Distracted by a Watch Face

I was at a friend’s church yesterday, Jason NevillePraise Chapel , when I saw this guy worshipping God with his hands raised. Then I saw his watch on his left wrist. Then I saw his watch face on his watch on his left wrist, with his hands raised, worshipping God. I know, i’m not supposed to be distracted by such things like a watch, but I was – so judge me.

This guy’s digital watch had some kind of branding on it. I was several feet away, but I could see it was a letter, like an “F” or something. That’s when it hit me, “wow, I never thought about a branded watch face before.” I wonder if I can do that on my Apple Watch. It turns out, you can!

First I needed an app to design a font. A logo will work, but the watch face is kinda small, so a single letter or similar is better. Yes, you can do color, but that just makes it harder to see from a distance. I needed a simple app that let you control font style, color and background. I already had it and had used it before. It’s called Typorama.

 

First I used the app’s Watch Face template.

Just tap on the letters to change them in the app. Ignore the warning and click continue anyway – they don’t know what your creative jam is.

Then I choose a letter, mine’s a “g” because I like g’s – I have two of them 🙂

You’ll need to experiment with the app yourself to get the results you’d like. Just a hint, if you want to add the time and date and other info below your branded watch face, you’ll want the letter to ride high on the screen.

I recommend a white letter on black background, but feel free to do whatever.

Save it to your photos, I created a watch face album for organization purposes.

Once that’s done you open your watch app on your iPhone.

And go to Photos at the end of your face selections.

Click ‘custom’

Then click ‘add photo’ at the bottom

Select the photo of your brand (letter or logo) and click done.

Scroll down to add things to your watch face.

And click ‘save as your current watch face’ if your happy with it.

That’s it. You’ve branded your Apple Watch face.

Making lemons out of lemonade

Wait what? Don’t you have that backwards?

You can’t make lemons out of lemonade, that’s not the way it works.

I say we can and as Christ’s followers we must.

Currently, I’m into the guava infused lemonade. I enjoy telling myself, “It’s the ‘right’ kind of sugar.” Whatevs.

I truly enjoy the magic of an iced cold, freshly squeezed, real glass of lemonade. Romantically, I could be drinking it by the pool (which we used to have), sitting on the front porch after mowing the yard or overlooking Lake Tahoe from the balcony of our favorite rented cabin, number 83. However, its done, it reminds me of simpler days when grandma (not mine though, she was a whiskey sour kind a woman) would bring a tray of iced lemonade for all your neighborhood friends to share.

“Yeah, yeah, I know all about lemonade,” you say. “But, what about the crazy notion of making that beautiful cloudy yellow, lightly pulped, heavenly drink (sorry I drifted off on lemonade again) back into a lemon.”

Oh, yeah. See it would be nice to think that we could just share this illustrious, sugary, wonder of God with friends by taking the shortcut of handing it to them and saying, “here, drink this, its good and it took a lot of work to make it, but I want to make it easy for you so you’ll like it (and me).”

We all know how easy it is to grow lemons right?

WikiHow says anyone can do it. It should only take five to fifteen years, or sometimes… never. [according to WikiHow: Keep in mind that trees that come from seeds are not identical to the parent tree that they came from. Sometimes, the fruit that the new saplings produce is of a lesser quality. Other times, they do not produce edible fruit at all. This does not prevent the young tree from being visually pleasing. Keep this in mind when growing your tree. – https://www.wikihow.com/Plant-a-Lemon-Seed]

Jesus said, “A good tree produces good fruit and a bad tree produces bad fruit.” When it comes to people being discipled and growing in their faith, the point of making lemons out of lemonade isn’t to share a refreshing drink by oversimplifying the process, it’s showing people how to grow their own lemon tree and produce their own deliciously tart, tasty fruit (sidenote: I eat lemons right off the tree, sometimes peel and all). That takes time, right? Sometimes years, right? Christianity isn’t about mass production or mass conversion, it’s about mass process of deep change and miraculously difficult transformation. In other words, it’s still a walk and a path not a Uber and a dropoff.

I needed a lemon tree not just lemonade

Sure, when I was young, I loved receiving the cool, sweet-sour elixir of lemon. However, what I really needed was someone to show me how to grow a lemon tree, to one day see, feel, taste and completely experience my own fruit. Maybe sharing our faith isn’t just about giving a cold cup of lemonade in Jesus’ name – its about sharing the lemon seed of the gospel and demonstrating how folks can grow in their own faith.

