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Category Archives: Fatherhood/Parenthood

the sinner’s prayer

As the parent of a three year-old, I have learned an awful lot more aboout myself than how to be a good parent.  And I guess that is how it goes.  Being a parent teaches us how selfish, stubborn, deceitful, and self-seeking we are…or at least that has been the case for me.  Now, my friends without kids, hang on and keep reading.  I share all of this because of a realization God has brought me to recently.

It is so hard for NB, my son, to trust my wife and I. He doesn’t want to listen or obey because he trusts more in what he wants or understands for himself. He doesn’t seem to get that “no” or “don’t” is usually for the purpose of safety or something better. I love him so much that I am willing to put off his “happiness” for the sake of something better. “No” and discipline come from a deep love and the want for him to have something greater down the road. He just sees it all as a denial of what he wants and perceives that he needs. There is a fustration on both sides…NB gets frustrated with us because we are not working within his realm of self, and we, as parents, get frustrated with his lack of trust that we are really working towards his good (especially when this is lived out over and over again and he sees that we do know what we are talking about sometimes).

Even while I type this, it is amazing to me how long it took me to get the lesson God is teaching me through the struggles of parenting. God is my Father. He loves me more than I will ever be able to comprehend on either side of Heaven. He is truly out for my good. In good times and bad, in times of plenty or in need, in closeness when I am obedient, or in distance and hard times of discipline…God is always after one thing: my heart. He wants me to love and trust him completely. And he is overwelmingly patient with me…even when I have to learn the same lesson over and over and over. God is out for my good. Always. Even when life isn’t working like I feel that it should.

“Okay, CoffeeJoe, that is a great story and lesson, but what in the world does it have to do with the sinner’s prayer?”

Don’t worry,the tie-in is huge…and it has even grown a bit since I hace started writing this post (it has taken me a couple of days to find the time to write completely). And for this reason, you will have to wait for part two. 🙂

I do want to leave you with some scripture, though. 1 John 3:1-3:

See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. All who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure.

Father, Jesus, Spirit, please help me to trust you. Please help me to see your great love for me and just trust you. I love you. your son, joe

 

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Number Two…Part Two

Now that ID (my second child) has been with us for almost two weeks, I thought I would write a follow-up to my post Number Two.  I have had a lot of time to think and reflect on the experience of going from the father of one to the father of two, albeit the thoughts are from a slightly sleep deprived mind.  Even though I now am in the process of potty training a toddler along with changing a bazillion newborn diapers, this is still not about that number two.  🙂

Here are a few of the things that I am learning:

  • Patience is hard at three in the morning.  I am trying hard not to get fustrated with LA and/or the baby when the ID is fussy and can’t be consoled, but it is hard.  I am being reminded time and time again that I do not have heavenly patience on my own.  It only comes from the Spirit.  I wish I could say I am doing really good at seeking the Spirit early in the AM, but I am not.  I just know what I need to work on.
  • Love can be equal and different.  I love both of my sons so much.  I love hanging out and playing with NB.  I love holding and cuddling with ID.  They are in two different phases of life, and the fathering skills are different for both.  Patience can be harder with the preschooler, especially when he is having trouble adjusting to not being the only one, but that goes back to my first point.  I do love them equally, and I love them differently.  They are different.  I will just stay in prayer that as they grow I will remember that and not compare them to each other.  I just want to love them for who they are individually.
  • I am still a selfish sinner in need of a Savior.  With to kids needing my love and attention, it is becoming even more apparent how selfish I am.  I am so prideful.  I want my time notched out for me as well as them.  I know rest time is important, but I use it as an excuse.  Even now, NB is watching TV when I probably should be playing with him.  I will play with him as soon as I am done, but it is an example of the problem.  I want to use tiredness and the need for a mental break as an excuse to worship at the throne of me.  I need to trust God to give me the energy, strength, and mental ability to do all I need to do for my sons and wife.  I need to admit to God that I am a selfish, prideful man.  I need to preach the Gospel to myself and remind myself that I am nothing without Jesus, and I can’t be the father and husband I need to be without Jesus and the Spirit.  I need the Gospel to be ever present.
  • I need the Bible more than ever.  In the last week and a half, I have found excuse after excuse not to read the Bible.  A week and a half is a long time to go without reading the Bible for me now.  I felt it.  I knew I needed to get back into it.  I finally did yesterday, and it was so refreshing.  I need to recommit to reading it everyday, meditating, and spending quality time with God.
  • God will provide.  I won’t go into all of the details, but God has seen our needs before we have known them and has provided.  It has been amazing.  God does not always meet our needs in the way we think they need to be met, and sometimes he does.  The thing we need to learn is that we can trust him.

