When I Grow Up

One of the greatest blessings of a long morning commute in the car is the opportunity to listen the the preaching of the late Dr. Adrian Rogers on his ministry’s broadcast, Love Worth Finding. While every morning’s sermon is uplifting, yesterday’s stopped me in my tracks.

In this particular sermon, Dr. Rogers quoted a list of the attributes of Jesus Christ written by Christian writer Robert Clark. This list is just too good not to quote in full here:

In His life there was:

Meekness without weakness;

Tenderness without feebleness;

Firmness without coarseness;

Love without sentimentality;

Holiness without sanctimoniousness;

Lowliness without lowness;

Truth without error;

Enthusiasm without fanaticism;

Passion without prejudice;

Heavenly-mindedness without forgetfulness;

Carefreeness without carelessness;

Service without servility;

Self-exaltation without egotism;

Judgment without harshness;

Seriousness without somberness; and

Mercy without softness.

Each phrase Dr. Rogers delivered was like a sledgehammer to my heart. When he was finished, I had to agree that this was the best list of Christ’s attributes that I had ever heard. Is it exhaustive? By all means, no – Jesus is as infinite in his attributes as his Father. In fact, I can think of a few more even now. But this list certainly hits many of the most important ones.

You know what else? Except for the self-exaltation part (Jesus and God are entitled to that, but I am not), I want my own life to have these attributes. Today, I am so far from achieving them that I know there’s practically no chance that I’ll ever attain them all.

But I want to try. And you can, too.

Offer your heart to Jesus today, invite Him in, and start your journey to spiritual adulthood. It won’t happen overnight, but with prayer, and surrender of your life to His plan, perhaps someday when you’ve finally grown up someone will say to you:

You remind me of Jesus.

Heavenly Father, with each step I take in my journey to you, mold me into the likeness of your Son, Jesus Christ, so that the attributes of my life are a witness of Him. 

The Smile Said It All

It’s funny, the little things that bring to mind God’s love for us. Like today, for example, at the ice cream shop. A gentleman in his 80s was buying ice cream for his lovely bride. I didn’t eavesdrop for the entire transaction (that would be rude – fun, but rude), but I did look his way just in time to see the server hand him two huge strawberry shortcake sundaes. Judging from the ear-to-ear smile on his face as he picked up those sundaes, I’m guessing this 80-year-old gentleman was feeling around seven years old right about then. He didn’t know I was looking at him, or that anyone was. No, this genuine shortcake-eatin’ grin came from deep inside, most likely from a love of ice cream dating back to the 1930s. It also didn’t hurt that the server had made a couple of the best looking strawberry shortcake sundaes that I have ever seen (and I’m 52, so I’ve seen, and eaten, a few).

As I turned away, the very first thing that came to my mind was how God loves to delight His people.  Malachi 3:12 (ESV):  “Then all nations will call you blessed, for you will be a land of delight, says the Lord of hosts.” But, as I thought about it more, it seemed to me an even better picture of how He delights in us, and if we choose to, how we can delight in Him. “Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” (Psalm 34:7) (Does that include strawberry shortcake sundaes?)

You know, I can’t wait to get to heaven for a whole host of reasons.  But….I bet they make some pretty awesome strawberry shortcake sundaes there.  Yep, can’t wait.

Priorities

It’s fall, y’all! And this time of year, and in this part of the U.S., people celebrate the crisp, cool mornings and the warm, dry afternoons with weekend crafts festivals of all types.

And among the wonderful finds at these festivals are various decorations that celebrate our Christian faith. Many are poignant and thought-provoking, some are just plain funny, and occasionally they’re convicting. But few are as simple and to-the-point at the one in the picture above.

A flat board, green paint, a small brush, and just three words are all you need to state the greatest truth of all the ages.

 

15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him. 17 He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. 18 He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything. – Colossians 1:15-18 (NASB – http://www.BibleGateway.com)

So the next time you feel inadequate sharing your faith with someone who’s lost because you don’t have an eloquent, elegant, and persuasive explanation to offer, just remember:

But first, Jesus.


As an extra, here’s a onesie I found at a recent festival that must have been created for every generation of male babies on my side of the family (including me). This is now my motto:

IMG_3325

There, I said it. That is all.

 

Truth Never Changes

The eagle pictured above may not be real, but it’s an amazing (and ginormous) metal representation of a bald eagle captured in mid-flight at the Dollywood theme park in Sevierville, Tennessee.

Every bald eagle I see reminds me of my favorite verse from the beautiful, lyrical book of Isaiah.

But those who wait on the LORD shall renew their strength;

They shall mount up with wings like eagles,

They shall run and not be weary,

They shall walk and not faint.

Isaiah 40:31 (NKJV)

Whether the eagle I’m seeing is soaring on the thermals 10,000 feet in the air, or made of metal and suspended above the entrance of a fearsome roller coaster, the truth of God’s word that the eagle brings to mind forever remains the same. Praise His holy name.

