Delightful Mistakes

Pride is something I’m trying to step away from because God says that I should. It’s a transition for me, because it’s never been uncommon for me to be proud of my children, my family, my career, my country, my team – among others. Many of us are taught to be proud – it’s so established in my life it’s nearly innate. Pride is a sin because things of this world will parish, all of them – and the only real pride can be found in setting yourself before God, and surrendering.

For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world.

1 John 2:16

As God continues to work in me, He’s guiding me – but it’s only His guidance. He cannot force me to make the right choices, he can only show me what is right, and watch from afar. Like my heavenly Father, I’ve taught my children the best I knew and know – I’ve poured my heart and soul into them, and now I only get watch from afar as they choose as at least one of them move into adulthood. Unlike my Heavenly Father, I’m a highly flawed man. I did the best I could, the lament of every parent. I’ve never been the best and smartest – I’ve made poor decisions, right in front of my children. Sometimes I fear they’ve learned that. However, I think God can use our poor decisions to show children the best way to handle things, and sometimes that gives me comfort.

Recently I heard that one of my lovely children is struggling with something, and among other things, my son is worried that he will let me down. I can think many things here, but mostly I think of the many times I’ve let him down. There have been many, many times – and I feel regret about it. I don’t want him living with the regret that I have of feeling like I’ve let him down. What I really want to tell him that he cannot let me down – it’s an impossible task – he’s a miracle to me.

I remember the moment he was born, too many years ago, and it has been the only thing in my life that quite literally took my breath away. All I could think of is how perfect he was, and how hard I would work to keep this work from God dripping with perfection. And yes, sometimes father’s become disappointed in a child’s decision. Sometimes, perhaps, we offer better advise, or maybe we shout and get angry. What a son will never see is that I’ve only been angry that I’ve been unable to convey the necessary lesson, so they won’t travel down many of the same roads that I’ve chosen.

Growing up is, indeed, hard to do. I love my dad, but he wasn’t around me as much as I wanted growing up, or even as an adult. Instead, God felt it necessary to remove him from the bulk of my life, and I was gifted with the perfect father, the one in heaven. And even with the gift of the perfect father, I came out highly flawed. I don’t fully know why, but I think men are born of courage, bravery and strength – we believe in the pride of ourselves so much that we often fail to take the lesson, even if it’s staring at us in the face. We know better.

Let me testify that as a man, I didn’t know better, and often still don’t. Lucky am I to have lived many years now, and convey what wisdom I’ve known to my own sons. And they are flawed, it’s their nature, it’s how we learn – it might be what allows us to succeed on this planet. A young man can take risks that scares an older man, and sometimes those risks pay off, even if mostly they do not. But a young man can afford risk, he can make mistakes, and it’s perfectly fine – it’s exactly how God created us to be on this earth, imperfect. God realized that man was born into sin, and was born to make mistakes.

The Lord smelled the pleasing aroma and said in his heart: “Never again will I curse the ground because of humans, even though every inclination of the human heart is evil from childhood. And never again will I destroy all living creatures, as I have done.

Genesis 8:21

However, God offered us a path of redemption, through Christ Jesus. He promises that if we choose to follow him, love him, obey him, honor him – then we are offered an eternal life in heaven. And, if we choose this path in our life on earth, He will walk with us, guide us, comfort us, and love us through all of it.

Son, you will make mistakes, as have I. And I love you, miracle baby boy, gift from God, love of my life. I’ve loved you from the beginning of your time on earth, and will love you until the end of my time. Whatever your choice, your mistake or your glory, I stand beside you. I will advocate for you, fight for you, love on you, and give you all that I have. All I have, all I am, is what I’m willing to give to you. Lord, I pray – please allow me to get out the way of my children, and be gracious toward their mistakes.

I Should Have Failed

I should never have been given the opportunity. When I was given the opportunity, I should have failed. I still expect to fail.

Spring 2012, I was interviewing for this job that I applied for because I met the qualifications, however vague they were. I don’t recall the job description, but it seemed like a shot in the dark, but I took it. And to say I had low expectations is a massive understatement; I felt defeated and beaten after years of under-employment and under-appreciation. I was called for an interview, a second one, and finally a third one. I was given a take-home assignment on the last (I was interviewed on a Friday) and was asked to email my work in Monday. I spent too many hours that weekend trying to get it perfect. I made promises to my future boss I knew I couldn’t fulfil. I essentially begged, pleaded for a chance, any chance to prove I was good enough.

After too many weeks, they called and offered me a beginning package that I was thrilled with. My expectations were so incredibly low that exceeding them was an easy task. Looking back, I realize they low-balled me; but again, I was thankful for the opportunity, and still am. I knew there would be a 90-day review, and that’s all I had my eyes set on.

I recall my first day, I felt completely out of my element. I had never worked with software engineers or on a development team. My head was really spinning following that first day. 90 days later I got called into my bosses office for that review, fully expecting him to tell me that it wasn’t a good fit. I didn’t feel like I was doing a good job, and I don’t think he thought I did a good job, but they kept me on. I kept on that way for 5 years, several times I had conversations with my boss, or his boss, about how I wasn’t excelling; on one occasion I remember him asking me “why don’t you look for another job?” Incredible!

