September 2017

September 29, 2017

The One He Loves

Here is another throwback to some sermons I listened to during my tenure at my boring desk job. I was lucky enough to watch Judah preach this one in person (not the recorded one, but the topic was the same). He's a compelling speaker and if you ever get a chance to see him, take it! But one thing that struck me about Judah Smith from the beginning was that he pretty much says the same thing every sermon: God loves you a lot and wants you to be in relationship with Him. That's it. Over and over, just with different words and a unique twist here and there. But what could be more foundational to our faith and our existence on this planet? Sometimes it's hard to believe, but when we hear the passion in Judah's voice and see his excitement over the reality of God, you start to think that maybe it's true.

Here is The One He Loves By Judah Smith

Now a man named Lazarus was sick. He was from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. (This Mary, whose brother Lazarus now lay sick, was the same one who poured perfume on the Lord and wiped his feet with her hair.) So the sisters sent word to Jesus, “Lord, the one you love is sick.”When he heard this, Jesus said, “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.” Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. (John 11:1-5)

  • When Mary/Martha want Jesus to come save Lazarus' life, they don't cite his love for God, but God's love for him
    • The theme of their lives is God's love for them, not their love for God
  • The closer you get to Jesus, the less our works matter
  • We will never be able to "hold up our end of the bargain" in our relationship with God
    • This is how we have relationships with others

September 25, 2017

The First Hard Day

I wrote before that I recently became a stay-at-home dad for the second time, and I am totally loving it. Well, the honeymoon phase has worn off I think, because things are starting to get hard. The kids seemed very happy to have me home for the first couple of weeks, and were pretty much obedient. Over the last few days though, I have noticed a little more obstinance showing up. I was bracing myself for the explosion, and today it came.

My daughter hates cleaning up. It's a real point of contention for us, because it drives me crazy when kids don't want to clean up after themselves. I'm big on social responsibility, and realized that children don't often share my sentiment when my wife and I used to teach Sunday school for our old church. Getting fourth graders to clean up their crayons seems just about as hard as training a dog to make me a sandwich. So when my own daughter, a three year-old, shows signs of this same blatant disregard for responsibility, mixed with a healthy dose of laziness, I can't stand it. We are trying different techniques -- taking away toys and making her earn them back with chores mostly -- but nothing seems to be working fully.

Today was an all-time low. With several bins of toys already on the prison shelf, I gave her ample time to clean up before we did a craft. She piddled about and played her usual routine. I even offered to help a little and did help. No dice. When the timer was done, she lost about half her toys in a matter of minutes. Tears ensued. Meanwhile, the oblivious one year-old was prancing around needing her own level of attention, but I just didn't have it.

Fast forward to the park, where something was still just off. The girls were being a bit asocial and just wanted to swing. Eventually a ball made it into the picture along with a boy who wanted to play chase. Ellie wasn't having it. Waverly wanted to swing and, being the younger, needed a little extra help, but the older one was just feeling incredibly needy. Not able to split myself in two, I had to choose. It was pretty much lose lose, but I tried hard to balance the time.

And then there was lunch. The gate to the kitchen that usually allows me a peaceful preparation broke today somehow, so now they are able to take things out of the trash can, while also arguing because Ellie didn't want to share the two walkabout toys they have. That's another point of contention -- Ellie feels she doesn't need to share, but rightly deserves every toy in the house, whenever she wants it. "We share everything," I say over and over. Eventually the conflict leads to tears and a tantrum on the floor.

I'm sure this is just a normal day for most of you, or was when your kids were this age, or maybe will be when you have kids, but it was just difficult. Like I said, something has been off all day. I was even casting out evil spirits in Jesus' name during lunch, just trying to get this negativity out of here! It's only mid-day right now as I'm writing this, so I'm hoping things get better. Anyway, I wanted to write about it to kind of process, but also encourage you (and me) with some more positive thoughts...

First, even though this is a hard day, this is still the best job I have ever had. I'm sure of it. And I'm sure it's what I'm supposed to be doing right now. It reminds me of my years in searching for a perfect job that I would love every day of. "Find something you love to do and you'll never work a day in your life," as the saying goes. But reality taught me that even the "perfect" job will not always feel perfect. There will be tough days and tedious tasks. It doesn't make the job any less perfect, it just makes it a job.

Second, don't let the arguments turn personal. They are just kids testing you. Stand your ground and keep going, as calmly as possible. I learned that from my teacher wife, who really did a good job being the stay-at-home mom the past year-and-a-half. The tantrum now will turn into an "I love you Daddy" later. It's also important to remember that, even though my kid appears lazy or socially irresponsible now, she is only three and we are not done yet! Maturity is a process. Sometimes I fear the worst for my kids, but that shows little faith and will not lead to good places.

