Smile. You’re About to Get Painted

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Judah sat still for almost 30 seconds.

Eyes closed, wide grin, chin up, he waited patently for master face-painting artist Rich Kilpatrick to turn him into Batman.

I couldn’t escape the message God was teaching me as I snapped this photo. And with the help of returning to this picture, I still can’t.

What are you looking forward to? And if you can’t summon the childlike joy required by faith, perhaps you need to trust the Master Artist, and give him the benefit of the doubt: he knows more about what he’s going to paint for you than you do.

Relax. Take a deep breath. And smile.

ch:

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Tenacious Terminology

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Tenacity.

Tenacity is being certain of your pursuits, especially when others aren’t certain of their own and fall away.

It’s holding on when things are difficult, and then staying that way for a long time.

When emotions say you shouldn’t, but your gut says you should.

When the crowd says you can’t, but a select few elders say you can.

Tenacity is saying, “Hands off my woman.” And willing to bloody your knuckles over it.

It’s minimizing distractions, growing lean, and becoming resourceful.

Tenacity is quantifying whether every new option will hinder or help your progress, and making decisions based solely on the latter.

And for Pete’s sake, tenacity is saying, “What? I can’t pump yet so my Dad pushes me. Back off.”

ch:

We’ll Be Grandpas

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Grandpas.

Grandpas can do anything. Like fixing our training wheels.

They have strong, wrinkle-laiden hands.

They have great stories about the “olden days.”

Their cologne rubs off on our clothes, and their smile rubs off on our soul.

They’re stern when we break the rules, and the first to congratulate us when we respect them.

They remember where they were when news stories broke that we only read about in history books. They remember a war or two. And they visit death a little more every year as another friend dies.

Grandpas are the granular part of our foundation, the reminder that this thing has been around a lot longer than we have. And that it will still be here when they’re gone. Because before we know it, we’ll be just like them.

Strong, wrinkled hands, cologne, stories, and tools to fix training wheels.

We’ll be just like our heroes.

We’ll be Grandpas.

ch:

Your Tricycle Is Calling

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All three of my boys are in very different places when it comes to recreational wheels.

Levi has the mobility (and fluid excretion ability) of a large slug. Adorable, yes. But still very slugesque.

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(I seriously just used the word slugesque in a post).

On the other extreme, Luik is riding his bike full-out, having ditched his training wheels last fall when he was four.

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Judah is the one that fascinates me right now. He dons his bike helmet like a pro, rolls his Red Flyer trike out of the barn, and looks down the road…

And starts running along side it as fast as he can.

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They way I figure it, he thinks he can run faster pushing his trike than he can riding and pushing the pedals. Plus, it’s way harder using those pedals on the road than it is in the loop around his house’s interior.

Many people treat their natural gifts the same way.

Like Levi, we’re all born with certain gifts and have zero say in the process. We’re at the mercy of whoever’s pushing us. We simply accept the free push forward and enjoy the ride.

Eventually we’re riding flat-out like Luik, doing exactly what we were born to do, moving efficiently and even showing off from time to time.

But it’s the middle part that often makes or breaks us. We’re better with our present means than we are with a new one. We’ve mastered what we know, while the new is awkward and inefficient.

But when our aptitude exceeds our capacity we stop growing.

The new is not the enemy; the hard work, suppression of pride to accept help and look ignorant (because we are), and discipline needed for mastery is. This is the learning process. This is seeing the trike as a cycle not a wagon. Yes, he actually can run faster pushing it than he can riding it, but the skill set he obtains with mastering the tricycle is precisely what he’ll need to employee when graduating to a bicycle.

No matter what stage you’re in right now, there’s an opportunity for growth. Recognizing that you’ll need to step down from your mastery of the present to embrace a seemingly infantile process for the new is almost always the key to avoiding plateaus and advancing to the next round.

I find it interesting that the process of feeling dumbed down to learn a new skill set feels very childlike for my adult brain. Yet how poignant that we are called to be childlike when laying claim to territory within the Kingdom.

Your tricycle is calling. ch:

Legacy Watchers

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All the boys came to snuggle in bed yesterday morning. Well, Levi didn’t have a choice as he’s got all the mobility of a large slug, and twice as much fluid excretion. But still, the important part is we were all together for this impromptu photo opp by Jennifer.

Life tends to sneak up on you. One minute I was trying to figure out what to do with all my creative energy as a late teen, the next I’m the father of a daughter and three sons. And now I recognize my greatest achievement – my greatest legacy – is seeing them on their way to run their own race for the Lord.

Everyone is a leader to someone. Maybe you’re not as charismatic as the next person, or maybe you don’t have a “weekly platform” that you think justifies your ability to speak into peoples’ lives.