You wanna makes some lemons outta lemonade with me? Jesus tip: “just as you can identify a tree by its fruit, so you can identify people by their actions.” – Matthew 7:20 NLT

#BeNice

#lovetour

That’s right! It felt like LOVETOUR 2018.

Three months ago Robin and I experienced something that has never happened to us before – I was terminated from a ministry transition plan (succession plan). Short story, the church leadership did not want to move forward with me. I mean, honestly, there have been a few times I could have, should have been fired from ministry before, mainly because I was being a turd. This was different. I wrote a blog post about What Happens When You Fail? a couple days after our last Sunday at the church.

I would love to tell you that the experience was humbling, but it felt more like humiliating. We experienced pain at levels of betrayal that we had not experienced before. I know you’re thinking, “haven’t you been in ministry awhile, this couldn’t have been your first heartbreak?” Actually, yes, this is our first major blow to our core. Go figure! I mean, Robin was raised in church, and as a Pastor’s kid she has seen a lot of crazy stuff. I wasn’t brought up in a Christian home, so yeah, I thought Churches were more… hmmm, morally responsible, and that sort of thing. However, I’ve seen plenty of situations where power and immaturity in the church has made for combustible confrontations. Thank God I never let that reflect on my love for Jesus or His love for me. Idiots happen. Bullies happen – #dealwithit.

After a few days of grieving, spinning and feeling like zombies, I started getting phone calls, emails and texts from friends. They would say, “hey, can we get together?” I would say, “sure, I’ve got some time on my hands, why not?” The first few friend meet-ups really got a earful of grief, just plain ol’ “this ain’t pretty” kinda stuff. There were a lot of tears – which is super embarrassing to have a couple of guys in a restaurant bawling, “could you please bring some more napkins,” I would say to the server. Then one by one our amazing, kind friends would do what friends do – just listened and loved on me. One friend said, “I just wanted to look you in the eyes and make sure you were okay,” (cue more tears). Come on! How much more biblical can you get than that?

It didn’t stop with just a few meals. For a solid two months I got texts, emails, phone calls and a calendar full of local friends for meals. It has been very overwhelming to receive that level of love! For forty years we’ve been on the giving end of love NOT the receiving end – not to this extreme. We have people praying for us constantly. I think that’s the only thing that has sustained us. It’s folks reminding us that they are praying. I told God, “Hey, a lot of our friends are watching out for us, you gotta come through on this one.”

#LoveTour2018

So for those of you who want to know how we are doing, we are still believing forward and restlessly leaning on the grace of God.

So to wrap up the lovetour, let me just tell you, from Robin and myself, THANK YOU for your friendship, love, kind words and prayer. You are the best! You have shown us the meaning of Sympathize with One Another.

 

Tumultuous Times?

We think we live in tumultuous times.

If we are truly listening to the signs in our culture, politics, education, healthcare and even religion, its all there in the full inglorious-cacophony of our own humanity – we’ve lost our minds.

Our conversations have been reduced to name-calling and sound-bitten tweets hoping to go viral (like a disease). It feels dire and divisive even within our specific tribes.

However, are things really that bad?

I’ve been reading an amazing book, Introduction to The History of Christianity (3rd Edition, edited by Tim Dowley) and came across SEVERAL hundred chunks of history, spanning the two thousand years since its beginning, where the Church flourished in the absolute chaotic environments of political and cultural upheaval. I mean absolutely horrible periods of persecution, death and societal ostracizing.

I’m not trying to say that we are NOT living in difficult times or that we are NOT living in the “end times” (although the Church has had more “rapture alerts” than Trump’s had lawsuits), its just that I hear people say, “It can’t get any worse.” Really? Just a quick glance at the past tells me, “oh, it HAS been worse – much worse!” Maybe it’s just that I feel so ill-prepared to face the challenges ahead and so helpless in finding handles of truth. Shouldn’t I be content to simply label these times as INSANE? And I mean that in the most non-PC, insensitive way – WE ARE CRAZY. I know you’re fighting the urge to say, “I’m not crazy… it’s THEM – THEY’RE crazy.” Sure, but who’s “they or them?”