Okay, there are a lot more things that I am forgetting, but maybe I can get to those later.  I just knew I needed to write a little.  It is something that burns in my heart until I do.  I need to go play with my son.  Hopefully you can glean something from what God is teaching me.

Has God taught you anything really cool, life-changing, or obvious but needed lately?

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The Sweetness of My Son

I am in the hospital with my wife and our second son.  ID was born two days ago.  This morning I just could not get over how awesome it was to just hold him in my arms.  I imagine that is when God is the most pleased with us.  When we are nestled in close and completely relient on him.  Like newborns, he wants us to know we need him for everything.

So often I am more like my almost-three-year-old.  I think I can do everything.  Even the things that I know I should look to God for help, I want to do on my own.  I get anxious and stubborn,  “I do it by myself,” to quote NB.  Though he still needs me, the independent streak is very obvious.

i live my life between the two attitudes.  Completely relient or rebelliously independent.  As I spend time with ID, my new boy, and get fustrated by NB, my firstborn, I hope I continue to analyze myself and my relationship to God.

Right now, with the sleep deprivation, I think I am closer to the newborn.  I know I can’t do this alone.

Okay, I hope this one made sense.  Just some random thoughts from fatherhood as I sit here looking at my newborn son.

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Christmas Thoughts: Jesus’ Stepdad

Before I start, if you have not read the post Christmas Thoughts: The Silence Has Broken and then come back to this one.  I am going to make a few references to what I wrote there.

I remember the first time that I heard the term “stepdad” in reference to Joseph.  It was in a Christmas song called What We Call Christmas by the band Bleach.  I was kind of offended.  Why refer to Joseph this way.  Eventually, I realized that it was an apt term. Joseph really was Jesus’ step-father. Jesus was/is God’s son…Joseph was, for lack of a better word, his custodial guardian.

There are two things about this that stand out to me. The first is that We can never be ready, truly ready, for how God is going to work things out. Jesus was/is the promised Messiah. No one expected him to be born into the family of a common construction worker and his wife, who got pregnant before she was married.

On top of that, imagine how Joseph was feeling. He is about to be married, following all of the Jewish laws of purity, and his fiance comes to him with, “I’m pregnant, but it’s not what you think…it is God’s son.”

I can just imagine what Joseph was thinking…not only was this girl cheating on him, she might be a bit crazy. Until recently, I have always forgotten the humanity of the people in this story. I guess I have always “holy-fied” them. I didn’t think about the human-ness of Joseph in how he must have felt when Mary gave him the news. But why would he believe what she said. I mean, come on, it is a little far-fetched. Remember, there had been a 400 year silence between God and the Jews, and on top of that, why would the Messiah come through an unwed mother? That is kind of far outside if Jewish law.

No wonder God had to send supernatural intervention to stop old Joe from ending the betroval quietly. Talk about a rude awakening. Joseph probably had trouble getting to sleep that night, and in the middle of his restless sleep, Gabriel, one of the head angels, pays him a visit. “Joseph, this is for real. You are going to name the boy Jesus, and you are going to raise him. You are going to raise the Messiah as your son.”

I don’t know about you, but I think I would have had to change my jammies…and not because of the heavenly visitor. He was just told that he is going to be the adoptive father to the Son of God and Savior of Israel. Gulp. Talk about a big pill to swallow.

What do you say to that? How do you deal with that? How do you prepare for that? How do you get ready to teach, discipline, and parent God’s son? Additionally, how do you explain this to your family and friends? I bet he could already hear them all, ” Suuuuuure, it’s not your baby. I am sure it is the ‘Son of God.’. Sure, Joe, we believe you.”

