Search This Blog

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

My Other Grandmother's Legacy

Last month I wrote about my grandmother. This week, I want to tell you about my other grandmother.

Today, Myrna Hurst will have 92 candles on her birthday cake. Well, maybe not literally, but she could have that many if she wanted them.

Myrna came to know the Lord as a young woman. She grew up in a Lutheran church but had never heard the gospel. She met Jesus in a large tent in Los Angeles along with thousands of other people, and she was never the same again.

She was not a world traveler, but her impact will be felt throughout the earth. Let me explain why.

My grandmother never met a person that wasn't an instant friend. It is impossible to meet her and not smile. She just exudes love to others.

Her impact is difficult to measure, but I'll try to give you a sense of it. You see, my grandmother has lived her entire life being a harvester of souls. If you were in public with her, you literally couldn't spend an afternoon and not see her tell someone about Jesus.

When I was 25, and she 83, she took me to the movies. Right in front of us, a young woman fell to the ground and twisted her ankle. She quietly cried, probably partially because of the pain she was in, but also for the embarrassment of having just fallen in public. The only thing that went through my carnal mind was, "Wow. Sucks to be her." The next thing I know, my grandmother is sitting next to the woman, praying for her and with her. They talked, about Jesus, of course, and the woman ended up walking away with a new-found purpose and direction in her life.

It wasn't forced. She wasn't trying to be a harvester of souls. She was being Myrna. A woman sold out to her master. Sold out to love. Sold out to a way of life.

You see, Myrna knew something. Jesus is real. Jesus wants to be in a personal relationship with you. She couldn't help but tell people that. That's what she knew and she wanted you to know it too. She worked from the time she was a young woman until she was 89, in the same church, at the same location, for the same people. In title, her role was Parish Worker. In reality, she did it all: prayer warrior, speaker, Bible study leader, friend, companion, officiant, apologist, evangelist, thinker, teacher, pastor, and servant.

She has shared the Gospel of Jesus Christ, one-on-one, more than anyone else I've heard about or read about. The crown awaiting her is radiant and polished, and she will smile that giant smile with big tears in her eyes (that I've seen so many times) as Jesus tells her, "well-done, good and FAITHFUL servant."

Her life has served, and still serves, to remind me every day that when Jesus is real to you, it will change who  you are, through and through.

Monday, September 30, 2013

My Grandmother's Legacy

This weekend I flew out to California to visit my grandmother. Let me tell you a little bit about Baba:

Technically her name is Helen, but if you met her in the past 50 years, then you call her either Baba or Aunt Helen. Born November of 1921, she has lived her entire life in southern California. She never scaled Mount Everest or swam the English Channel. To my knowledge, she never won an Oscar or an Emmy, rode in a space shuttle, or raced in the Iditarod. But she is about the best grandmother anyone has ever had, and she has left a legacy on this earth. Let me tell you why.

Fearless. Okay, she's afraid of snakes. But that is it. If she had been born today, she would have bungee-jumped, sky-dived, and anything-else-crazy you can think of. But she never really went anywhere or did anything that my generation would deem fearless. Except to give birth to four CRAZY (but really fun) girls.

Cartoon hater. Even though she was only 7 years-old when the first Mickey Mouse cartoon came out, she doesn't understand them, and never did. She hates them with a passion you wouldn't believe. But she was happy to watch them with her grandkids.

Gardener extraordinaire. She taught me to appreciate gardens and flowers, even though I don't have any particular affinity for those things.

Game aficionado. She would smoke you in checkers or Rook. And she never, ever let me win. Even when I got mad. She taught me how to lose gracefully--a lesson that I've never forgotten.

Prayer warrior. She prays for me every day. If she has met you, I know that she prays for you every day, too.

Strong as an ox. I was a grown man before her handshakes stopped hurting me.

Christ follower. She has walked with God and sought his wisdom her entire life, and she has left that legacy for generations to come.

Dietitian. From age 68 to 83, she ate ice cream for breakfast almost daily, and never saw a problem with it.

Pest exterminator.  She found a very effective way for pest control in her garden. If you kill a snail, it's worth a penny. If you kill a tomato bug, it's worth 25 cents. And I never went home with less than a couple of bucks in my pocket.