Modern Day Peace Meets

I just read this morning that there was a Congress of Christian Leaders (CCL) to “Bridge the Divide in Evangelicalism,” like a good ol’ modern-day Council of Jerusalem in Acts 15. It seems that word “divisive” is synonymous with Christian. We need a new apostle Peter (they called him the bridge-man between Paul & James) to come in to pray some sense into the saints or a neo-Paul to stop and drop some Ananias and Sapphira raca on folks.

Cool Church History Stuff

I came across a refreshing letter written during the second century (that’s like in the 200 A.D. range) that tries to defend Christianity to a possible official (secular or saint). The letter is so simple and elegant in its description of what is supposed to “set us apart.”

Here is chapter five of An Epistle of Mathetes to Diognetus

“Christians are indistinguishable from other men either by nationality, language or customs. They do not inhabit separate cities of their own, or speak a strange dialect, or follow some outlandish way of life. Their teaching is not based upon reveries inspired by the curiosity of men. Unlike some other people, they champion no purely human doctrine. With regard to dress, food and manner of life in general, they follow the customs of whatever city they happen to be living in, whether it is Greek or foreign.

And yet there is something extraordinary about their lives. They live in their own countries as though they were only passing through. They play their full role as citizens, but labor under all the disabilities of aliens. Any country can be their homeland, but for them their homeland, wherever it may be, is a foreign country. Like others, they marry and have children, but they do not expose them. They share their meals, but not their wives.

They live in the flesh, but they are not governed by the desires of the flesh. They pass their days upon earth, but they are citizens of heaven. Obedient to the laws, they yet live on a level that transcends the law. Christians love all men, but all men persecute them. Condemned because they are not understood, they are put to death, but raised to life again. They live in poverty, but enrich many; they are totally destitute, but possess an abundance of everything. They suffer dishonor, but that is their glory. They are defamed, but vindicated. A blessing is their answer to abuse, deference their response to insult. For the good they do they receive the punishment of malefactors, but even then they, rejoice, as though receiving the gift of life. They are attacked by the Jews as aliens, they are persecuted by the Greeks, yet no one can explain the reason for this hatred.

I’m still exploring the different ways the first and second century Church dealt with strange beliefs, cultic practices and powerfully charismatic leaders who were off their Biblical rocker. You already know the main ways, excommunication, branded a heretic and sometimes even put to death. It was pretty messy.  If I find anything interesting in Church history (which is ALL OF IT), I’ll let you know. So, if I get in some cultural knock-down-drag-out-fight over something, I’m going to remember to do this, “A blessing is their answer to abuse, deference their response to insult.”

My Lunch with Andy

I drove my wife, Robin, to a speaking engagement in San Diego last Saturday. It was a Mother’s Day gig, so after saying hello and huggin necks of some friends, I checked out of the large room with estrogen-laced decorations and headed over to a friend’s borrowed office in the church (Thanks Megan).

As it got closer to lunch I decided to act on the rare but delectable option of getting a Carnitas Burrito from Del Taco. So, I googled up the closest one and headed down the highway.

Arriving at Del Taco I noticed a “rough” looking guy stalking the side entrance. Wanting to avoid him, I tried going through the front doors, but they didn’t have any handles! OMG, they did not want people using these doors to enter (only to exit). I wasn’t going to allow one unsorted guy stop me from getting my Carnitas. As I rounded the corner I was grateful that he had left, or so I thought.

As I entered, the man I’d seen outside, mumbled, “something, something, blah, blah MONEY?” I lied to him, “no, I don’t have any cash.” Sometimes I stash my allowance of a $20 bill folded in my wallet for “emergencies” (which rarely happen). I wasn’t going to give a crazy guy twenty bucks. Two steps later, I felt guilty and I gave him the line I always give. “I won’t give you money but I’ll buy you lunch, what would you like?” I urged him, “come on up with me and order what you want.” Oh, I knew he wouldn’t like ordering at the front anymore than Silvia (my cashier) wanted to take his order. But I wanted him to get what he wanted. He ordered, I ordered, then I paid.

