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

 

(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.

Jacob 1

 

My firstborn turns 18 today. Yep, you read that right. I had to go back and read that first sentence a few times, myself.

I’ll never forget that brilliantly sunny day in a tiny community hospital when I was fulfilling all of the stereotypical “first dad” routines: pacing, fidgeting, perspiring, and fighting the urge to pass out cold on the floor (that’d already happened once before during the first trimester, anyway).

And then…Jacob was born. I remember holding my son, staring at his face, counting those fingers and toes, praying over him, and being struck with the glorious wonder of human life.

Eighteen years later, I’m still overcome with that wonder sometimes. I marvel at the grace of a God who allowed us to be Jacob’s parents. I’m stunned by the stewardship we’ve been given, to try and fail, try and fail, try and fail to be the perfect parents. I’m thankful for the realization that it’s not about our perfection (or lack thereof) as parents, but the ability to simply try to point him to Jesus.

I’m thankful for a little boy that’s grown to be a man.

I’m thankful for his servant’s heart: the dozen little things he does every day without taking credit for it.

I’m thankful for his work ethic: most weeks he works full-time hours in a part time position. He loves his job at the Christian Chicken, and it shows.

I’m thankful for his sense of humor: he’s got an extremely dry wit that’ll catch you off guard and nearly always makes me laugh.

I’m thankful for his love for his brothers: regardless of the torture he’s dished out on my other two sons, he loves ’em.

I’m thankful for his love for his sister: three years ago I watched him welcome Haven into our home, and I’ve watched him adore her ever since (the feeling is mutual).

I’m thankful for his protective nature: he takes care of his mama. Regardless of his teasing, she knows her baby loves her.

I’m thankful for his missional heart: last year he took his first mission trip to Baltimore. This summer he’ll spend a month working with university students in Southeast Asia. I wish I’d had that commitment at his age.

I’m thankful for his friendship: the older he gets, the more I like him. Not because he’s my son, but because he’s my friend.

I’m thankful for Jesus: after 18 years, I realize that all I did was buy diapers and put groceries in his belly. Jesus did the heavy lifting, and he’s making him look more like him every day.

Happy 18th, Jacob.

DSC_5900

 

Good grief. The interwebs have their collective panties in a bunch again this week, and the topic is breakfast cereal.

Perhaps you’ve seen the furor over the upcoming Super Bowl ad featuring a biracial family eating their Cheerios. MSNBC has already had to pull an offensive tweet which suggested that Republicans would be in a tizzy. And Republicans were in a tizzy…over the suggestion that they get weirded out when families don’t look like a bowl of vanilla ice cream.

And I’m sure there will be some armchair quarterback somewhere in the good ol’ USA that will see the commercial on Sunday, and then declare in a Bud Light-induced rant, “That just ain’t nattrul.

The fact that we’re still having these conversations saddens me. As the daddy to a princess and a part of a biracial family, I’m grieved that this is still taking place in my daughter’s world. The new uproar reminded me of the very helpful post by Jemar Tisby when Cheerios aired the first iteration of the biracial family last year.

You can read my entire original post here, if you’re so inclined.

A completely true tale:

…so we made it off of I-40 and pulled over at a gas station in Rose Hill, NC, home of the world’s largest frying pan and a town where the motto is apparently, “Look! We have a gas station!” As I was using all of my mechanical skills to stare at the tire in the gas station parking lot, an older man around 65 or 70 pulled up and offered to help. So, my boys and I searched the van for the spare tire, and after pulling out one suitcase one computer bag one makeup bag one beach floaty thing five ocean smelling swimsuits ten gross beach shoe flip flop things and 289 shovels full of sand, we proudly produced the tire for our good samaritan.

He eyed it for a moment, and said, “That there’s a donut.” (WHAT? WE HAD DONUTS?!?) “You can’t ride on no donut. I think I gots a tire your size at th’ house…follow me back there and I’ll change it fer ya.”

At that moment, I was touched at the generosity of the human spirit. The kindness of a stranger. The…wait a moment…I’m receiving a text from my 15 year old who has relocated to the far end of the van…”MAMA DOESN’T LIKE THIS.”

