Month: May 2018

How Much I Like Her

Nearly 20 years ago, in September of 1998, I took a super foxy lady on our very first date. Sunday, we celebrated our 17th wedding anniversary.

So much has happened since those kids shared that meal.

In the vows I read to her, I warned her that there were lots of things I couldn’t promise, but one thing I could is that I would love her forever. That was a good promise, because it sounded good and romantic, as well as being one I’ve been able to keep.

Sunday, in church before the message, I had planned to say some nice things about her, play a love song, and wish her a Happy Anniversary. But things didn’t go the way I planned, which is just about a perfect metaphor for our whole relationship.

One of the most important things I have learned (and it’s something that I re-learn over and over, as if it were brand new) is that my plans, even my ‘best-case scenario’s’ pale in comparison to reality.

What I usually do is sit and dream about what is possible, if the planets all align and everything goes just right. What would that look like?? What would it feel like? How would I respond? 

I figure if it all falls apart, I’ll be heartbroken anyway. Even if I set my expectations so low I would trip over them, even if I ‘didn’t get my hopes up,’ I would still feel that suffering. My heart would still crack out loud. My tears would still flow. So, I’ve always gotten my hopes way up, and been a ‘wouldn’t it be awesome if…’ kind of person.

Sure, of course, sometimes my heart gets ripped from my chest, my disappointment is crushing, my dreams mock me as they become nightmares.

More often, for the things that really matter, the pie-in-the-sky dreams get exposed as laughably tiny. Reality is deeper, wider, thicker, more peaceful, more fulfilling than my imagination can fly.

As it is with my wife, our relationship. We planned, we scheduled the things that would make us happy, that would provide the structure for a happy life – and those plans and schedules turned to rubble, the structure crumbled, sometimes in the most painful of ways.  

And what was left, or rebuilt, was so much more beautiful.

I told her I’d love her forever, and I do, more now than I did, more now than I ever thought was possible. That was the unbelievable dream.

But, as I was going to tell her Sunday, that dream has been far exceeded, and the thing I’m most thankful for, the biggest gift, is how much I like her.

Here’s the song:



Showing Up

Last night, there was a giant midget baseball game. I understand that sounds like an oxymoron, like jumbo shrimp or just war or business ethics, but when you’re on a team of 11 & 12 years old (or their coaches), it’s absolutely true. Both teams were easily undefeated, mostly untested AND had bad feelings towards each other, setting up a Monday night clash they had anticipated for almost a year.

They had a monster pitching, who threw harder than most adults – yet in a puzzling twist for a youth league, was bent on changing speeds and showing every batter 2 or 3 curve balls. I couldn’t help but to think of the rampant arm problems at every level – and imagine a ‘Tommy John’ surgeon sitting behind the catcher whispering, “another curve ball,” and laughing maniacally. 

Anyway, we had one on the mound, as well. It was a great game, made better by the wonderful surprise that we won, scoring 2 in the last inning to win 4-3. There was heart, fundamentals, and tense excitement, the kind of game that reminds you why you love sports and, if you don’t, think maybe you could.   

At different times during the game, some of the boys buckled under self-imposed pressure, thinking they had to carry the entire team, the parents, and the fate of the universe on their shoulders to victory. Some wilted under their own perceived deficiency, believing the lie that they were unable to compete against such fierce competition. Some fought…until a blown strike or out call went against them, the circumstances of the moment poisoning their resolve. And all of them came to the field, just as they had every day, in terrible weather and brilliant sun, on bad days and good, and stood strong, through the ups and downs of the contest.

As it is with us, right? 

There have been seasons of my life where I felt the tremendous weight of perfection. The world/my friends/my parents/anything was broken and I would fix it, I would be Superman, hold it all together. But I wasn’t, couldn’t. Which isn’t the worst thing in the world. I can certainly help – I happen to be one of those fools who think that we are able to partner with God to reclaim what was lost, to repair what is broken, to bring light into the dark. But the pressure of being Superman actually contributed to a confusing apathy, freezing me into a position of inaction.

Also, I’ve known seasons (so so many) where I believed that I wasn’t enough – of what? Of everything. These disgusting, destructive lies paralyzed me for so long. If I’m honest, they still do (you know, if I’m honest, I still wrestle with the perfectionism, the Superman syndrome – well, probably still wrestle with all of them at different times.) What do you have to offer? Who do you think you are? You can’t hit that guy, he’s so big/throws so hard, and you’re just…you.

The situations, obstacles have pulled me under, so deep that I thought I would never come back up for air.