Miss Manners. She was my first date, and she taught me all that I needed to know to go out on dates with girls a little bit closer to my age.

Turn-a-phrase Queen. She could pull out one of a thousand for any given situation. One I heard yesterday, "He's got more money than Carter's got little liver pills."  But my all-time favorite: "That's about as useful a chicken with a pocket on its side."

Matriarch. Four children, 16 grandchildren, 30 great-grandchildren, ages two to 70. Seven small-business owners, seven full-time moms, three pastors, three in business, two teachers, one military officer, one executive, one in sales, one attorney, one counselor, and the rest are students. All walk with God.

I don't know if she'll live another week or another decade, but I do know this. The world will be a little bit darker, a little bit sadder, and a little bit less wonderful when she is gone. But it will feel her impact for years to come.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Like the One You're With - Advice for Married Folks and Those Who Want to Be

I like my wife.

And recently, I noticed something about the couples my wife and I tend to become good friends with. The husband and wife really, really like each other. Not in a "you're shmoopy, no, you're shmoopy" mushy-I'm-gonna-puke-because-they're-so-lovey-dovey kind of way. It's more that you can see that each spouse appreciates the other one for who he or she is.

We celebrated 13 years of marriage last month. Of course that isn't the milestone of all milestones, but it's something!

 If you are going to spend unlimited time with someone (unlimited!) you better like them as a human being.

I love asking people who are engaged one question, "What do you like most about your fiance?" If the only response I get is, "I like how he treats me," I feel bad for that couple two years down the road. That response says much more about her than it does him. At best, it shows that she hasn't really thought about what she specifically likes about him. At worst, it may show that she doesn't really like him.

My wife and I have played a game since the earliest days we knew each other. It's simple. We ask the question, "Why do you like me today?" It's a great exercise because it makes you think of something you noticed (and in turn forces you to really notice, later on) what you like about  your partner. If you're dating, and the only response to that question is something like, "I like that you're nice to me," watch out! If you're married, look closer tomorrow so you can have a good answer.

A quick example. My wife is the greatest, the GREATEST storyteller of all time. Why? She has an ability to take a simple, almost mundane story, and spin the greatest of all yarns. She is hilariously expressive, she uses her hands, she makes up words (geeshinolay!), and occasionally she may, ever so slightly, exaggerate for effect; her inflection, her voice, her face - they all are employed in the telling of the story. I can't help but smile when I watch her tell a story. In fact, I'm smiling right now as I think of it.

You need to be friends with your spouse. The best of friends. You need to like each other. Will it always be easy? Heck no. Will there be difficulty? Of course. There are a ton of other things that are important in a marriage: similar values, spiritual compatibility, physical attraction, sense of humor, but friendship really encompasses the whole thing. Be your spouse's friend, and the rest will fall into place.

One last thing. There is nothing, and I mean nothing better than lying in bed after years of marriage, holding hands, interlocked, after an exhausting day of changing diapers, chastening children, charring burgers, and chasing dreams, silently saying, "We are doing this together; the two of us, as a team, as friends, are living life together. Nothing can break us apart."

If you have forgotten what you liked about your spouse so many years ago, pay attention. You'll see it. And you might surprise them when look at them and just say, "I like you."

Friday, May 10, 2013

Embrace Your Inner Cool: Drive A Minivan

The minivan is awesome, and I'm tired of the self-righteous bashing of the minivan that has always accompanied its ownership.

My sister-in-law recently posed a question on social media about whether she should get an SUV or minivan, and although there was a lot of support for the minivan, many responders said the same thing, "You're too cool for a minvan."

What? Really? We're in our mid-30s and people are still trying to "be cool" by driving the right car?

I Know Cool

I've seen every episode of Happy Days. I studied the Fonz. I know how Zach Morris got away with everything at Bayside, and I modeled my high school years after him.

Okay, maybe the shoes I wear on the weekends cost less than the sushi lunch you ate today. So what if I have memorized all of the two-letter scrabble words? I suppose I do like to wear T-shirts with words like "Epcot" on them.

And, yes, I'm probably not up on all of the hip lingo, and how to properly use phrases like "just sayin'" or "see what I did there."

