Sunday, June 18, 2006

Father figures...

Happy Father’s Day!

Today I want to celebrate the three fathers who have helped to mold me.

My father is an example I would love to live up to. The man who taught me how to throw a baseball also taught me about the necessity of hard work. The man who showed me how to read a box score also showed me how to love a woman with everything you have. The man who insisted that we balance my checkbook also insisted that the first check be written to the church. The man who disciplined me with a heavy hand also loved me through his unending quest to provide. The man who finds joy in giving his free time to other people’s 10 to 12-year olds also showed me how to find joy in laying down my life in service to others. My father makes me proud to be his son.

My father-in-law is an example I would love to live up to. The man who goes to baseball games simply because I like them has shown me much about valuing others. The man who gives me books I need (and tries to give me plenty that I don’t) has shown me much about unbridled generosity. The man who adores his daughters like none other has taught me much about the pricelessness of the woman who married me. The man who immediately called me “son” has taught me much about acceptance. The man who maintains his practical faith has shown me much about what it means to seek after Christ. My father-in-law makes me proud to be his son.

I am blessed by these two men. They have taught me innumerable other things as well; the list above is simply a sampling. I am privileged to be their son. But my third Father has taught me just as much, if not more.

My heavenly Father is an example I would love to live up to. The Father who has allowed me to live despite my consistent failings has taught me much about patience. The Father who corrects my mistakes through loving and gentle rebuke has taught me much about the nature of discipline. The Father who has forgotten my sins has taught me much about mercy. The Father who has made me a co-heir in the family has taught me much about my value. The Father who alone is worthy of all glory has taught me much about humility. The Father who clothed me with the righteousness of Christ has taught me much about providing for needs. The Father who has given His Spirit to indwell me has taught me much about guidance. The Father who gave His Son for me has taught me much about real love.

I know that for some of you, today may not bring up too many memories worth celebrating, and I hurt for you. I am willing to share my third Father with you. He will parent you as no fallen, broken man can. He will show you unending, unswerving and unfailing love. He will give you everything you need so that you may bring Him glory. He will guide you into all righteousness for His name’s sake. He will make you into the person you were intended to be. My Father in heaven wants to parent you, too.

“How great is the love the Father has lavished on us that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” 1 John 3:1a

Sunday, June 04, 2006


On May 17, we set out for a seventeen day vacation that would take us to California via the Grand Canyon. Here are some reflections, thoughts and random memories:

-I don’t usually use this space as an advice column, but indulge me for a moment. If you leave Denton, TX, driving a car that gets roughly 32 mpg and are headed to Amarillo, TX, you had best leave with a FULL tank of gas. If you have a “nearly” full tank, or even an “almost” full tank, you’re in for a very nervous 20 minutes just south of Amarillo. After the “low gas” indicator chimes for the second time — yeah, who knew it could even chime twice — your wife will notice that you’re staring intently at the horizon, gripping the steering wheel tightly, and alternating phrases under your breath like, “@#!%,” and “Maybe the people who abandoned that farm left some gas in that rusted tractor.” Ultimately, you will end up taking the first southern exit in Amarillo and groveling in the gravel at the most well-placed Texaco in North Texas, swearing that you will never again let the tank get below half-full, or even three-quarters full. She may forgive you before Albuquerque, but why chance it?

-We stopped by the Grand Canyon on our way west. Great fun. We rode a shuttle bus out to a place on the South Rim called Hermit’s Rest and then hiked the Rim Trail back 8.5 miles. Neither of us had ever been there and thoroughly enjoyed it. I’d love to go back someday. For someone who isn’t fond of dirt and bugs, that’s saying something.

-In Kingman, AZ, we stopped at a gas station. That in and of itself is nothing spectacular, but at that gas station I saw a very interesting man. He was standing outside of the convenience store, next to the ice machine. He had a suitcase at his feet and wore a shirt that said, “Cleveland.” I realize that it was an Indians baseball shirt, but it looked more like he was a hitchhiker with a permanent destination emblazoned on his chest. On our return trip through Kingman, he was gone from the gas station. I could just imagine him waiting there, disappointment mounting, as myriad travelers speed by. Then, one blessed day, a truck driver saunters over and says the magic phrase, “I’m goin’ to Cleveland.” Delighted, our weary traveler grabs his suitcase and begins dreaming of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, seeing a Browns game in person and maybe, just maybe, meeting Drew Carey at a deli.

-Speaking of hitchhikers, I saw more hitchhikers in Arizona than anywhere else I’ve ever been. I have a theory about why: it’s hotter than hell in Arizona. (I realize I can’t empirically prove the preceding statement, but you’ll have to take my word for it.) I’m sure that most people in Arizona—even in the beautiful mountainous area near Flagstaff—spend most of their days planning an escape. My brother lives in Arizona, which is hard for me to imagine. What isn’t hard for me to imagine is him showing up at my parents’ doorstep someday soon and turning to wave goodbye to the family of seven in the station wagon that happened to be goin’ his way.

-California is, without any doubt, the greatest state in the country. Even the desert on the western side of the California-Arizona border is better than that on the eastern side. While in the Golden State, we saw desert, beach, and mountains. It was like our own personal “best of” tour. We also had a bit of a baby tour. Lots of our friends have new or recent babies, so we got to see them all. We also got to meet our new nephew, Seth, who is tons of fun. He’s only two months old, so we had only seen pictures. He likes Greta and me; we make him laugh and smile. I’ve also been told that Seth has my ears, which simply means that mine now, at 28 years old, are exactly the same size as his at 2 months.

-Biggest city we passed through: Los Angeles, CA (population: 3,694,820). Smallest town we passed through: Estelline, TX (population: 168). The second category was close. We also drove through Lemon Cove, CA which boasts a population of 198.

-Interstates, freeways and state routes: I 35 (TX), 380 (TX), 278 (TX), I 40 (TX, NM, AZ, CA), 58 (CA), 14 (CA), I 5 (CA), 126 (CA), 101 (CA), 99 (CA), 180 (CA), 198 (CA). When you get on I 40 east in Barstow, California, there is a sign there that says “Wilmington, NC 2,554 miles.” I imagine that this sign is put there to give hope to anyone who finds themselves in Barstow. I also imagine that there is no sign in Wilmington that says “Barstow, CA 2,554 miles.” Otherwise, people would be getting off the freeway in droves.

-We left Stockton, CA on Friday, June 2. A mere 26 hours later we pulled in to the University of North Texas. It was good to go home, but it’s also good to be home.