After reloading the donut, the suitcases, the flip flops, and the sand (I think we grabbed some extra from the gas station parking lot), we followed Mr. Good Samaritan Serial Killer down the back roads of Rose Hill. My bride – always the trusting one – began replaying every movie we’ve ever seen where someone relies a stranger for a tire change and then suddenly the stranger is wearing their small intestine as a necklace.

Read the entire original post here.

Four Reasons Why You Might Feel Disconnected From Your Church(via @NathanRouse, HT @JustinKBuchanan) Don’t read the post without also hitting the comments. Yes, I agree with all four of Nathan’s points, but I also know that even those things aren’t always enough.

A common phrase that pastors hear when a family leaves their church is “We just don’t feel connected.” I’ve heard it countless times. When a family makes this statement to me I always ask the following four questions. The answer inevitably is almost always no to each. Here they are:


Eight Photos You Didn’t See From Obama’s Trip to South Africa
(via @ninaippolito, HT @persinger) I’ll admit: I’m a sucker for behind-the-scenes photos of politicians. These are pretty incredible.

GWB


Coke commercial absolutely nails the joy and insanity of early parenthood
(via @22words) There aren’t enough words for how much I like this.

If you tuned in last week, you know that Advent has come to the Franks house. And even though we started off rough, we’ve persevered, stuck through, and endured more eye rolls and off-the-wall comments from a three year old than you can imagine.

But by golly, Haven is getting it. Yes, she says that Adam’s wife was named “Oodam.” Sure, she still tells us that Advent is something you put in your mouth (getting it confused with a mint? I think so.). But there are other things that she’s soaking up like a little sponge.

Last night we hit the story of the Ten Commandments in The Jesus Storybook BibleI was able to grab the following video recap. (And yes, I know I shot it the wrong way. Listen, when you’re trying to film a squirmy three year old that happens to be sitting in your lap and all up in your face in her four sizes too small ballerina costume, you don’t worry about iPhone video rules.)

Enjoy.

 

Translation (in case you don’t speak Havenese):

Danny: What’s a commandment?

Haven: Um, a ‘mandment is a rule you can’t touch it. That’s a very hot you can’t touchin it.

Danny: What…what’s a rule?

Haven: A rule you, you need to go to da potty sometimes. And…[stuff even I can’t understand]…don’t touch that! That’s very hot!

Danny: Is…so who gave the commandments?

Haven: Jacob!

Danny: No, who gave…who gave the commandments to Moses?

Haven: Moses…Moses went WAY up in the mountain, and then he get paint the toenails.

Danny: Moses painted his toenails?

Haven: Yeah. And Jacob. And…

Jase: Haven, what’s a commandment?

Haven: A ‘mandment you can’t touch it.

Jase: You can’t touch what?

Haven: The ‘mandments.

Advent

I’ll start this post with a couple of confessions:

Confession #1: I stink at family devotions. Like, stink at ’em. Not “we could get better. Last year we only memorized Leviticus, this year we’re going for the whole Pentateuch.” Not, “man, I only read the Bible to my family 363 out of 365 days in 2012. I am a miserable human specimen.”

Nope, I really stink at ’em. And while we’ve tried family devotions plenty of times in the past, and while I occasionally pray with my family for specific needs, and while I will sometimes point them to specific scriptures in specific situations, it’s one of the many things that’s not a part of the warp and woof of my spiritual disciplines (although saying things like “warp and woof”? I got that one nailed.).

Confession #2: I don’t really know what Advent is. There. I said it. I grew up in church, would consider myself a conservative evangelical, and yet I am totally in the dark on Advent. Is it a calendar? Is there a secret handshake? I can remember ONE Christmas in our church, we lit an Advent candle each Sunday leading up to Christmas. So maybe Advent is an invention of the candle industry? But were they special candles? Scented? Did we get ’em on a 2 for $22 Black Friday special at Bath & Body Works?

These are the things that keep me up at night.