I'm still cool.

Okay, so that was a little tongue-in-cheek. The truth is, I think I'm cool for entirely different reasons than what I just addressed.

How Do You Define Cool?

Maybe the people who think they're too cool to drive a minivan feel that way because they are still thinking of "cool" like they did when they were 16. Maybe to them, cool is defined by wearing rolled up jeans and smoking a cigarette, riding a motorcycle, wearing leather jackets, and being a smart alec to authority figures.

But maybe cool, instead, means being comfortable with who you are. I've always admired people who are willing to be themselves, regardless of what others think. I think that is cool.

I guess I've always been comfortable in my own skin, more or less. Although I'm a white guy with marginal rhythm, I don't mind dancing in front of others. I'm not the most talented singer, though I'm not afraid to belt out a stanza or two to add a little fun and frivolity.

I say it's cool to be who you are, to embrace your station in life, and to forget about what your friends-who-are-still-trying-to-impress-each-other think.

Now that we've settled that, let's get back to the original question.

Why is there such an aversion to the minivan? Is it because the minivan so much uglier than an SUV?

Uh, no.

So what is it? I think part of it stems from a fear of growing up. It's the fear that you're turning into parents, or maybe even (for shame!) your parents. Is that such a bad thing?

What Does the Minivan in Your Driveway Say About You?

1. You don't care about others' definition of cool.
2. You're not afraid of being a parent, and announcing that fact to the world.
3. You're not afraid of being that guy who loves that his life is filled with noisy, stinky kids who aren't perfect.
4. You're not afraid that your high school days with slicked back hair and snarky Zach Morris comments are over.

The Top 10 Reasons Why Minivans Are Awesome

1. You can open and close the doors with the push of a button while carrying a crying baby, a screaming toddler, and 12 sacks of groceries.
2. 16 cup holders. That's not a joke. I counted.
3. Your 120 lb wife can throw a 26-pound double stroller in the back end without laying down seats or moving spare tires around.
4. Decent gas mileage.
5. There is plenty of room for a cooler, a box of toys, diapers, wipes, books, a purse, sports equipment, and a small refrigerator for trips.
6. Grandparents and other human beings over the age of 60 can sit comfortably, and they don't have to use a ladder to climb into your vehicle.
7. You might be able to squeeze in some people who aren't even family!
8. It's like a Delorean with the doors opening all by themselves!

9. If you buy one that is just a few years old, it can be quite affordable.
10. Did I mention the keyless doors?

We have literally travelled across the country, with kids, 5 1/2 times. We've done it in a station wagon, a 27-foot moving van, and a minivan. There's nothing like travelling in a minivan.

So, embrace the new cool. Embrace the fact that you're a parent, a soccer mom, a dad who wears cheap shoes, and that you want to be comfortable in your vehicle.

Listen, there are lots of reasons why buying a minivan may not be for you. But, your little "they aren't cool" excuse isn't a good enough reason to dismiss buying one.

Just sayin'.

See what I did there?

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Military Silencing Religious Views? Maybe Not.

[Disclaimer: This is not an official statement by the Army, the Department of Defense, or any other organization. Opinions are my own. No legal advice is being given, and nothing within this post should be construed as such.] 

I have a message for members of the military concerned about their ability to express their faith: Don't worry. It hasn't yet come to that.  

My social media is exploding with the story about a "new policy" stopping military personnel from sharing their faith, including chaplains. I immediately met this story with caution, and I think that might be the best approach.

Based on the stories I've seen so far, I think it would be best not to rush to judgment.
From what I can glean from these stories, they all seem to point to a directive by the Air Force from 2012. I read the directive, and there is NOTHING to suggest that Chaplains or other Airmen cannot share there faith. 

It does, however, discuss a long-held standard for all military commanders. Commanders and those in leadership may not coerce others to a certain religious point of view. The operative part of the directive (which carries the force of law) states that leaders in the Air Force "must avoid the actual or apparent use of their position to promote their personal religious beliefs to their subordinates or to extend preferential treatment for any religion." All military branches teach their leaders that they may not promote one religion over another to their subordinates. Nothing in this directive would stop an Army Lieutenant from discussing his faith with his superior, another lieutenant, or DOD civilians outside of his chain-of-command. In addition, nothing in this directive would stop a Chaplain from doing what Chaplains do, and what they have always done. Commanders have always walked a fine line when discussing their personal religious or political views, and this doesn't stop them from doing that, even with their subordinates.

