faith

When Words Are Not Enough

When Words Are Not Enough

The words of Jesus carry power. They are not simply good words with the power to change lives if heard and applied; the words themselves are power. They are not just life-giving; they are life.

With nothing more than a word, Jesus had the power to heal. A centurion’s sick servant, a friend who was dead and buried, a demon-possessed man; all were brought to health and life at the sound of his voice. Even the winds and the waves obey his commands.

Yet as we often see with Jesus, he doesn’t stop there. Even when a good word, a powerful word, would do the trick, Jesus knows there is yet more. Some demons only come out by prayer; perhaps others only come out by presence. Touch. Skin on skin. Intimate proximity.

A leprous man in an ancient Jewish community would have been ostracized. Excluded. Uninvited. Alone. For the sake of public health as much as (or more than) reasons of religious purity, he would be kept on the outskirts of society, quarantined. Likely, it would have taken immense courage and desperation for such a man to enter back into the parts of the city where Jesus was speaking; the places where crowds were gathered; the spaces where religion was being taught. Rules and codes would have been broken for the leper to be nearby, but that didn’t matter. For the hopeless, the hope of healing will drive anyone to do reckless things.

And Jesus responds with even greater recklessness

3 Questions to Ask Your Son Before He Starts Dating

3 Questions to Ask Your Son Before He Starts Dating

A couple months ago, my wife and I were shocked to discover that, unbeknownst to us, our son had his first girlfriend. An eighth-grader, he had previously shown no interest whatsoever in dating. He talks about soccer and Destiny 2 and camping trips, but never girls. Yet sure enough, we scrolled through his text messages and discovered a thread we were not prepared for: an unknown number asked on behalf of a girl who sits next to him in band class what he would say if the girl who plays trumpet in the fifth chair asked him out.

He said, “Sure.”

This is how middle school relationship start. In fact, it’s apparently how they are maintained as well. Evan’s iMessage stream is a steady dose of mutual friends texting as third parties to intervene:

  • “Are you mad at her?”
  • “You should call her.”
  • “She wants to know why you didn’t call her.”
  • “She wants you to bring her some chocolate.”

As a father, I had hoped to hold my kids off from dating until they were well into their high school career, at the earliest. Middle school dating is silly and largely pointless. Nevertheless, I also recognize it as a coming-of-age ritual. He’ll learn, he’ll grow, and hopefully he won’t make too many bone-headed mistakes along the way. Most importantly, I hope he doesn't compromise himself or anyone else during this process of discovery.

While I once thought I would have hard-and-fast rules for my kids about dating, I’m now more interested in having conversations with them. At this point, I figure I'll be more effective helping them navigate relationships and situations rather than trying to prevent them altogether. This is new territory for my wife and I as parents. In an effort to help myself cope with the fact that I know nothing about parenting teenagers - and perhaps to help you if you find yourself on the same journey - I've decided to document some thoughts. Here are three important questions you can ask your middle-school son to help him know if he’s ready to start dating:

Our Adoption Story: Finding Faith When God Seems Silent

Our Adoption Story: Finding Faith When God Seems Silent

"Those children are yours." I stood, somewhat frozen, with terrified assurance that it was God speaking to me. I had hiked nearly an hour up a steep jungle hill to reach the clearing where two little children stood outside their dilapidated mud hut. They weren't exactly waiting for me; they had no other place to go. I was there for their intake interview for a sponsorship program, but now the word adoption was looming over me, pressing down heavy with persistence and discomfort.

You see, we had already adopted - twice before - and we were done. Complete, happy, and satisfied being a family of five. Yet here I was, wrecked by both compassion and injustice at how desperate their lives seemed. I saw their yellow eyes, white scalps, and bony arms. I saw his feet, peeling and red from the rats that chewed on them at night. How they divided up the energy bar I gave them and ran away like little squirrels, to gobble it down privately. They had not eaten at all in more than a day. And they were beautiful. So beautiful.

My Unwanted Pregnancy: Finding God Between the Lines

My Unwanted Pregnancy: Finding God Between the Lines

I have been pregnant for 200 days—give or take a little.

Those 200 days have been hard. Harder than I expected. Challenging in ways I didn’t know I could (or needed to) be challenged. There have been good days, days that left me feeling light and expectant. Many more days have had me down deeper than I thought possible. On Day One all I felt was shock. We had taken precautions. We had used protection. But still, those two lines appeared. I couldn’t believe this was happening.

On Day Seven, I still didn’t believe I was actually pregnant so I took another test. To my dismay, they appeared again, like lines marking a road forward - a road I had no desire to travel. This was not my timing. This was not my plan. I think I took a total of five pregnancy tests within those first ten days, each one returning a pair of lines brighter than the last.

The days from ten until now have been filled with a lot of just that: Dismay. Unbelief. Apprehension. Fear. I thought over time the idea of becoming a mother would sink in and the pregnancy bliss I hear so many talk about would engulf me into baby oblivion. Yeah, I’m still waiting for that to happen.

How I Found God In Kesha's High Note

How I Found God In Kesha's High Note

Kesha's back, y'all.

Now there's a sentence I never thought I would say. And it's certainly not one I ever thought I would enjoy saying. But, well, she's back...and we are all better for it.

The pop starlet has spent the last five years in record deal purgatory, essentially held captive by production mogul Dr. Luke and his record company. Accusations and denials of all kinds of abuse swirled, but in the end it was Kesha whose dreams were shattered and whose life hit rock bottom. It appeared to most that she would never again resurface, at least not in any way meaningful to the music industry.

