Hope and Disappointment (An Ellie Lesson)

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My daughter is a hopeful person.

She wakes up every single day at around the same time excited for whatever the day will bring. There is never a sad, “Oh man, what will I do?” moment with her. Each morning, she awakes not remembering the day before but anticipating the joy that is to come.

Ellie’s hope is SO big that when she gets bad news, she falls hard. The other day we noticed that her eyes ACTUALLY well up before a single tear falls. Just like in the movies. Ellie will stare off into the vast distance and those green eyes just go. (Side note: that will get me every time…).If Ellie finds out that she can’t go to a friend’s house or that a trip is postponed, her life is OVER.

Until the next day when she awakens to new hope. New chance. New possibilities.

Today, she was hoping that her friend could come over for a playdate. Wifey and I weren’t sure it could happen and wisely said, “we’ll see…we don’t know…” because we’ve been bad at telling her we’d be doing things only to take it back because of broken plans (funny how adults shape disapointment in their kids through the little things. A little, “I know I said we would BUT…” goes a long way.)

So we didn’t place any hope in the situation. But Ellie did. For over an hour, Ellie sat on the couch with her play backpack on…waiting in anticipation for the arrival of her friend. And when her friend came, she responded with a defiant laugh and jump of “I knew it!” At that moment, hope won the day. And it was awesome.

Now I know she’s 3 and that one day she’ll be older and possibly miserable as only a teenager can be. But for today? I love that she’s filled with hope. Hope that we’ll always go to McDonald’s. Hope that her favourite sitter will come over and take her out to buy a fish. Hope that Sid The Science Kid will come on TV JUST when she says so. Hope that the sun will come out so she can play outside (or snow for winter). Hope that everyone will like her and be her friend.

I pray she always “keeps” her playdate backpack on as she gets older. I pray that as she puts “…childish things…” away that she never loses the hope found in believing “…like a little child…“*

And God help the person who ever ruins that.

Meaning? God help me.

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*Scriptures found in 1 Corinthians 13:11 (KJV) & Luke 18:17 (NIV)

Under Pressure

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Dum dum dum da da dum dum
Dum dum dum da da dum dum
Dum dum dum da da dum dum
Dum dum dum da da dum dum

In 1981, this baseline opened up the classic Under Pressure, written and performed by David Bowie and Queen, fronted by virtuoso vocalist Freddy Mercury (it was later on sampled and used in 1991 by Rob Van Winkle, better known as Vanilla Ice. If you don’t know what song I am referring to…that makes me sad…).

The opening lyrics to the song are:
Pressure pushing down on me
Pressing down on you no man ask for
Under pressure that burns a building down
Splits a family in two
Puts people on streets”

We can all relate to that sort of feeling. Well at least I can. Even the coolest cucumber among your tribe of friends feels some sort of pressure, a downward sense of “I don’t know what to do here.” Pressure comes from multiple sources. Here are mine (see if you have any that are similar):

Family – being present when present (which I am currently contradicting by writing these thoughts while Ellie and Liam play at my feet), being a leader in my home, serving my family through my actions.
Work – helping people reach new levels of potential, menial tasks that still matter in the long run, long term planning and short term actions.
Financial – paying off debt, saving, investing
Physical – resting, working out, staying groomed (though #beardwatch continues, suckas!!!)
Spiritual – Growing in my faith intake, making moments for faith outputs
…And more and more and more…

I’ve learned that pressure comes from inside (we know what we NEED to be doing and we want to get there) and outside (those who watch us either place on us expectations OR we, out of insecurities, try to impress others through living for them) but its born out of a need to make ends meet and make due. When we are kids, it’s the pressure for grades and accomplishments planned out by parents and coaches. When we are older, it’s bosses, spouses and other achievers. It is always there. And those pressures, when left alone or added to can kill a job opportunity, kill a family and ultimately, kill a person.