A few years into it I was having some real personal issues. I would come into work each day and sit and cry at my desk. I would go on my lunch break to the gym, change my clothes, go running – and cry the entire time. During this time, one of my coworkers asked me if I ever thought about jumping out in front of one of those cars that went speeding by. I was a broken man, and nobody took pity on me. But, I kept showing up, doing the very best I could. In retrospect, I was doing great, exceeding expectations even. However, I never felt like I did good enough, because nobody told me so. But they kept paying me and giving me raises, even some really good ones. I got great reviews, which always confused me, given my managers feedback. Then the company grew and my manager changed. My new manager was the first one I had that gave me great positive feedback. He was the first one who asked how I was doing personally. He asked questions about my family and how I was getting along. He was an encouragement, a gift from God.

He is no longer my manager and I miss him. But I’m still working for the same company, and not only am I doing well, I’m excelling, and I know it. I also know I should have failed. I know my manager wanted to fire me after 90 days, but he didn’t. At every annual review, they acted as if I were worthless to them. I was even asked to leave once, but did not. Incredibly, I continued to contribute, and they kept paying me and promoting me. Looking back, I wasn’t a poor employee, they didn’t dislike me nor did they think I was doing a poor job – they were saying what they could to justify what they wanted to pay me. Some even said discouraging things because they were jealous or thought I was a threat. And it made me feel terrible, for years – even today, I struggle thinking I’m underperforming. I struggle to think I’m not smart enough or good enough.

This past summer a colleague told me that I should interview for a job that I thought I was neither qualified for or smart enough to do. For months, I brushed him and others off. I wasn’t smart enough or good enough, I knew that. Then my former manager, the encourager, reached directly out to me. He told me that he wanted to set up a mock-interview, so that I could learn what I needed to learn to pursue this job. Reluctantly, I agreed. Later, I would interview for real, and immediately they told me that they wanted to recommend me for the job. They told me I was smart, great to work with, and eager to learn. I could not believe it; I will tell you without any uncertainty that I felt like I bombed that interview. I knew I wasn’t good enough, I just knew it.

I started that job in June, and every single day has been challenging – I’m learning so much. And I love it, I absolutely love it. I know now that when I started this job way back in 2012 that I’m doing something I was destined to do now in 2023. It’s hard, many days I end my day exhausted, mentally drained, and almost always feeling as if I’m not doing it good enough. I have a new manager now, and have gone through two major transitions over the last 4 years with my company (being acquired). My new manager doesn’t tell me how good I’m doing, but I can see it, I know it – why then, do I feel as if I’m failing?

The short answer is that I am failing, every single day. Every day I think I make mistakes, that’s because I’m doing things that I’ve never done before; and you know what, I’m doing pretty great at it – even as I make mistakes. I have to keep telling myself I’m doing great, because few in your life and mine will ever be an encourager. Sometime I’ll have a review, and more than likely, they’ll tell me I’m not doing good enough, working hard enough, or I’m making too many mistakes. They will try to prove to me that my value is less so that they can pay me less or promote others ahead of me. But I’m persistent, I know that I work harder than most around me. I’m there before they get in, and leave after they leave. I don’t fool around at work, I’m focused, dedicated, and I solve difficult problems on the daily. I am good, and smart, and I’m more-than-just-contributing. I know people must see it, but even if they do not, I will continue to work hard, to be persistent, to push through.

Even if I have to come to work crying at my desk because I’m going through a difficult time at home, my output will continue to be positive. Even if my manager says I’m not a high performer, I’ll keep out performing others. Even if I think I’m not doing well, I know that I am because I work harder than most, I’ve put in the time, I stay persistent. My greatest trait is my consistency and work ethic. When I was a young man, an old boss gave me a great compliment – he asked me why I worked so hard, vastly out-performing my peers. I had peers tell me to “slow down” or ask me “what I had to prove?”. I guess the short answer is that in my life there’s been a shortage of encouragers, people who have believed in me. Perhaps that’s true for most people, I don’t know.

One thing I do know is that the world needs more encouragers. The world needs more hard workers. The world needs more people to show up, show out, put up and put out. The world needs us, because there are too few of us. I’ve seen a change in myself the last couple of years professionally – I’m an encourager, I always have a great attitude, I work hard to maintain good relationships with coworkers. But I can feel the little guy inside who keeps whispering “you’re a failure”. I hear him, but I keep working hard because I know the devil is a liar. That voice comes from the devil, telling me I’m not smart enough or good enough, I don’t work hard enough and I haven’t earned my spot. For the first time since I’ve started this job I know that I am more than good enough.

Lastly, I’m thankful for that little voice telling me I’m not good enough. Being good is the enemy of being great.

The Legacy

I write what is on my heart often here, and today my heart is about fathers. By writing what I write, I don’t want to diminish what mothers or uncles or anyone else contributes to their families. Today this post is about fathers – all of us who rise to the hard occasion of loving their family beginning to end.

