[Busy writing all sorts of things for this summer so here’s a quicker hit take on J. J. Abrams’ 2nd time at the helm of the cinematic Enterprise. Spoilers follow.]
Thirty is a milestone because it ends in zero and that number always provokes us to look back and look forward. I must say that as I looked around at my life on my birthday yesterday, I was filled at gratitude. I have been blessed far more than I deserve.
The night that I turned twenty was the first night I held EA’s hand. It was to pull her up off the floor. I was bored and throwing things off the top balcony and wanted her to come along. We liked each other, but were still a couple of months away from dating.
I could not have anticipated that night what my twenties would bring: marriage, four moves, starting, stopping, and re-starting my seminary education, and the birth of our two sons. I am not for hyperbole but my twenties were “The Decade That Changed Everything.”
And in all of those big shifts have been a hundred tiny movements that have transformed me into whoever it is I have become. When I was young, 30 was well past the border of adulthood. It didn’t seem old, but it did seem like it was an age inhabited prominently by those that had things figured out.
That is not the case. My twenties have taught me that growing up means carrying what seem like paradoxes. I have watched my college-aged idealism erode away rapidly and yet I cling to hope even more. While growing up is supposed to make you more self-sufficient, I find that I need people now more than ever. The wound that I have always carried around has been a horrible insecurity, a belief that I was not good enough. I thought it would disappear, but there have been seasons where I have found that ignoring has only made it fester and grow.
And then there is faith. Faith has been with me from the beginning. It is always going to be an important part of my story. Yet the contrast I have discovered with that is, for me, a mature faith means a less certain faith.
That is pretty much the exact opposite of what I thought when I was younger. I figured that growing up would bring me an indefatigable confidence in my faith that would vaporize any challenge that life threw at me. I figured that a person that wrestled with doubts had bought a one-way ticket to Lukewarmville. Population: You and Satan (Actually, I didn’t think that. The train/Lukewarmville/population triumvirate was too fun a sentence for me to resist).
Yet this is what happens in the uncertainty: I hold on to Jesus more. It sounds cheesy and there is a detached/post-modernist guy inside of me that rolls his eyes at that. Yet in adulthood where all of the theoretically easy answers to life’s issues turn to dust, holding on to Jesus is absolutely all that one can do. When you realize you don’t have all the answers, all that you have left on which you can hang your hat is God’s grace.
I don’t think that I would have anticipated that ten years ago. I certainly would not have chosen that, but I would not trade that for anything today.
I have decided to stop trying to anticipate what is coming next. No one has any clue what is going to happen to them when they’re 40 or 50 or whether they’ll even make it there. I just hope that I can be the kind of husband, father, son, brother, friend, and whatever else that people need me to be. I pray God’s grace will carry me forward and carry me home.
Comfort those that mourn
Protect those that hurt
Guide rescue workers, doctors, nurses, and every human hand helping
Give strength for people to sit, listen, hug, and cry
Forgive us our pithy answers
Bind the broken hearts
Walk with them through this storm and those that will follow
Bring healing and hope
You probably ask me a hundred questions a day. That is not an exaggeration. But this is a good thing. It means you’re curious about the world around you and want to know how it works. I’ll admit that it sometimes gets annoying when you ask the same question eight times in a row, but, hey, you’re a toddler right now.
But there is a question that you do sometimes ask eight times in a row and probably a couple of dozen times every day: “Daddy, do you love me?” It is a question that I will never tire of answering.
Both your mom and I love you with our entire hearts. It is not something that you have to earn and it is not something that you will ever lose. But as you are turning three today, I want to write down a few things that I love about you at this time in your life.
I love the way that you are protective of your new little brother. When Liam cries, you’ll tell your mom that he is hungry. If you find a pacifier, you will bring it to us to give to him. The other day Liam started crying while we were in the car and you said, “It’s okay Liam. We’re almost there.” There is a ridiculous amount of joy in your voice when you see him and say, “Baby Liam.” You have only been a big brother for a little over eight weeks and you are already awesome at it.
I have loved seeing you go to preschool. I can’t believe that you have already finished your first year. It has been cool to hear your stories of school, to watch your teachers fall in love with you, and to see you make friends. Every single time we drive by your preschool, we ask you what it is and you almost always yell out, “It’s my CLASSroom!”
I love it when you sing. Sometimes you’ll pop up with a song from school that I’ve never heard. Many times you will sing the silly VBS songs that I have sung to you. You don’t always get the words right. You have this knack for getting stuck on lines and repeating them over and over until you somehow find your way out. It’s pretty adorable. One day after church when you sang, “You make beautiful things out of the dust.” You sang that line about three or four times in a row and that was it. But it was probably one of my favorite times hearing you sing.
I love that you want to go into the sanctuary and “see colors” after church. When I pick you up from nursery, you always want to look at the big stained glass windows. You find the seeds in a window depicting the Parable of the Sower. In the window where John is baptizing Jesus, you have picked out favorite fish for you, me, your mom, and Liam. And recently you have liked looking at the picture of Baby Jesus, Mary, and Joseph before we leave.
I could honestly go on and on. I love that you love books, watching you play outside, and the way that you sometimes toss your cape in the air and say “Ah-hoo!” I love it when you say, “Daddy, you and me are friends.” I love that you know who Superman, Batman, Flash, and Donatello all are. I love the mischievous grin that you get on your face. Your laugh is possibly my favorite sound in the world. And one of my favorite things ever is when I carry you and you throw your arms around my neck.