Now here's my admission: I've never been a Kesha fan. Her pop-dance tunes, the latest of which, Tik Tok, was released some seven years ago, were nothing special. Her "bad girl," hyper-sexualized image came across as altogether too much - a sad gimmick. And probably it was.

But now, Kesha is back. Her new single – the first in half a decade – dropped last week. Entitled Praying, it's a song that shows emotional growth, personal healing, and, oh yeah, a vocal range that would leave Mariah Carey feeling a little verklempt

We often mark our lives by a series of defining moments – decisions or experiences that somehow encapsulate both the past and the future all in one present moment. For Kesha, dare I say, her defining moment comes at the 4:21 mark.

Cancer and _____: Two Words That Just Don't Go Together

Cancer and _____: Two Words That Just Don't Go Together

A little over two weeks ago my friend Amy shared a rare post on Facebook asking for prayers from her friends. “Today we heard two words that no parent ever wants to hear in the same sentence: your child’s name followed by the word, ‘cancer.'” Since that moment, Amy and her husband, Brad, have been through an absolute whirlwind of doctors visits and emotions. All their grand plans are now measured in moments, their home made up in hospital beds. 

As cancer goes, Hunter's diagnosis is about as optimistic as they come. Accute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL) is very treatable when caught early and has a remarkable cure rate among children. But you and I know that there is no such thing as "good cancer." Those are two words that just don't go together.

Yet despite the obvious oxymoron, when I walked into Hunter’s hospital room last week, it did not feel like a bad place to be. In fact, it felt like a very, very good place to be. The tubes and monitors and an endless stream of interruptions from hospital staff and doctors were juxtaposed against the calm smiles and honest laughter that filled the air and settled onto the shoulders of all present. If you stood still enough and watched long enough, you could even find the most unexpected of emotions: joy. 

You Don't Have To Sit Alone

You Don't Have To Sit Alone

Some friends of mine recently experienced a horrific tragedy. On their way to the beach for a much needed family vacation, their car was t-boned at an intersection when another vehicle ran through a red light. Three-fourths of the family walked away from the crash relatively unscathed. Their eldest son, Ryan, was killed on impact.

I cannot fathom the anguish a parent goes through in losing a child, and I pray that I never have to. For my friends, though, this pain is all too real. A tragedy like this is so senseless, so violent, so abrupt that our minds just can't ever comprehend it. It has been almost two years since the accident (as of this writing), and at time I can still see that confusion and agony on their faces. Their son was here, and then he was gone. Just like that. 

This morning I visited Ryan's gravesite for the first time in a while. I'm not quite sure why I ended up walking over to his grave. It was a beautiful May morning: the sun was bright, the Boy Scouts were out placing flags on the graves of fallen soldiers, and the air felt like summertime on my skin. I think recognizing the beauty and peace of the day, something inside me was stirred to the places in this world that are broken, where the sun does not seem to be shining. I thought of my friends who lost so much, and who will probably never be able to enjoy a day like this in quite the same way. I was so thankful for it all - for everything - that I felt compelled to associate and, somehow, draw closer to the people and places where thankfulness did not abound quite so easily. However those thoughts processed in my subconscious, I just knew that I wanted to go to the place of someone else's grief and, through simple prayer and presence, lift them up.

The One Story You Need To Read On World Penguin Day

The One Story You Need To Read On World Penguin Day

The Internet has brought us nothing if not an overabundance of animal videos. 20 years ago you had to wait until Sunday night for Bob Saget to introduce a montage of cat clips on America's Funniest Videos; now cuteness overload is unavoidable as soon as you open Facebook.

I'm a believer in lifelong learning, and often some of life's greatest lessons can be found simply by looking to God's good creation. For example, I recently learned that some domesticated cats are terrified of cucumbers. Full disclosure, I loathe cats. I would sooner have a pet cucumber than a pet cat. But should I ever find myself the owner of a feline, this is the kind of information that would be incredibly useful. 

Still, as much as animals cause us to say, “Awwww,” they also teach us to say, “AHHHH!” Another lesson I have learned: it's unwise to make friends with a white tiger (thanks, Montecore) or let your kids play with a gorilla (RIP, Harambe). 

Yes, the animal kingdom has much to offer us if we only remain willing to learn. The latest inspiration I received from a non-human came from a penguin named Dindim. Seeing as today, April 25, 2017, is World Penguin Day, Dindim’s story is a fitting parable on which to reflect.

The Second Time My Son Died

The Second Time My Son Died

When my son Evan was born he almost didn’t make it. His heart stopped. There was an emergency C-section. My wife was rushed from my presence, mid-delivery, by a whirlwind of white medical coats, the nurses’ panicked eyes refusing to look at me from above their surgical masks. For five horrifying and dizzying minutes, I sat alone in the delivery room, not knowing if I would see my son - or my wife - alive. The ordeal ended when a nurse walked in, informed me that both wife and baby were doing well, and handed me a juice box. The lead nurse from the neonatal unit later told us that Evan's delivery was the scariest she had experienced in 25 years of emergency deliveries. She had no idea why his heart stopped, nor how it managed to start back up again.

Learning From My Mistakes

Learning From My Mistakes

I am a dog attack survivor. Not to sound dramatic or anything, but it's true. 

Two or three times a year I decide that doctors and internet articles must be right about exercise being good for your health, and I rededicate my life to becoming more fit for a few weeks. I log into my Nike+ app, lace up my running shoes, and pretend like I am going to register for an upcoming 5K. And honestly, I love it. Going from in-shape level zero to race-ready feels awful each time I start back to it, but after the initial week or so I start to enjoy and look forward to my runs.