of sin and self.

balancingstones Every parent knows the feeling.

The first time I drove on ice the feeling of helplessness disconnected me from my ability to act.  Few times before had I experienced this feeling of a lack of control; definitely never quite on this scale.  Though I spun the wheel the opposite way, me and my little SUV continued to slide into unavoidable disaster.  My knuckles whitened even more, my jaw tightened together as my eyes squinted and brow curled at the sight of another car - all braced for impact.  I came to sudden halt as my tires spun and slid sideways, undeterred into a curb.  Luckily, the curb came before the car, and it was enough.  Of course, I waved and smiled at the other car then slowly moving through the intersection because that’s what inexperienced people who feel the heat of embarrassment do amidst the frantic pulsing of their heart narrowly escaping calamity.

As a parent, I’m growing a bit more accustomed to this feeling.  To be quite forthright, there are many times strength and confidence and experience give way to helplessness.  No matter how much effort I give, we slide out of control toward unavoidable disaster.  My frustration boils over and spills out in the midst of our tense words leaving us even more undone.  And there we stand worlds apart, all on our own, our hearts still pulsing - one the transgressor, the other the transgressed.  Our hearts are one in the same.  They reek of sin and self, of defending and demanding, of wanting control and satisfaction.

Parenting is an art of improved loses.  Those like me who scurry around to gather the pieces breaking busy themselves with falsities such as good, better and perfect, while others who lose well lock sites on tomorrow and refuse little wins in the name of being right and in control.  The key here is tomorrow must contain a hope more promising than a tidy, well-adjusted family.  This is where the Gospel must invade your parenting, eradicating sin and displacing self.

Truth: in you, what your child needs cannot be found.  Only in the truth of the Gospel will your kids find real life.

The polarizing feeling of not understanding your child and not able to connect with your child visits every parental relationship.  No one escapes the mystery of a child growing into their own, still your child but stretching into person and filling their own skin even more.  It’s mired in damnable and divine.  The sentimentalist in me wants to keep them close and controlled, but my responsibility founded in the Gospel is to lead them into tomorrow and then push.

My responsibility informs my action in the moment, or afterward.  It is in that understanding of tomorrow being dependent on my needed guidance in my child’s life today where my head clears from helplessness and fortitude is reclaimed.

lent, going more than giving.

stars in the sky IN THE ABSENCE OF ME, I meet You more.  Small diminished pockets of my heart hold the glory of eternity in my forfeit – my giving, my dying and disappearing – when the heaps of spoil pulled close around my heart burn away in the heat of Your unturned love.  We meet on hallowed ground You’ve equaled, not of my giving or sacrifice trite and incomplete.  Even beyond a scandalous love, You bid me come to peace that I could never discover on my own.

Lent is just this – giving in response to God’s ultimate compassion.  This season delivers an invitation to all who might come and die within their hearts to all things crowding thought and affections, all owned things honoring and satisfying only the heart.  In simple words, lent is removing important stuff from our heart so that God’s love has more room to grow deep within us.

So it’s subtraction, but also addition.

What will you give up is but a whisper in comparison to, What will you add?

It is imperative to us both as parents that we teach our daughters the importance of why we do the things we do, not merely do these things because we do these things.  Celebrate traditions laced in meaning and those celebrations give way to life development.  Our daughters ask why and we tell them.  This does two things:  it informs our children about the meaning of what we do and it ensures that we know why it is we do what we do.  Just as stories are lifeless until you read them with meaning having immersed yourself into the emotion of the words, not only the form of them, routine behavior is also meaningless until we subscribe to its meaning and embrace it in heart.

A question constantly asked within my heart is, ‘how can I show my children the way?’  The answer that echoes in return is profound – ‘go the way.’




Jesus doesn't fix anything.

advent star (image credit: Virginia Wieringa)

in a manger still and obscure hidden beneath a star shone bright swaddled in ancient words and found by foreign men bruised heal before lungs even drew a quiet night diseasing evil forever

after all, bruised beats broken and that’s what the angels were singing to shepherds, to wise, to whored and to falsely whole

    we swallow brokenness like the drugs keeping us afloat     our heads nod in restlessness and the receiving     our hearts return us to the well to see the seer

and so this is Christmas all white in the absence of snow our hearts pushed in, and we know the bruises beat the broken

holy night, hushed and aglow promise’s arrival to a heavy handed world time a refugee in the camp Grace swallowed the Virgin knows what mothers do not: how to hold the King of Angels O, come let us adore him, Christ, the Lord

Christmas comes earlier once again.  Sales announce the season and joy fills our hearts.  It seems as though more of Christmas is lost in commercialism each year.  The story, faded into well balanced nativity sets sold for shelves and lawns grows more native in an adapted knowing that Christ came so we spread good will and cheer.

