Archives For forgiveness

Dad, That’s a Bad Habit

August 24, 2012 — 2 Comments

“Dad, that’s a bad habit” my daughter said to me as she caught me biting my nails when I was driving her to school. My daughter has become a version of Statler and Waldorf, the Muppet hecklers. She loves to walk around and tell people that they shouldn’t be smoking, biting their nails, or running inside. It is funny right up until she shouts it out in a crowd and the staring and laughter begins at my expense. I am always tempted to remind her of her own indiscretions but what more could a dad say when he’s reminded of his issues by a 4-year-old?

So I listen.

My kids are are a reminder that we need grace. Grace is the foundation of how we live a life of faith in Jesus. We don’t deserve it but we need it. Kids need it. Good Lord, parents need it. My friend Phil Davis reminded me that as parents we are constantly in a teaching and disciplining mode. Yes, sometimes we screw up in the way we parent and we pray that our kids even forgive us. That starts by asking our own Father for forgiveness as we learn to control our own tempers. Embracing patience is one of my toughest challenges as a parent and my kids love testing it. I now smile each time my kids remind me that I’m biting my nails. I even caught myself biting my nails as I write this. Sheesh.

I’d like to say that I truly understood grace when I became a Christian. I remember being on a spiritual high the week after I got back from Young Life camp in the summer of 1994. I had accepted Christ into my heart at camp and came home thinking I could fly. That flight was short-lived the first week back as I remember having a fight with my parents and writing in my journal about how bad I felt hurting them. It was as if the week before had encountered a train wreck of emotion through hurt, pain, and ultimately guilt. I don’t even remember what the fight was about but I do remember what happened next. God showed his grace through my own parents that week and I think helped make more sense of what happened at camp the week before. Grace was at work.

I’m reading Max Lucado’s upcoming book Grace (Thomas Nelson, 2012), which is helping to more fully understand this wild grace.

God’s grace has a drenching about it. A wildeness about it. A white-water, riptide, turn-you-upside downness about it. Grace comes after you. It rewires you. From insecure to God secure. From regret riddled to better-because-of-it. From afraid to die to ready to fly.

Grace is the voice that calls us to change and then gives us the power to pull it off.


Paul reminds us where this grace comes from in Ephesians 2:8 NIV,

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith —and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God.

This post isn’t meant to be a confession but an acknowledgement that grace is real and available for those who don’t deserve it. We aren’t meant to fully understand this grace especially when it is given to murderers and molesters. I am usually so stubborn and I don’t ask for grace but God knows what I truly need. He doesn’t even wait and a long time ago he gave us his son Jesus as that grace. He freely gives it to you and me. Take this gift and run with it and tell the story.

PS One of my favorite movies/musicals that showcases grace better than any other is Les Miserables (1998). There is even a new version coming out later this year starring Hugh Jackman. I cannot wait

Recently I was deep in a conversation about church with two friends. I don’t even remember what we were talking about and it was probably something trivial. My friend was Catholic and I go to an Episcopal/Anglican church. In response to one of the items discussed the other person said,

You guys don’t go to a real church.

My friend and I were awestruck that he had the audacity make that judgment even though he was semi-joking. For proper context, this person went to a very impressive and cool multi-site/online church. (Yep, I just caught myself judging him right back) I know his church well and I hope you understand this clearly from me – I really love the work that they do. I think God is doing some amazing work through multi-site churches but unfortunately in what I observe among these cutting edge churches is a sense of arrogance that they are the only ones doing God’s work. Too often I see churches acting alone when they could together in unity do so much more. I have obviously contributed to this problem and if I as a follower of Christ do not embrace Ephesians 4:3, then I am a fraud.

Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.

Courtesy of Reverendfun.com

What is the call of the church, though?

We need to fish better, together.

After I became a Christian in 1994 through people who cared deeply about me in Young Life, I attended several very conservative churches and really enjoyed them. As I grew as a Christian, I became more aware of the complicated intricacies of “the church.” These nuances have not been something very attractive to me. Maybe Young Life prepared me to keep things simple? Jesus loved me so much that he died for me and by that love I am supposed to love others. That is a strong enough challenge in a cynical world. I love churches full of people doing something. Sign me up now.

Bob Goff said in his latest book Loves Does (Thomas Nelson, 2012),
Secretly incredible people keep what they do one of God’s best-kept secrets because the only one who needs to know, the God of the universe, already knows.
 Bob goes on,
Secretly incredible people just do things.