I turned and started to sit close by until our food was ready. I saw the man  sitting as far away from the register, close to the side doors, as possible. He was just waiting for his benefactor to deliver his food. I walked over to him and in my quirky mood and quest for carnitas, I asked him if I could join him for lunch. “Can I eat with you?” What was he going to say?

Andy forcing a smile

“Hi, I’m Glenn, what’s your name?” I asked. He said, “I’m Andy.” Poor guy, he just wanted to do his thing, eat his food and be left alone. But no, that wasn’t going to happen because I wanted something from him.

“So Andy, what’s your story?” I said, sounding like a swanky journalist covering the “needs of the street people” segment. Andy just looked back at me with a blank stare. I ignored Andy’s social cue as if he were saying, “really, you’re going to make me do this?”

Between bites of burrito I peppered him with questions about his life and life on the streets. It didn’t feel appropriate to ask him about being homeless because Andy was clearly a more savvy street guy. He wasn’t “homeless,” the streets are his home.

I said, “so are you from around here?” Which is supposed to be a question about being born and/or raised in Southern California. Andy again, just stared. I pushed, “Where were you born?” Andy replied, “I don’t really know or maybe I just don’t remember,” He was starting to get the hang of what it’s like to have a conversation with someone who is just naturally curious about people. I snapped back, “What? Are you serious? You don’t remember where you were raised?” I tried another line of inquiry, “What about your first memories of being a kid? Where was that?” “Oh, here in California,” he said with hesitation,  “I think.” I changed the subject, and trying to sound socially cool, I said, “How long you been on the streets?” Andy gave me a straight answer on this one, “fifteen years.” My voice raised with unbelief, “No Way!” I said, challenging his honesty. “Yeah, its been fifteen years.” “Andy,” I retorted with delightful surprise, “You’re like a professional street guy, how in the world have you survived on he streets all these years?” He didn’t know how to answer that. It was a rhetorical compliment anyways. “How old are you by the way?

Now, I need to tell you that Andy was pretty grimy from head to toe. He had on a 2007, Mount Olive Baptist T-Shirt and a beat up San Diego cap that just said, “SD.” His hands were absolutely stained with deep, dirty dirt to the point that his fingernails were black – but it wasn’t nail polish. He had a scruffy beard and a shaved head. All of that went along well with his cloud of stink, he reeked from nicotine. The strangest thing about him was his teeth. Andy’s teeth were just about the best lookin set of chompers I’d ever seen.

So when he said, “forty three,” I was floored. “Forty three!” I laughed back, (I’m sure he was tired of me repeating everything back to him with suspicion) “You are NOT a young man anymore! But you’ve got the nicest set of teeth I’ve ever seen!” With that said, Andy flashed a brilliant, disarming smile that instantly changed his entire demeanor. “You are a living miracle my friend,” I declared.

After a few minutes he continued eating his combo burrito meal and I discovered a little more about his family, his circumstances growing up (Utah Youth Authority and a stint in a Mexican Prison). The most fun fact was his nickname on the streets – Cynik. We laughed about his nickname. “How did you get that?” I asked.  Through a smirky smile he said, “I don’t know, my friends just started calling me ćinico (Cynic), but I spell it with a K.” “Yeah,” I agreed, it sounds “more gansta with a K.”

Andy’s smile, take two

Just in case you think I was just taking advantage of Andy or making light of his story – that’s not it at all. I was honestly interested in how Andy makes life happen on the streets and I bartered a few minutes of his time and his story for a combo burrito, large fries and drink. BTW, he mixed Iced Tea with Sprite! I enjoyed my lunch with Andy. I asked permission to take a picture with him. He agreed. The first picture I said, “ok, smile Andy,” thinking he’d flash those winning teeth again. Then I said, “come on Andy, really smile.” And that’s when I got the second picture. Both of them look like he’s in pain, but I promise he’s not in pain. We had a great lunch and I made a friend.

7 Questions To Ask BEFORE Giving Advice

I often think about what it would be like to grow up being the younger brother of Jesus. Talk about sibling rivalry! How could you EVER pin the “who put the donkey dung in sister’s bed?” on your brother? But after siblings grow up and mature they look back and see the threads of good, smart, gifted traits of their brother or sister. At some point siblings should be able to reflect back and see things more holistically. You know, James did NOT believe his brother, Jesus, was the messiah until after Jesus’ death and resurrection – right?

