The Father's smile

So much of our spirituality and religion is greatly affected by who we know God to be. A.W. Tozer said, "Nothing twists and deforms the soul more than a low or unworthy conception of God." We all have within us a gallery images of who God is, and those images dramatically affect our responses to Him. This gallery greatly affects the faith and religion we live out each day in relationship with God. The trouble is many, if not most of those images are distorted at best or entirely false at worst. This God many of us relate and respond to is not the God of scripture, and we begin to wonder why some of us live out such a grim, hard, and loveless faith each day.

It is because the God we have come to believe is distant and hard to please. God becomes a cold Father demanding your work without encouragement or love or pride in you. It is very difficult to serve that god with enthusiasm or joy. It is difficult not to chalk up other more enthusiastic brothers and sisters to fanaticism when the god you know is cold, removed, and grim. But this is not the God presented in scripture. This is the god of the Pharisees and he will always drive a Pharisaic religion and faith.

The moment I was first ambushed by the love of God is when I came to see the Father of Scripture who loves and delights in me, His son. He comes close to me in a true fellowship where I can find rest and healing. He is not hard to please.

Yes, he disciplines us, but I have come to know His delight and smile. He will correct and challenge me with the smile of a Father who is tender and proud. My Abba is proud of me and knows I am His "imperfect by promising" son. I see His delighted smile which knows I am coming to look more and more like my Abba every day.

Note to self: for fathers of daughters

inviteEvery dream, pretend, and imaginative story! Every time she calls you her best friend and her prince. When she wants to 'help' you work in the garage or cry over nothing. These are invitations for which your actions cannot help but RSVP

If you continue declining the invitations they will grow less frequent and I fear you may not be invited to the real moments of her teenage years

When Bryleigh and I went to not the best part of town

yep Bryleigh and I ran to the store for a few things we were missing for dinner. As of late, two small children always at the heels means if Tonya or I are heading out for something, you are taking one child with you.

I love this.

While we do much of our grocery shopping at Trader Joes where we can make healthier choices, our closer and cheaper grocery store is 'not in the best part of town'. There is a part of me that prefers these parts of town.

On our way out of the store to the car, we were approached by a not uncommon beggar. Having worked several years with the homeless, addicted, and transient culture, I could recognize this man was not intoxicated in any fashion. He already had a box of food in a cart. He approached me wanting to get his story out as fast as he can (a story I don't need to hear, but I'm listening). He mentions he had just met a pastor at Walgreens who helped him out by getting him this food for his family, but he still really needs milk. Could we get him some milk?

"Yeah! I can get you some milk. Bryleigh, let's go back in and get some milk for our friend here."

Bryleigh says, "Why are we going back inside to get milk?" The man answers, "Because your dad is a good man!"

We go in to get the milk, and on our way in I ask Bryleigh, "Why do you think we are getting milk for that man?" "I don't know." "We want to be nice to everyone we meet, but we also do this because Jesus asked that we do nice things for people."

When we come back out to give the man the milk, I tell him, "I guess you hit the pastor jackpot tonight." "You're a pastor?" "I am." "Well I'm gonna go home tonight and thank my heavenly Father."

Now a few days later a few things stick out from that experience: - A man in need spoke to my daughter that her dad is a good man. - An opportunity to teach by example the care for others and the reason we do so - A missed opportunity to tell that man, "Thank you." - A missed opportunity to tell that man, "Lets pray and thank our heavenly Father right now."

An open letter to my daughters' husbands (or any boy they bring around)

look It is important for me to start off telling you how much my wife and I dislike you. I imagine my daughter has told you not to worry, 'my dad does not like any guy that comes home' and she is correct, partly. She is correct in telling you I dislike every guy who comes around, but she is very mistaken to tell you not to worry. I do not like you, but it is also important for you to know I believe in grace and mercy.

These are gifts I have received a great deal of in my life. You will, with my sincerest apology, have a much harder time receiving from me what I was so freely given. And for further perspective on this matter, know that I was given this grace from One who had far less reason to give it to me than I have for you...like eternally less! You know what I mean?

What am I saying? You ought to know what I mean, or you and I should not be having this conversation.