This fall, I felt that sort of pressure in a way I never had before. Some staff changes had me move into interim roles that added to my workload, left me with less home time and pulled me way beyond my regular threshold. So to keep myself ALIVE, here are some things I have tried to incorporate into my life, especially as this fall turned into a winter with more responsibilities on my plate (knowing that all of these things start with a heart to live out Mark 12:29-31 as my launchpad).

Vacuums, Santa, Clowns & Dread: These are a few of the scariest things (Letter To Ellie).

I think that once a child discovers fear, the slow burn to adulthood begins.

Once fear shows up, it is like “innocence” begins to pack up room after room until it is forced to move out.

Most kids first meet fear around a new person, or in moment of separation from their mom.

Not you, Ellie. You’re way too strong and independent to cry when you’re not near mom or dad.

Instead, you first met fear by way of a singing toy penguin. You cried, kicked and kicked and KICKED until it was far from you. I think it was the sound it produced that got you. You are petrified by loud noises. You can’t walk by the bathroom when mom is blow drying your hair and god-forbid we put the vacuum on in your royal presence! You hate that thing even though it keeps us clean. And unlike other kids, you hate Santa. Oh you love him from a far but once you’re two kids from him, the abyss of disturbance rocks you to the core. Like a hurricane…(too sooooooon?)

I hate that you know what fear is. I wish I could erase it from your mind. I wish you didn’t have to live in a world with fear. That being said, if you didn’t have fear at ALL, here’s what you’d be doing:

– Running in the middle of a busy road without looking both ways.
– Walking up to someone bigger (or smaller) than you and smacking them in the face.
– Putting your hand on the stove.
– Running away from home at age 15.
– Breaking the law without fear of consequence

Stuff like that.

So in that regard, fear is a good thing (maybe it’s fear that turns into wisdom…) but here’s what I don’t want you to be afraid of:

– Making friends as you go through the awkward preteen phase.
– Trying new things like a sport or instrument or simply dreaming big.
– Love. It’s work, it brings out the best in you while killing the worst. But it’s so worth it.
– God’s voice. As of now, I wouldn’t want you to do what I do. That being said, if God calls you, listen to him as the PRIMARY VOICE. I’m 2nd…maybe even 3rd.
– Being yourself. I never want you to be afraid of becoming you. Don’t try to be like the status quo. Start a new one.
– The Vacuum. Seriously, Eliana, it’s cleaning. I know it’s loud but it is helpful.

Kidlet, fear is always going to be around. It’ll get your adrenaline up, give you quicker problem solving skills and hopefully make you wiser. But don’t be a slave to fear. If you are, you’ll miss that job, that friendship, that love, that call. God is bigger than your fears. He’ll walk with you through your fears and help you get past them.

There’s a story in the Bible that you’ll probably hear forty times by the time you’re 10 but it fits well here. A bunch of guys are on a boat when they see Jesus (the same Jesus who lives in your heart) walking on the water. (P.S. Jesus is a G! You’ll hear me say that a lot…). One of them, Peter, asks Jesus to invite him to walk on the water too. Jesus does. And so the guy GETS OUT AND BEGINS TO WALK ON THE WATER.

No tricks. No graphics. Just walking.

After a few steps, he realizes what he’s doing, gets scared and starts to sink. But Jesus is right there to take his hand.

And when you feel like you’re sinking in fear, he’ll do the same for you. He promises.

Love you, kiddo.

Da-ddy

P.S. And I still deal with fear too. I fear clowns. And zombies. And the event decline of Kobe Bryant.

Do You Have Your Shoes On? (Thoughts on this Maundy Thursday)

This is a thought based on a reading of Exodus 12:1-14.

You should really read it…

The people in this story were to celebrate this Passover fully clothed prepared to leave to go to their new home. They would be chased, hunted but they were going to a place that would be theirs (albeit for a season due to their attitudes. Nevertheless…). God was setting them free to go home and protecting them through the blood of lambs.