But the last one – that’s the one, baby, where we just show up and keep showing up. Maybe (probably) feeling the fear of insecurity, inadequacy. Maybe (probably) trying to hold things together. Maybe (probably) crushed in the undertow of, simply, living in a world that seems to conspire against us. And showing up anyway. Taking the field and giving everything we have to give – a great friend of mine says, leave it all on the field.

I’m sure I talk too much to the boys and, Friday night at practice, I told them the best advice I have. In baseball, in your marriage, at work, at school, give all you have, and hold nothing back. Then, even if you lose (and, there will be times we lose), you’ll sleep well.

How many marriages could be rescued if both of us ran as fast as we could, if we didn’t take any third strikes, if we dove at fly balls because we just might be able to catch them?

Last night, those boys created a beautiful work of art. But now, I wonder how many of our lives would become masterpieces if we gave our complete attention to this at-bat, this pitch, this ground ball – and not the next (or the last) game? If we just showed up, every day in every way?



Too Much

It’s almost too much for me to bear.

On Monday, I wondered if I could manage to only post once, and as it turns out, I could not. You see, I badly wanted to continue the conversation on works, grace, faith, winning and pretending, but I also had a gigantic life event happen, as well. My heart is overflowing with, as Rob Base famously said, “joy and pain, sunshine and rain,” and cannot be restrained.  

So, where ‘competing theologies’ is study and thought – this one will feel more like I’m reaching inside my own chest, pulling out my heart and showing it to you. 

My son, Samuel, turned 13 Sunday.

How could this be? Just yesterday, I learned he existed. I was driving a box truck home, through Lebanon, with my lovely Angel on the phone. I was finally able to coerce her into taking the pregnancy test RIGHT NOW (!!!!) because I was 10 minutes (10 minutes!!!) away and 10 minutes is just waaaaaaay too long, when it comes to having your life altered forever. I had dreamed of the day forever, when I would discover that he was here. And when she uttered the two sweetest words, “it’s positive,” I pulled the truck over (because, safety first) and we wept together, so thankful, so thankful.

He made it to the outside roughly 39 weeks later – and this was yesterday, too. I held him, bathed him in my tears, while we prayed to the God that created him so wonderfully.   

Yesterday, we brought him home and, at my first solo diaper change, he peed in my face.

The day I walked in the house as the Angel walked out, baby wailing, “He won’t stop, I have to get out!!” So, that day, yesterday, we laid next to each other on our spare bed for hours, both of us crying.

Yesterday morning, he went to kindergarten. And last night, he had his first baseball game. After the game, we had his 6th grade graduation, and then he slept on my chest, breathing so softly, tired from screaming at me over something or other. 

And today, his feet smell like 1,000 rotten potatoes, he’s big and gangly, his voice cracks and his hair is so long like an animal in the jungle. His phone is in his hand and he’s texting, watching YouTube tube clips and playing video games (instead of the fun ones he played yesterday, like Wii Sports, he’s now playing first-person shooter games while I shake my head.) Today, we argue over deodorant and vegetables (to be fair, we did that yesterday, too.)

And today, he’s smart and witty, with the perfect sense of humor, loves weird facts and film scores. He’s the one I go to when I need wise counsel. He loves his friends and us – If empathy could be graded, he’d be off the charts. He reaffirms everyone’s faith in humanity.

If I had the choice, I would choose him for my son every time. I’d choose him for my best friend, too.

I’m thinking about that thing I once heard and always say in so many messages, “All change is loss.” And that’s as true as anything has ever been. Jesus said to His friends, “Do not hold on (another translation says cling) to me,” even though we want to, because we can’t, no matter how hard we try. Yesterday always becomes today, and it has to be mourned for us to truly live today – and today has all the blessings of its own. 

I love the young man he is more than I can ever express, and I miss the little boy he was more than I can ever express. The only thing we can do is to be fully present, to not sleep through the little boy, not sleep through today, so that when it is yesterday, we can say, “Yes, I was there and it was The Best.”

I wish my baby, my sweetest boy, the happiest birthday. 



Competing Theologies

Last week, in Sunday’s message, we waded into the grace/works debate.

It’s always so interesting to me when the Bible appears to contradict itself. What?!!? 

Proverbs 26:4 reads “Don’t answer the foolish arguments of fools, or you will become as foolish as they are” and 26:5, “Be sure to answer the foolish arguments of fools, or they will become wise in their own estimation.” Which is it? Should I or shouldn’t I? That’s so great, because though they look exactly like opposites, obviously they are both true – it just takes wisdom to know when. 

In James and Romans, James and Paul reference the same Scripture (Gen 15:6 “Abram believed the Lord, and he credited it to him as righteousness.”) for, what seems like contrasting ends. James is the tiny book in the New Testament that stands out like a snowman in August because the theology sounds so unlike the others. It would be so much happier and make so much more sense in the Old Testament.