Last week I was honored to attend the funeral of my best friend’s dad. I was honored to provide my love and support to this family during that time. They are a family I love as my own, and Percy (jr) is a brother I love as my one of my blood brothers. When the patriarch of a family passes, it’s a special occasion – not because of the man that he was, but because of the family he chose to give love to over the course of his life. A father who stays and supports with his family is Christ-like.

The Obituary

Those who are lucky enough to grow to old age will have lived many lives, and one extraordinary life. An obituary will note their what schools they went to, what branch of service they served in, what churches and fraternal orders they participated in. Most importantly, it tells us who survives them. By surviving them, they will continue to live on for generations.

A Legacy

A father who stays with his wife, raises their children together, supports and loves them through thick and thin has laid a foundation for which his children and their children and their children and their children will build their lives upon. Regardless of what this man does for a living, what he’s done or where he’s been, his best legacy is the one he left in the hearts of those who will continue to live on for many generations.

His Legacy

There are many things I fail at, for me, my failings rear their ugly heads daily. Over the course of my life I’ve served in the Navy, lived in too many cities to count, had many jobs and a few careers. I’ve coached children I still love today. I’ve been blessed to work at the same company for nearly 11 years now. Above all, I’ve remained married to the woman I’ve loved nearly all my life. We’ve been incredibly blessed to have four children, all of which I love dearly. I’ve failed my wife and children many times, but I show up everyday, trying to not fail them today.

Before I was a Christian, I thought of legacy often, and what I wanted to be remembered for. Perhaps I’ll be remembered for my service to this country, and by the many people I’ve worked with for many years, or when I coached how I was fair and encouraging. I used to worry about how my children might remember me, if I’d done enough well enough.

This morning in church I was reminded of what I now want my legacy to be someday – not a legacy of Jason, of who I was and what I touched and who remembers what about me – instead a legacy of love through Jesus. I hope that my children can only remember my love for them, and where I have failed, God will fill in the gaps. Perhaps they’ll remember me dragging them to church. Above all, I hope to see them all again at the alter of Christ, surrounded in His love where no pain or turmoil exists. Eternal things are what I care about now as I work towards His Legacy.

As I turn my head to 2023, I turn my heart to His Legacy. A funeral is a time to celebrate. That celebration can continue in honor, and is truly a gift to each of those left behind, and can continue into eternity.

Oh! Christ be maginified
From the alter of my life
Christ be magnified in me

Joseph: Probably Not a Christmas Story

Joseph, husband to Mary and the man who raised Jesus, has been on my mind quite a bit lately. As the father to four boys myself, he and I have that much in common. As I lean into God’s word for wisdom in raising my boys, I was led to Joseph. Mostly, I thought it absurd that the man who raised Jesus gets so little mention in the Bible. But then I learned how right that was.

Joseph was only mentioned about thirteen times in the Gospels, the highlights are: Joseph as betrothed to pregnant Mary, Two times in which he was to lead baby Jesus and Mary away to fulfill prophesy, and when He and Mary left Jesus in Jerusalem at the temple.

At this last instance, Jesus was 12 and it was the last mention of Joseph in the Bible. Joseph’s life isn’t well documented in the Bible, but scholars think Joseph died when Jesus was 19. As far as I can tell, Jesus never mentioned his earthly father – at least, in recorded text.

Details in the Bible

So to round it out, here’s what we know about Joseph. Mathew 1:18-20 tells us he stayed committed to marry Mary, who became pregnant out of wedlock with a baby that was not his. He was obedient to the angel who told him he should marry Mary and name the boy Jesus.

Joseph was obedient again when he had to travel to Bethlehem for the census in Luke 2:1-5. Here, of course, Jesus would be born.

In Mathew 2:13-23, Joseph had a vision in which an angel told him to take Jesus and Mary and flee to Egypt. Once King Herod died and Jesus was safe, he again moved his family, this time to Nazareth. Joseph is obedient yet again.

Luke 2:41-51 tells us about Joseph and Mary traveling to Jerusalem for Passover. They inadvertently left Jesus behind, and when they found him THREE DAYS LATER, and asked where he had been, 12 year old Jesus says:

“Why were you searching for me?”he asked. “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?” 😅

Joseph’s response is not recorded, but maybe he was quiet again out of obedience.

Joseph’s Character

I don’t know if Joseph was a good dad to Jesus and his other sons. The Bible doesn’t offer much of an opinion. But it does provide the facts. Joseph was a man who questioned, and wasn’t often moved until a literal angel descended from heaven to tell him exactly what he should do in key moments. Most days, I need to be told exactly what to do, so I can relate to Joseph here!

But then Joseph was faithful and obedient. Joseph didn’t demand attention, or call attention to his own sacrifices. He sacrificed out of love, and perhaps some fear.

Maybe like me, Joseph wasn’t very clever, and he needed guidance. I Can hear him say, “Lord make the road clear and straight, don’t let me mess this up!” But, when he knew what to do he was a man of action.