For Jesus, today (Thursday) would be a horrible day. It’s the day before his death. He’s hours from betrayl, condemnation, ridicule, loneliness, and above all else, seperation from His father due to the magnatude of sin place upon him. And so he celebrates Passover with his closest friends preparing to go home. He’s ready. It sucks and it will hurt but he is ready. He’s also preparing a home for them. They can’t go yet but one day they will. Don’t believe me? Check it out:

…Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man is glorified and God is glorified in him.  If God is glorified in him,God will glorify the Son in himself, and will glorify him at once.“My children, I will be with you only a little longer. You will look for me, and just as I told the Jews, so I tell you now: Where I am going, you cannot come. “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” Simon Peter asked him, “Lord, where are you going?” Jesus replied, “Where I am going, you cannot follow now, but you will follow later.” – John 13:31-36

Looking at both stories on this Maundy Thursday (Maundy is Latin for ‘commandment’. Just learn that. Kinda cool) wonder if we should live our lives this way today. For starters, this world is not our home. Yet when we serve God, we do so symbolically in our home clothes and slippers, as if we are comfortable right here IN this world. This world becomes our living room or family den. Serving God has no urgency. There’s no “I need to get out of here and bring people with me” attitude. The blood of the lamb has, for lack of better words, “done its job” and now we are free to lounge.

But what if we lived with an urgency? What if we live thinking that we need to be getting ready to leave? And we prepared ourselves knowing that the enemy will love nothing more than to keep us here and will run after us and hunt us to either bring us back OR destroy us? What if we live knowing that One had to die so that we’d be protected so that we COULD run? What if we lived EVERDAY in light of Good Friday and Easter Sunday because of thisTthursday? Because of this reminder…?

And what if we did like the Lord commanded the Israelitesto do and made sure that those in our church community and even maybe in our “community” community had enough to eat for the journey? What if, like Jesus commanded his closest friends on the night he was betrayed, we loved one another and others, so the world would have another reminder that Jesus is real?

I love how the Old Testament is fulfilled in the New by the shed blood of Jesus. He is OUR Passover lamb. He’s the reason I should keep my shoes on because I need to get ready to go home.

He’s also the reason why I should invite someone else along for the journey.

(New addition) Just got back in from a walk…the significance of the next 24 hours is so big and so heavy. I just saw a tweet that wrote that while we sleep, Jesus would have been betrayed, illegally convicted, tried and beaten. And it’s true (pending time zones and whatnot). I pray that we don’t just focus on this because of this weekend but next Wednesday at your job/class/dinner/church/etc you remember that Christ took the worst and gave you the best by giving his life. If we only celebrate and think on this until Sunday, then his death was in vain.

Also, my friend Brendan Witton came up with a better name for this blogpost. So I changed it! Check out his own blog here!

May the cross and resurrection push us forward to be the church we ought to be IN LIGHT of what was given. And may that be the truth every day until we are finally home.

2011…Painting a Picture

Dumb title…

I can’t even paint. In fact, I hate painting. I’m so bad at it that Becca took me off painting duty when we were (and by we I mean she) was painting Eliana’s room.

What I meant by the title is that I want to “metaphorically speaking” paint you a picture of what I want my 2011 to look like. No, this is not a late addition to the New Year’s Resolution Party. Nor is it a goals list. This is an if I could do a couple of these things really well, I’d be happy” picture. You see, I got really sick just before Christmas. pneumonia sick. In the hospital sick…wasn’t fun at all. And while I was recuperating, I realized that I really wasn’t taking care of myself in many areas.

  • I hadn’t done anything sports-wise or healthy in ages. Running stairs was hard.
  • I hadn’t really took time to read like I did in the summer.
  • I wasn’t taking care of my core soul.
  • I was getting bored and tired with everything and everyone (sorry if you were in that path…)

Now Becca and Ellie were the lifeline but I realized that I have to lead my home properly. That my wife won’t respect me if I’m lazy. And that my daughter will one day look for a guy who was like me. And if I didn’t like ME, I’d hate that dude…or really like him…but mostly hate him.