The stories report that Nate Christensen, a Navy O-4 spokesman at the Pentagon said, "Religious proselytization is not permitted within the Department of Defense. Court martials [sic] and non-judicial punishments are decided on a case-by-case basis and it would be inappropriate to speculate on the outcome in specific cases." Taken at face value, this statement is concerning. However, there are several things to note about this statement:

1. Even if the statement was said by a Pentagon official, the statement does not carry the force of law. It is not a lawful regulation or general order under Article 92 of the UCMJ, and thus, could not be used as non-judicial punishment or in a court-martial.

2. The stories all claim this was a written statement, but only one source received this statement and reported on it (all of the other stories are quoting him, the Fox News contributor).

3.  I have to question the way the statement was delivered, and the accuracy of how it was reported. My guess is that it was an email because of a glaring error. The plural of court-martial is "courts-martial." It seems that in an official Pentagon press release, several sets of eyes would have reviewed the statement and somebody would have caught on to that.

4. Perhaps the statement was just inartfully worded. I cannot imagine that the Pentagon has decided to announce an official position to a single source, that reverses course from the entire history of military law precedent and policy.

I have seen no evidence that any branch of the military has given any directive, order (lawful or otherwise), instruction, or regulation that would stop its members from sharing their faith. 

I'm not saying there shouldn't be concern over statements like those allegedly made by the pentagon official. I'm also not saying that we shouldn't be concerned when Pentagon officials look to sources like Mikey Weinstein for guidance on anything, let alone religious tolerance. But these stories alone should not lead military members to stop discussing their faith as they always have, being cognizant of their roles as leaders.

Admittedly, I'm an outsider now, having been discharged from Active Duty nine months ago. So if I'm missing some policy that the news stories haven't shared, I hope someone will pass on the information that I don't have in front of me. Absent that, I think it's premature for civilians to panic about the state of military's freedom of expression, for our military friends to stop sharing their faith, or for Christians in the military to find civilian jobs. 

Troops, keep fighting the good fight on all fronts, military and otherwise. 

Jody Hurst spent four years as an Army Judge Advocate, and now spends his time trying to make the world a better place through writing, blogging, trying to be a decent husband to his beautiful wife and father to his three wonderful kids, and occasionally working as  a local government attorney.  

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Top 10 Grammar Tips for May

10. When talking about ideas, the phrase is flesh out, not flush out. It comes from the idea of taking an idea and "putting flesh on it." Kinda gross, but there you have it.

9.  Nothing is "really unique" or "especially unique." By definition something is unique or it's not unique.

8.  There are no Cs in the word supersede.

7.  You have several brothers-in-law, not brother-in-laws. Same with sisters, fathers, and mothers.

6.  In the same vein, they are courts-martial, not court-martials.

5.  If there are only two options, you wouldn't say, "the other alternative" because it's redundant.

4.  When you are writing about the 1990s, you don't add the apostrophe, it's just the S.

3.  Guarantee is a verb; guaranty is a noun.

2.  Unless your particular profession requires otherwise, only use one space after a sentence. Using two spaces is a holdover from typewriter days. I have to use two spaces in my day job, and one in my personal writing. It gets confusing. I know the over-30 crowd is screaming, "That's not what I learned!" The convention has changed.

1.  The Capitol is a building that is in the capital of the US.

Monday, April 22, 2013

An Incredibly Important Job

The butterfly is a strange creature. She starts off in an egg, eats through the egg, then emerges as a caterpillar smaller than the head of a pin. For weeks, she does nothing but devour leaves, and then hangs upside-down in complete rest, without movement, for two weeks after turning into a cocoon (I know, it's actually a chrysalis, but cocoon works better with my metaphor, so just let it go). Then she emerges as butterfly with tiny wings until fluid is pumped into them, causing them to grow and their colors to become striking. She spends her life as a butterfly flittering from flower to flower drinking nectar and then she lays her eggs, starting the process over. 

