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Recently, Brooke and I were finally able to sit down and watch The Descendants (2011) starring George Clooney.  Alexander Payne directed this authentic portrayal of a family dealing with loss and betrayal in the setting of beautiful Hawaii. I have always been a fan of Payne’s earlier films, About Schmidt and Sideways. His films are far from plastic Christian family films and are R-rated, full of characters who are busy, frustrated, but also have had a taste of what joy could look like in life by their ambitions.  These three movies are representative of a fallen world yet a world full of real people with real flaws we all can relate to.  Any movie willing to remove the mask I can appreciate. I’ve written about this before but in all of art, I try to look at where Christ can teach us about how to live, even through a movie like The Descendants.

Years ago I asked an older friend of mine how he was doing with his kids.  He said something like “You know, I have been spending a lot of time with my kids but the hardest part isn’t that, it is how to best engage with them.” I wasn’t a father then but it stuck. I thought of my own parents and the times we bonded best and it was almost always when there was true engagement through conversation, experience, and genuine discussion.

The Descendants reminds me of how I am supposed to be engaging with my kids. As I write, my girls are only 2 and 4 but it seems evident that if I don’t start doing this now, it will be more and more difficult to do like what we see in George Clooney’s character.

As a parent, I am learning these 5 things about what I need to do to be a good parent:

  1. Be present. You can’t be a parent without first establishing that you are there for them. Your job may be important and incredibly busy but there is no more important job than being there for your little ones.
  2. Listen. The more I ask the girls questions, the more I discover about their hearts through what they like and don’t like, etc.  Sometimes this requires me to be extra attentive when they start talking about the most trivial things but they want our full attention.
  3. Be patient. There are days that my kids won’t want much to do with me. Sometimes they just want their mom more (like what The Descendants implies).  Never feel like what you are doing is a waste of time because by being there for them, there will be the right time when they come to you.
  4. Pursue. Don’t be too frustrated if they push you away. Continue trying to engage. Whether kids admit it or not, they want us as parents to show continual interest and keep that hand extended no matter how bad things get.  You may have a broken relationship with your child and I can’t imagine how hard that would be. Give healing some time and never stop your pursuit.
  5. Join them. Go on adventures together. I read a great story in Meg Meeker’s book Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters about a father who despite not having a good relationship with his daughter, he did what he knew best and took her camping. Even the trip it didn’t solve everything, the shared experience broke barriers and opened up the relationship to grow again.
Sometimes there will be smiles.
Sometimes there will be pain.
But it is all in the joy of parenting and a reminder that we never should give up.
God has never given up on us. 

Be Ferris Bueller

May 18, 2011 — 9 Comments

Lately I’ve been thinking about one of the finest and most amusing movies to come out of the 1980’s.  I wish I could give the director John Hughes a big hug for the movies he wrote and directed during that period  But the one that always makes me smile the most is Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.

Who else growing up didn’t want to be Ferris Bueller?  

He has great friends with cool names like Cameron and Sloane.  He gets the girl.  He wears a classic beret  driving a vintage 1961 Ferrari  250 GT California.  He knows the city of Chicago inside and out.  I’m from St. Louis and would even consider naming my son “Ferris”, one of the finest Chicago names of course.  He is pure awesome.

Here is what we all can learn from Ferris.

1.  Be spontaneous: High school,  like our lives can provide a sense of monotony full with meeting everyone elses expectations.  Sure, it is important to go to school, work, and go through your routine.  They are all noble things.  But from my experience there is nothing better than a good spontaneous adventure.  Wherever you live, wake up one day with your family, friend or loved one and just do something totally outside of what feels “normal.”  I’m not advocating stealing a Ferrari or skipping school but you get the idea. Odds are there are some amazing things to do where you live so go for it.  “Save Ferris.”

2.  Avoid the Dean Rooneys: Dean Rooney represents the crazy person in your life who thinks they know everything about anything and feels the need to go out of their way to tell you that you aren’t doing something right.  He is the Pharisee judging us and preventing us from living life to its fullest.  They may do this in good intention but a pure legalist gives you no room for joy. Oh and also don’t let a French cuisine Matre D’ stop you from having a good time either.

3.  Appreciate the finer things:  Yes, even a 17-year-old Ferris with his friends visited an art museum and ate at a nice French restaurant.  Unfortunately, we are in a media culture full of so many “entertainment” distractions.  Slow down your pace and read some classic literature and visit that free museum.  Next time you just want to eat a burger and fries, go wild and try some new international cuisine.  None of these things have to be expensive either so be creative.