Don’t be fooled.

Whether it’s a person looking across the gas pumps at you to see how you respond to the price of fuel, to the family sitting behind you in church watching the way you worship, to the little face beside you at dinner listening to the recap of your day, people are watching you.

Observing.

Learning.

The tone you set for life will become the resonance others tune themselves to. Do your best to stay sweet. ch:

Despite the Pain


Judah is 2.5-years old. And he loves swimming.

Correction.

He’s obsessed with jumping off the diving board.

Still he puzzles me. After his life-preserver sends him rocketing back to the surface, he looks as though he’s drowning. He nearly rips his eyes out of their sockets, gasps for air, and smears snot across his cheeks. To any first time observer, Judah has just taken his first and last plunge. Yet as soon as he pull himself up the ladder and touches the deck, he’s making a B-line for the diving board, shamelessly cutting in line. To the front.

Female life guards everywhere are smitten with his dimples, and 4-year-olds who turn back from the edge only to allow him through are in awe of his capacity for bravery.

Me? I’m just shocked that something so visibly strenuous on him is something he so adores doing.

And I wonder: do I embrace painful adventures the same way? Does the sense and thrill of the new and the daring outweigh the discomfort that sometimes results?

Some things are worth doing even if they hurt. Worse, however, are endeavors we fail to engage in because of the discomfort we think we are going to endure. Unless we try, we’ll never know, and that is far worse a consequence than I care to live with.

The key to living large is embracing the painful and the pleasurable with gusto. Without it we may miss some of the most precious experiences known to man. The greatest adventurers I know exchange pain for the pursuit of life.

Since pain is something we can grow to ignore, it’d be a shame to let it – or even the thought of it – hold us back. Especially from something a wonderful as diving boards. ch:

Breaking the Rules

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The idea of “attending camp” has many memorable associations for me. Maybe it does for you too. Namely because you get to do things at camp you don’t get to at home.

Staying up late around a camp fire.

Running when you should be walking.

Wearing the same clothes for days on end and skipping the shower because you’re justified by all the swimming you do.

You get to break the rules.

Judah went with me through the breakfast buffet line at Watson yesterday, and what was the only thing he wanted?

A chocolate cupcake.

(Still not sure why they were set out in the first place. Guessing the kitchen staff believes in “attending camp” too).

So as a good dad I only had one choice to make: how many cupcakes should he have?

(Don’t worry moms – I only let him have one).

Sometimes it’s OK to break the rules. The spirit of boundaries is to help self-govern safety and promote life. But life can also be found in the joy of getting the privilege to do things “once in a while.” Certainly this isn’t license to commit sin, but it is permission to have fun with the people and things you love.

So in the midst of your normal routine today, look for a rule to break for your own sake. And when in doubt, have a cupcake for breakfast. ch:

Moving Creations from Deadly to Divine

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Sometimes our greatest ideas can turn out to be lethal creations if left in their infant stages. Thus the importance of surrounded ourselves with people who can point out the dangers we often miss.

Three tips on the process of prepping for criticism:

1.) Map everything to its fullest as you see it in your head: Often we don’t get good input on a plan because we inadvertently leave out components we think are irrelevant. Sometimes the most fringe idea can make or break a project, and to the experienced eye, the most mundane things can sometimes be the most poignant, not the obvious.

2.) Give wiser, more experienced people 100% carte blanche: Nothing’s worse than having someone submit an idea that they’ve already made up their mind about. “So are you telling me or asking me?” is something we often say around our office. Make sure that people know they can have it it. Doing so will produce better ideas than you ever could have come up with on your own.

3.) Divorce yourself from your work in terms of self-adulation: No true artist, inventor, or producer can or should divorce themselves emotionally from what they’re making – doing so trumps the entire impetus of the creative process. But realizing your personal value is not bound in your ideas will go a long way in accepting critical feedback that’s essential to your project’s success. People that never finish are most often tying their self-worth to their ideas instead of who they are in Jesus. As a result thy are easily offended when hearing criticism, never realizing they’re killing their project by not receiving.

Don’t despise critique. Welcoming outside input is most often the greatest key to success (and keeps eyes from getting gouged out). ch:

For My Lurkers

My kids love a good story. They hunker down in our bed and get all sorts of excited.

They lurk in the covers.

And every day hundreds of you stop by this site and lurk. Waiting for a good story or an interesting takeaway.

You’ve made this a destination in your day. And I’m honored. I may not know you, or maybe we met once somewhere in the world, or maybe you’re from my home town. But no matter the case, I love that we get to do this each day together.

