, and mentored him. Gratitude that Jacob is willing to be used at 18 to invest in the lives of complete strangers.

Gratitude that he’s sent.

As me and Merriem and fourteen other parents said goodbye to our kids last Thursday, I suspect we all carried the same thoughts in the backs of our minds: Is this just the beginning? Does this trip symbolize a lifetime lived overseas? Does it herald a call to ministry? Does it mean that what we thought was true for our children and their futures may not necessarily be true?

Maybe a better question: does it mean that God knows our kids and loves our kids better than we do?

I wouldn’t dare guess what God will do in the lives of these eight young adults over the course of this summer. But I do know that I’ll pray for them, and cheer them on, and encourage them to not only let him work in others’ lives, but in their own.

Would you join me in praying for them? The parents received this list of prayer points in a pre-trip meeting. I’d be honored and grateful if you’d print this and pray over it several times this summer. You can also keep up with the team via their blog.

  • That students would seek and know God. 
    • Matt 6:33
    • Psalm 1
    • Deut 6:5
  • Wisdom in all situations: how to interact with each other and with new friends. 
    • James 1:5
    • Psalm
  • Fruit in ministry
    • Psalm 37:39
    • Jonah 4
    • Romans 10:17
  • Perseverance
    • Hebrews 12:1-3
  • Grace giving to each other 
    • John 13:35
    • Eph. 4:1-7
  • Not a burden to the local body, but a blessing 
    • Isaiah 52:7
Advertisements

Jase Baptism

 

As weekends go, this one was huge.

We celebrated my oldest son’s high school graduation on Friday, and my dad’s 75th birthday on Sunday. Both are big milestones. Both were worthy of a big hoo-rah party.

But in the larger economy, neither of those compared to the celebration of my youngest son’s baptism. The first two marked achievements in this life. The latter tipped the scale towards another life.

Jase became a believer a little over two years ago when he was just nine years old. At the time, the notion of baptism freaked him out. Getting drenched in a room full of people? Not his thing. And so, we talked about it. Encouraged him towards it. Helped explain the obedience of it. And finally, the decision became his, not ours.

Sunday, of course, was not the day Jase became a Christ follower. But it pointed to that day in a big, loud, public way. It was a chance for his church family to celebrate what his earthly family had already been celebrating.

And my, what a celebration it was.

I had the amazing privilege of baptizing my 12 year old son as my brother. My tears mingled with the water in the tank. He was able to proclaim his faith in Jesus, his belief in him and him alone for salvation, and his promise to go wherever Jesus may send him in the future.

Evangelicals are fond of saying that they want their kids to have boring testimonies. I’ve said it, too. What we mean by that is we want to see our kids come to Jesus early…not wandering through life sowing wild oats before “settling down” in the faith.

But every testimony is far from boring, because ultimately our story isn’t about what we’ve done or not done. It’s about what Jesus has done for us. Jesus – perfect, sinless, righteous Jesus – took on the sins of a nine year old and exchanged them for his own holiness. Jesus – fully divine, fully human Jesus – gives a forty year old father the ability to rise and walk another day. It’s not about the worthiness of my son or the worthiness he sees in his daddy, it’s about the worthiness we both see in Jesus.

Boring testimony? Nope. Recognizing the miracle that is offered to us through salvation is anything but boring. Merriem and I recognize that just because our kids grow up in a Christian home doesn’t mean that they’ll be Christians. We understand that regardless of what we do (or sadly, what we more often don’t do) to point them to Jesus, it’s still the work of Jesus. It’s still his sacrifice. It’s still his mercy. It’s still his Spirit that draws us.

I’m thankful that 3/4 of our kids have placed their faith in Jesus. I’m praying that our youngest will come to that knowledge early. And I’m hopeful that at the end of the weekend, we weren’t celebrating the baptism of Jase.

We were celebrating the finished work of Jesus.

 

 

imageDSC_6575

photo

Surreal.

That’s the only word that can describe the feeling in our house today.

Our oldest…our firstborn…the kid who made us parents will be walking across a stage tonight to get his high school diploma.

I couldn’t be prouder of the man my child has become. He’s got a work ethic like nobody’s business, he’s got a servant’s heart, and he has a passion for Jesus. (You can read more about him on this post I wrote when he hit eighteen.)

Today marks yet another in a series of major transitions. We no longer have a high schooler, we have a rising college freshman. There’s a third adult living under our roof. He’s no longer a tax credit. He’s my friend.

Happy graduation day, Jacob. I love you.