Maybe like many fathers, Joseph just had no clue about how to raise a son. Can you imagine your son being born and you’re sitting in the corner taking it all In as the manger fills with guests who are giving gifts and praising God, and…the chaos it must’ve felt like! But he was present and ready to take action when needed.

Scholars think Joseph died when Jesus was 19. They think he was about 111 years old at the time. Joseph was flawed and obedient. He didn’t have the answers, but God always provided them when he needed them. He managed to raise and keep safe the savior of the world. I like to think he read the Bible to child Jesus. We know Joseph at least took Jesus to Passover each year in Jerusalem. I like to think Joseph had a local synagogue he took him to at least weekly as a child.

An earthly father has immense impact on his sons. Although the Bible wasn’t explicit, I bet Joseph was loving and kind, nurturing. I bet he was learned, and he taught Jesus to question. Joseph was obedient to the law of the land, but perhaps he taught Jesus the injustice of the law. When Jesus flipped tables at the synagogue, I wonder if that was Joseph’s anger, too,

Most often I think the sons may only come to appreciate the love, obedience and sacrifice of a father many years down the road, if ever. A father’s job is just that, a job. Jobs don’t have to be rewarding to the worker, but instead to the stockholders, which may best describe sons. And perhaps that’s why Joseph is the Patron Saint of Workers. Workers are those who thresh in the fields and factories. They’re replaceable and generally unappreciated. Fatherhood is likely the highest level of unskilled labor.

Joseph has taught me that fathers should love their wife without condition, raise your children in the light of The Word, and be obedient to the law and to God.

Ironically, last week Rachel kept telling me “this isn’t about you” during a certain disagreement – she did not know how right she was. It seems God sends angels in all forms. Listen and be obedient.

Journey to Full Surrender

The Surrender

For 47 years I’ve fought various battles. The little nation-state of Jason is war-torn, exhausted, and we’ve used all our resources to fight many different enemies. A little over a month ago I surrendered wholly for the first time in my life.

I’ve fought hard for many things for many years – my job, my family, my livelihood. I’ve taught my children that fighting is living – fighting through the difficult thing, to be persistent and consistent, because it will pay off in the long run. I think I even wrote an article on The War At Home recently, which I just reread in a new context. For 18 years I fought to raise my child, sometimes I fought against him, sometimes I fought other circumstances. But it sure was a fight, and I was left wondering if I did enough. Re-reading again, I can see there were glints of hope in my surrender there – knowing that God would fill the gaps in Jackson’s life where I failed.

What I’ve learned recently is that to live in the fullness of God, you must surrender your whole life, your whole heart, every single drop of it. Surrender has changed my actions because I work on my faith instead of my actions. I don’t focus on trying to do good things or being a good person – instead, I focus on loving God, reading His word, being obedient to Him – and when I do that, the path is made straight and wide. I’m still so flawed and imperfect, but have learned that God loves me because He made me this way. That act of surrender has changed my heart, and has thusly changed my actions. I’ll never be deserving, I can never earn His love, but I’ll always be forgiven, I’ll always receive His grace, and I’ll always be His child.

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.

Romans 12:1

I’ve been a man of action. I think God is teaching me to be a man of faith instead, which is changing my heart, in turn changing my actions. As Romans teaches us, the Jews knew the law – and in action, worked to obey the law. But knowing the law and being obedient to the law is not what God asks us to do. Instead, he wants us to relent our heart unto Him, through Jesus Christ. I’m relenting and resting in God. I’m not working less hard or giving less effort, instead I’m working on being faithful, listening to his guidance, and following through with obedience.

When a new mountain appears I say “watch God move this mountain”. And, without fail, He has moved those big and little mountains in my life. I didn’t have to work harder to get over or through them, I just trusted in God to move them, and He did! He did! Are you hearing what I’m saying to you?

I’m so incredibly imperfect, so incredibly flawed – but I’m good, created in His image, at this time for His purpose. I was put here and now to thrive and be successful. The best thing I can do is be faithful, trusting in the goodness of God, relenting to His glory for His purposes.

Why I Surrendered

For many years I sought the things of this world, the things that my sinful heart desired. After a long and hard road I discovered that seeking those things, whatever they were, did not bring me happiness or contentedness or joy. To the contrary, they made me unhappy, taking all my joy, and leaving me with less than nothing. A life of sin left me unfulfilled, and more, less than empty.

The enemy is a liar, the king of liars. He will whisper “do this thing, it will bring you happiness” – but it did not, instead it stole all of my joy. I’ve learned in my life that the only real happiness I’ve ever felt on this side of heaven came from the goodness of God.

But, I didn’t start out that way. I didn’t start out even thinking that God loved me. I didn’t start out believing that He wanted my heart. What I knew for certain is that I wanted my children to find joy and love and hope and peace in their lives, and that their sinful nature would lead them where mine lead me.

For them, I started taking them to church. I gave them to God, so that they would find a way toward the only path that provides real joy, peace, love, and hope. I was hopeful those good people could teach them about God. As a side affect, I also went to church. It didn’t change me much for a long time. I was certain God didn’t want my nasty heart full of sin. God may have loved me at some point, but look at my life – He had no purpose or need for me. But then I found rest and comfort – I looked forward to just going and being at rest. I was resting in Him. I needed the rest, because the battle had been long.