For several years after my wife stopped taking care of other people's kids at school and started taking care of our own kids at home, she dealt with an internal struggle. "Am I doing enough?"

I, on the other hand, had a job that seemed importantthe kind of job Tom Cruise and John Travolta make look very excitingso she felt, at least somewhat, under-important.

There certainly is a temptation for stay-at-home moms, domestic engineers, and CEOs of singular family enterprises, to feel like their jobs are unfulfilling and not worthwhile. They feel like a butterfly whose life cycle is going in reverse. Nothing could be further from the truth. 

A few years ago, I re-read a portion of The Life You've Always Wanted, by John Ortberg. In it, he says something that has never left me. He responded to a young mom who made it clear that she thought reading the Bible and praying were the only two activities that mattered spiritually.

"In this the church had failed her. She had never been taught to see that caring for two young children, offered daily with expressions of gratitude and prayers for help and patient acceptance of trials, might become a kind of school for transformation into powerful servanthood beyond anything she had ever known. Somehow having a "quiet time" countedtoward spiritual devotion and caring for two children did not."

I think this syndrome is all-too-common among young moms. "I'm not doing enough. I used to spend so much time in the Word. Did I even take a shower today? I am a failure. I don't have time to think. I'm a bad wife. I used to be somebody. I'd give anything to crawl into a cocoon for a couple of weeks."

Listen, I've met those families where the kids do exactly as their parents ask them, the first time, every time; they eat every meal on a mid-century modern table, filled with fresh vegetables from their organic garden and eggs from free-range chickens roaming in their own backyard, and have boundless energy to spend 3 hours in prayer and 2 hours reading the Bible. Dad mows the lawn every day after sitting behind his gigantic mahogany desk, reading leather-bound editions of Euclid, and smoking a tobacco-less pipe (so as not to subject anyone to second-hand smoke). The kids get up, wash themselves, change their own diapers, brush their teeth for 60 seconds, away from the gums, and then run outside to pick up after the dog.

Oh wait, I haven't met them because they don't exist.

Your Facebook friends and those blogs you read, those people are lying. Okay, that's a strong word. They probably aren't lying intentionally, but they typically put their best feet forward. Your friends who appear to have it all together are struggling, too. They get tired. They mess up. They feed their kids (gasp!) McDonald's (the pious ones choose Chick-fil-A) when the food is gone, and they are just too exhausted to boil water for spaghetti.

Sometimes, God gives you the grace to do it all. You'll have it together, you'll look good, you'll feel good, you'll wake up before the kids, you'll read your Bible, and the kids will be well-behaved. Other times, His grace is sufficient to help you not wallop your 11 year-old across the head when he pushes your buttons. And the sheer act of not screaming out or responding negatively is itself an act of God.

The next time you are feeling inadequate, or you're missing how important you think you used to be, remember this: Those kids you are raising will someday be raising kids of their own. They will remember how you loved them, how you bandaged their knees, how you held them, and how you didn't smack them when they deserved it. They'll remember you saying, "Lord, help!" And they will do the same with their children.

After I leave my job, no one will remember the incredible legal advice I gave to the Real Estate department on how to deal with a property owner that saved the City some money. But, I know my kids will remember when their mom decided not to buy an Easter dress so that she could, instead, buy stupid caterpillars so that the kids could watch them turn into butterflies (that look suspiciously like moths) in our kitchen.

Mama, you are a butterfly! The time you spent before you had kids devouring the Word and then taking weeks at a time to rest was amazing! But you now have to fly around looking for food and take care of your kids. Embrace your beauty, your crazy, busy life, and love God in the midst of it.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Top 10 Grammar Tips for April

10. You whet someone's appetite, you don't wet it.

9. It's the Jones's house; not the Jones' house. It's Chris's bike; not Chris' bike. But it's Jesus' sandal, not Jesus's sandal (He gets a special rule. Historical Deity and all, but also Moses' and Socrates'). 

8. I don't know whether or not to choose Dr. Pepper or Diet Pepsi. WRONG. I don't know whether to choose Dr. Pepper or Diet Pepsi. Only use whether or not if you mean "regardless of whether."  In fact, the choice is easy. Dr. Pepper is delicious and Diet Pepsi is not. Choose Dr. Pepper.