I believe that James writes not only from his own experiences but also from the authority of having known Jesus his entire life, from James’ earliest memories.

When I read in James, I don’t just see the power of an Apostle, I see the culmination of life experienced through his half-brother, Jesus, as well. What other author can write from that perspective?

James gives us this amazing process, filter or checklist when it comes to looking for (and I believe giving) wisdom.

“But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness.”
James 3:17-18 NIV

Before giving wisdom it’s a good idea to sift through motives before moving to action. This is the kind of wisdom that is sought. Wisdom that is pure and thoughtful. This is what people are looking for when they need wisdom or advice.

Below is a great checklist I can go through BEFORE opening my mouth and espousing a flow of circular suggestions filled with trite tid-bits or cute colloquialisms.

When I’m asked for advice and consideration on a matter, am I willing to mentally walk through this little soul-check to see if I am just blowing wind or truly being helpful?

A friend asks, “Hey, can I get your thoughts on something?”

  1. Is my motivation pure and not filled with self-interest or self-gain?
  2. Am I willing to seek peace, resolution and restoration not trying to conquer, control or win a pithy-point to make me look better?
  3. Can I put myself under authority of another or be willing to yield my own rights?
  4. Can I imagine their pain or remember the experience of being broken, desperate or alone and apply a healthy amount of mercy as I think through the situation with them?
  5. Am I able to see an outcome that will produce beautiful, delicious, flavorful fruit for all involved?
  6. Will I focus on being neutral, impartial; to be moved by compassion but not be swayed by reactive emotions? And can I consider all sides or seek the other half of the story if possible?
  7. Will I remember to be real, authentic and human only bringing honest experiences to the discussion not quick, trite, social media driven platitudes?

Most often, people do not want advice as they want someone to listen. They want someone to hear there thought processes, help organize those thoughts for them and then repeat back what you really hear them saying or asking. However, if someone truly wants input, this checklist helps me center on them, not me.

So, from a nine on the enneagram, take my advice on James’ advice on wisdom.

What happens when a plan fails?

If it’s a plan to do lunch with a friend and they cancel, you just reschedule and try again.

If it’s a succession plan to follow a founding pastor and it falls apart AFTER you’ve dedicated a year of your life, love and time into the people you believed you were called to serve, then you were “ALL IN” and sold your home and moved to the city you planned on investing in – well that’s a whole different kind of failure.

You go through the checklist: Did I miss God? Was I blind, stupid or just over zealous? Didn’t I see the warning signs? Didn’t I get input and advise from friends? No, No, Yes & Yes. Check, check, check.

So, what happened? We took a risk and it didn’t turn out like we thought it would. We jumped and landed on a familiar, foundational platform of faith. We weren’t in control (we thought we were and then realized- we’ve never been in that kind of control). We have lived by faith and trusted God for over 35 years. Each leap turned out really well (and we’ve had several) – this one didn’t… yet.

So, we are grieving, trying to gracefully end our relationship with the church and pivot to what God has for us next.

So how can you help? Praying for us is awesome. Believing with us is affirming!

Failing Forward

I told a friend last year, “I want to fail more.” Of course, I thought it would be more along the lines of the “cancelled lunch” type. I needed to fail more because I was so afraid of failing. I remember hearing Laurie Beth Jones (who wrote Jesus, CEO) talk about failing forward. That moment you realize you failed while MOVING. You were taking ground, pushing the boundaries of your own insecurities and inadequacies – not half committing, not playing it safe.

If I had played it safe I would have stayed where I was and wondered, “but what if.” You may have read all the success quotes about Thomas Edison, Henry Ford or even Ray Kroc. It’s different when you live it and not just read about it. I wanted to live it.

So we’ve got some new boo-boos which will turn into scabs and then later, scars. But remember, they are all on front side of our body. Because, we failed forward.

Chaotic Father’s Day Thoughts

The thought of being a father some day always frightened me. I wasn’t afraid of being a “bad dad,” I was terrified of being a destructive dad. Bad dads are aloof, uncaring, disconnected and discontented with their own life.

A bad dad is a self-protective dad who can’t rise above their own past, problems or personality. Bad dads just can’t get over the pain or they become trapped by consequences or addictions of previous decisions. Bad dads can still be excellent providers of the necessities – roof, food & stability.