The story of Jesus’ coming as a baby is real, and it is a real story. The people are real. Joseph really was asked to raise a child that was not his. He was given the job of raising the Messiah. He really was to marry a pregnant Mary, no matter what anyone said. It is much easier to believe a real story, and this one is real and as full of the aspects of reality that we all know.

This brings me to the second thing that Joseph-the-Stepdad makes me realize. Jesus understands us. As Christians, we are adopted children of God. Jesus knows what this is like. He was the son of God adopted by a man…as we are the son of men adopted by God. He knows the learning curve. He understands. He is like us and we are like him.

And lastly, this brings me to one last point. Adoption is near and dear to God’s heart. Jesus was adopted, we are adopted, and he wants us to care for orphans. I will post more about this another day, but please think about doing something for children who don’t have parents to love and care for them. Adoption, fostering, or just reaching out to children in need is something God has called us to. Remembering Jesus’ adoption by Joseph should remind us about this.

I will end on that note. I think we have a lot to chew on.

Merry Christmas, everyone!

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Toddler Logic: The Three Bears

Okay, today’s post is not going to be about my Christmas thoughts.  It is not even going to have any spiritual lesson.  It is just something funny that came out of the mind of my almost three year-old son.  I love how his thoughts are so simple and logic is straight to the point.  I wish I could think like him sometimes!

As a teacher, I get to enjoy time off at Christmas.  This year, we are keeping my son out of daycare, so I am spending my days with him.  Yesterday, I after we dropped LA off at work, we went to a place near there called The Children’s Garden.  It is a cool little park that has a garden that is set up alphabetically with signs talking about each plant, statues of several nursery rhymes and stories, colorful paths near the river, and little instrument things the kids can play.  We sat and ate our breakfast there.

Where we sat was across from a house with three bear statues outside of it.  It was obviously for the story of the Three Bears.  When we walked past it, NB kept asking, “Can we go-in?”  (He kind of slurs “go” and “in” together…it is cute)  I just kept telling him that it was not a real house, there is no doors, and it is for the story of the Three Bears.  He would just say, “Oh.”  A few minutes later, he would ask again.

So we sat to eat, and he kept looking at the house.  He asked again, “Can we go-in there?”

I explained it all to him again.

“Oh,” he replied, again, and then looked at the bear statues.  After a couple of minutes he looks at me and says, “The bears can’t go-in there.”

I said, “That’s right.  It is just for show.  The house doesn’t have doors, and the bears are not real.”

“Oh.”  He looks at the house and bears for a while.  “The bears can’t go in there.”

“That’s right.”

A pause.  “The bears can’t go in their beacuse they can’t open doors,” NB says very matter-of-factly.

I laugh, “That is right.  You are very smart.  You don’t think bears can open doors?”

Still with a look that says he has figured out something obvious that I should have already known beause I am his Daddy, “No, they can’t.  They don’t have any keys.”

I don’t know that he has ever made me laugh harder.  That was awesome…however, he was still looking at me with a sense of logic wondering why I was laughing.  I calmed down, trying not to make him feel bad.  He really was trying to figure this out.  So I responded, trying not to laugh anymore, “No, you are right.  They don’t have keys.”

The logic and faith of a child is something I wish I could have more of.  I am just glad I get this time to see it and experience it with NB (and soon to be ID).

 
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Posted by on December 21, 2011 in Fatherhood/Parenthood

 

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Number Two

Wait, what?  No, this post is not about THAT.  No, it is a different number two.  This is about my kid(s) and being a father.  No, still not about THAT.

I don’t believe I have shared this on here, but my wife is expecting another child due the beginning of next year. I shall refer to him as ID on here.  We have known about the coming of ID since late spring/early summer.  Now that it is late fall/early winter, I am ready to admit some of my mixed feelings about it all.

Now, please don’t get me wrong.  I am very excited about our second child. I really am.  We wanted to have another one for a while now.  It was awesome news to get to know that there was new life on the way.  This is what we have been hoping for.  Now that NB is a little older now, we are ready for another little one.

What has surprised me, however, is how different this pregnancy would be and how I would go through rollercoaster thoughts and emotions.  The pregnancy itself is fine, LA and ID are doing great.  What is different is how I am interacting with ID.