7. (Present tense) You lie down; you don't lay down. You lay your keys on the table. (I'm working on this one.)

6. I couldn't care less. See what that means? It means you couldn't possibly care any less about it. Therefore, I  could care less is incorrect.

5. Supposedly is not pronounced supposubly.

4. Chipotle is pronounced Chi-poat-lay, not Chi-poll-tay.

3. Fustrating is not a word. Please pronounce the r after the f.

2. When writing a quotation, place the "punctuation inside of the quotation."

1. (If you write a complete sentence within parentheses, place the punctuation inside.)

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Christian Myth #1 It's Always Wrong to Lie

I've decided to start a series on Christian Myths. When you've been around Christian circles long enough you realize that some "truths" that permeate the Church are not really true at all. This series is an attempt to debunk some of these myths.

Christian Myth #1 It's Always Wrong to Lie

When considering my largely misguided and misinformed youth, I remember having conversations in college with other Christians that I cannot believe I had.

They went something like this.

Me: So, dude, when someone, like, told the Nazis there weren't no Jews in their house, but there really were, that was sin, right?
Friend: Yeah, bro. That was wrong. It's always wrong to lie.
Me: Dude. That's crazy.
Friend: Yeah. I know.

This is stupid on so many levels. First of all, why was my grammar so atrocious in college? But more importantly, why hadn't I a clue about moral dilemmas? I had grown up in the church, had attended a Christian high school, and was attending a Christian University.

I blame myself. At that point in my life, I was doing a decent job on focusing on only the first part of Matthew 22:37; I was attempting to love the Lord with all of my heart and soul, but not with all of my mind. Interestingly, my academic pursuit of God began only after I left college.

Enough about me. Let's get to the meat of this. When confronted with a situation in which there are two options, and each option in itself would be a wrong, then you must choose the greater good. One famous example is from the book The Hiding Place. The ten Boom family, under threat to their own lives, hid Jews in their home to protect them from detection and almost certain death at a concentration camp. In order to do so they told the storm troopers that there were no Jews living in their house.

When faced with the option to lie or save a life, the lie no longer is sin. In fact, if the ten Booms had chosen to tell the truth in that situation, telling the truth would have been sin. I can hear the objection now, "You're saying that doing the right thing depends on the circumstance. That's moral relativism!" Yes I am saying that doing the right thing depends on the circumstance, but that is NOT moral relativism. Perhaps it will be helpful to look at the slides below. 

Moral relativists believe that whether something is right or wrong is based entirely on the person. If he or she believes it's wrong, then it's wrong. On the other hand, moral objectivists believe something is right based on moral truths that are the same for all people. The tricky part here is that that truth is dependent upon the circumstance.

An illustration.

1. Bob Barker, Alex Trebek, and Richard Dawson are each placed in The Hiding Place house and must decide whether to lie to save human life. 

The relativist says they can each decide based on their own morals. One may choose to lie; one may choose to reveal the Jews. The answer doesn't matter; following the subject's heart is what matters.

The objectivist says there is only one right answer. All should come to the same conclusion.

2. Now Bob Barker, Alex Trebek, and Richard Dawson are on the set of Jeopardy. Alex tells Bob and Richard they can each have $20,000 if they lie to the producer and say, "Alex should get a raise because his mother is ill."

The relativist says Bob and Richard can each decide based on his own morals. One may choose to lie; one may choose not to. The answer doesn't matter; following the subject's heart is what matters.  

The objectivist says there is only one right answer. Both should come to the same conclusion. It is always wrong to lie based solely on personal gain.

In other words, not only is telling a lie (in #1) the appropriate and right thing to do; it is the right thing to do, in that situation, for all people at all time.

The Bible has several examples of people who were in a moral quandary that chose the greater good. Rahab deceived the guards by hiding Hebrew spies. Hebrew midwives deceived the Egyptians so that Hebrew babies would not be killed. The apostles preached the word of God despite being told not to.