 

 

 

(click for photo credit)

(click for photo credit)

We’re entering into another week of shopping for a new car for our oldest son, and by “new” I mean “What can we afford if we try to sell his old car that gave up the ghost a couple of weeks ago and then combine that sale price with the change in the cup holder of said car plus a booklet of coupons for free Frostys at Wendy’s” and by “we” I mean “my wife finds semi-questionable possibilities on craigslist and Jacob and I roam the countryside looking at said purchases.”

I know. I know. I know the first thing that just came to your mind: “Why would you shop craigslist when there are so many reputable used car dealerships in the Raleigh-Durham metroplex?” I will answer your question with a question: Do you know the difference between an individual seller on craigslist and a used car salesman? One is a scammer and a serial killer who will make your spleen into a hood ornament, and the other is an individual seller on craigslist.

Yes, I recognize the danger of buying anything off of craiglist. I’m pretty sure on Saturday I walked into a Honduran chop shop of ill repute. I looked at a vehicle yesterday which could possibly have been featured on CSI RDU (“Hey, do those blood stains come standard?”). I have thought about the very real possibility that I may not come back from one of these car shopping excursions, in which case we won’t need that extra car, in which case win win.

But y’all, craigslist transactions are so much fun. Here’s how it generally works: my wife finds “one that might actually work” on craigslist. She forwards me said item to my email inbox, which currently consists of about eight real emails and about 4,212 “ones that might actually work.” Some of those listings are from cars that currently reside in Oregon, but that’s not important right now. What’s important is that my wife and I are bonding with each other through the beautiful world of online vehicle commerce and l love getting the “ding” that notifies me of another “one that might actually work” from the love of my life.

(At least until last night, when Craig sent her a very terse notice that she had exceeded her allowable forwards and would have to cease and desist. Craig, if you’re reading this, your fifty bucks is on the way. Nudge nudge. Wink wink.)

So anyway, the emails come to me, and Jacob and I begin reading through the cars to weed out the ones that are simply not a good fit for him. Some of them have NEW OXY SNSRs! Some are in VRY GoOD COND! Some need to have a REBILT TRANNIE! Of course, those are the ones I delete immediately, because I have no idea what those things mean. My typical qualifications for a car: Does is have tires? Is there an engine somewhere in the general vicinity? Will the windows roll down when I go through the drive through at Chick-fil-A, or do I need to perform the maneuver where I pull just past the drive through, then crack my door open and bang it against the side of the building while I reach my arm and my money through the very small crack to get my #7 combo with extra pickles?

But then there are those that might actually be a “one that might actually work.” Usually these are all sold by one guy named Vince that DON’T WANT YOU TO WASTE HIS TIME. (i.e., CALL VINCE at (9)one9INE five5FIve [f0ur]t33n62% DON’T WASTE MY TIME KEEP YOUR LO-BALL OFFERS) So I spend roughly 67 minutes deciphering Vinnie’s secret CIA codes and call him, just to find out that he might have sold it B/C ANOTHER GUY IS BRINGING ME THE MONEY TUESDAY BUT I HAVE OTHER OFFERS ON MY LOT COME SEE ME AND CHECK OUT MY INVENTORY.

(Spoiler alert: some people on craigslist are unsavory characters that pretend to be an individual seller, when in reality they have cheated the system and actually run their own unlicensed car dealership in the back yard of a friend of a cousin. “I ALSO DO TAXES HIT ME UP.”)

Approximately one out of every 154 phone calls / text messages / emails translates into an actual on-site visit to check out a car. And by “on site” I mean “every Food Lion anywhere in the Triangle.” Apparently the contractual agreement for selling a car on craigslist has a stipulation that you have to meet in a Food Lion parking lot or no deal. So Jacob and I drive to Food Lion to meet up with someone who is equally afraid we’re going to kill them and drive off in their 2003 Toyota Corolla with mp3 player (dont wrk but u cld take it 2 a mechanical shop n they can fix it). And I run through my checklist: tires? Engine in general vicinity? (“Yeah man. It’s here in the trunk.”) Working windows?

And then Jacob and I look at each other, making that slight and subtle eye contact, communicating statements from our soul that only a father and son understand: “We have no idea what we’re doing.” So we thank the seller, tell him or her that we’ll be in touch / keep it in mind / have others that we’re looking at today / thank you for not murdering us and storing us in your basement freezer, and get in the car and squeal out of the Food Lion lot.

