My Son, Myself and Fire

When I was about three or four years old, my mom and dad were smokers. One day I picked up a book of matches. I played with them on the coffee table by batting around, flipping it here and there. Finally, I got around to opening it. And I fingered the little red matches long enough and one came out. I finally figured out how to light the match, and was mesmerized by the flame burning brightly… until it hit my fingers and I screamed! Bad experience. However, it didn’t deter my love of the flame. I’ve always liked fire. I’ve always played with fire.

Fast-forward ___ years….

My one year old son really, really likes fire too. When I start the wood stove in the morning (a near daily affair), he loves to come and watch. He’s learning to stay back, but we do have a fence up to remind him not to get too close. He likes to test us. He wants to make sure we really mean no. He thinks his way is best. Did I already say, he’s one…?

But I realized his nature: fire intrigues him. I realized that watching the fire was in his very core of who he is. He just wants to touch it. He loves to watch when I start the fire. He loves to lay in front of it when he gets his diaper changed – and will lay still while I change him, if he can just watch the fire. I love to watch fire too. It feels good. It’s relaxing. It’s mesmerizing.

So? Should I let him?

A few nights ago, we decided to open the doors of the fireplace/wood stove and roast hot dogs (should’ve done marshmallows, but didn’t think of it until now). As 4 of my kids crowded around the fireplace with the metal sticks and hotdogs a-roasting, my son crowded in behind them. He wanted to get close too. But he couldn’t. He was like Zacheus – He was too short to see over the crowd. But he JUST HAD TO SEE IT AND GET CLOSE AND TOUCH IT. I mean, it’s in his very nature. He is attracted to fire. (He’s not attracted to cold – go figure….) Then he saw a way around the girls and went for it. He ran beside them and was going to get in close. Fortunately the 12 year old saw him and stopped him. He screamed, he cried, he really wanted in to touch that brightly colored fire.

I know what he was saying. I don’t speak in tongues, but I still knew – I could see it in his eyes and read his facial expressions. “You don’t love me, or you’d let me!” “You must not care for me, you are telling me no!” “It’s who I am! I want that!” I could see it. I could hear it. Believe me, I could hear it!

Should I let him, because he wants to? Because it’s in his nature? Because he was born that way?

Of course not! The most loving thing any parent can do at that point is to say no. Love doesn’t mean agreement. Love doesn’t mean acceptance of everything, but it does mean acceptance of everyONE. I did the most loving thing I could do – I provided a safe place for my son because I told him no and put the fence back up after the hotdogs…. And one day, when he realizes what could have happened to him, he’ll thank me. I’m sure of it.

It ought to be the same at church. I would hope that when I’m headed down a faulty way, someone (ANYONE!) would tell me to stop. I’m not talking about people outside the church. I’m talking about people inside the church. We help and support each other. Church should be a safe place. And a safe place isn’t where I’ll get burned. A safe place is where I choose to follow the “law of liberty” the Bible talks about. Any help along that path, I’m grateful for.

Live Your Life in Such a Way….

72232_10200326226828170_1143027126_nA Mentor-Friend of mine (he also used to be my boss) used to say, “Live your life in such a way that if someone started a rumor about you, no one would believe it.”

I’ve held onto that phrase for the better part of 25 years and tried to abide by it. By no means have I done it always. By no means have I reached a state of perfection. But it’s been my desire and my goal.

This week, I was troubled to hear of a friend, who has lived totally secret double life. Frankly, I wasn’t surprised by this new information. This friend lived his life in a way that rumors abounded.

Here’s a good set of guidelines to live by:

8 Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. 9 Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.”

The Holy Bible: New International Version. 1996 (electronic ed.) (Jos 1:7–9). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

I want the Lord to go with me wherever I go. I want to stand tall, to live a strong and courageous life. I hear in this passage, the way to do it is to live according to God’s standard. And in order to do that, I must not get very far away from His book. Scripture memorization, LIFE Journaling, obedience – these are some of the ways to keep close to God’s word.

That’s the way I desire to live. That’s why I’m held accountable to this by others – friends, wife, colleagues. I would encourage you live by God’s standards too!

What’s Your Job To Do Today?

I once heard singer Michael Card say that as a singer/songwriter, he had to schedule times for songwriting. Some days he would get up and even though it was on the schedule to write a song that day, he didn’t feel like it. He said, “Do you know what I do when I don’t feel like writing a song? I write a song.” I’ve heard writers say the same thing – I have to write whether I feel like it or not.

storm clouds with peopleI’m not a writer. I’m not a singer. I’m a leader. And as a leader, people are looking for me to lead – whether I feel like it or not. So, even when I don’t feel like it, I have to make decisions, cast vision, and shape the direction of my church. In the end, it’s a good quality. One of my core values says, “Discipline will get me where I want to go.” Discipline as a songwriter, as a writer, or as a leader, will get me where I want to go.

Still a Mac!

I wrote this related post on July 21, 2008 – Hello, I’m a Mac

That was the first day of class for my Doctor of Ministry classes. I finished the Dmin this year. And as I read over that post of my first day, I was amazed. I have always bucked the system a bit – dressed differently, done it my way, rather than the “supposed to” way, and of course, with school, never really gave it my all. This time I did. Out of 35 people to start the program, 11 of us finished the classes, and about 3-4 of us finished the classwork. 2 of us graduated on the normal time schedule in our cohort. (it is often fairly normal to graduate with an extra year and 2-3 will be doing that)

I’m not saying that to brag, but rather to simply say, I had some really good insight into myself those 5 years ago. I am glad for that insight and I’m glad I put it to good use and made it work for me, rather than against me. No more academic probation because I was too busy playing tennis or golf. This time, I got it done right.

It just goes to show, that when we put our minds to something, we really can get it done. ONE OF MY CORE VALUES IS: Discipline will get me where I want to go.” And it was that discipline to take 4-6 hours every Monday afternoon to work on this long-term project, to plan and to do was the only way I was going to get it done.

It’s the same with all of us. The finish line is only a discipline or two away from us. The more we are able to discipline our time, our energy, our ideas, the more we will actually be able to make it all happen….