Last weekend Aleta and I had the pleasure of moving our daughter into her new college apartment as she begins her second year of college. Over the summer we had to store some of her stuff, and her future roommate’s stuff, in a storage unit. It hurt my soul to have to pay $100 a month for a 6 x 12 storage area. But you do what you gotta do.
On Thursday we pulled in to get Cassidy’s stuff out of storage and saw a huge group of people standing outside the storage facility office. “Oh no!” we thought, “We don’t have time to deal with a long line of people if we forget our pass code.” Sure enough I tried every number I could think of, but I forgot our pass code that would give us entry into the front gate. So I had to go to the office, totally certain I would be waiting in a long line. However, to my surprise all those people were just hanging around outside and I walked right in, got the pass code, and we were in business. As I walked to my car I wondered, “What in the world are these people doing here in front of a storage facility?” I found out when we left. As we drove off a nicely dressed man was walking into the facility with bolt cutters, followed by that strange assortment of people who’d been hanging around the office out front. There was going to be a Storage Wars bid-fest for people’s abandoned stuff inside that storage unit.
As we drove away, Aleta, Cassidy and I were tripping out over how weird that actually is. Think about how weird it is to live in a country where people pay other people a lot of money to store their extra crap, and then when they get so over the tips of their skis financially, they have to abandon their crap, and then other people make a living – make a living – off of scouring people’s abandoned storage crap. The whole level of that kind of consumption is just sheer madness to me. Anyway, it was a good reminder to me that I need to live simply and not consume so much stuff.
It feels like it was almost as soon as my kids finally slept through the night, and no longer deprived me of sleep, they decided to grow up and stay out late with their friends and so deprive me of sleep. Man, my kids grew up fast! On this first day of the new school year, I now have a sophomore in college, a junior in high school, and an eight-grader. Where did all the time go? My once little cuddlers have grown up and turned into wonderful, funny, insightful, responsible, lovely adults. What a gift from God! How are you parents all doin’ out there?
Little kids always find a way to turn the ordinary into the dangerous, the magical, and the adventurous. This last week our local church installed a decorative 3-foot high perimeter fence around our corner lawn area. Every Sunday after worship we all hang out at what we call “linger longer” which is just a great time for kiddos to run around, and people to connect with each other and share their lives over coffee. For years our parents have created spontaneous tag-team defense squads to protect their kids from running out into the busy streets. Why? Because, as I said, kids always find a way to turn the ordinary into the adventurous.
Yesterday, I announced in worship that we had the new fence. My announcement was met with a big cheer, and then I said, “You watch. Someone’s kid is going to find a way to show us how unsafe that fence really is!” It got a big laugh and within an hour I was proven correct. Within the first few minutes of linger longer one of the kids discovered that the top of the fence rail was a fantastic, and very long, balance beam. Instantly he become “The Amazing Wallenda.” He began to walk on this majestic balance beam in view of all his adoring friends. At that moment all the parents began to laugh because, of course, one of our kids had found a way to make a safety fence into a dangerous adventure.
Here’s the thing. As I get old I find myself trending towards moving away from danger and adventure rather than seeking it out like a little child eager for play. Yesterday’s fence walker reminded me that I want to grow more and more into the heart of a child as I follow Jesus, one who moves toward adventure eager for play in the kingdom of God.
One of the things I realized about myself during my vacation this summer was that I had unknowingly put myself in a season of getting things done. A former co-worker defined this as my “go-mode.” I fall into go-mode when things either need or can get done efficiently, but when it happens I can lose a little bit of my humanity along the way. I especially saw my conversations with God (called a “prayer life”) dwindle quite a bit because the fact is conversation/prayer and slowness go hand-in-hand. By “slowness” I don’t mean moving at the pace of a turtle. I mean paying attention when my gut and my body tell me that I’m rushing. I mean being purposeful rather than pushy. I mean moving at a steady pace which allows me to breathe rather than trying to sustain a sprint. So I now return to the work God has given me trying go slow, and trying to be much more conversational with my Heavenly Father.
Here’s a great way to look at it from the great pen of Eugene Peterson:
“Waiting means that there is another whom I trust and from who I receive. My will, important and essential as it is, finds a will that is more important, more essential. While waiting, I discover that there is more reality outside me than inside me, and I take up a position to respond to it. I begin to pray by attempting to manipulate the will of God; I end by putting myself in a position to be moved by his will.
There is a kind of waiting that has nothing to do with prayer; opportunistic waiting – a predatory, disciplined holding back until everything is right for me to pounce. This is the waiting of a cat stalking a bird or of a person cannily watching for the opening thrust, the telling word. That is not prayer-waiting.
In prayer we are aware that God is in action and that when the circumstances are ready, when others are in the right place and when my heart is prepared, he will call me into the action. Waiting in prayer is a disciplined refusal to act before God acts.” – – Earth & Altar
All through the summer I’ve had the pleasure of co-teaching a parenting seminar with my wife Aleta at Mount Hermon Christian Conference Center. It was a lot of fun to work together on the content, and even more fun to co-teach with her. She is so insightful, so knowledgeable about human development, and a whole lot of fun. People really, really enjoy the vibrant energy of my wife and I love to see it in action!