4.  Drive a Ferrari with great friends: Ferris would never go on an adventure alone.  Many people unfortunately view themselves as an “island” especially men.   Not Ferris. He saw life as an adventure to be shared.  Plus, think of how you can help the “Camerons” in your life get out of their shell.

5.  Join a parade.  In Donald Miller’s book A Million Miles in a Thousand Years, he describes how his friend Bob Goff would arrange for flash parades on his street.  How cool is that?  Why not join one?   You can sing Twist & Shout, Danke Schoen, or whatever else floats your boat.  Just get out there and be a little crazy.

Bonus: If you can help some kid get out of summer school, he or she will be eternally grateful and you’ll never be without friends.

Last but not least, our friend Charlie Sheen delivers his most #winning performance of his career in the movie.  Don’t miss it.

I could go on and on with the  lessons I’m learning from Ferris even as an adult but I’ll leave you with his wisdom.

Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it. -Ferris

What do you love and learn most about Ferris?

I’ve not met many people who do not absolutely love the spring season.

Have you?

Spring offers far superior hope compared to a New Year’s resolution.  It is beautiful.  Spring represents rebirth of God’s creation here on earth.  Color explodes.  We leave our homes and head outside.  The house is empty.  It is glorious.

This past weekend, my oldest daughter (turning three this week) and I journeyed into our yard admiring the daffodils while giggling and chasing the chipmunks.  Almost everything is new to my daughter.  Her sense of being “alive to nature” perked me up.  It was a wonderful weekend to venture out.  Reality set in and Monday came.  I had to head back to work knowing that I was going to be stuck in an office.  While driving into work I passed by a field of beautiful yellow daffodils.  I couldn’t help but remember this amazing scene from the movie Big Fish where Edward Bloom declares his love for his future wife amidst a sea of daffodils.

Big Fish is among my top 5 movies of all time.  Here is why.

It is about “living the dream.”

We throw that phrase around sarcastically much too often and it becomes a throw away line.  In life, we get stuck in the day to day reality so often that it hinders us from taking that odyssey or stepping into the sea of daffodils.  Now we need to acknowledge reality but not be tamed by it.  For Edward Bloom, the main character, it was about the drama of this adventure that he told so eloquently.  He even got lost in the stories but the spirit of adventure was always there.

“A man tells his stories so many times that he becomes the stories. They live on after him, and in that way he becomes immortal.”-Will Bloom (Edward’s son)

Life is the adventure.  Embrace it.  Live it.

Get. Out. There. Now.

Ignore the excuses because life is too short.  Whatever is holding you back, let go.  Find a way.  Ask for help.  God made you creative so you can do it.

A friend and author I work with Phil Cooke posted this recently on twitter/facebook:

“Bob Dylan couldn’t sing. Picasso wasn’t good with color. T.S. Eliot had a day job. That didn’t stop them. What’s stopping you?”

It is Spring.  It’s our chance.  Let’s run out into the daffodils, Big Fish style and dive in.

What’s stopping you? Who’s in?

Not long ago I attended a conference in Washington, D.C.  I love that city.  It is easy to be cynical about D.C. and see it as a town only full of politicians with lobbyist leeches there to influence them.  I admit that I have been one of the cynics in the past.  I want to change and here is why.  What I like about DC is the same reason I enjoy parts of Nashville, New York, or Los Angeles.  You will undoubtedly meet someone from another part of the world.  Often I am called a pied piper so whenever I encounter someone from another culture, I am drawn to them to learn about their story.

I don’t recall who said these poignant lines but it goes like this:

Americans love to spend time and energy trying to understand who they are.  They unfortunately spend so little time trying to understand who the world is.

My understanding became much clearer after I visited Washington DC and experienced the following:

Experience #1: At the conference, the thousands who attended share a similar political ideology.  One thing that was evident was their passion for the “idea of America” and it surpassed a specific political ideology.  Anyone with an open mind can respect that.  I am a moderate conservative but their zeal resonated with me.  My hope is that when the world looks at America, they see freedom as I witnessed at the conference.

Experience #2: I met a Scottish girl named Shona who is married to an American friend of mine, Nathan and has lived in the United States for the past couple years.  I had lived and worked in Scotland in 2001 so we had plenty to discuss including politics, British and American culture, music, food, etc.  I asked her what the current pulse of the British people was about America. She seemed to agree that it was very much like the quote above.  I have been reading Tony Blair’s A Journey which provides an insightful political perspective on Anglo-American relations the past couple decades. Shona, Nathan, and I discussed in detail how we need to be more alert than ever before about protecting freedom.  As Brits and Americans, it is a special responsibiltiy we bear.  While we have not mastered it, we need to be a beacon of freedom and lead.