But look at the night.  Jesus doesn’t fix anything.  In fact, things get worse; a lot worse.  The king of the moment feels threatened at the report of foreign wise men arrived to see the foretold promise under a star.  So the king commands all babies under the age of two be found and murdered.  The people of the foretold promise bleeding again under the tyrannical rule of other men.  I’d say things worsened. We’ve heard the story bookended by Christmas and Easter unfold - the child grew.  The story builds anticipation as some realize the Promise arrived in a manger, grew into a man, touched people like God.  He gathered the bruised and buried the broken.  And then the story reaches climax with his public, gory death - worsened once again.  A strong shift of circumstance happens in Jesus’ resurrection, and then, a sort of to be continued hangs as those closest to him watch him ascend into the heavens.

And here we are.  Holders of the promise awaiting God’s glorious arrival, as a people once did.  So much of our world is broken; our very lives broken, too.

What if Jesus comes hushed again, undetected in our world obsessed with its own healing, demanding all must be whole before all can be all right?

Jesus doesn’t fix anything.  He comes.

Into the worst conditions, among a family gone amok, through the unchangeable circumstance of death and all the more that can go wrong, Jesus comes right into the middle where you are and abides.

And so, this is Christmas, this is Advent, this is promise and this is Jesus.  O, come let us adore him and belong to a Savior come and not a known cure.

me, set an enemy of my daughter's heart

Roses growing through grate fence Often lately, we’ve found ourselves there stuck between emotion and disappointment.  Tears threatened to fall from her reddening, yet stubborn eyes as she stood before me while doing her best not to look directly at me.  I leaned over her lording big controlling words meant to strip down her actions to unthoughtful disobedience aimed to hurt and defy.

There we stood, worlds apart screaming at the moon wanting love without give trouncing on delicate soil uninvited yet demanding so long to lullabies equaling love I know she loves me.  She knows I love her, but there are times lately when I feel absolutely lost parenting Elizabeth, my oldest.  The fact that she’s only approaching her teen years intimidates me, especially when others are quick to respond that I should brace myself for when she is a teenager.  And the waves won’t quit as my younger daughters race to break on those teen shores, too.  As we near then, the joke of owning an escape cabin visited monthly sways further from comedy and closer to reality.  Until I own a cabin, patience must be cultivated in my thorny heart.

“There will be times when you won’t like me very much, and I need you to understand that I’m okay with that.”

Patience hangs from a branch rooted in love and there my heart finds clarity and returns to Christ-led parenting.

In times overrun by emotion and disappointment in my shortcomings as a parent and her defiance as a child, I grow impatient and irate and steal moments from guiding love sharp enough to cut through the most mired emotional tangles.  Simply put, I am my own worst enemy as a parent when my love is based more on my kids liking me than me loving them.  And by loving them, I mean caring enough to wage steady war against their little hearts set selfishly inward, evidenced by possessive pronouns littering their speak.  The real challenge is in separating from my own selfish heart enough to let the love of Christ guide me as a parent rather than my heart mercenarily demanding obedience for love.

Love doesn’t demand; obedience blooms in a heart loved so well.

Like a veteran gardener plucking weeds from good soil, I vigilantly remind myself to hold higher value to where we’re going instead of how we’re getting there.  And this is important to remember, for it’s easy to get lost in wanting to be loved back by your children.  If I will love her defiant heart well, I must set myself as an enemy to her heart.

Practically speaking, her tears shouldn’t shape the way I love her, neither should her accusations of me not understanding her and not caring about how she feels.  My role is to lead her through fierce times where Love will be saving grace.  Lots of parenting can be left to positioning - how I position my heart, will determine how I’m able to reach through innate selfishness that plagues their little hearts as it plagues and preys on all human hearts.  My goal is to set them free, free to love truthfully.

In short, parenting is the most difficult thing an adult will ever aspire to do.

parenting is the simplest thing ever :: A Deeper Family post

chloeglasses The blades just kept spinning like life and order and nothingness.  Everything made sense in its whispered hum.  I just faded in the noise, into time unaccountable and in the realization that my hands do less these days while my mind just spins in circles –much like the humming fan blades turning intoxicatingly.

I do far less these days, but I’m busier.  And tired(er).

On an average of five hours sleep, I go until I cannot or should not.

Just a handful of months ago, I finished my first book to much joy and self-adulation.  The amount of focus needed to see an idea through to storyboard, gruelingly sliced and shaped into an outline and then strung tighter together with words, pushed limits broader than I knew possible.  I met the day earlier than dawn and the kids to work with diligence closer to the end.  Words filled blank pages deep into night after the kids went to bed, all the while, working and learning to be a single parent between the margins of writing.  As I look back at pictures of daddy daughter dates, first experiences as a single parent and too many dessert overloaded movie nights to count, I see me smiling easier.