There’s something else I love about my wife. As we wrapped up teaching our final seminar last Friday, Aleta was talking about how important it is to give our kids an opportunity to experience redemption when we discipline them. In other words, instead of just taking away a phone or a privilege, we also want to give our kids a way to make amends and redeem our trust and their privileges. As Aleta was describing this she said, “Just think of how our heavenly Father has given us many opportunities to experience redemption . . . ” Then her voice just trailed off and she stopped. I know my wife, and I just looked at her chin. Yup! Her chin started to quiver. In that split second in front of a bunch of strangers, her heart and her head were totally congruent and she was instantly moved to a quivering-chin-lump-in-the-throat-verklempt moment of worshipful wonder over the immense grace of God. I wanna be more like that when I think about God’s grace in my life!
During my vacation this summer my family did some of those fun “stay-cation” things you can do here in beautiful NorCal. We went to see a movie together, we ate out, we went into San Francisco to visit the new Museum of Modern Art to enjoy its stunning architectural spaces and artwork. Good times! We were having so much fun that I just wanted to keep the good times rolling. “Hey tomorrow lets head down to Carmel!” I suggested. “No, the Soberanes fire is making the air quality horrible,” I was reminded. “Well then let’s go see another movie,” I threw out. “No, there’s no more movies worth seeing,” everyone agreed. “How about going to the boardwalk?” I offered weakly. “No, we’ve been to the boardwalk so many times that it’s not interesting anymore.” I was trying to do everything I could to do something really fun together and keep the good times rolling, but the harder I tried the more it wasn’t happening.
This conversation continued while I went out and ran an errand. When I got back Aleta said, “We have a plan! We’re staying home. The boys want to build stuff with you.” She went on to tell me that my daughter came up with some fun plans with her friends and my sons Michael and Joshua really didn’t want to have fun – they just wanted to build stuff with their dad. Really!? Building with dad was more important in their minds than fun, and I’m talking about fun that I was willing to pay for? The answer was – Yes!
Michael had invested in three very cool pocket synthesizers made in Sweden or Norway or some exotic Euro country. One of them creates cool synth percussion, the other creates different sounds, and his newest one creates cool “chip tune” (the official new music term for the kind of music produced in video games) melodies. He wanted to make a box that was specifically engineered to hold his pocket synthesizers in one place. So we had a fun time engineering and designing this wooden box that would hold his instruments and prepare him to be a DJ at some dance party in the future. It was a lot of work and a lot of fun as you can see in the picture.
At the same time Joshua wanted to make his own ping-pong paddle. You see he had almost beaten his camp counselor in ping-ping the previous week at camp. He came so close to defeating his old counselor that he came home with a plan. Step 1 – make a paddle. Step 2 – practice. Step 3 – prepare to beat counselor. So on this day we got to work on Step 1 – make a paddle. We laminated a few pieces of melanine together, then cut out and slowly sanded into a shape a proper handle and the next day we finished a pretty cool home-made ping-pong paddle. All in all both projects with my two boys turned out to be a whole lot more fun, cost less money, and are memories I will always treasure, and who knows maybe they will treasure it too.
My time with Michael and Josh served as a good reminder that more than being entertained to death, my kids just want to do stuff, and build stuff with their dad who loves them a ton. I would have missed my opportunity if I’d pressed my agenda of fun, but because I listened to what they really desired we entered into something very special.
My family and I were on our way home from a beautiful week at the south shore of Lake Tahoe. It had been a long drive, but it was time to get some gas and use the facilities. We stopped, we gassed, we used the facilities, and then we were back in the van. As I turned out of the gas station lot, I gently poked the nose of my van out into the lane just slightly and waved at the car to my left – my way of saying “You good with me swinging in here real quick when we get a green light?” I saw a wave from behind the tinted glass. Honest truth – I saw a wave. When the light turned green I swung out with confidence and got ready to turn right to get back on the freeway. As I turned into traffic we all heard a loud screeching of tires. Aleta and I said, “Wow the guy behind us has some bald tires.” But as I came to a stop at the stop-light my daughter Cassidy said from the back seat, “Um dad, this guy is like right on our tail.” I still didn’t think too much of it because I thought he’d waved at me to approve of me being in front of him. So I turned right and got onto the freeway on ramp. About as soon as I took off, this guy lit up his tires and started to come after us getting dangerously close to our back bumper as we got up to speed to merge on the freeway. I thought, “What is happening!?” So we merged onto the freeway and this 4o-something man, raced by us so that he could practice pointing his middle finger in the air for us. I’m thankful that it wasn’t worse than that, but it was weird!!
Being flipped off was my reminder of how broken this world really is. Really – someone is going to get that mad because I honestly thought he was okay with me being one car ahead of him!? Really – you’re going to risk your life, the life of my family, and even the condition of your own car just because you were a little irked and you had no intention of letting me move in ahead of you!? Sadly the answer was “yes” and “yes.” I wish I could come back from 3 weeks of vacation to find the world a little safer, people becoming a little kinder, the mission of the church I serve grew a little more impassioned about it’s reason for being, my staff fixing all the problems while I was gone, and having 0 rather than over 200 emails to answer. But the reality is I come back from a great time of rest and renewal to a world that is still very broken. People still are flying into dangerous rages over the smallest things. The mission of my church is still moving forward at an incremental, rather than leaping, pace. So I re-enter the work, like all of us who love Jesus, fully depending on Him and working with Him toward His ultimate goal of “making all things new.” (Rev. 21:5) Happy Monday readers!