Then, over a long time, He began to speak to me – He was seeking me all along in the only way I would listen. My single act of obedience in trying to help my children was just enough to let in a sliver of light into my life. That light became bigger and bigger. I see now that faith is about relenting, resting, surrendering. Many years after that first visit to church when my kids were little, I am able to fully surrender. His love never changes. Maybe you’re hopeless today, maybe you think God doesn’t want you. Let me testify, He does. I just decided that I would try it out, what’s the worst thing that would happen? I would go and sit and church, and I knew it wouldn’t change me or make Him love me. I’m glad to have been wrong. Nothing can separate us from the love of God.

My shame can’t separate
My guilt can’t separate
My past can’t separate
I’m Yours forever

My sin can’t separate
My scars can’t separate
My failures can’t separate
I’m Yours forever

No enemy can separate
No power of hell can take away
Your love for me will never change
I’m Yours forever

The War At Home

The news is telling us all about Ukraine, it sure is heartbreaking news. Worse, as an advocate of freedom I wish our government would do more, even if that means sending our young men and women to a far-off place to fight. But, that’s a lot of my opinion, I’m not a politician, and this post isn’t about politics.

We’re all fighting wars, every single one of us. For the last two years we’ve all been fighting a common enemy, the COVID pandemic. But more than that, our world has shifted sands beneath us all. Schools are remote then in person, or some mix. Inflation, raising gas, utility and rent prices. Some are fighting a wage war, where we’re demanding more money for jobs that have been considered for less-skilled workers. Us parents, we fight wars daily – all while trying to remember that a pandemic or something else awful might someday steal our babies. I’m exhausted, and I bet you are too.

I’m 46 years old this year. People my age bear the brunt of paying more taxes, being in leadership roles, volunteering, helping in just about everyway. We’re raising our children and often actively are or are preparing to take care of our parents. At least, those of us lucky enough to have good ones. For me, this has been taking a toll too. But it’s a fair tax, I suppose, and one paid by every single generation. We’re the wage earners prime in our careers, we have children of school age, some of us are bosses or managers, or are leaders in various other roles.

More and more I see young people and I judge them too harshly because I was once young too, and probably much more foolish than they are. But I fall into that trap anyways. But this gives old me some hope! I think that when I’m 86 I will look back at the young buck that was once 46 and thought he knew something about life, and scoff. I will be softer, wiser, and smarter.

My oldest son turned 18 and this has sent me into a bit of a tailspin lately. I feel old, but know that I am not as old as I feel, but I feel old. I am so worried about his future, if I did enough, what else I can do still.

I remember the day he was born, he literally took my breath away the first time I saw him. It was real and true love at first sight. I remember thinking what a great dad I would be, the best dad! Jackson would be good at everything, loved by many, so perfectly smart, charming, charismatic and athletic. I would give him everything I knew, and he would become one amazing man some day.

Then he was 5, then 10 – and the years began to slip by fast. Then 12! then 15, then got his license and I blinked and now he’s 18! I wasn’t the perfect father, I didn’t teach him everything – I barely knew anything when I was 26 or 36, but I did the very best that I could at every moment. Sometimes I was angry, angrier more times than I wanted to be. Sometimes I was frustrated, sometimes sad. Sometimes I was working too much, and gone when I didn’t want to be. Mostly – I was so fearful of the man he might become that I didn’t get to take in the man he was becoming. You see, I was just scared to death he would become just like me.

But he became more than me anyways, in spite of my flailing around at fatherhood. Simply put, I taught him everything I knew, and he learned it – and made it his own. He took what he liked, and discarded what he didn’t, and became his own person. I can’t begin to tell you how proud my oldest son makes me. He’s incredibly smart, confident, he’s a hard worker and a good person. He cares about people, and the world, and is passionate about making our world a better place. Our world is better with him in it, he doesn’t know that’s enough for him to change the world, yet.

Someday soon he’ll realize that I know less than he could’ve ever imagined. Someday he might not need me, if I did my job right – and I hope I did. Someday he’ll be 46 and I’ll be pushing 80. Perhaps he’ll wonder how long Dad will still be around. He’ll have children, and I hope a good marriage and job and life – but he’ll have some shape of a life – and even if it turns out to be the most amazing, I’ll still wonder what I could do more and better for him. I hope he won’t need to borrow money from me then, but I hope to have more to give him then too if he needs it. If he needs a ride, or a friend, or someone to talk to, I hope I can be there for him too.

Someday, all of my children will be grown, even 4 year old Evan. I suspect Rachel and I will see grandchildren, and perhaps great grandchildren! Perhaps I’ll be a better grand-daddy than I was a father. Someday they will all be standing beside my casket, there will be flowers, and I’ll be at rest. Meanwhile, they will continue to fight The War At Home with whatever I could equip them with and everything else they learn.

