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:

Don’t Delay Destiny

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Last night was our first meeting here at Watson Homestead in Painted Post, NY for the Southern Tier Youth Baptist Association’s annual Winter Retreat. Aside from two breaks, Jennifer and I have been coming to lead worship and speak for about nine years.

I was younger then, and had no kids. But this time around we decided we’d make it a family getaway. And I’m loving it.

Camping out in the same hotel room.

Eating meals in the cafeteria together.

Worshipping together.

And even ministering to people together.

Last night Eva and Luik had no problem jumping into the fray and praying for some teens during a time of altar-ministry. As their dad I was so encouraged.

Many times we see what we want to become “one day,” but often don’t take practical steps toward it. My kids’ prayers may not have been the most intellectually sound prayers, but they were sincere.

Our sincere attempts mean more to shaping our future than our wishful thinking.

Don’t just dream about what you want to become, ask God for the next step and be faithful to engage in that process with a bold and humble heart.

Sleeves up! 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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Commercial Value

In order to combat the onslaught of self-narcissistic gluttony that constantly assaults those living in these great United States, we talk to our kids often about children who live in the rest of the world without the comforts and blessings we have. When we tuck our kids in at night we pray for children without moms and dads – without houses or food or schools.

In the midst of watching some TV last night, a 3rd world assistance commercial came on. I noticed Eva seemed particularly concerned. But I didn’t say anything, wondering if she’d bring it up later. Some more humorous ads passed before our show came back on, including Terry Crews’ Old Spice commercial (in which his “mind gets blown”).

Finally at dinner Eva brought up the ad she’d seen.

“Daddy, did you see that commercial with those little kids?” she asked.

“Yes, Eva, I did,” I replied.

But before I could go anywhere else with the conversation, Luik added, “Daddy, did you see that commercial with guy’s head exploded?”

And there goes the mood. Jenny and I completely lost it.

Boys will be boys.

The worst part is I thought the commercial was hilarious too. He’s so my son.

As a closing comment, it’s worth noting that Luik is extremely grateful to live in the US. Just the other day he walked in the kitchen and asked, “Daddy, can I go to America someday?” (I think he’s been watching a little too much Fievel Goes West).

“Want to know a secret, Luik?” I knelt down close to him.

“Sure.”

“You live in America.”

His jaw dropped and he literally couldn’t talk. ch:

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The Art of Receiving

A few weeks ago, my friend Jason Clement was watching TV late at night when he randomly checked his email on his iPhone. Seeing iTunes had sent him a receipt for resent purchases that he couldn’t quite recall buying, he skimmed the message.

“$45?” he said, looking bewildered, as it wasn’t just the price tag that shocked him, but the context. “In-app purchase of Dino-what?”

Like any good dad, he touched base with his high schooler, Autumn. Knowing she wasn’t the dinosaur-gaming-addict the bill claimed she was, it soon became clear what had happened.

That week Autumn had babysat The Hopper Kids. And I’ll freely admit, even Judah, at just 2.5 years old, can work his way around an iPhone and iPad with shocking dexterity. Maybe without thinking, or maybe without knowing, Autumn’s iPhone was commandeered.

My three eldest then went on a dino-shopping spree that, taking into account a few million years of inflation and ancient currency forms, was tantamount to what the White House threw away to Solyndra.

Yesterday morning when Jason stopped by to pick me up at the house, in view of all the children, Jennifer handed him $45 cash. He waved it off, reminding us that it was a good lesson for Autumn. But still Jennifer insisted. When he declined it a second time, a little voice piped up below them.

“I’ll have it,” Luik said, hand innocently outstretched.

The story still makes me laugh. But Luik’s willingness to effortlessly take ownership of the cash – a sum he doesn’t have any true sense of value for, accept in maybe how many rounds it can buy him at the candy claw game at CiCi’s – reminded me of another story. One where a Manhattan pastor bet a visiting friend that it would take over an hour to give away a $100-bill for free on a midtown street corner. The friend argued it’d be gone in mere minutes.

In the end, it took over 2 hours to give away.

And the wealthier accepter of the bill? An 8-year old girl who simply asked the pastor, “Excuse me, mister, but is that $100 really free?”

“It really is,” he smiled.

“Thanks!” and with that she walked away smiling.

Jesus wasn’t being figurative when He said we needed faith like a child. He meant every word. Somehow we adults have a hard time receiving; I know I do. Having a strong work ethic, an appreciation for time, and a value of the intangible qualities of life will stoke that fire.