In a gorgeous landscape of faith, grace, and a merciful end to our works-driven religion – James says “faith without deeds is dead.” It feels like a record scratch, like Dylan picked up an electric guitar, or at the very least, an abrupt turn of the wheel into oncoming traffic (that doesn’t sound like ‘the very least’ at all;). Maybe the editor fell asleep and something was included that should not have been. But it was included, and we now have to figure out what to do with this jarring mixture of material.

So, we’ve been arguing these competing theologies for thousands of years.

Because we love nothing more than to compete. (That’s not true, there is only one thing we love more than competing – winning!!!) We love to argue points where we can show off our superior knowledge, where we can condescend to another viewpoint. The liberals/conservatives (whatever side you’re on) would see it our way if only they would educate themselves, if only they would open their eyes to simple facts. Of course, it’s grace/works, if only they would stop trying to make the Scriptures fit their lives and just study the Bible, if only they would open their eyes to simple facts. 

As it most often goes, study of anything leads to more and more questions. And the big question here is, have we spent so much time arguing that we lost the point along the way and, in that, sucked all of the beautiful transforming power out of the Gospel? 

I am not diminishing the importance of theology – our belief doesn’t matter too much if we’re believing in the wrong things. Example: If you really believe my dining room table will dunk a basketball this afternoon, your faith is probably misplaced. It matters what we believe, theology is vital. But it can twist itself into a circle where it becomes just another intellectual exercise, just another hypothetical that stays at arms length instead of piercing our hearts.

James and Paul sound like they’re on different sides of the stage in a debate, but that’s not the case. As we all understand, the things we believe (I mean really believe, way way deep down in our souls, not just say we believe because we’re in a certain group or because it’s the current popular trend) are pretty easy to see. You can tell what’s valuable to me, no matter how hard I try to pretend. We can only fake it for so long, and then our hearts spill out into the space between us. 

I heard Rob Bell say that you can tell where a preacher starts the story (in Genesis 1 or Genesis 3) is clear in every sermon, in the way he/she sees God, the world, you.

James is saying your faith/what we believe, must be reflected in our words, our actions, our lives. And why wouldn’t it? 

He’s saying our faith has no choice but to come out – if it’s not coming out, maybe it’s not our faith. Maybe our faith is in something else? 

I guess it’s possible that all of this competition, these arguments, our desire for winners (and losers), might be an accurate reflection of our faith.  

Daffodils of Infinity War

Today is probably the most gorgeous day of my life, and I am sitting on my porch in a white wooden rocking chair, reflecting on a movie, of all things.

THE movie. Avengers: Infinity War came out last week, we’ve all been breathlessly waiting for months and months for April 27th, 2018. We’ve seen all of the Iron Man, Captain America and Thor films, welcomed Ant-Man and Black Panther into our already superhero-packed lives. And, finally, here it was. Yesterday, my boys and I sat in a noon showing, giddy with excitement. (Yes, we did knock off from school, and before you judge me or call child services or the truancy czar, how many days of 5th or 7th grade in April do you remember? Right. And there is at least a chance that, years from now, they’ll tell their boys how their grandpa let them take an unexcused absence to see a great movie, hopefully on the way to a noon movie with that same grandpa, already waiting in the theater lobby with 4 more overpriced collector’s cups;)


Infinity War was awesome, and I can’t tell you anything about it. I’m not going to ruin it for you.

But it did remind me of last week’s Daffodils.

All of the people (mostly guys of a certain age) in the theater were connected. We nodded to others wearing Captain America and Spider-Man t-shirts, we talked to each other, we stopped pretending we were in soundproof cages, oblivious to each other, and acknowledged that we were having An Experience together. We were all Daffodils, and we were all at a celebration. Of course, we were celebrating that we were alive and made for this time and space, made for connection, made for each other, by The God Who made everything. There was a film that included friendship, honor, sadness, grief, passion, life, death – it was a beautiful illustration of the creative spark that is instilled inside of us by our Creator. 

Maybe we knew that God was what we were really in awe of, and maybe we didn’t.

The best movies & songs, sports teams (even the worst of the sports teams, the New York Giants), faith communities, provide us with these extended communities. Even this, here, now. All spaces that join us, that jar us out of our worry, anxieties, loneliness, despair, out of our isolation, are sacred. They point to the relational God that made us in His image, that said, “It is not good for man to be alone.”

Obviously, I’d like us to acknowledge that God. I’d love nothing more than if we would open our eyes – bushes are burning all around us – and turn all movies (turn all things) into worship. But until then, I’ll savor the moments, shadows, the breadcrumbs that are leading us home.