When I pray for my children nightly, then it always goes something like this:

Father – when I failed, I pray you fill in that gap with your abundant wisdom, mercy and grace.
Father – when I was too angry, let them only recall a love full of passion.
Father – when I was gone, let them only recall that they missed me.
Father – seek them all the days of their lives, that they may seek you.

There are many wars worth fighting, but none more important than for the hearts and souls of your children. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust – we will all pass and return to dirt. But legacy is passed down to the next, and the next, and it is the only war worth fighting at home. Except, it’s not a war at all – it’s a love. Giving everything that you have in that moment, that’s love. Protecting with all that you have, that’s love. Holding with all the you are, that’s love. Teaching all that you know, that’s love. And, as a song once said, Love is all you really have to give. I hope that I loved enough, and where I failed, God lifted his love and shrouded my behavior. I’ve many years to go, and in the future, I want to give more love – even if they all turn out to be just like me. Perhaps I’ll learn to love me, too.

Original Sin and Chicken Nuggets

The Original Sin

Genesis tells us that God created the heavens and the earth. We can also learn that He created Adam, then Even. We know that they lived in Eden, a place that provided for all of their needs perfectly, and they lived safely with God, surrounded by his love. Many of us know that God’s only commandment was that they must not eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. As we read, we learn that Eve and Adam did not resist, they sinned, and knew shame. God makes them leave the perfect home he created, and so humanity began it’s journey with sin.

Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.

Psalm 51:5

Note: it’s probably not a coincidence the sermons at Wildwood Church are on a series about Genesis.

The Sin of Knowledge

I was scrolling through social media as I was waking up this morning. You and I both know that everyone has an opinion, and I usually agree, disagree or fall somewhere in between. The more ridiculous the social media post, the more responses they draw. Often, aren’t the responses more interesting than the original post?

Then I read something so ludicrous, so astounding, that I became memorized by the pure stupidity in the comment. How can people be so stupid? I found myself lamenting over a future full of fully incapable and stupid people. Then, I got sidetracked by a YouTube video telling me why McDonald’s icecream machines were always broken, and how that’s a conspiracy. That made me think about Science. Science is fact-based, and when practiced carefully, can find truths over a period of time. But today, amidst the COVID pandemic one thing I often here, and think I’ve agreed with too often is this one simple statement, which varies, but is simply: “It’s science, stupid”.

The Evolution of Science

I’m fully vaccinated, I believe in the science of vaccines. Moreover, I recently got my booster. Some people chose not to get a vaccine, and some chose not to get the booster. I got the vaccine because it’s science – a virus caused this pandemic. I did not get the shot for myself. First – I’m a father, son, husband, friend – and I care about those around me. This was a rare time in history that the choice I made could change the course of history – so I chose, for the protection of all I love, to get vaccinated.

Some of you haven’t chosen to get vaccinated. Some of you are concerned about the side effects – long and short term. Some are concerned over what they might really be putting in the vaccines. Some of you believe that COVID is a hoax, or a conspiracy. And people sometimes say to you “It’s science, stupid”. This is an expansion on “science doesn’t lie”.

Science has been wrong. Science has lied. Science has conspired. In this video, the second YouTube video I watch on McDonald’s this morning. It’s a small example of how our entire eating habits were changed by a scientist who used false information that changed how we eat and market food – leading to the creation of the chicken nugget. Moreover, we continue to eat things that are unhealthy built on a lie told half a century ago. “Science fact” begins it’s life as a theory. The old scientific method of study it – and sometimes, over the course of time, discover the theory was wrong. This has happened time and time again through the course of history. Once a thing has been studied enough, it’s proven science fact. But there are many examples of long-proven scientific fact that was just flat wrong. Science is a method of learning how to know.

The scientific method is an empirical method of acquiring knowledge

Wikipedia

Adam and Eve Like Chicken Nuggets, Too

The Serpent told Eve that God didn’t want her to eat from tree of knowledge of good and evil because then she would know what God knew.

The original sin was a sin of knowledge – our desire to know. Humans like you and I want to know so badly that we devote most of our life to knowing. We need to know, we must know, and we’ll continue to learn until we know the most we’re capable of knowing in our lifetimes. We went to school, we send our kids to school and colleges. We start careers, we take continuing education classes, go to conventions, read books and articles – all so that we can know more. We want to know more so that we can be better at our jobs and in our careers, to help people, to make the world a better place, and to make more money. We seek knowledge like a hungry wolf hyena hunts a dead carcass. A human’s appetite for knowledge is insatiable.

We are humans, born in the sin of the tree of knowledge of good and evil.

Seek and You Will Find

Social Media is fun and entertaining. It can be heartwarming and wonderful. There are pictures of our loved ones who we’re unable to see as often as we want, and look at those babies growing up! It can also leave us angry, bitter, sad, depressed and demoralized.

As I seek knowledge, because it is my sinful nature, I want to be cognizant of the God I serve. God gave us free will, so we have a choice about what we seek. We have a choice about what we seek from Social Media. Ultimately, I seek the heart of God. I pray for His wisdom in all my decisions, even and especially on the decisions I fail to pray about. If you are seeking the heart of God, then seek that too on Social Media.