Your mom and I feel unbelievably blessed to have you in our lives. We would not trade you for anything in the world. Even on your worst days — when you throw huge tantrums, accidentally kick me in the face, have poops in your diaper that seem impossible for someone your size, and want to watch the same episode of Dinosaur Train non-stop all day — we are incredibly grateful that we get to be your parents.
You probably won’t ask me if I love you nearly as much as you get older. It’d be fairly hard to top the clip at which you ask it now. But know that if you ask me or your mom that question at any point of your life, the answer will always be the same. Yes, I love you with all of my heart. And I always will.
Happy 3rd Birthday Buddy.
Iron Man 3 starring Robert Downey, Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, Don Cheadle, Guy Pearce, Rebecca Hall, and Sir Ben Kingsley
Written by Drew Pearce and Shane Black
Directed by Shane Black
Tweet the Plot (140 Characters or Less)
Tony Stark seriously ticked people off in 1999 leading to terrorism, exploding people, & Stark Mansion getting blown up. Also? Tennessee!
Who will like it?
This is part three, so we pretty much at this point know what we’re getting. Do you like superheroes? Do you like Robert Downey, Jr. doing Robert Downey, Jr. things? Do you like your summer blockbusters with a dash of snark? Do you like robots? Do you like cameos from other superheroes after the credits? If you answered “Yes” to any of those questions, you’re going to be pleased with FeMan the Third.
Who won’t like it?
This is a crowd pleaser popcorn flick. There are obviously some people that feel those type of movies are beneath them. Obviously, this movie is not going to garner an Oscar nomination for Best Picture. Individuals that get incredibly frustrated with plot holes will probably find things with which to get incredibly frustrated. But again, it’s a crowd pleaser. I’m a solid DC guy and even I enjoy the Marvel cinematic adventures of Tony Stark.
Favorite Random Scene
Hold up…I should probably throw up the spoiler warning and then put in a jump for those that haven’t seen the movie yet.
Be Warned: Spoilers Follow.
Virtually anytime that I’m working up in the Batcave, Obie is up here too.
My final for my Christian Education and Formation with Youth is a ten page paper centering on my theological understanding of student ministry. Though I am up to about eight pages, I feel like I am spinning my wheels and perhaps veering into cliche-ridden territory. This is my attempt to write my way out of that.
The heart of student ministry is what the heart of every ministry should be: Jesus. The life, ministry, death, and resurrection of Christ is what gives us our name, our purpose, and our hope. It is a simple answer but it is nowhere near simple in execution.
One of the problems is we layer things on top of Jesus to make it more palatable for students or perhaps to make it more palatable for us. We try to make Jesus cool with lights, music, bells, whistles, mirrors, and smoke. There is nothing wrong with those elements in and of themselves. I am a firm believer that we should use whatever tools we have on hand to communicate the message of the gospel. Paul’s speech at Mars Hill in Acts 17 is a touchstone for this incarnational type of message.
Yet there are times that I think Jesus gets lost underneath the flash of it all. If by making Jesus cool, we are unintentionally trying to make ourselves look cool by association.
On the other hand, we might pile Jesus up with all of these extras of theology or specific scripture interpretations. Again, do not get me wrong. Student ministries should teach theology and how to interpret scripture. But sometimes I think we fill in too many blanks because the blanks make us incredibly uncomfortable. So the next thing you know, the saving and beautiful grace of Jesus is at risk if a random verse in 2 Chronicles is proven to not be one hundred percent historically accurate.
The trouble is all of this is done with the very best of intentions and there is a great deal of good within it as well. It makes it difficult to separate the wheat from the chaff. I am certainly not the person to draw lines as far as what is too much or too little relevance, theology, or interpretation.
That is why I have to come back to Jesus. I have to go back to the start of this faith. Simplify things back to the roots. When I look at the story of Jesus, I see something that resonates with what I have learned about students this past semester.
The thing that has been impressed upon me the most this semester is that a great many adolescents feel like they have been abandoned. They feel like their schools, churches, and even their parents only care about them if they perform a certain way. So they try to cope with this abandonment through a myriad of ways: some seemingly innocuous, others decidedly dangerous. They form de facto underground communities with peers to give them a sense of belonging. They feel like they do not belong.
Jesus loved those that felt like they did not belong. He loved the rest as well, but repeatedly we see him dining with those that felt abandoned. He reached out to those that could not perform in the way that would earn the acceptance of the institutions around them. Again and again, those people got it. They understood that they did not have it together. They were all too aware that they needed God’s grace. They were grateful in the utmost when such an incredible opportunity presented itself to them. And that grace transformed their lives.
That is where it has to start. It is not about feeling good about ourselves, being cool, getting a ticket punched to heaven, or cheap grace. It is about a God that loves us so much that He was willing to go to whatever lengths to reach out to everyone so that we might truly live as were were meant to.
I sometimes have doubts, but I believe deep in my soul that resonates. Before we talk about discipleship, church participation, or anything else, we have to talk about Jesus. We have to talk about how we cannot pull ourselves together on our own. Yet through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, it is possible for us to be made right before God.
I will not have Jesus perfectly figured out, but that is where I have to start and that is to where I have to constantly return.