Those days didn’t escape.  We leaned into each moment honestly and didn’t even know it.  We didn’t need to.  The moment was enough and it was all we wanted – nothing more.


Continue to full article at Deeper Family



the loss of effective parenting.

I see their smiles now easy and free.  Peace quiets worry at this sight. And joy fills my heart in the deep of night.

Most days lived under our shared roof sprawl out without much difficulty.  Comfort and security exists again.  I remember the days burning hot and dry when we lived a million miles from one another exiled to our own island on fire.  How unending those days felt!  How unrelenting those waves beat against our shore while offering no respite.

The days, weeks and months following their mother's death, my wife then, will forever be immortalized as a graceful metamorphosis on the timeline of our family, the grand redesign of us now, then and ahead.  For nearly 3 years now, we have been learning life again, finding joy in mundane free from extraordinary ordeal.  Finding joy in day unfolding with boring, unassuming regularity; that’s how you know your heart is beating alive and not a shell of yesteryear.

To be clear, happiness is what we pull from the sky, the smiles we try to wear as long as we can bare, but joy finds us as the sky falls to find us.

Joy swells in white flags waving and in the end of the pursuit of happiness.  It glimmers rebelliously amidst darker days blanketed by fear, worry, doubt and is the praise of screw ups who know better than to trust the feeble strength of their own hand.

The light in each of their eyes dims, their faces hang in heavier moments, and I’m reminded again close to my chest I have no guarantees.  Nothing promised apart from the breath drawn right now; not even the next day as I once believed.

Belief, that’s all we have and the only choice ever really needed to be made.

And that’s what fuels joy: belief.

The folly of the proud is self-reliance, but the triumph of the humble is joy despite all things, anything, independent of day, night, struggle, ease and especially fairness.

Maybe you’re like me in that I worry often as a parent.  I push hard into most days and try to squeeze as much as I can out of it because there are no absolutes or guarantees that my effort put into my children will produce well - adjusted, loving people whose hearts belong to God and affections to the life given soon to them.  I know as many parents who do everything as right as one can do who sit up late at night wondering what went wrong as the others who stumbled about aimlessly trampling inconsistently in selfish and ignorant circles whose kids end up running an honorable bid for sainthood.

There are simply no guarantees in life as there are in parenting.  “Train up a child in the way he should go”* . . . and he may in fact stray.  He may return one day to God’s grace and goodness, but maybe he won’t.  No one saves, save for God.  That’s why we must only believe.

Then they said to him, "What must we do, to be doing the works of God?"  Jesus answered them, "This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent."**

And so in our quest and effort as parents, we must courageously believe in God’s love and plan more than our pocketed strategies and parenting techniques said to tame the heart of the unruliest, liveliest little child.  For when we trust in God’s ability in their lives and despite our parenting, we transcend human effort of dust trying to cover dust and allow Eternity to shape, form and guide into all ahead.

As a dad to three little beautiful girls, my heart winces a little more with each increasingly complex conversation.  I do good in my own effort as their dad, but soon we’ll travel hand in hand to an impasse where my foot will slip and my hand not able to hold.

Right there my heart better be ready to let go and grab hold of God’s grace and ability.  Right then, my heart must be able to believe or all that I’ve done is try diligently to look capable for as long as I could until my hand could hold no longer.


“The law says, ‘do this,’ and it is never done.  Grace says, ‘believe in this,’ and everything is already done.” -Martin Luther

Believe in the future already owned by the One who purchased a day unable to be bought by impoverished hearts.  Be free.  Belong.  Trust.


image found @  ||  *Proverbs 22:6  ||  **John 6:28-29


DEEPER FAMILY :: the peculiarity of gratitude.

“Rejoice in the Lord always.  I will say it again: Rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4)

Peculiar words, I’d say.


What of days prickly and unending, too sharp to stand without bleeding and too long to see end?  No break or respite.  Only the breaking of will, the loss of hope and ability to be okay.  Those days, rejoice?

Yes, in days cursed, in moments heavy, in the breaking of security and even in the violation of things most beautiful and sacred in life ...rejoice, friends!

When life pulls and tears, rejoice.  In the thick and thin, rejoice.  In danger and disturbance, in expected and unexpected, in the collapse of life and the ruin of happy, rejoice.  Find full reason, drive your stakes deep into the soil and hold on with a tenacious desperation ...and rejoice.

Continuing reading at Deeper Family