Before you find yourself in a moral dilemma, it might do you some good to think about how you would respond. I know my college self would have fallen right on his face trying to respond. Don't be like him. He didn't even know how to speak properly, let alone have moral wisdom.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Go Hug Your Dad

I've been thinking a lot about my dad lately. Maybe it's because I just saw my brother for the first time in close to a year, and my brother looks JUST like him. Maybe it's because as my kids get older I remember specific things that my dad used to do with me and my brothers, and I try to emulate him. Maybe it's because I'd just really like to talk to him about some stuff.

I have a recurring dream every six months. Invariably, my Dad walks into my house, he announces he was just taking a break from it all, but assures us that he's back for good. I give him the biggest hug any son has ever given any father, and then I wake up, my face and pillow dripping with tears from the sweetness, but the tears don't immediately end because of the awareness that he isn't back for good.

You've never known someone quite like my Dad.

He was hilarious. But not in a class clown kind of way. He let people talk. He was comfortable letting other people feel good about themselves; he had no need to be the center of attention. I remember watching him talk to certain men, like our neighbor - my Dad's cousin and probably closest friend at the time - or his uncles, and he would about fall over laughing. I always wondered what they were saying. And now I know. Because I have those conversations with my own friends, away from my kids and my wife, and we just, you know, talk about funny, stupid, even sometimes a little bit bawdy stuff.

When I was little, I loved that my Dad was so tall. He stood 6' 3.5" on his "good leg."  I could always find him in a crowd. He was almost always the tallest of the dads, and that was a source of pride for me.

My Dad imparted a lot to me. He loved learning. He loved language. He loved his boys. He adored my Mom.  I've never seen anyone with a better ability to find the little things about life or people that nobody else saw, but that he appreciated. He was a godly man, but not in a pious way. He quietly loved the Lord with all of his heart, soul, and mind.

My dad favored girls. I think that's why God never gave him one. He loved my wife, whom he only referred to as "The Princess." He would just melt if he knew my daughter. She'd be his favorite of our kids; I know that for a fact. And I would be totally okay with that.

More often than I would probably admit out loud, I'd like to ask his advice on something, but I can't. I married young, 21, and he died only a month later. I was still a boy, or at best a young man. So, I missed out on getting to know him as one man gets to know another man, or as one father gets to know another father.

I don't think I have a point here. Just wanted to reflect a little.

And maybe just to say, go hug your dad.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Top 10 Grammar Tips for March

10. Loose is something your pants get when you lose weight.

9. Don't use the word literally when you mean figuratively.

8. They're means "they are." Their is possessive.

7. Correct: Let George and ME take you to the zoo.
Incorrect: Let George and I take you to the zoo.
Helpful tip: how would you say it if the words "George and" was removed from the sentence?

6. Correct: I wish he were here.
Incorrect: I wish he was here.
It's the subjunctive tense. Look it up, and you'll never mess it up again.

5. It's throes of passion; not throws of passion.

4. Ability is qualitative and capacity is quantitative.

3. Wherewithal refers specifically to something financial. Thus, you shouldn't ask, "Does he have the wherewithal to complete the science assignment?"

2. These are redundant:
ATM Machine, PIN Number, UPC Code, SAT Test, PDF format, HIV virus.

1. It's toe the line, not tow the line.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Putting Your Spouse First Actually Puts Your Kids First

In the movie Cars, Doc Hudson tells Lightning McQueen when he rides in dirt, he has to turn right to go left. McQueen initially laughs off this brilliant, yet counter-intuitive advice, but when he grasps it, the advice ends up making him a hero.

If you prioritize your relationship with your spouse, it will end up giving you the result that you desire: Your kids will feel secure, safe, and in the end, will feel like they are the most important thing in your life.

One of the greatest takeaways from my parents' lifelong romance was to set priorities in the proper order: God first, then spouse, after the spouse the kids, and then everything else.  No doubt they had a unique perspective, having been in love with each other since Dad was five and Mom was three.

Legion are my memories where the three boys were with Mom and Dad going to fancy restaurants, taking long coastal drives, spending the day at far away beach cities, shopping for antiques, fishing, spending a Saturday at an auction house, hanging out at their workplace (they always worked together), and going with them wherever they wanted to go.

Few are my memories of going to the party of a classmate, me or my brothers causing one of our sporting events to swallow an entire weekend, or doing some other kid-centered activity.