When LA was pregnant for our first son, I was excited. It consumed my thoughts a good bit.  I talked to him constantly.  I read to him (and LA) at night.  I dreamed about what he would be like.  I was connected.  I was zoned in.  There was great anticipation of being a daddy.  I couldn’t wait.  It was almost like he was already here in my mind even months before he was born.  I was so ready to start my trip into fatherhood.

With ID, it is so different.  I haven’t felt that way at all.  The excitement has been limited.  I haven’t talked to him much.  I haven’t read to at all except during the reading times with NB when both my wife and I are sitting with him.  I haven’t felt connected to him.  I haven’t dreamed much about what he would be like.  A lot of times I have just been scared that I would not connect with him at all because I am so connect to NB.  I just have no clue what it will be like to be the father of two, and there has not been great anticipation to start the journey of it this time.

I know a lot of the reasons behind why it has been this way, but that does not make it any easier.  I know a lot of the “thrill” is gone because we have been through it once before.  I know my attention is not on ID because I have a son to care for that is already here.  I know that the fear of connecting more with one child over the other is natural.  I know that I am not trying to think about what he will be like because I know that he will be who he will be and I will love him anyway.  I know all of this. But it is still hard on me not to have the same excitement.

It all changed a week ago.  LA and I went to the hospital for the preregistration class.  As we were watching a video of the process, rooms, and whatnot at the hospital, all of the feelings came back from when we went through this with NB.  The ended by showing pictures done by the in-hospital photographer, and the moment hit me with ID.  He is really coming.  He is really going to be in my arms in just a couple of months!  I am going to have another son.  It became real.  It became exciting.  It became all that it was the first pregnancy.  I am ID’s father, and I can’t wait to meet him!

This was further cemented in this past Wednesday.  One of my best friend’s wife had a baby.  We visited them in the hospital.  As I got to hold the new little one, the feelings of excitement grew about ID.  I am going to have another son to hold and love really soon!

I know I should have had these moments of clarity earlier.  At the very least, I should have had them at the ultrasound.  I didn’t.  I was still so unsure of what it will be like to have to children (I still am not sure what this will be like).  I was uncertain if I was going to be able to figure out how to split my attention.  I did not not how loving two kids equally yet different was going to work out.  I just did know what to think or feel.

I do now.  The resevior of love was tapped into.  I love NB.  I love ID.  They are my sons.  They are my responsibility.  They are my legacy.  They are my boys.  I don’t know what this all means completely.  But it is real.  I can’t wait for this adventure to start!

“Okay, Mr. OneCup, what is the God lesson?  I know you have one.”

I do.  It is simple.  Through this, God has given me one thought.  He loves me.  I am his son.  I do not have to worry about how he seems to be working in the lives of others…and by this I mean I do not have to be jealous or concerned that he is not working in my life exactly as he is for others.  I can trust that he loves me.  He cares for me.  His love for me is complete, even if it looks different than how he is working out his love in the lives of other Christians.  It is okay, I can trust him.  I can trust his love for me.  Just like I can love both NB and ID completely, wholly, equally, and different, he can do the same with his children.  And his love is pure, holy, and full of grace unlike my love can be here on Earth.

My Father in Heaven loves me, and I can trust that.  He proved it by letting his Son die for me.  He proved it by bringing him back from the dead as evidence of his acceptance of the sacrafice and his now acceptance of this sinner (me).  He proved it by sending the Spirit.  And the Spirit proves it to me every day.  I can trust in my Father’s love.

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Sesame Street vs. The Church

I read this headline on Yahoo News yesterday, “New ‘Sesame Street’ Muppet for special on hunger.”  I was intrigued, so I checked it out.  Here is the heart of the story:

Lily is a 7-year-old who talks to viewers about insecurity over whether her family will have enough to eat. The puppet goes to a pantry for food and also volunteers there.

I think this is actually pretty awesome.  God has given me a heart for those less fortunate, and in the last year he has really set that heart on fire for the needy.  It started when I read the book Radical by David Platt, and the flames exploded when I read The Hole in Our Gospel by Richard Sterns (the president of WorldVision).  A God keeps fanning the flames as I read through the Bible (it is an overwhelming theme).  A kids show to help them understand what some people go through on a regular basis is a really good thing.

However, the more I thought about this the more something started to bother me.  Why is Sesame Street doing a better job of inspiring compassion than the church?