I was positive that I would become a bad dad, but I thought I would eventually become a destructive dad. A destructive dad takes poor parenting to the extreme by hijacking their children’s ability to be healthy.

A destructive dad isn’t selfish, their purposeful to inflict pain on everyone around (specifically family). When a destructive dad sees their children pulling away to find “normal” or “beauty” or “love” they proactively sabotages those opportunities, friends, connections. They hold their children hostage to fulfill some dark game they play. Two of my dad(s) were bad dads- one out of struggle, one out of pain and the last was destructive & wicked. One time I told him that I forgave him for the way he treated my mother and my sister. He just laughed in my face. That weird, deep kind of laugh that sent chills down my back.

If you’re are wondering how or why I would ever be fearful of being a Dad (having children). It’s because I didn’t have anyone tell me different. I thought I was destined to be what I had seen and heard and felt. Jesus made the difference. It was only by His promise and a chance to trust Him that I began to change and eventually trust enough to get married and agree to have children.

Looking back I’m embarrassed that I was so fearful and, if you know my wife and kids, you’d probably agree that it was an unwarranted reality. All I know is those thoughts and feelings were very real to me at the time.

So am I grateful to be a Dad? Absolutely! Jesus changed my heart and mind and then I married the most wonderful girl ever. After fathering Dave, Matt & Janae most would say it looked “easy.” That always cracks me up! Yeah, they are amazing adults today. However, I can promise, it wasn’t easy and it took God, a great wife and a Church family to make it happen.

Redeeming Christmas

silver-christmas-treesIt was Christmas Eve.

We had a silver Christmas tree strung with blue lights in our living room.

My adopted mother had worked frantically all day at the factory so that she could come home early and prepare for Christmas. My mom had finally gotten my two-and-a-half-year-old little sister to go to sleep, and it was my job to put a dollhouse together for her.dollhouse
My mom worked hard to make sure that there were presents under the tree, though there were never very many for either of us. I knew that the dollhouse was my sister’s “big gift” that year.

As an 11-year-old, I was excited to have something constructive to do. I was tired of waiting to see if my adopted dad would come home that night.

Holidays are difficult for the families of alcoholics, and mine was no exception. My dad was rarely home for any holiday. He would drink away most of his paycheck and stay away from home. Of the Christmases that he was with us, I only remember him being sober for a couple of them. Every celebration was the same with my dad, and it never got any easier for my mom. She would try to hide her pain, but it was impossible. The shame was written all over her face.

I went to bed after finishing the dollhouse and wondered what “big gift” my mom had gotten for me that year. I figured that dad would probably stumble in at two or three in the morning and pass out on the couch. Two o’clock was about the time that the bar owners decided they’d taken enough money from saps like my dad and closed up shop.

My mom woke me up at eight o’clock the next morning to help her finish getting everything ready. My sister popped out of bed not long after. Watching her sleepy eyes take in the gigantic pink and yellow dollhouse, I couldn’t wait to see what my “big gift” would be.
As we dug out the smaller presents from our stockings, I noticed that my mom was stealing glances at the clock. After all of our gifts had been opened — my “big gift” nowhere in sight — my mother broke the news to me.

“Glenn, your dad told me that he would take care of getting your gift this year. He seemed excited and sincere, so I agreed. He’s let me down before, but I never thought that he would disappoint you. I’m so sorry. I don’t have anything to give you.” She stared at me for a long time, as if she were searching for understanding in my 11-year-old eyes.

I didn’t know what to say. How could she trust a drunk with my present? I was trying to find a way to hide my sadness. I was crushed, but I didn’t want her to see that. I told her that it was all right. What else could I say? We had both been ripped off. For the rest of the morning, I watched my sister play and forced myself to celebrate with her.

A little before lunchtime, my dad lumbered into the house. He was greeted with the fury of a mother whose son had been disappointed on Christmas morning. That conversation was colorfully sprinkled with a lot of cursing and yelling, so my sister and I went to hide out in my room. We just wanted to pretend that we were having a normal Christmas.
The next thing I knew, my dad stormed through my room with my mom in heated pursuit. He grabbed me — hard — by the arm and dragged me out of the house. I was glad my mother made me wear slippers that morning. He threw me into his van and sped off down the street. At least he was driving straight. Perhaps the fight with my mom had sobered him up.
Thankfully, we did not have to drive very far. We pulled into my dad’s favorite bar — the Tiki Room. The place looked like a rat holetiki-room-bar from the outside, and the large gravel-covered parking lot rarely held more than three cars. The inside probably didn’t look much better, but it was too dark to tell.
As soon as we walked in, my dad got into a serious conversation with the owner.

