I'm reposting my Christmas post from last year. I still can't get past all that I learned.
------------------------------------------- This Christmas season two significant things occurred: 1) I preached my first Christmas Eve service 2) Our house got robbed
Our house got robbed the Friday before Christmas while I was at lunch with a friend. I had been spending the weeks prior to Christmas reflecting on the word Immanuel. The mournful feeling left by being robbed unlocked a deeper understanding of what Immanuel means (God is with us). Here is an excerpt from my sermon. It follows the reading of the birth narratives found in Matthew and Luke.
Our robbery came after a long line of unfortunate events for us. I'll name a few to give you the context. We just moved from Portland to San Antonio to be closer to family and our condo has not sold. I've been through 4 phones since September, my wife has been in the emergency room twice, and two months ago somebody created a counterfeit copy of our ATM card and emptied out our bank account.
Needless to say, when we found out that our house had been robbed, we felt all of the emotions of the loss and pain that we have been experiencing since we moved from Portland. I guess I experienced the worst side of my humanity - loneliness, brokenness, hopelessness, and insecurity.
Then I had to get ready for this sermon.
And you know what? In my brokenness I began to feel God at work.
1. While my wife and I embraced with tears slowly falling down our cheeks...there in my brokenness, in the midst of my paint, I began to experience IMMANUEL - GOD WITH US.
2. That night when my son had my undivided attention and we played, sang, and read books...there in the midst of my brokenness and pain I began to simultaneously experience JOY IN MY WORLD.
3. And later, as I rocked my son to sleep, there in the darkness and silence of his room my heart continued to hurt as I felt the weight of all that had happened...yet I sensed God picking me up and rocking me. And, in the midst of the pain and brokenness I experienced A GLIMPSE OF SALVATION/DELIVERANCE here on earth.
Interestingly enough, a ton of people donated money so that we could replace nearly all of the things that were stolen. Getting our stuff back was really just a bonus. The ultimate blessing was all that I learned about faith, trust, the power of tears and hugs, and the importance of a loving community.
I have just under 900 Facebook friends. The weirdest part is, I actually do care about the majority of my Facebook friends. I have still images burned in my mind of moments that we shared as well as 15 second video clips. My brain remembers all sorts of random details. I remember hiding uneaten food in a trash can with my friend Rachel so we could get dessert. I remember my friend Cody sneezing a big thing of snot on his mom's amazing cinnamon rolls. I remember thinking my friend Adam was the coolest kid I ever met. I remember my sister Tami telling me that she'd never let anything happen to me. This was all before 5th grade.
I remember Jonathan teaching me about AOL, Tim teaching me about Boys to Men, Rachel teaching me about Gangsta Rap, Mandi teaching me that it's ok to be me, Edgar teaching me how to say "your momma" jokes, and I remember running 50 laps in athletics with Danny because we were late for practice. This was all in middle school.
I could go on about the people who formed my faith, the importance of my parents, the people who snazzied my dance moves, the girl I couldn't get out of my mind, the atheist who taught me it's ok to have faith, the guys that I bled with on the football field, the mentors and friends that took care of me when I was lonely at college, the teacher who taught me how to think, the friends in Portland that taught me a better way to live, etc.
All of this is to say that one of the hardest parts of getting older is not being able to keep up with friends...it's just impossible. I think I will always have a slight longing. I'll never be able to tell everybody thank you or you are important to me.
I am learning that my place in life right now is to go smaller. Sure I'll say, "Happy Birthday" on Facebook from time to time, but my energy must primarily be spent on my wife and my son. This is my role and my joy in life (I like when those things overlap).
These days I'm learning a lot about fatherhood. I'll get to that in a bit. A friend of mine named Brian wrote a book called Engaging Your Teen's World: Become a Culturally Savvy Parent . In it he encourages parents to not simply treat bad actions of kids. He says beneath all actions are values. If we simply respond to the action we may stop the negative behavior but we probably won't change the bad value and we may even hurt our relationship. Rather, he says talk about the value. Ask questions. Affirm your child if the value was actually a good value but that they acted poorly. If we do that, they will understand why their actions were bad and will learn to have a healthy value. I've been teaching this lately to parents in my ministry and it really does work.
However, today I needed to listen to my own advice. Quinn has this "thing" where he likes to go into Tammie's drawer and pull out all of her jewelry and play with it or put it on. We have been getting on to him about this for about 6 months. Toddlers don't necessarily have the capacity to learn when you "affirm their values" so I scolded him yet again about getting into the drawer. As he started to cry I looked around and noticed something different...there were no necklaces or bracelets, no rings or hair clips. On the floor were three pens and a sheet a paper. He just wanted to draw (or as he says, "corrlor").
I said, "Wait bud, do you just want to color?" He stopped crying and started to smile. Then I said, "Next time you want to color either tell me or come over here and use these colors. But you still are not supposed to go into this drawer." He then walked over to the table on which I said he could color and happily created art. Again, he wasn't being bad just to be bad. In fact, he wasn't being bad. He just wanted to create art. I love this little guy.
A while back I was talking with a friend of mine who is 29 and who has four boys. Needless to say, he has had a very stressful year. We talked about how odd it is that we experience some of the most stressful times (kids, financial woes, growing out of adolescence, learning how to selflessly love another, etc.) when we are not experienced enough to deal with it. Why is that? While I do not know the answer to the question I saw a glimpse of hope the other day. I realized that all of the trials are making me into a more selfless, content, and patient person. There will come a day when my disciplines finally outweigh the responsibility. But for now I take joy in the stretching, the sacrificing, and the molding. There is much freedom to be found in learning to be selfless.
I'm in a reflective mood. I decided that I'm going to occasionally post memorable things that people told me about life, love, ministry, friendship, etc. I may also post something that I've read or heard in the past. The key aspect in these postings is that I will only quote things as I remember them.
"We aren't always going to be able to spend time together so let's make sure we make the most out it today."