Experience #3: I met Sam Solomon from Ethiopia.  Sam is a cab driver whom we spent an intriguing 45 minute ride from central Washington DC all the way to Dulles International Airport.  He lives here legally, is married, and has four children.  Sam wouldn’t stop smiling when talking about America. Sam said he still has family in Ethiopia but doesn’t see a reason to go back unless it is more free and things change. We discussed that not far from Ethiopia an uprising is happening in the Middle East driven primarily by citizens wanting a democratic process.  America has given Sam the opportunity to start a business, raise a family safely, and live free.  We all need to listen to the Sam Solomons living in America.

My lessons from these experiences:

Freedom and the democratic process is unmatched.

We should never stop seeking freedom or if necessary, fight for it.


Yes, it’s that time.  It only happens every four years.  Yes, it’s the World Cup.  What do they call it?  Soccer?  Football?

Who cares, right?

Check this out first.

4 billion people will watch.  The Super Bowl averages around 100-110 million.  The Olympics averages around 247 million daily viewers.

The 2006 final between Italy and France attracted 715.1 million viewers, the largest single television event in history from what I’ve learned. The 2006 World Cup attracted a 26.29 billion non-unique viewers.

No comparison.

If you are an American reading this, you still may ask “Who Cares?”

Well to start, USA is a big underdog.  Countries with populations 1/10 the size of ours are picked to do better than us.  On June 12th, USA will face England for the first time in 60 years in a World Cup.  And yes, we beat them then!  In the USA, we are overwhelmed by so many sport choices so what is the big deal with soccer?  I grew up playing the game and continue to follow it as best as possible despite living in a town without a professional team.  The passion is there.

Years ago, I lived in Scotland and became friends with a German who was traveling there named Tobi.  We stayed in touch and I even visited him in Germany later that year.  We agreed to meet up to travel through the UK again a couple years after that.  Along that journey with other friends we met an amusing British guy named Curtis.  We all stayed in touch after our travels and agreed that the next time we’d meet would be in Germany 3 years later for the World Cup.  I became married in those years to Brooke and so the four of us traveled throughout Germany and we were fortunate enough to see Togo play South Korea.  It was an unbelievable experience and I cherish every part of it to this day.  The World Cup was what unified us that year.  Thank God our teams didn’t play each other, though.  But, on June 12th, Curtis and I most likely be speaking during that game.   Ultimately we all will be friends and are looking toward 2014 in Brazil to meet up again.

We begin our journey to Germany

A German, an American, and a Crazy Brit

The Scene

So far, this is the best video I’ve found capturing the spirit of the World Cup.

It’s not just about the World Cup.  It’s about the connection of cultures, making friends, and enjoying the adventure.

You may not play soccer and may never want to but you can’t deny what this sport has done as a bridge for cultures.

There are so many ways to use sport to connect and heal the wounds.  In Nashville alone here are a few:

Sports Servants: A great friend of mine Zac Hood took the courageous step to start up a Non-Profit called Sports Servants in 2005.  Zac recognized early on in his visits to Belize that the one unifying thing he could get kids to enjoy together was sport, and in particular, soccer.  It is what has brought together villages across northern Belize to enjoy.  Cultures have been brought together by this tremendous gift.

Nashville International Cup: Annually, a group meets comprised of Mexicans, Arabians, Hispanics, Kurdish, Sub Saharan Africans, Bantus, Asians, etc. to play a tournament.  90 players from 14 countries.  These are immigrants and some of them refugees coming to America for a better life.  It’s amazing because many of these people were enemies back home but are able to come together for the love of a common game.  This takes place today and tomorrow.

World Relief: A friend of mine, Karen Barnes volunteers with this tremendous group here in Nashville that provides assistance to immigrants and refugees.  You can read more about Karen’s experience in her blog about “Serving Refugees.” If you take a moment to look around your town, you will discover dozens of nationalities around you who need assistance.

So this next month, use The World Cup as a way in your community to connect with people other than your nationality.  Learn about their lives, invite them over for a meal, and if you will, go play a game on the pitch.

Here are a few other fun resources in celebration of The World Cup:

2010 World Cup Schedule

Top soccer Movies I’d recommend:  The Game of Their Lives/Miracle Match, Victory, Green Street Hooligans, Bend it like Beckham, or Fever Pitch.  There are many more but these always bring a smile.

Last but not least, the latest blog from Stuff White People Like will have you on the floor.