My church is not perfect and it sure isn’t full of perfect people either. It is part of a denomination that is full of controversy and struggling to grow and find its identify in this changing world. Coming from my background, It has been difficult to find my way in how I can serve well within it. As I attempt to uncover layers of the larger church, I’ve learned about people at my parish church, St. Bartholomew’s Church, who behind the scenes are part of a great caper to serve and love others. These people come from various backgrounds seeking the church as a haven, love Jesus, and are doing incredible things in his name. The genius thing about it is that I don’t hear them bragging about it. These people have embraced their role humbly and are loving others in Jesus’ name the way he calls us. I know of plenty of people at the multi-site church mentioned above who are doing great things as well and that is what inspires me to act.

I don’t really have time for wrapped up theology and endless debates about what so-and-so preacher said in response to what another said. I want genuine people who act. I have no one to blame but myself for taking part in this church madness overtaken by pride. I want what Bob Goff describes. Who’s in?

Can you imagine each church today joining together as clans united in love?

I’m ready to act. I am ready to love the way Christ called me to.

What does church unity look like for you? 

Tell me about some of the unsung heroes of your church who are behind the scenes making a difference and changing the world? 

We live in a reactionary culture; in church, politics, sports, and just about everything in-between. The firing of ESPN’s headline writer Anthony Federico is the latest example of this.

I am the problem.  Here is why.

After New York Knicks’ Jeremy Lin’s first loss as a starter, Federico wrote that there was a “Chink in the chain”.  Jeremy Lin is of Taiwanese descent so to me and many others, the headline was cutesy racism that went overboard and it just made me mad. Here was my reaction on twitter the morning after reading (from other media sources) about the ESPN headline issue:

ESPN getting racist on Jeremy Lin last night. Their lesson? Don’t let drunk frat interns update web content.

This was my reaction.  Instead it was just a “reaction to a reaction” because all I did was pay attention to what everyone else was saying, especially the media, civil rights groups, etc. I joined an online mob.

The ESPN headline writer was fired soon that day.  I learned that Headline writers like Frederico have to come up with quick headlines every few minutes.  Federico claimed that it was an “honest mistake”.  Saturday Night Live did a great job with their sketch highlighting the hypocrisy of who can say what about races and get away with it.

Messages like mine are what puts ESPN in a position to fire someone without learning more and listening to all sides about why this happened. ESPN acted in cowardly fear. They were wrong and I was wrong. Who gets hurt? A promising young career is knocked down in the form of Anthony Federico, the 26-year-old who posted this headline.  Anthony Federico issued this incredible apology after he was fired by ESPN. Read it here. I was impressed with his candor, thoughtfulness, regret, but also a helpful explanation about how it happened.  He happens to be a Christian, which is relevant because I understand more about why he did this.  Jeremy Lin is also a prominent Christian, which makes the media firestorm even worse.

After reading Anthony Federico’s response, it caused me to look deep in the mirror. I failed. I reacted. I was lazy and didn’t take the time to understand all sides of this story. I can think of dozens and dozens of instances where I have jumped to conclusion too quickly and people got hurt. Most of the time I was wrong and should know better. What I learned today is that I should have more of the character of Anthony Federico. I’ll leave you with his words:

My solace in this is that ‘all things work together for good for those who love the Lord.’ I praise God equally in the good times and the bad times.

Anthony, I am sorry. You don’t deserve this. We all owe you this apology. Please forgive us all.

Follow Anthony on twitter, he seems like a great guy. @antfeds

There is a handful of movies that no matter where I am in life they just inspire me.  And I learn something new from them every time I watch them.  I think of movies I’ve written about before like Dead Poet’s Society, A River Runs Through It, Big Fish.  In addition, I would also put Chariots of Fire and Finding Forrester in that category.  There are so many more, but the latest reminder on that list is the movie, October Sky. Watch the quick trailer below to get the overview but when I first watched the movie in theater was 1999 and I took the inspiration like anyone one; a young individual trying to go after their dreams.  In this case it is Homer, the main character, and he has the aspiration to be a rocket scientist while growing up in a coal mining community. Oil and vinegar, right?

So what does one learn now?

I focused on the breakdown and re-engagement of the father.  The father-son relationship struggle is the most powerful theme that resonates with me more than ever now because I am a father.  I don’t have a son but I have two daughters and and I still take away the lessons of needing good communication for a healthy family relationship.

I took the time to do some quick research and found that roughly 25 million children grow up without a father in the United States alone.  Thank God men are leading the way to combat this statistic.  There are people I admire like Donald Miller who started up a group to help kids without fathers called The Mentoring Project.  There also amazing organizations like All Pro Dad that exist to encourage dads.

The week after I graduated from high school, I embarked on a Colorado hiking trip with a group of friends and a few of our dads.  I remember asking my dad months before if he could join us.  He was then General Manager of a big company and with it came a the weight of incredible stress.  I knew it would be highly unlikely for him to join but I still hoped he would.  When he told me a week or so later that he was was in, I was ecstatic.  The experience was unforgettable and we talk about it till this day.  Father’s Day took place during our week long hike which made it even more special.  We brought home scars, lost some toenails, even lost some pounds, but ultimately brought home life long memories.

