Monday, August 25, 2008

Thoughts From A First-Time Kindergarten Dad

I dropped my oldest son off today for his first day of kindergarten. And no, I'm not going to cry or get emotional. It's just hard to believe this day is already here. My wife and I opted to wait until he was 5 instead of sending him off to K-4, but the extra year still wasn't long enough. I've been fortunate to work a great deal out of the home over the course of the last 5 years and because of that, I've really been able to be a big part of my son's life. We've walked through a lot of stuff together, had many father/son talks, and whipped a lot of little boy fears together. I've found myself answerless on the end of way too many questions from left field. Questions like: "Where's Heaven?" "What does God look like?" "What Makes A Magnet, Magnetic?" "How Old Do You Get In Heaven?" It's been awesome and I am truly thankful to have been able to spend so much time with him during his early years.

I know, I'll still have those moments and going to kindergarten isn't the same as going off to college or getting married and moving away. But, here's the point, for the first time in over 5 years, my son is not in the other room, or in the backyard, or down the street at his aunt's house. For over 6 hours, (6 hours and 45 minutes to be exact), he'll be in the care of someone we don't really know.

He'll be fine, and that's not really a concern. Actually, I don't think there is any real concern. I know that a lot of parents have issues with fear, but I think I've got a handle on that. I have no apprehension or fear about the school, the teacher, or the kids in his class. I just think it all comes down to the fact that I'll miss him. We're not just father and son you see, we're buddies. And I'm just going to really miss my buddy.

Call it separation anxiety if you want, but that is really what it all comes down to. It's so crazy. Just 5 years ago, he didn't exist and now here I am unable to remember or imagine life without him. Isn't that the way it is though? As we walk through life, there are those relationships that we become a part of and we become so connected that its as if we are one. Perhaps its husband and wife, father and son, mother and daughter, sister and brother, or just tight knit friends. Regardless of the roles, relationships can become so intertwined that life apart seems impossible. I'm not talking unhealthy co-dependent relationships here. I'm talking about relationship the way it was meant to be. Relationships where we walk through life together, tackling life's problems, encouraging one another, and helping one another become everything they were created to be. It is these types of relationships that I choose to make myself dependent on, because it is these types of relationships we were created to be a part of.

So many of us choose never to get really close to anyone because of the fear of the wounds that we'll encounter, and the work it'll require. It's true that deep relationships require work and wounds are not only possible but highly probable. Yet scripture tells us, "Woe to the man who is alone." That's because there is life and blessings that you will only experience as a result of walking in deep, healthy relationships with others. How awesome it is when you fall to have those nearby you to pick you up! It is a powerful thing when you are struggling to have those who will stand with you and walk through the battle with you. And how refreshing it is to get an email or a phone call from someone encouraging you when you need it the most.

Relationships are a powerful thing and the rewards far outweigh the costs. Sure, I'll miss my buddy during the day, but I wouldn't trade our dynamic relationship for all the money in the world. I've got another buddy that I met a little over 2 years ago, and I'm working feverishly at developing a dynamic relationship with him as well. After this week I'm thinking of waiting till he's 6 before sending him off to school.

I noticed while I was writing this that the air filter must need to be changed because there seems to be a great deal of dust in the air and it is really affecting my eyes right now. At least, that's the story I'm going with.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Stuck In The Mud?

Have you ever had a car stuck in the mud? A few years ago, when we were building our house, I was backing out of the driveway and I ran the front wheel of my Ford Ranger off the driveway. Not a big deal except it had been raining like crazy and mix that with the fact that we had no grass in the front yet, and what you have is a front yard that resembles a swamp. Needless to say the front driver-side of my truck sunk down until the axle was resting on the cement. Now, 4 cylinder Ford Rangers aren't equipped with the power of a full size truck and the fact that it was a worn out truck firing on only 2 and a half cylinders meant I was in trouble. Needles to say, I failed to maintain a good attitude. But, enough said about that.

I remember giving it gas and the back wheels just spinning on pavement. I did that a few times expecting somehow to get a different result. No such luck. I was stuck and it was going to take some work to get it out. I was going to get wet from the rain, muddy from the mud, and irritated with every passing minute.