But so will pride.

While there’s always the playground hotshot to be seen, I’ve found that most children are not yet victims of the one thing that keeps most adults from receiving from God. Pride.

May I challenge your attitude toward receiving from the Lord today?

If its being offered, I want it. God, if you’re making it available, I’ll have it.

Receiving is an art birthed in children, lost on adults, and forced on the elderly. Yet the Giver continues to make His gifts available to us all.

Receive. It helps life move forward. ch:

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Who ‘Dat Is?

I arrived at church last night wearing a costume.

After landing in DC and connecting to “Sara-cruise” (as the flight attendant kept pronouncing it), we made great time from the airport and I was able to catch the last few minutes of New Life’s annual Harvest Party. Always an epic event.

My children hadn’t seen me in 6 days, and they hadn’t been informed of my surprise arrival. So I tracked each one down as they were all in different parts of the building engaged in various candy-gathering activities. And each time they looked at me, first with blank stares for about 3 seconds, shock for 2 seconds, hugs and kisses for 4 seconds, and then right back to their activities.

What was I wearing?

Street clothes and a hat.

Seeing anyone after an absence makes even the most mundane costume extravagant. At least for 5 seconds. ch:

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The Sacred Art of Diligence

Luik and I spent the morning making paper airplanes together, and flying them across the green room.

(Yes, most all our living spaces are named for the colors we’ve painted them).

I honestly hadn’t made a paper airplane in years.

Many years.

But I remember making hundreds of them in grade school. My buddies and I treated it as a sacred art. Each model, each fold. Even the color schemes and insignias.

I’m sure our aircraft manufacturing mattered little to anyone else; and all those folded sheets of paper are 20-years long gone. But to us, it was our trade-craft. And we were proud if it.

The most interesting thing about diligence is that many of the things that matter to us probably don’t matter to others. But then again, “others” are not the ones that feel the satisfaction of knowing our job was well done.

We do.

In true diligence, there is no ambition, or room for false motives set on promotion or limelight. There is just the task, and knowing it was fully completed with efficiency and thoughtfulness.

Because we know.

I’d like to think that so many of my grown-up projects work well because my little kid paper airplanes flew well.

How are yours flying? ch:

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The Art of Celebrating

Serious question:

How do you feel when someone else wins?

No, stop. Don’t lie. I mean really wins. Like, your best friend wins on a $30 million lottery ticket.

What’s your first thought? OK. And your second?

Ah, see, there it is. “Me.” Somehow, “I” enter the thought process much more quickly than I’d like to admit. “Self” wants to participate. Instead of purely celebrate.

Last night Luik was told he would be heading home to Grandma Jo-Jo’s house.

Alone.

He was thrilled.

His older sister was not.

Parenting boys means keeping after the purely stupid things they do for no other reason than to see what happens. Parenting a girl means keeping after drama. Lots of drama.

When Eva finally started to descend from the delirium of her self-centered throes, I talked her through the concept of celebrating her brother’s blessing.

Now, mind you, Luik is by far our most sensitive, most sincere child.

Here’s what happened:

Eva walked into the living room to see Luik all dressed up and ready to go. She’s hugged him, still half-sobbing, and said, “Congratulations on getting to go to Jo-Jo’s house.”

Without missing a beat, Luik said, “Congratulations on getting to stay home.”

Of course all the adults in the room bit our fingers and held back laughter, trying not to ruin the lesson of the moment.

But what was the lesson? Perhaps there was more than just the obvious.

Learning to celebrate one another’s victories – and identify with defeats – is a core value of the Kingdom (Romans 12:15). In fact, much of the political turmoil I see in our nation could be averted if we’d kill jealousy with a healthy dose of genuine celebration. Entitlements to those who have worked hard to be entitled is a virtuous thing. But further still is the citizen of the Kingdom who understands he/she is entitled to nothing. Breathing is a gift. But the polar opposite is the person who feels they are entitled to anything at the expense of everyone else. This is the attitude of a child who was never properly parented.

But there is another lesson:

Learning to see that right where we’re standing is worth celebrating.

To Eva, going to Jo-Jo’s is going to Disney World. But she failed to see the value of where she was. In a home, with her family, and a new baby brother. Even though Luik was excited to leave, he was genuinely happy for Eva who was able to spend more time with Baby Levi and the family.