I also seek knowledge to learn how to do my job better so that I can provide best for my family and give to my community. I seek to become a better person everyday – I think most of use do that. I want to encourage you to continue to seek knowledge, and to seek that knowledge with your eyes held up high on the prize that is God’s love.

This sinful world is lost, the real one and the virtual one. Seek God’s purpose, God’s love, God’s heart. This morning I scrolled through social media and was disappointed, watched a couple videos about McDonalds, then God spoke to me about knowledge and sin. Seek and you will find, too.

You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.

Jeremiah 29:13

Choosing the Right Yoke

Today I was struggling, truthfully, it started yesterday. And probably long before that – it’s been a long year or five. The particular struggle in my life is irrelevant, but the lesson of the struggle is. I know God has been working on me about showing joy during times of struggle – and, keeping with my pattern, I’ve struggled with that too. But today I did something better and turned to His word for guidance. And after some different passages I fell into one that spoke to me clearly in Mathew.

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest in your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light

Mathew 11:28-30

Merriam-Webster defines a yoke, and there are several meanings. In the Bible, it’s most often used to describe a wooden bar or frame by which two draft animals (such as oxen) are joined at the heads or necks for working together. Merriam-Webster would go on to say that it could be an oppressive agency. Why does the dictionary think as I do? Carrying a yoke, that’s oppressive, burdensome.

Jesus has the audacity to say if you have a burden, take another burden? What exactly is Jesus saying to me here, in this moment where my burdens seem too heavy?

Love, Servitude, Obedience

The yoke that Jesus carries is one of Love. As a human, this often comes in the form of serving others, and Obedience to God. How does loving others, obeying and serving God make our burdens light?

So often we choose to take up the yoke that solves our problems. Let me work and toil on this thing so that I can fix my happiness, my struggle, so that I can fix my joy. But, Jesus tells us to drop our yoke and take up his yoke. His yoke is easy and light, it includes love, serving others and being obedient to God.

Loving Yourself The Way God Loves You

If you’re a parent you know the sheer joy of watching your child do something really bad, but you are overcome with sheer joy. I’ve seen numerous plays, concerts, and sporting events where my child was not the star – but they were always my star. When Seth was in preschool, they had a Christmas performance where he was Santa Claus. He was dressed up in a Santa outfit, including some stuffing in his belly to make him appear extra jolly.

Seth was so shy then in that play. He spoke timidly, and made it through the underwhelming performance. It was a performance that only a parent could love. Have you heard the phrase “a face only a mother could love”? Well, you’re face/life/circumstance is that that only a Father could love and adore. You too are a hot mess, like the rest of us. But God, he adores us – even amidst our greatest failures he tears up in pride in how strong you are, how well you fight through the hard time. Amidst the struggle, The Father is glowing.

Joy

one thing I’ve been really struggling with for a long time is being joyful on the outside when there are trials, tribulations, and struggles of various sorts. I’ve never been good at smiling during the hurt, at being joyful through the pain. God knows this, and he’s been working on me about it – but I’ve fought him the whole way. How can I find joy in a moment like this? How can I be happy when my world is falling apart? How can I show joy even as the world around me crumbles?

I was today years old when I learned that my joy should be derived from Him, that even and especially amidst my struggles God peers on with utter love, joy, amazement at His creation. And friends, that’s all that really matters amidst our earthly struggles. This earth is a pitstop to reach a place where His love surrounds us eternally.

Holiday Stress

The holidays always bring some joy. Often the most wonderful time of the year brings it’s own set of baggage. Remembering those who we lost, the hurt of family who is not around anymore (or never was). The pain of loss, the heartache of not being able to give your children all that you want to give them. The financial stress, the rush, the arguments with family and friends.

The Pain, The Pleasure

All of this is life. The pain and the pleasure, the love and the hate, the hot and the cold. But in Him, we can take His yoke, and be more joyful. Today I’m thankful to have the time to sort through some of this in my head, and I hope that it works – that I can be happier in times of sadness. And, even if I can’t yet – He will be watching with amazement at His creation working through some set of struggle, and loving me every bit more because of the struggle.

In times of my personal struggles, as long as I continue to seek the answers through His word and prayer, then I be better – encouraged. Maybe I will learn, and maybe I will practice what I learn. I’ll keep turning my eyes to Jesus during times of struggle, and perhaps someday, you’ll see me with joy amidst that pain.

My Children Can Know Peace

My wife and I have four children together, our oldest is currently 17 years old. For his entire life (and more) the United States of America has been at war against terrorism. First Iraq and then Afghanistan and other places in-between. This week that is all coming to an impossible end. As videos and images show the terrible outcome of war, I’m incredibly thankful that perhaps we can turn a corner. I’m hopeful that the country in which my children call home can now be more peaceful and, instead of war, we can spend the next 20 years at peace.

“Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

Martin Luther King, Jr

For the next 20 years young women and men won’t return from a foreign land with scars they will carry with them the rest of their lives. For the next 20 years, young people can instead visit foreign lands and return with things that will enrich their lives and the lives of others. For the next 20 years, young people can pursue life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness instead of pursuing enemies in foreign lands. For the next 20 years, people can love instead of hate. For the next 20 years, people can build instead of tear down.