Anyhow…so as I got better, I started to do an inventory of my life, in a holistic sense (based off of Mark 12:28-31) and areas I wanted to improve with practical ideas on how. Then my buddy Josh suggested that I put it online to make sure that I did it or at least attempted to…so here’s my holistic list.

  • Feed my mind – This year, I want to read a book every 10 days. The type of books? Doesn’t matter. Listen to great music that inspires me. Take in a sunset. Paint. The last one is a lie.
  • Feed my soul – Really pray and get into the Bible. I’ve never been a sit down at 3 AM and get into the word guy. Sorry if that confession makes you question my Godly status. Hopefully the fruit from my life makes up for it? I’ve been really using the apps on my phone and iPod (and soon…the iPad) to make that a priority.
  • Feed my body – I’m looking at prices and my time to join the Ajax community centre. Plus I REALLY need to eat better. AND actually EAT!! I’d love to be 160 one day:). So working out…and playing more golf this summer. Went out twice. not enough.
  • Feed my heart – Dream a lot, enjoy company with my friends, make new friends, love my wife and daughter. Be passionate about who I am and what I do. Stay engaged in cool stuff.

The result of this picture: I’d be a better man, husband and father. And I’d live longer…maybe.

Think I can do it? What should I look out for? What are my roadblocks? Think you can help me do these things?

Proud Nerd Status

I’m a bookworm. I have been since high school.

My high school in Pierrefonds, Qc (MTL stand up!!) was built right near our public library and I spent HOURS there looking up encyclopedias, novels and more (in my school uniform. Classic blue sweater, white turtleneck and grey slacks). I wasn’t allowed to watch TV during the week so my imagination was fed through pages and pages of history, poetry, fiction, biographies and how-to-beat-video-games books. I’ve always tried to keep a balanced diet when it comes to reading. This may not be you, but I don’t think it’s healthy to ONLY read spiritual books or ONLY leadership books or ONLY fiction books. It’s good to be well-read in various types of books, for a couple of reasons:

1 – It’s keeps you sharp: Once I’m done a fun book, I’m longing for something deeper. After that, something that stretches my thinking in regards to leadership or culture.
2 – Vocabulary: Different authors, different words, different paintings, different ideas, sentence structures, etc.
3 – Conversation: The more you read, the more likely you’ll be able to enter into various conversations about lots of topics. (it’s funny how the one who only reads one sort of books is lost when any other topic comes us.)
4 – An appreciation for the gift of writing.
5 – A nice book collection (I have MANY leather-bound books…my office smells of rich mahogany…)
6 – You get a deeper perspective on life.

So…that’s why I balance it out. Biographies to know people and how they got to where they are. History to teach us lessons of old. Fiction to help me dream, imagine, paint scenes and grow as a communicator. Leadership to be an effective servant-leader. Spiritual books and essays (and blogs) to fuel the fire in my heart to live a Eph 4:1 life. Sports books to enjoy the highs and lows of teamwork, winning & losing. And culture to have a better understanding of the world I live in, people groups, trends, fashion and what’s ‘next’.

Here’s what I’m currently dabbling through (with hopes of finishing them by new years)

  • The Me I Want to Be (John Ortberg) – A book I’m reading with some quality leaders at our church. It’s all about knowing God, knowing how He’s wired you and then taking that information to know Him more. It’s a real eye opener. (4/5th done)
  • Parenting Beyond Your Capacity (Reggie Joiner and Carey Niewwhof) – Reading with some of our junior high parents. I figure I want to learn how to be a great dad now and to learn with them is a joy. (3/5th)
  • Switch (Chip and Dan Heath) – Leadership book on leading people through change. Good insights so far and the cover is cool. (1/5th)
  • The Armageddon Factor (Marci McDonald) – A deep “secular” view of Christian Nationalism in Canada. Funny to see things like The Cry, Canada Christian College and Tyndale in here. It’s a page turner. Was recommended by my good friend Steffan Watson. (2/5th)
  • The Book of Basketball (Bill Simmons) – I read it in like 4 days (it’s 700+ pages) but he’s re-releasing it with corrections, new stories and more. And Kobe’s in it. It’s my fun read! (RE-READ)
  • and…Decision Points (the Dubya) – I still don’t know if this is chalked up to fiction or not…kidding. His life is so polarizing that not reading it would be criminal. PLUS, it’s reads like he talks…that’s a win-win! (Need to purchase and finish before Becca gets to it. She loves George. Wants to have him over for supper.)