All this being said, there are a great number of things you are going to need to know and listen to if you are to pursue my daughter; that being the first thing: my daughter is to be pursued. She is not to be conquered or won like a little boy's game. This is going to require an enormous amount of your time and even larger amount of your energy. If this is the first I have ever heard of you, you may walk away now and begin a larger and longer pursuit.

If you have been pursuing with integrity, friendship, and honor, there are now a few other things you ought to know. It is an expectation that you will one day provide for my daughter, but listen very carefully to me...

Food, shelter, and finances does not make you a provider. You are nothing more than an assistance program.

A man is to provide far more than finances. How prepared are you to provide presence? You will need to learn and prove that you know how to be entirely present with and for my daughter. Do not assume that being in the same physical space makes you present. Do you have the capacity to be present emotionally, spiritually, and integrally? If you do not, then this conversation is over and you have some work to do.

If you need to hang around a bit and watch the way I love her mother, you are welcomed to do so. Watch and learn!

Because you must understand this; if I am ever (and this remains a large "IF") to give my daughter's hand, it will only be because I place her into hands I trust will be present in at least a fraction of the way I have strived to be for her since long before you ever came around.

Still the only MAN in Bryleigh/Haddisen's life,


ps. I still dislike you

When we and my daughters are in the way

helps I was installing floating shelves in the bathroom the sight of daddy's tools draws my daughter "I want to help, Dadda!" By this, she means, "I want to see what you are doing, and be where you are." She began to take tools away from my work space She picked up necessary screws and hardware

She is not helping. She was in my way. But my love would not turn her away

Jesus said, "My Father is always at work...the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do ONLY what he sees His Father doing...For the Father loves the Son and shows him all He does." (John 15:17, 19-20)

My God, I know you are at work around me all the time. While I realize I am only going to slow you down and get in your way I trust that you love me and purposely show me what you are doing. I want to join you. I want to be a part of what you are doing and be where you are.

Why my 2 year old needs makeup

makeup I was washing dishes, and Bryleigh came into the kitchen saying, "I'm putting on make up, Dadda, to be pretty." I asked, "What?" in that way fathers do when they know exactly what they said.

"I'm still putting on make up. I'm not pretty yet, Dadda."

There are moments as a father, which are weightier than others, and you have to be present enough to catch. This is one of those moments.

I realize my daughter has dug into her mother's makeup bag because it is fun to do what mom does, but her statement struck my heart in a way I would not pass over. This was an opportunity.

"You do not need makeup to be pretty, Bryleigh. You are so pretty."

That was not hard to say nor did it take but a few moments of being present enough to seize. My 2 year old playfully saying, "I'm still putting on make up. I'm not pretty yet, Dadda" was an opportunity to be a Dad before there is an emotional belief behind that statement.

I am not against my daughter putting on make up (later), but I am vehemently against my daughter ever believing she needs makeup to be pretty.

Gone forever: challenge to pastors and ministry leaders

gone Upon reflecting on any regrets he had, Billy Graham said, "Every day I was absent from my family is gone forever."

While we realize physical absence certainly has an affect, I am thinking today of the realities of emotional absence. As a pastor and leader, you are expected to be on-call and at the ready at all times. You are to be fully available for everyone at all times, and we too often justify this as "the life of ministry".

Pastors, ministry leaders, those days you are absent (both physically and emotionally) are gone forever. [TWEET THAT]

Look at the ministry you have and realize that everything you do can be done or shared by someone else. Only you can be husband to your wife (or wife to your husband). Only you can be mom or dad to your kids.

I am trying to challenge myself to lose less and less days forever.

PRETEND: for my daughter

Dear Bryleigh,

Begin pretending now.

Pretend the world needs you though it does not revolve around you

Pretend rest for the restless resounds in relationship with you

Pretend you have the secret which is salve for the serrated heart

Pretend within you wells wisdom that is the antithesis of arrogance

Pretend you are capable of a compassion reserved for fairy tales and far-off lands

Pretend your hands can heal the heart of the untouchable

Pretend you are different from those who look just like you who hate those who don't look just like you

Pretend that a disgusting world which wants to be wonderful depends on your touch your voice your love

Pretend as though pretending enough can produce a reality others can only pretend.

Love Dad.