I’ve been a faithful patriot, I served my country with honor, and will continue to do so until the day I die. However, I pray that my children see the love and obedience I show towards God above everything else. I pray they love Jesus with all their might, that they teach their children (and their children and their children) about the love of Jesus. I pray they learn about the endless Love that only He can offer. Today I’m thankful for a new day of peace, and that the days of war can finally come to an end.

“You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come.”

Mathew 24:6

Love, At the Barbershop

Yesterday I went to the barbershop to get a haircut, mostly because I was starting to look like a wild man, but also because I like going to this place that reminds me that the world can be simple. Instead of being just reminded of a simpler time, I left upset and disappointed. It wasn’t until this morning that I was able to resolve my disappointment, anger and disgust.

My favorite thing about visiting the barbershop is that it reminds me of a simpler time. Today people like you and I push ourselves to mass consumption, we’re rushed, exhausted, and always spending our time and money in places that don’t bring us enjoyment. I certainly don’t remember the last time I enjoyed a trip to Walmart, or The Mall, or Other large place of Big Promises and Low Expectations. More often than not, I don’t leave one of these big box stores a better person. I’d even venture to say that I leave a lesser person – more disappointed in people, and companies, and even myself. But harken back to a time before these Big Box Stores when small shops did the jobs of these places, and I think you find places that give more than they take. In Ashland there’s an abundance of these small businesses that will enrich your life. As a child, I recall going to White’s Meat Market, which is still open but I haven’t been there in many years. I still shop at the same store my grandparents did, not because there are falling prices, but because it literally takes me back to a simpler time every time I step through those doors.

As a child, I recall getting the world’s best hot dogs from the deli, among many other treats. There, they may even offer to take your groceries to your car for you, and will even walk the isles to help you find something. I go there not only because it’s convenient, but because they offer some little things that I like in their deli, and carry the brands that I’ve remained loyal to for years. Just yesterday I went to Jolly Pirate Donuts and picked up a baker’s dozen. And those are just 3 little places that I love in Ashland, but there are many more. Before Walmart people mostly shopped at small businesses that left them more fulfilled, better people.

My second favorite thing about a barber shop is that it’s a place to meet people in the community and talk about current events. I never know who I might see and get to talk to, and the topics can be just about anything. Sometimes it’s just talk about the Kentucky Wildcats, or rumors about expansion of local business or new business, but sometimes it’s politics. Even as we try to avoid it, and most people do, it comes up – we can’t help it, and it’s mostly okay. I can hear other people talk about something I don’t agree with without getting enraged, which yesterday I thought was a bad trait.

Among the topics yesterday were how badly the Wildcats were playing, this much we all agreed. But there was a lot of talk about fear. Fears about the COVID vaccine, how the recent vote to allow alcohol sales in throughout Boyd County would cause mass alcoholism and child abuse, and fear that President Biden would be ushering in a new world order. Some men in the shop had powerful opinions about the former and present president, neither of which I agreed with. I left there thinking that I should not go back to that barbershop, because I couldn’t believe the man I knew could believe in such crazy, conspiratorial ideals. To me, the thoughts he expressed were dangerous to our community and nation, and these opinions were not based in fact, but instead in rumor, rhetoric and hearsay. Doesn’t that sound familiar?

The words they spoke left me disappointed that I didn’t say something to defend the view of my world. But this morning, that all changed, as God began to speak to me about Love. During Jesus’ time, he did not spend time focusing on the politics of the day, instead he almost always talked and displayed love. A quick Google search says there are at least 157 mentions of the word “love” in The New Testament, and little about politics. However, Jesus’ story was a very political story. Jesus was crucified and died because he claimed to be King of the Jews – which was treasonous, according to the Roman Empire. Though he did mention politics occasionally, especially those in The Church and those of Rome, he almost always turned to thoughts and acts of love. I recalled 1 Corinthians 13:4-8, which states:

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 
It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

There is plenty in this world that I disagree with, and sometimes I’ll make my thoughts known. The older I get the more I choose not to express myself, because I’ve been wrong enough to know better. I’ve grown to believe that this non-action is a personal weakness. Sometimes it makes me feel like a coward. Today, I’m reminded that my weakness is not weakness, and that I am not a coward. Instead, I’m showing love to others in the same way Jesus did.

If I chose to never go back to that barbershop again I would not be showing patience, I would be easily angered, I would be keeping a record of wrongs. When my oldest son, now 16, was a toddler, this barber gave him his first haircut. I’ve trusted him with the people in my life who I hold most dear. While he’s not my dear friend, he’s an old friend, and I want to show him the love of Jesus.

These thoughts give this old sinner hope this morning. Because if I can show the love of Jesus, the patience of Jesus, then so can you. These small acts of love will make the world a better place. Even in the midst of a pandemic, political upheaval and turmoil, and a time when social norms are changing. We do not have to agree with one another to treat each other with the love of Jesus.