Like my truck, I've managed to get my life into some pretty nasty ruts from time to time. If you are human I'm sure you can relate. I'm talking about those seasons in life, when you're not moving forward, and not even moving backward. Those times when you're just stuck. Perhaps, everything was going great and then somehow you found yourself derailed. Life is frustrating, but for some reason, nothing changes and there you sit, day after day, month after month, stuck. The cold hard fact is, nothing will change until you determine to make a change. You'll stay in that continuous cycle of rut dwelling until you decide to do whatever is necessary to get out of it.

With my truck, I had to try a new approach. I had to get out of the truck and come up with a plan to get the front end off the pavement. Had I just stayed in the truck giving it gas, I would still be there today. The reason we stay so long in our "life's" ruts is they require us to change. They require us to grow. And lets face it, we humans aren't always real keen on changing and growing. It's so much easier to stay where we are. We get comfortable with lifestyle choices, behavioral patterns, and the way things are that we resist anything that has the potential to mess up our comfort zone.

The life we live is a long journey, and I am nowhere near my destination yet. But, thank God I am nowhere close to the beginning. I've discovered though, growth along the journey only comes when I allow the Holy Spirit to mess with my comfort level. I only get out of the ruts in life when I determine to do something different. I only get unstuck when I step back, evaluate the depth of the rut, come up with a game plan, and then carry it out.

Are you in a rut right now? Determine to do whatever is necessary to get out of it. Ask the Holy Spirit to show you how to approach it and then get out and move forward.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Lessons From The Olympians

As I watched the opening ceremonies of this year's summer Olympics, several thoughts were racing through my mind. Will the U.S Men's Basketball team be able to return to their "Dream Team" status? Will Phelps blow away the competition again? Who'll be crowned the world's fastest man and will The Woodlands Laura Wilkinson bring home the gold again? I also thought, China has put together the greatest opening ceremony I have ever seen.

Over the course of the next couple of weeks runners will run, swimmers will swim, and gymnasts will jump, twirl, spin, tumble, and try to stick their landings. Athletes from around the world will stretch their bodies to the limits in an effort to be the best in the world at what they do. They'll mesmerize and amaze us by their talent, skill, and heart. Then, in just two weeks it'll all come to an end.

Think about that. In just two weeks, these athletes who have trained for most of their lives for this moment will find "this moment" over. Let me break it down even more. In just 9 seconds, the "world's fastest man" will be crowned. Just 9 seconds! We'll watch him take off and then kick in the after-burners for the last few strides of that 100 meters. All the other athletes will take a little longer than 9 seconds to win their events, but it'll all be wrapped up within just 2 weeks.

Have you ever stopped to think about the enormous amount of work and preparation that these athletes go through in order to prepare themselves for this one moment. What we see is "the moment." We aren't privy to the process. Those mornings when their bodies don't want to get out of bed. Those days when the don't want to practice. Those meal times when they don't want to eat healthy. Those days they want to punch their coach in the nose. Those times when their bodies are screaming at them to stop. Those moments when the sacrifice of time and the physical and emotional demands of training begins to strain their closest relationships. No, we don't get to see them fight through all of that and we don't get to see all the endless hours of preparation. All we see is "the moment." That moment when all the preparation determines what we all see.

In that way, the Olympics aren't all that different than our lives. What we do in private goes a long way in determining what the world around us sees in our public life. It would be great if these athletes could just show up the day of their event and compete without any preparation but that's not the way it works. If they want to perform at the highest level possible, preparation is a must. So it is with us. Sure, we can put on masks and have the appearance we've got it all together, but at some point we've got to get in the water, or step up to the starting blocks so to speak. Life is challenging and when crisis or challenges hit, the world gets to see the real you. As a believer, if we are constantly allowing the Holy Spirit to develop us, it will be evident in the way we do life. If we are consistently open to allow God to chip away at our character in those quiet and alone times, then our public performance will show evidence of that. That being said it doesn't mean that we aren't ever going to blow it. However, if we are willing to go through this process, our life will reveal growth and it will be evident to all those around us.