A few months later my father lost his job.  During that trip I learned his boss had a issue with not being able to reach him.  This was before cell phones could get decent reach and apparently it was too much for his boss.  Dad never let me know much about those pressures but it happened.  He lost his job.  There was good in it, though.  It served as a catalyst to push him back into the career he loved, banking.  He served small businesses and remained committed to rebuilding communities in St. Louis until retiring a few years ago.

But he still took me on that adventure.  He understood the risk and most importantly, he was there.

In October Sky, the final scene brings tears to my eyes every time.  The main character, Homer is prepared to launch his final rocket as a thank you to those who helped him.  As Homer spoke to the crowd that assembled, he thanked his friends, his math teacher, his mother, etc.  But last Homer dedicated it to his father who throughout his passion of launching rockets was never there. But this time he was.  His father was there. Alas, his father engaged and the rocket took off.  The scene ends with the father’s arm embracing his son as they watched the rocket soar into the sky.

For my father and I, our rocket took off.  We went hiking and looked up together and saw beautiful mountains.  God’s country.

You may not have a father in your life.  I can understand that the pain may be deep.  But you have the opportunity to build upon it and be the parent you’re meant to be. If you don’t want to be a parent you can still help those who need one.

We can do it together and start by being there.

Imagine crashing in the ocean in a B-24.  You drift thousands of miles with two others for weeks. Sharks try to eat you.  You are strafed (shot at) by the enemy.  On top of that you are captured by the Japanese. Nonstop torture ensues for two years.  When the war ends in 1945 you are released and lose half your body weight due to being starved and beaten.

5 years later…

Read this scene after the person, Louie Zamperini, who endured what I described above revisits his POW camp in Japan.

“Before Louie left Sugamo (the prison), the colonel who was attending him asked Louie’s former guards to come forward.  In the back of the room, the prisoners stood up and shuffled into the aisle.  They moved hesitantly, looking up at Louie with small faces.

Louie was seized by childlike, giddy exuberance.  Before he realized what he was doing, he was bounding down the aisle.  In bewilderment, the men who had abused him watched him come to them, his hands extended, a radiant smile on his face.” – excerpted from Unbroken copyright 2010 by Laura Hillenbrand.

After I read this I couldn’t believe his reaction.

He shook hands with the enemy.

What Zamperini experienced was beyond what anyone should endure.  And what did he do?

He extended his hand.

He forgave.

Grace appeared and Jesus is revealed in his story.  Let us take notice. It is beautiful.

———

We have a lot to look forward to this year in 2014. I highly encourage you to read Unbroken but the feature film will be coming out this Christmas. You can watch the trailer here.

I’ve double-bag caddied for 36 holes on 100 degree days.

I’ve worked 70 hour weeks in the office.

I’ve mowed a dozen lawns in one day.

But, there is nothing that could have prepared me enough for the toughest job in the world…

Parenting.

These past few days my wife Brooke has been out of town thus entrusting our two and a half year old and 11 month old to my so called capable hands.  I’ll admit that I have had help as my mother is a saint for coming in town to help.  In these past two days we have looked at each other and said “How does Brooke do it?”

There have been moments I have been proud of this weekend.  There has also been times that I’ve had to ask forgiveness of my mother by stressing out and taking things out on her.  I have to do that often to my wife as well so my poor mom is taking it for the team.  Hey even Clark Griswold got to lose it here and there in National Lampoon’s Vacation.

I can only come up with one conclusion.

It is time to lighten up and enjoy this process.

I thoroughly love my kids and the being a dad no matter how hard it can be sometimes.  This weekend we’ve gone to the pool twice, taken fun walks with our dog Winston, ran around the yard, made up a small inflated pool on our deck, created art, listened to music, ran around the mall, and yes I confess we even watched a little of the PGA Championships and a St. Louis Cardinals game.  This is just part of the dad life I suppose and I’m still getting used to it.

I’d propose an end to trying to do this parenting thing alone.  Even if you are divorced raising children, you are still not alone. The earlier we admit that we can’t do it all and all of it perfectly, the better off we will be.  The more we rely on friends, family, and God to take care of us and give us patience, creativity, and forgiveness, the more fun we will have. I am ready.

If you are single reading this or are married without kids just watch and observe the parents out there.  Learn from their mistakes, learn from their successes. Parents can’t imagine life without kids, it’s an adventure.

Both kids are taking naps as I write this by the way.  Why am I not napping?  Yep, because there is always something to do.

I’d love to hear some of your parenting stories and lessons.  How do you get through the hardest days?

PS  If you need a good piece of entertainment as a married couple with kids, watch Date Night with Tina Fey and Steve Carell. Last but not least if you didn’t catch the “The Dad Life” video, you’ll love this.

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.