Have a blessed Tuesday.

Stories of Life

Authentic communication is all about finding your voice.

Your “voice” is not what you sound like when you speak, or even the words you use. Your voice comes from who you are, what’s important to you, and the connection you’re trying to make with your audience.

I’ve written this blog (under various titles) for six years now, and a succinct phrase explaining the vision and purpose for what I write has eluded me. In fact, it was while working through another possible title, “Just the Other Day” (the reasons for that title I’ll explain in another post), that I had an intriguing thought.

“Let your blog speak for itself,” the voice told me. “There’s a common thread — what is it?”

With that question rattling around in my head, I continued to work on a tagline for “Just the Other Day,” and quickly typed out the subtitle as “Stories of Life.”

So my title would be “Just the Other Day: Stories of Life.”

Wait a minute.

I felt a little like Willie Wonka (Gene Wilder’s version), who often told the Golden Ticket holders to “Reverse that!” because he said something in the wrong order.

Each and every post in this blog is about life. The joy of raising a child with Down Syndrome. Helping the Upper Ninth Ward in New Orleans come back to life following the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. The love of an elderly husband for the wife of his youth. The gratitude of a father for God saving the life of a brain-damaged daughter. And the importance of facing the day spiritually prepared.

Maybe that’s because Jesus Christ is all about life. He came so that we might have life, and have it abundantly. Not just in heaven, but in the here and the now. In fact, Jesus said it best in the book of John.

I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.  John 14:6

So as you might guess, this blog has a new title. A title that truly captures its voice. And this time, I think it will stick.

Welcome to “Stories of Life.”

It’s OK to Let Go

Those of you who know my youngest daughter’s story may have noticed something.

August 17th passed this year, and there was no “Four Years” post on this blog.

Did we forget about the awful events of August 17, 2015? No, I’m writing about them now.

Are we not thankful that our daughter is still with us, four years after a skateboarding accident almost took her life? Far from it. We’re grateful every second of every day. We’ve lifted our thanksgivings to God countless times.

But at some point, I had to give August 17th back to God. It was His to begin with, after all.

How selfish would it be to forever hold on to the grim memories of a specific day, when God’s potential for good every August 17th is without limits?

August 17, 2015 is indelibly burned into my consciousness much as any other day that has shaped me. There was March 1, 1990, the day after my oldest son was born, when we learned he had “chromosomal abnormalities.” Eleven years later, there was September 11, 2001, a day when I saw things I thought that I would never see. And last fall I added to that list October 21, 2018, the day we lost my Dad.

Do I commemorate those days? I remember 9/11 with the nation, but the other days pass with only a thought. The same can now be said for August 17th.

This is the day the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it. – Psalm 118:24

After all, it wasn’t just the day of a horrible accident.

It was the day when my daughter didn’t die.

Now, I can’t wait to see what else God is going to do with August 17th.

What are you holding on to that is stealing your joy? What hard thing can you give to the Lord so that you can watch Him do great things in and through you?

 

 

The Star of the Shows

Lots of parents often don’t look forward to taking their kids to theme parks.

Neither did I, but not for the same reasons.

While other parents worried about the crowds, the heat, the expensive and unhealthy food, and the nausea-inducing (not to mention bacteria-laden) rides, I had a different issue, to wit:

THE SHOWS.

Usually a respite from the craziness of four kids who all want to do something different, the musical variety and comedy shows were an air-conditioned opportunity to sit down, get a drink, and unplug for 20 minutes or so.

At least they were for everyone else.

You see, I was the dad who was invariably pulled from the audience and asked to take part in the show.

You may think I’m exaggerating, and I only wish I was. But for at least 10 years, from when my oldest was around 5 until my youngest turned 10, it happened. EVERY time. No matter where I sat — in the front of the theater, in the back, on an aisle, in the middle of a row, IN THE BALCONY. They found me, every time.

Maybe it was the big “BUFFOON” sign that I wore on my back. More likely, I was probably the dad who looked the least likely to hit someone when I got up on stage.

Eventually, I made peace with my lot in life, and I accepted each impromptu casting call with what little grace I had. But in the end, all those times of wearing a wig and a Hawaiian lei, and doing whatever silly dance they asked me to do, are now cherished memories, as my kids start their own families.

And these days? I still can’t go to a theme park show without worrying where to sit so they won’t pick me.

But then I remember: it really doesn’t matter. They will find you.

What Will Your Grandkids Call You?

I’ve picked “Papa.”

I am well aware that grandchildren pick their own names for their grandparents.

And yes, I’ll answer to whatever name my grandson calls me.

But for what it’s worth, I’m going to at least suggest to the little guy that he call me “Papa.”

That’s not “Paw-Paw,” as they say it in Mississippi.