So for all those of you who read faithfully but never leave a comment, this post is just for you. My Lurkers. Thank you for reading. I may not know your names, but Google tells me when you’re here. ch:

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For Those Who’re Watching

Yesterday Judah and I worshipped together during third service at New Life. He’s often distracted by his older brother and sister, but since they were en route from Rochester with their mom, Judah’s singular focus was pretty neat to watch.

He would look up at me and do what I was doing.

It started with clapping.

Then some hopping.

Soon he was squinting his eyes, looking up at me to see what hand I was raising. I couldn’t figure out why he was squinting – honestly, it was super cute – until I realized I was squinting.

I couldn’t stand it any more and knelt down to hug him and tell him how good of a little worshipper he was being.

If you’ve felt convicted lately about not doing something you know you should be, please consider this: our deliberate efforts are often more about someone else’s gateway to success than our own.

While your actions may very well benefit you in some meaningful ways – financial, emotional, physical, or spiritual – they probably will benefit someone else far more profoundly.

So whether it’s the way you worship in church to that book you’ve always been getting around to writing to that exercise routine you’ve been delaying to that friend you’ve always said you’ll visit, do the people watching you a favor and start.

The best motivation is realizing some things we can’t do for ourselves. We can only do them for others. ch:

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He’s Prepared for You

Giving my readers a free go at Athera’s Dawn after almost five years of waiting was not only a great excuse to take a 38-day break from blogging daily, but it also let me focus more on my family during the holidays, as well as a few other big projects that needed my attention.

All that to say ‘thanks’ to you, my faithful readers, for coming back in this new year. I so appreciate your support and encouragement in continuing this blogging venture. I write intentionally for my audience every day. You’re the best.

My older two children spent a majority of their Christmas Vacation with their grandparents, leaving Judah (2.5 yrs) basically to fend for himself. And he’s enjoyed it immensely, having the house and all the toys to himself.

Yet as parents we realized one of the things the older two children provided was a bit of stability, a but of “normal.” And without that, some of the household habits needed to be amended.

One of those was the morning routine. Typically all the kids get up together and play, or make cereal if Dad’s not up yet. It’s kinda’ cute and it’s become a part of their culture. But in the absence of Eva and Luik being in the house, and given the opportunity for Dad and Mom to sleep in a little more with school out of session, we had to make plans for Judah.

Like setting a bottle out for him. Which he’d see, take, and go back to bed without knocking on our door at 5:30am.

In the Boy Scouts, we call that being prepared.

As adults, we call that planning ahead.

And as parents, we call that buying time.

But if that’s what we as earthly, imperfect parents do to plan for a little part of just one of our children’s days, imagine how much more the Lord has prepared for you and I in 2012.

He’s got your back. He’s has a plan for when you walk out of the door. Everything’s set, and he has your best interests in mind.

So for 2012, start it off right by throwing off anxiety and putting on comfort. Jesus knows what he’s doing on your behalf. ch:

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Nostalgia

nos·tal·gia/nä?stalj?/
Noun:
A sentimental longing for the past, typically for a period or place with happy personal associations.

This photo, shot earlier this year in our red room, is stunning to me for two reasons.

The first is the moment it captured. Judah’s back is turned, implying I snuck in unannounced. Which I did. As if we’re spying on a private discovery-jam session. The depth of field, the lighting through the window, and the detailed simplicity all contribute to a well composed image.

The second is that this is a near perfect recreation of me…30-years ago. A different house, a different guitar (also belonging to my mother, as is the one in the shot to his mommy), and a captivating fascination with making an instrument emanate sound through simple touch.

One of the most incredible anomalies that occurs in parenting is the wonder of seeing yourself manifest – most often unannounced and uncultivated – in the lives of your children.

Reproduction isn’t just an act, it’s a process. One that creates legacy.

I can only insist through personal experience that the heavenly Father feels the same way we do. Seeing His own nature, His own character, likes, and habits suddenly appear in His children has got to be thrilling. And rewarding.

And makes Him proud. Simply because we’ve been reproduced. After Him.

The worthwhile questions to ask? “What God-traits of my Father am I exhibiting naturally?” (Because I have His nature now – 2 Peter 1:4). “How and to whom am I helping reproduce after Christ?”

The beauty of seeing myself in Judah is that I’m not looking back. I’m enjoying the moment, and looking ahead.

The danger of nostalgic emotions is letting them dupe you into believing yesterday was better than today. Yesterday could never be better than today because the beauty of the present is hidden within free will; the past has already been decided and is dated. It has neither the power nor the potential of the present.

So choose wisely. Your future nostalgia depends on it. ch:

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