Another aside along the same lines is to not speak negativity into your kids life. I often hear parent say things like, "You're being such a brat" and "Why are you so lazy?" We are speaking titles and labels into our children's lives that they will learn to adopt as the years go on. Sure, the action is lazy and bratty, but their identity is not those things. Even if it feels that way, speaking it will only solidify it, which is the opposite of what we want.

Okay, TV time is almost done and we will see if the oldest wants to nap. Here we go...

September 18, 2017

Beach Day

We are blessed to live by the beach. Actually, I've been blessed my whole life to have lived within 20 miles of it on both coasts, the closest having been 1.5 miles in Westchester neighborhood in Los Angeles...those were the days. But with all this closeness, you'd think I'd be there about every weekend. Not so. Actually, I average a beach trip about every month. So I have to ask myself why?  And if I'm being honest, I think the answer is: kids.

Yes, it's difficult to take kids to the beach. And even if I don't plan to take them to the beach, during a big surf swell for instance, I can't just leave them at home (yet...). So my terrible solution has been to only venture to the shore on rare occurrences when I'm feeling both brave and patient enough to endure the hardships of beach-going; or when the stars align and someone is home to watch so I can sneak out for a couple hours to surf.

But today is different! Yes, I awoke with the beach on my mind, and so I decided to single-handedly take my children to the beach! My wife did it as the Stay-at-home Mom -- several times -- and managed to come home with both children and her sanity intact. She actually had developed a good routine for it, which she taught me during my "training" (when we were both home before she started working again). There are several difficult things to prepare for if you want to have your own blessed beach day. Check out the list I thought of below and feel free to add your own in the Comments if I missed any.

Papa got us this tent, which was an awesome addition to our beach supplies.
Preparation: This is key. You must think ahead and bring lots and lots of things to have a successful beach day! Gone are the days of grabbing a surfboard, a towel and a bottle of water for a few hours of fun. No, with children you must have sunscreen, bathing suits, towels, toys, swim diapers, clothes to change into when you are done, water, snacks, a tent/umbrella, sandals and probably some other items I'm forgetting. Today I forgot to bring toys, which my three year old noticed when she wanted to dig and build a sandcastle. No worries though, Daddy is good at...

Improvisation: Be ready to improvise. I turned seashells into shovels, which can also be used for castle decorations and listening devices. ("I can hear the ocean," she says with a conch shell up to her ear. Of course you can hear the ocean, you're standing right next to it, I think, with a smile and an affirming nod.) You will forget something and before you know it, turn a towel and some sticks into a makeshift tent to protect the baby from the sun. Just be ready for it.

Sunscreen: Like I said, my wife created a routine for this which involves changing and lathering the oldest, who will stand by the car while you work on the youngest (a wanderer). I don't want to say too much about sunscreen here, because there are a ton of different types out there and a lot of research on which ones give you cancer and which ones prevent it. I will say I had a friend who made her own, and it was a lot cheaper and a lot better; just super thick and less convenient. The thing I forget to do is reapply, but today when reapplication time came, it coincided with lunch time, so just left. Again, improvisation.

Snacks: If you're a stay-at-home parent, you know that you never leave home without snacks. This is only truer at the beach, where you are more isolated from convenient supplies, and kids are seemingly hungrier. The good thing is that if you get tired making sure your kids aren't drowning, you can use snack time for a brief respite from concentration. The bad part is trying to keep your one-year old from eating sand (and then cleaning up the poop after she does).

Not surfing: We were getting a little bit of the Hurricane Jose swell today, and I have to say it is difficult to watch people catch four-foot waves while you're jumping over four-inch ones with your kids. Usually I go to the beach with my wife and she watches the kids while I surf for a bit, then I come back and play. It works. I guess if you're not a surfer, the flip side of this is suntanning. You can't exactly check out for a few minutes to lay back and relax in the sun when your kids are being pummeled around by the ocean.

Not drowning: This is really hard with my youngest, who is a wild woman of the water. I love this part of her, and so I try hard not to squelch it (I am looking forward to family surf time one day), but it is hard when this fearless one-year old goes deeper and deeper. I guess when you name your child Waverly, what can you expect? Those swimmy things are awesome for this when your child is big enough.

Leaving: By far the hardest thing about the beach is getting two children with different minds on the same page for leaving -- something they probably don't want to do anyway. You're drying off one while the other is running back in the water. One is rinsed off and the other starts digging again. I still don't know how to do this, so any tips would be appreciated!