I know, I know.  Sesame Street has been trying to help students learn about life for a long time.  And I know, the Church has been reaching out to the poor since the beginning.  I agree to these sentiments.  But…

I do believe that the Church has dropped the ball.  If we are living out what the Bible (both Old and New Testaments…but especially the words of Jesus himself in the New), then we should own this issue.  The Church should be looked to as the heart of compassion for the poor and needy, not Elmo, Big Bird, and Oscar the Grouch.

I know some churches are the exception to what I am saying, and I would hold mine out as one of those kind of churches.  At the same time, I can’t remember the last sermon/teaching I heard on giving to the poor.  When was the last time I was reminded that God’s focus has always been bent towards giving mercy to those who need it?  Sure, we have our programs that urge us to reach out to others.  We can bring money, school supplies, and shoeboxes full of Christmas…but when have I been last asked to leverage something in my life for the sake of the poor, hungry, orphans, widows, and prisoners?

What are our children learning about God’s heart for the needy?  They are learning the Bible.  Which is awesome.  They are learning worship songs.  That is great.  But what are they learning about giving up things that they might like in order to sacrafice for the needy?

I think the Church may have dropped the ball a bit on this one, and a bunch of puppets have picked it up and are running with it.

I realize that I may have a bit of extreme bent and I am talking a bit tongue-in-cheek, but there are some serious things to consider here.

  • Are we really living out God’s heart for mercy to the poor as the universal group of believers…and I am talking all of us, not small pockets and groups?
  • Does the world look to the Church as the center of compassion and generousity?
  • Are we leveraging anything in our lives for the sake of the poor and needy (both here and throughout the world)?
  • Do we make daily decisions in my day-to-day life that affect the lives of anyone else in need?
  • Do we teach our children the art of sacrafice for the sake of others?

I have to defer to Jesus himself here.  The parable of the sheep and goats is often referred in these types of discussions, and rightly so.  So I am going to go there.  I am not going to quote the whole passage here, but go check out Matthew 25:31-46 really quick and come back.

You back?

Jesus is obviously talking about the final judgment.  It is when he will come back and pretty much separate people based on if they are going to Heaven or Hell.  And what is his standard?  “For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.”  Those on the “good side” asked when they did this, and Jesus said it is when they did these things for people in these circumstances.

What did Jesus hold against those not joining him in Paradise?  Was it lust?  Was it gluttony?  Was it hatred?  Homosexuality?  Even murder?  No.  It was how they treated the “least of these.”

Then the King will turn to those on the left and say, ‘Away with you, you cursed ones, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his demons.  For I was hungry, and you didn’t feed me. I was thirsty, and you didn’t give me a drink.  I was a stranger, and you didn’t invite me into your home. I was naked, and you didn’t give me clothing. I was sick and in prison, and you didn’t visit me.’

Am I proposing that we get into Heaven by works?  No, of course not!  It is quite clear from the rest of the New Testament that it is by faith alone that we are saved and allowed to live in the presence of God.  It is faith in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.  However, our faith (and the Spirit living in us because of our faith) will show itself by what we do.  It will show by where we spend our time.  Where we spend our money.  Where our heart is.  In James 2:26 it is quite clear, “Just as the body is dead without breath, so also faith is dead without good works.”

I could go on, but I won’t.  I think you catch what I am throwing at you.  But where does that leave us?  Where does this leave me?

There is a song by a band called Shaded Red.  They have a song called “Revolution” that has a lyric singing to me as I write about this, “There is a revolution, it starts with me and ends at the back of the church.”  I am going to have to close this by just dealing with me.  You can deal with you.  And then we can all deal with each other.

I can only quiz myself and do some reflection.  What does my faith show?  What are my works showing?  Is my heart the same as God’s for the poor, widows, orphans, and prisoners?  Do I leverage anything for the sake of the needy?  Do I sacrafice anything in my daily life for the causes that hold people down?  Do I teach my son to live a life of sacrafice for others?  How will I do when I stand before Jesus and he is separating people?  Am I a sheep or a goat?

Now what about you?  How are you doing?  Are you a sheep or a goat?  Are you teaching your children about sacrafice for the sake of the needy?

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