So the search continues. Week three of the craigslist car search carries on. And the tension / drama / very real possibility of death by exhaustion mounts. But even in this dark cloud, there is a silver lining: Vinnie said he could get me more money on last year’s tax return.

picstitch

This is a different kind of Flashback Friday.

Most weeks, I dig into the archives and pull up an old post. (Haven’t seen it? It’s new to you!) But here’s a fair warning: this may be the first of several “new breed” of flashbacks coming over the next few weeks.

You see, my firstborn graduates high school five weeks from today. Jacob is thrusting us down memory lane while taking us through a series of “firsts” like we’ve never experienced before, and last night was one of those.

Jacob’s elementary school hosts an annual Senior Night. It’s a chance for their former students to come back to their old stomping grounds one last time before they wrap up their high school years. Last night was an absolutely amazing experience as we reconnected with old friends and caught up with kids we knew way back when.

We moved to the community halfway through Jacob’s second grade year, and his elementary school became home for our family for the next nine and a half years. All three of our boys went through the system, and we have incredibly fond memories of our time in the hallways, in the classrooms, and on the rec fields.

Because of the relatively small student body, everyone was able to take the stage last night and tell their post-high school plans plus a favorite memory from their elementary school days. It was a blast from the past: one of the last times I saw most of those kids on stage, they were dressed as reindeer or elves for a Christmas program. Now they’re practically adults, getting ready to major in biology or graphic design or business or who knows what else. They were poised, articulate, sometimes funny, and seemed ready to take on the world.

I’m thankful for an elementary school that would take time out of a busy end-of-year schedule to honor their former students. I’m grateful for the staff there that have proven time and time again that teaching isn’t just a job, it’s a calling. I’m proud of the friendships our boys made there and the memories they’ll carry with them for life. And yep, I’m still shaking my head wondering how the second grader who walked in that building is now a senior who’ll soon be walking across a stage.

So for today’s Flashback Friday, a question: what’s your favorite elementary school memory? Comment below.

photo

Today marks a milestone of sorts on the ol’ blog: you’re reading post number 1,000.

Well, y’know. 1,000 according to the WordPress dashboard. That includes all the Flashback Friday posts, those days where I cheap out and dig into the archives (although in my defense, the intro lines are fabulously original).

But still, that’s four digits, my friends. A number that includes a comma. Boom.

When this site launched way back in July 2008, I had no idea what the page, the content, or the readership would look like nearly six years later. Shoot, I didn’t know if there would be a six years later. And while the page looks much the same and the content’s beauty is still in the eye of the beholder, the readership has grown and gotten better with time. I’m always amazed and humbled at the caliber of people who find their way to this corner of the blogosphere, whether on purpose or purely by accident. And I’m always, always grateful for the voice that you add to the conversation.

I’ve had the opportunity to meet some great people through this medium. I’ve learned a tremendous amount from those who have left comments and those who have contacted me directly. I’ve made new friends and perhaps an enemy or two. But every single encounter has been well worth it, and every one has made me grateful for the community we’ve built together.

Writing has always been a primary outlet for me. It’s cheaper than therapy and a great way to process: whether that means processing joy, pain, or simply working through new knowledge. My goal has always been to take what I believe, what I’m learning, or what I’m feeling, and get it in black and white, knowing that a few of you are looking over my shoulder as I do so.

So thank you. From the bottom of my little ol’ heart, thank you. Thanks for every comment, for every post you’ve read, for every offline follow up conversation, and for for all the ways you’ve challenged me. Thank you for going on this journey with me.

(click for photo credit)

(click for photo credit)

It’s no secret that humor is kind of a big deal to me. My kids learned early on that if they were in trouble but could make me laugh, their punishment would be 17% less severe.

And I love the fact that all of my kids have a very unique slice of their own humor personalities. Jacob is the unsuspecting dry wit. Jase is the 11 year old, still-feeling-out-his-humor-roots-so-lets-just-make-up-weird-stuff guy. Haven is three. Everything she does is either infuriating or hilarious.

And then there’s Austin: the kid who has kept us laughing from day one. Today we flashback to one of my favorite Austin stories.

Austin [running out of his room at bedtime]: My short are making SPARKS!

Merriem: They’re what?

Austin:  SPARKS!  They’re making SPARKS!  When I got in bed and pulled the covers up, there were blue sparks everywhere!

Merriem: That’s just static.  It’s fine.  Go to bed.

Austin: But it’s SPARKS!

Read the rest of the story here. (Trust me. You wanna.)

Next Page »