And it won’t be “Papou” either, although I have photographic evidence that someone has actually used that name.

IMG_1293 2
Does the name “Papou” fit me? Don’t answer that.

And obviously, my wife wants to win a “Grammy.”

Regardless of what he calls us, we will cherish this little man. He is our first grandchild, so he’ll always have that special place. But more than that, he represents the next chapter in our families’ lives. We’re privileged to witness the beginning of, if God wills, our grandson’s 70+ year journey to Jesus. And while we won’t be there at the end, we intend to enjoy every step of his journey while we’re here, because:

Grandchildren are the crown of grandparents, and parents are the glory of their children. — Proverbs 17:6 (GOD’S WORD translation)

A friend of mine who just recently became a grandpa himself told me, “It’s the best club you’ll ever join.” And even though I’ve been a t-shirt-wearing, coffee-mug-carrying member of that club for only three weeks now, I’m happy to report that he was exactly right.

Do I want to be a legend, as the t-shirt suggests? No. Just so long as my grandson loves Jesus Christ, trusts Him as his Lord and Savior, and lives to make His name known, I’ll be a happy Papa.

Loving the Wartzenalls

My first guest blogger (ever) is Mitch Teemley. He’s a Christ follower, a filmmaker, and a story teller extraordinaire. The daily posts on his blog “The Power of Story,” whether inspirational (like this one) or just plain funny, combine hilarious visuals with outstanding writing, and they always make me smile. I know they’ll make you smile, too! I definitely recommend following Mitch!

Mitch Teemley

Dysfunctional-families-roles-created

Family. A mixture of people we get and don’t get. People we like, and people we would never have chosen to be with if we had a choice. But we don’t. Because they’re family. Right?

I haven’t seen my cousin Ralph in 50 years. The moment he hit his teens he chose to stop attending family gatherings. Why? His sister tells me it’s because he feels he has nothing in common with any of us; we’re just a bunch of strangers he was randomly thrown together with at birth. Funny thing is, before he disappeared, Ralph was the only person in the family I related to; he was the person most like me. 

I was a smidge more loyal. I never actually stopped attending family gatherings. However, by the time I was a teenager I’d decided my friends, the people I chose, were far more important than a random…

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Loving Broken People

Hollywood just paid Fred Rogers a big compliment.

But it’s probably not the one they expected.

The long-awaited trailer for the Mr. Rogers biopic, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, dropped this past week. Mr. Rogers is being played by none other than Tom Hanks.

Let that sink in for a minute. The most iconic actor of our time, Tom Hanks has made a career of portraying American heroes on the big screen. The list is long and varied. Fictional heroes Forrest Gump from the Vietnam era, and the brave Captain Miller in the World War II flick Saving Private Ryan. Equally brave astronaut Jim Lovell in Apollo 13. He played Sully Sullenberger, the pilot who landed his jet safely on the Hudson River, without a single injury to his nearly 200 passengers and crew. James Donovan, the American lawyer who negotiated the freedom of U-2 pilot Francis Gary Powers from his Soviet captors, is in his repertoire. Who can forget Hanks’ turn as Chuck Noland, the fictional Fed Ex employee stranded on a remote Pacific island in Cast Away. Wilson! Wilson!

And of course, there’s Woody from the Toy Story franchise. I cannot lie, I cried at the end of Toy Story 4. You will, too.

Pretty heady stuff, especially if you’re Fred Rogers, a man whose most remarkable feat may be that PBS carried his show for so long.

And yet despite the striking skill with which Tom Hanks portrays his characters, as I’m sure will be the case with Fred Rogers in the upcoming movie, the most striking point of the trailer was a statement made to Mr. Rogers by the other main character in the film, journalist Lloyd Vogel, who was writing a profile on him.

You love broken people like me.

Compliment paid.

This statement is proof that the people understood exactly what Mr. Rogers was trying to do. And from everything I’ve read about Fred Rogers, the ordained Presbyterian minister, Mr. Rogers would attribute that love of broken people not to himself, but to Jesus Christ.

In fact, I think it’s no mistake that Mr. Rogers referred to those around him as his “neighbors.”

A second commandment I give you, that you love your neighbor as yourself.   – Matthew 22:39

Jesus’ entire ministry on Earth was about loving broken people.  He chose broken people as his disciples. He touched the sick and the unclean, and healed them. He spoke into their hearts. He raised them from the dead.

Yes, Jesus loved them to death — to His death on a cross.

Greater love has no man than this, that he lay his life down for his friends.  – John 15:13

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.  — Romans 5:8

Who were those sinners? Everyone — the sick, the hurting, the misunderstood, the imperfect. The broken people like me.

So as compliments go, I’ll take comparing my love to the love of Jesus Christ over having Tom Hanks portray me in a movie any day.

Tom Hanks (Finalized)
Tom Hanks reenacting Mr. Rogers’ signature shoe toss