September 11, 2017

Don Miller Chat

Years ago I had a desk job where I mindlessly entered massive amounts of information from reality television footage into a database, and then even more mechanically put stickers on the tapes. Jobs are all about attitude though, right? And so when I discovered I could spend those "lost" hours listening to sermons and audio books, and even outlining stories I wanted to write, the lost became found.

This blog used to be primarily taking notes from those sermons and lectures, and relaying them to you, the avid readers. Well, I was going through some old posts and found quite a few unfinished pieces with lots of notes and links to sermons from churches, some I attended in person and others just online. Much of it is irrelevant now, with expired links and pastors who don't work there anymore; but lucky for you, this one isn't!

Take a look/listen and then read the notes at the bottom. Hopefully you'll find it useful!


Talks about church structure, church discipline, authoritiy of the church, baptism, meaning, life plans, handling criticism as an artist.

We need, according to Victor Frankel:
  • a project to get us out of bed, building something
  • healthy relationships (unconditional love, truth-telling)
  • a redemptive perspective on suffering; not being victims but conquerors
Love is the only thing that can keep people together when they disagree about something.

Comparing themselves to Bob Goff, who is like a super Christian love guy. Realizing we can't live how someone else lives, but be how we are created to be, but with the same amount of passion and zeal, trusting that God will use it.

September 4, 2017

Stay-at-home Dad

I recently reclaimed my role as Stay-at-home Dad, and I have to say, it feels good! For our oldest daughter's first two years I worked from home part-time, and watched her (full-time). It was difficult for a lot of reasons, most of them having to do with societal norms and dads not being primary caregivers. Even in liberal California, I spent many mornings at the park with more nannies and moms than I ever cared to hang with. Of course they were all very nice and fed Ellie tons of snacks (both my kids love to eat), but I still found it hard to deal with the lack of men I could relate to. Occasionally I would find a father at the park, usually on his day off, but as my mother-in-law recently noticed, sometimes dads kind of suck. Half of the time they spend on their phone while their children either dangerously hang off of high ledges or cling to their father's legs, begging for attention. Women are not immune to this, of course, but I'm just saying -- I see it more in dads.

Despite being a challenge, I found the whole experience deeply rewarding as I came to know my daughter extremely well, and had so many good memories with her. We were close, and I wouldn't have traded that for any career. And so when we decided to move to the South, I wanted my wife to have the same experience. We switched, and for a year and a half I worked like a dog to try and provide for our family. Well, despite the effort, it still wasn't enough. They say a single-parent income is nearly impossible these days, and I guess they're right. I like to blame the system/culture and the expectations we have set up for what encompasses a "comfortable lifestyle." Nonetheless, we needed a little more. Still, God brought us through a whole 18 months without losing our shirts, and now my wife, a modestly-paid teacher, will carry the financial burden of our family, with a little extra help from my part-time job and some freelancing.

The decision wasn't strictly financial though -- I really love being home and am quite good at it. I write and make music and videos, all of which provide additional income that I can generate from home; but I'm also a good dad and really thrive here. Cleaning, cooking, fixing things -- I feel very at comfortable in this role. My wife is also an incredible teacher and missed inspiring the youth to be better people, something she feels passionate about. And so here I am at home while she works, and like I said, it's working.

But if California had its challenges with being the stay-at-home dad, you can imagine what it's like in the South...the parks are laden with women, mostly mothers and grandmothers (not as many nannies). It's fine, I can deal. I have a lot of support and when you're at the park, most of the time you're chasing your kids around anyway. But again, some dads to hang with might be nice...

As I mentioned earlier though, dads don't have a good track record of "being there." I help out with the youth group at my church and on one telling Sunday, half of the kids in my small group either didn't have a good relationship with their distant fathers, or hadn't even seen them in two-or-more years. HALF! Fifty percent! That is unreal and unacceptable. That is why a good friend of ours from the same church constantly reminds me that what I am doing is important, and even though I often feel a bit isolated, people need to see that a father is far more than just a paycheck. As my wife often told me in California, providing for your family involves way more than money.

A few people recently told me to start blogging about being a stay-at-home dad; that it would be an interesting topic and a unique perspective on parenting. It's something I have done for years (search "dad" on this blog and you'll see some of my posts), but when I hear the same thing a few times over from different folks, I usually give it a go. So I'm kicking it up a notch and you can expect to see more posts about fatherhood, particularly staying home with the kids. Hopefully you'll catch a laugh and, as I often write, maybe get a little inspired.