 

So you’ll understand my apprehension when I decided to go for broke this year and download an Advent guide from Verge Network. I looked at several, but none seemed to have the magical ingredients that would appeal to four kids from 17 years old down to three. Verge, however, had Advent ornaments to cut and color, so I figured if nothing else, giving the three year old some scissors would be somewhat entertaining.

Last night was Night #1, and perhaps Night #Last, for reasons you’ll see in a moment. Verge had us focusing first on the fall of mankind (nothing says “Merry Christmas!” like the doctrine of original sin), so the plan was to read a portion from Genesis 3, then a reading from The Jesus Storybook Bible. You need to understand that Haven and I read the JSB together frequently. She loves it. It holds her attention, and mine for that matter. The pictures are colorful enough and the stories are short enough that she can maintain focus in almost any circumstance.

Unless that circumstance is Night #1 of Advent, and we have the audacity to involve the rest of the family.

To say that Haven was “unengaged” is the understatement of the century. She twirled. She danced. She moved from chair to chair and person to person. When one of us would try the “grab and hold” technique, she’d immediately launch countermeasures and initiate the “oily octopus” technique, slide onto the floor, and slink across the room. She made unhelpful comments, manufactured unhelpful noises, threw unhelpful jabs at her 11 year old brother…

…in other words, she illustrated the fall of mankind perfectly.

She paid attention to nothing and no one, until the moment that I read Genesis 3:10: “And he said, ‘I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.'”

That, she heard.

And then the giggles started. And the eyes got wide as saucers. And the comment came: “DADDY WAS NAKED AND HID HIMSELF!”

Bye-bye, meaningful Advent moment. So long, sober reflection on the introduction of sin to the world. Adios, family devotions. The rest of the crew fell apart. Peals of laughter erupted. And the three year old princess couldn’t be any prouder of herself.

Me? I pouted. Fumed. Did everything I could just to get through it and get it over with and get her to bed.

So much for being spiritual. The man who was reading about sin became, once again, the sinner. Instead of reflecting the second Adam, I looked shockingly like the first one. The dad who was supposed to lead with grace wanted to respond by tossing the [insert Yosemite Sam style cuss words here] Advent guide right into the Christmas tree. One night in, and I was out. Advent – for me – was a bust.

 

Who needs Advent, anyway? Why do we carve out so much time focusing on the coming of Jesus?

Actually, let me try that again:

Who needs Advent, anyway? (I do.)

Why do we carve out so much time focusing on the coming of Jesus? (Because we so desperately need it.)

Nights like last night pull back the curtain on my need to slow down and focus. To hear Jesus. To see Jesus. To make much of Jesus. My attempts at family devotions or being a good husband or being a gracious dad can only go so far without the grace of Jesus. And that’s exactly the point of Advent: to pull away from decorations and wrapping paper and holiday gatherings and early-morning sales and just see Jesus. To recalibrate our hearts to him. To point our families to him. To renew our focus on him.

So tonight, though maybe a bit reluctantly, I’ll give it another whirl. Tonight, I’ll pull the Bible back out and gather the family back around and try to maintain my composure long enough to point them past their grouchy earthly father and towards their gracious heavenly one.

Tonight, I’ll try once again to see Jesus.

After my little tirade at the beginning of Wednesday’s post, I was reminded anew how much I dislike the word “Autumn.” (I think it was invented by Hallmark to sell more cards, or something.)

But it also reminded me of this little post from the early years of this blog’s existence. And even though it’s colder than a lizard’s spleen out there, Happy FALL Friday.

So anyway, “my son,” – in this case, my first grader – had something to say.  So I asked him to follow me to his room.  We sat on his bed, and I said, “Jase, do you have something you need to tell me?”

Suddenly a 92 inch grin covered his skinny little eight inch face.  He doubled over giggling, face down on the bed, and mumbled, “I have a girlfriend.”

Now let’s stop and think about this for just a minute.  This kid can’t consistently put his underwear on the right way.  But he’s started a relationship.  With a woman.

Read the entire post hereAnd (SPOILER ALERT!) for the record, Autumn is long gone. But Emma? Emma carpooled with us to school this morning. Hope lives.