My parents were intentional that having kids wasn't going to stop them from doing the things they did before they had kids. Their object was to bring the kids into their marriage, not allow the kids to drown their marriage in a sea of tasks for the children. For this reason, our kid activities were pretty limited.

This idea probably sounds foreign to many people. It seems the pervasive thinking in the Western world is that the lives of parents generally revolve around their children. Beginning each Monday, day in and day out, parents run themselves ragged tearing around from practice to recital to dance class to art school to theater to band until they fall into a heap on Sunday night, only to start again the next morning. So, what happens after that final Sunday, when you've dropped off your baby girl at the college of her choice and you walk away, hand in hand with your spouse, no longer knowing the hand you hold? One way to fight that scenario is to make serious efforts to make your husband or wife a priority in your life.

So is this simply one guy's opinion because of what he grew up with? I don't think so. Counselors, therapists, pastors, study after study, but most importantly, your own experience will tell you that kids who grow up in families where Mom and Dad's relationship is strong do much better than when Mom and Dad focus all of the attention on the kids, and forget about each other. Kids long for constants; when they know Mom and Dad's relationship is solid, kids flourish.

Even after taking into account the differences between our culture and ancient Hebrew culture, I think the Bible has some principles that could really help here. In Ephesians 5 & 6, in the most instructive and direct teaching to family roles and responsibilities in the Bible, Paul tells Fathers not to exasperate their children, and tells children to obey their parents; it's short and sweet. In a beautiful way that only God could have inspired, Paul describesin explicit detailthe love and respect that spouses are to have in relationship with one another, and compares the marriage relationship to the relationship that Jesus Christ has with His church. A marriage is not just a relationship, it's a calling.

Ephesians certainly isn't the only place this type of instruction is in the Bible. Our relational God used the Hebrew word yada in the same sense to describe both His people knowing him, and a husband and wife's most intimate expression of their physical relationship. The average Jewish or American Christian wedding ceremony is bursting with symbolism from the Covenant that God created with Abraham.

There's no doubt that children are a blessing from the Lord, and that God wants our quivers to be full so that we can be blessed. God never reprimands a parent in the Bible for longing to have a baby. However, there just seems to be a different Biblical treatment of the spousal relationship than the parent/child relationship.

This isn't to say that parents don't and shouldn't sacrifice for their children. I know my parents sacrificed greatly for us. That's what love does. Parents should sacrifice money, their own needs, their time, their energy, and sometimes their very lives for their children. But the one thing that should not be sacrificed is the relationship between mom and dad. That needs to come first.

It's akin to having a relationship with God. When your relationship with God is strong, it makes all of your other relationships better. Same goes with parents and children. Take care of your spouse first, and everything else seems to fall in line.

What does it mean to put your spouse first? This is the hard part. If you've got kids under 5, putting your spouse first will look a whole lot different than if your kids drive themselves to school. Sometimes the best way I can put my spouse first is to do something that may not even look like I am putting my spouse first to a non-parent. You can put your spouse first by giving your kids a bath, and telling your wife to go sit down and watch Downton Abbey. How about initiating sex if you aren't the one who normally does? Maybe it's putting your laptop down for an hour, turning off the TV, and just having a conversation after the kids have gone to bed? This is where really knowing your husband or wife is very helpful. How do they feel love? What is it that makes them feel special? Do that thing!

So, it isn't about how much time you are spending with your kids versus your spouse. In fact, it could be a 200 to 1 ratio of kid time versus spouse time. But just setting that time aside, that one date night per month, or Bible study every other week is putting your spouse first.

But also be cognizant of the extra time you are setting yourself up for when you'll have no choice but to chase kids around. If you cut out a sport or two, maybe there will be a little more time for you to have a real life conversation with the person you fell in love with so many years ago. After all, what greater tangible example could your children have of what their relationship with Christ should look like than a wonderful relationship between you and your spouse?

So, if you want your kids to feel safe and secure, to feel like they are the most important thing, put each other first. I know it may feel like I'm telling you to go right to go left, but I speak from experience. My parents put their relationship with each other first, which makes them bigger heroes than any talking car will ever be.