I’d say nearly every American – including myself – is so focused on what we wish we had that we fail to see the incredible blessing of what we do have. Correcting such an attitude is at the core of a contently lived life.

So try wishing yourself “congratulations” today. Not for where you’re headed. Or what you someday want. But for where you are right now.

Congratulations! ch:

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The Family Lotto

I am the luckiest man in the world. Luckiest, if you have a weak grip on reality and trust fate. Blessed, if you understand that God honors choices made in pursuit of Him, regardless of shortcomings.

But before writing on the subject of family – a fitting theme – I want to wish my father, Peter Kirk, a very happy 64th birthday. He taught me virtue, faithfulness, stewardship, and what it means to be masculine in creativity. But more, he showed me through years, not just words, what it meant to love Jesus and family selflessly.

Happy birthday, Daddy. ch:
___________________

WARNING: If you don’t believe in God, or even Providence, then this piece will irritate you.

Even deists will be irritated. If God is distant and uninterested in human affairs, do yourself a favor and stop reading.

Bye bye.

Everyone else – believers in God and divine appointments – how does your family rate in importance?

Now, family can be a touchy subject, so rating them can be difficult.

We all have “the crazies.” You know who I mean. Aunt Mary who smells of mothballs and cheese; Grandpa Sal who swears loudly at punk kids with long hair; and Uncle Frank who flirts with the bride at every wedding he attends.

But even the crazies are important to God. Important enough for Him to trust you with their bloodline, and their legacy – great or small.

So how would you rate your family’s importance in your day-to-day life?

Low? Medium? High?

No matter what your classification, let me help take it to the next level.

If God is truly intentional and deliberate, then of all the 7 billion people on the planet – or roughly 3 billion families – the one you were assigned to is pretty exclusive. Statistically speaking.

So important that 7 billion other people didn’t get your family.

But think even broader. You won the lottery with the most enormous odds of all, because you were born in this era, not in the hundreds previous. Which means your family was handpicked for you by God over thousands of years, not just from billions people.

It would seem He knows what he’s doing, and thinks you’re pretty special to handle the circumstances you were born into. Good. Bad. Or ugly.

When your parents bewilder you, your siblings frustrate you, your kids dumbfound you, and your in-laws freak you right out, remember: you won the family one-in-a-billion lotto.

Literally.

Digesting that statistic may just be the key to letting your parents awe you, your siblings encourage you, your kids bless you, and your in-laws support you.

But there’s almost no hope for smelling like mothballs and cheese. ch:

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[Photo by Joanne Nesbitt]

Marshmallow Fun

Last night we decided to stay home despite some very fun offerings from close friends. Jenny is only 3 weeks away from her due date, and trying to conserve energy.

So she chilled on the sail-hammock while Eva, Luik, and Judah devoured nearly an entire bag of marshmallows over a campfire in the back yard.

I may have had a s’more or two myself.

Love building memories. ch:

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Snow Day Pics


Over the past week we’ve had record snowfalls, and more snow on the ground than I can remember since moving here in 2005. We’ve canceled Wednesday night church services two weeks in a row, and Eva now has a working knowledge of seeing school cancelations online. I woke up today to even more snow and thought it was a good time for some pics. Next time, I’ll wear snow pants as I’m uploading these in my boxers. Wet jeans. ch:

MAKING TRACKS: I didn’t realize just how much snow was in our yard until I stepped into it. And it was even with my belt. I laughed.

DON’T MIND ME: Eva dawned her snow gear and immediately fell down, just in time for me to snap a pic.

FOLLOW ME: The trail we’ve been nursing for the last week now looks like a run to an arctic observatory. Just add rope.

CHAINS ONLY: We tend to gauge or snow fall by how much of the swing set is showing. This morning set a new record. (And this was in a drift trough, too).

TIME OUT: Luik decided to follow my footprints to a place where I was shooting. He got tired out and leaned over for a little rest.

STRANDED: Jenny flung a stray Cozy Coup into the driveway last night. Found it like this at dawn.

WHERE’D YOU GO?: Our CUV (Child Utility Vehicle) got some snow on its ears.

HIP DEEP HOUSE: Luik emerges from the warmth of our nest.

BLANKET ANYONE?: The snowman the kids made got scared and threw a blanket over his head.

SNOW GRILL: For all my Aussie friends: a pic of the barbie, situated on the leeward side of the house (aka where the least amount of snow falls).