He pulled a wad of cash out of his business-card-stuffed wallet and counted off a number of bills. After smacking the money down on the bar, he unplugged a color television without even turning it off. He lifted the well-used, thirteen-inch set off of a grimy shelf and motioned for me to follow him.

color-tvWe drove home more slowly than we had left. After pulling into the driveway, my dad snatched the TV and huffed into the house. He set it up on a table in my room, plugged it in, and said “Merry Christmas” on his way out of the house. My mom tried to follow him and yelled out the door after him, but he ignored her. I could hear him revving the engine all the way down our street.

It took a few minutes to make sense out of everything that had happened. My dad had barely kept his promise, but it could have been worse. My mom came in to talk with me, and I gave her a pleading look — the kind of look you give after bringing home a stray dog.

“Can I keep it?”

Mimicking my dad, she said, “Merry Christmas, son.”

After receiving a gift like that from an earthly father who didn’t know what he was doing, it became difficult for me to receive anything from anyone. I was sick. I knew that my dad was the epitome of lousy, but lousy was all I knew. My instincts told me that dads were supposed to do better — be better — but I wasn’t entirely sure what that kind of dad even looked like.

Unfortunately, I didn’t have role models in my life to take me under their wing and demonstrate how good parents treat their children. I had to discover most of that on my own. Borne out of a desire to do better — be better — myself, I’d come up with ideas and ask God to reveal those qualities to me.

Though I had begun to heal from my chaotic childhood, my thinking was still crippled.

As an adult, Christmas and holidays were the most difficult times of the year. To me, holidays represented pain — crushed hopes and broken promises. By God’s grace, with the help of my patient wife, Robin, I began to see that Christmas actually represented the very opposite of what I had experienced — the fulfillment of a Father’s promise to send a Savior.

One particular day I was listening to a Focus on the Family Radio broadcast. They were talking about two very sensitive subjects in my world, Christmas and family. As I listened I realized that the pain from my memories were gone! Somehow God did not just redeem my life  – He redeemed my memories, my holidays and now even words like Christmas and family.

May the redemptive power of Jesus invade your Christmas’ past and make “whole” new memories for your future and the future of your family.

Well Done My Favorite Sunday School Teacher

Everyone likes affirmation. Everyone likes knowing that they have made a difference. The words “well done” confirm that leaders can bestow a huge amount of influence with this simple blessing.

Short. Sweet. Real.

To someone who has invested their lives into teaching and blessing little ones, their praise, their affirmation, comes from students or adults who reflect back and use words like, “my favorite.”

You were my favorite.

Let me translate what they are really saying:

“You meant the world to me when I was little and you greeted me with a smile and a hug. You looked into my eyes when I spoke and listened as I shared my thoughts.

You made me feel

that I was loved,
that I mattered,
that I was important,
that I belong.

That’s how I knew I was was your favorite too!”

So when a title is bestowed on you like, “Favorite Sunday School Teacher,” it’s not just a title of honor. It’s a title of accomplishment and wise investment.

Children are only small in terms of our own physical perspective.

Children are GIANT in terms of potential. They are at their prime of framing a future filled with hope and big dreams. They are learning our job as teachers, parents and leaders and already trying to figure out how to do it better.

The sky is not their limit – it’s the universe!

When a child feels safe, loved and affirmed… we can guarantee a brighter tomorrow for all of us.

That is the gift you offered every week, year after year after year. It was given to children, but we all have benefitted because of it.

The important words in red, that Jesus spoke, say this…

“The master was full of praise. ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in handling this small amount, so now I will give you many more responsibilities. Let’s celebrate together! ’ (‭Matthew‬ ‭25‬:‭21‬ NLT)

Well done Linda, I would say.

And also, “You have been faithful in handling our little ones, so now He has given you more!”

And we ALL celebrate.