And books I look forward to reading in 2011

They Fight Like Soldiers, They Die like Children by Romeo Dallaire – Child soldiers is a travesty and something that burdens me greatly. I’d love to do something about it one day…
The Book of Negroes by Lawrence Hill and/or Roots by Alex Hailey
The Book of Awesome by Neil Pasricha – Cause it’ll be awesome (sorry, it had to be said…)
Journey to The Ring by Phil Jackson – It’s all about the Lakers and winning. Nuff said.
Off-Road Discipleship by Earl Creps
The Furious Longing of God by Brennan Manning (I’m VERY excited for this one…don’t know why…)
The Living Church by John Stott
An Object of Beauty by Steve Martin (yes…the comedic actor writes and his book is getting great reviews) and a whole lot more…and The Help…(Becca and Karen Johnson loved it…)…and The History of SNL

P.S. You know what’s cool? Seeing my little girl pretend to read. The Kid will take her gabage patch doll, sit with her, pretend to drink tea and read to her Goodnight Moon. The nerd in her is alive and well!

SO….what are you reading? What do you look for in a good book? Where can you beef up/clean up your reading diet? What authors do you abhor/recommend and why?  What’s your FAVORITE book (not counting the Bible…). Mine’s a tie between To Kill a Mockingbird and The Great Gatsby. If you don’t like reading (which is completely cool), how to do you learn and grow?

Good Morning…right?

I’m not a morning person. I like sleeping. I mean, who doesn’t, besides Napoleon (who history tells us only slept 4 hours a day. He was too busy thinking about taking things over. Or escaping exile…)

That being said, when I get up, I’m good to go. I hate wasting time, so sleeping in isn’t something I often practice. But I still get up with a “To-Do-List” stuck in my mind.

  • Get showered/teeth brushed/dressed
  • GET COFFEE
  • …everything else is pretty easy after the java:)

I’m pretty crummy. Most people are. Except for kids. Every morning I go to wake up The Kid, she does the same thing…she smiles, jumps on her bed and says HIIIIIIIII DAAAAADDDYYY! She’s good to go! She’s slept way too long. There’s Treehouse to watch, crayons to use, walls to colour on, pots to bang with drumsticks, songs to sing and books to read. For Eliana, the fun in the day is endless and it’s just about to begin. Sadly, as she gets older, she’ll begin to dread waking up…like so many of us do today (hopefully not). We wake up to bills, jobs, broken relationships, misguided dreams and wants, loneliness (even if we’re married or ‘popular’) and somehow we think, “Life is better when I’m sleeping…”

But everyday is a gift. Everyday is an opportunity to make something of the lives we have. To choose to symbolically jump up and down on our beds and say “This day was made by my Creator and I’m gonna be excited and take joy in it.” How we respond to the sunrays that hit our faces (or the darkness that greets us during the winter months) is up to us. It’s funny how WE CAN CHOOSE to be better, isn’t it. Yet, more often than not, I choose to get up and be blah…blah feels easier but it’s not. Because it makes getting better THAT MUCH HARDER.

What are you afraid to wake up to? Let’s practice surrender together! Let’s practice inviting God into EVERY waking moment. Let’s wake up knowing that for every morning there are new mercies waiting for us, to bring us through (Lam 3:19-24).

Don’t sleep in (in the mental sense).

Wake up.

Jump on the bed.

Get excited.

There are walls that need colouring. And you got the crayons!

…and we can choose this life…even on four hours sleep:)