Monday, February 28, 2011

The Mini Vacation

Whaddya do when you foresee upcoming vacation time? Well I guess that depends on your stage of life. If you’re a poor, starving college student you jump in your $300 car and crash at someone’s house for the week. If you’re retired you hop in the motor home to visit the grandkids and spoil them rotten. If you’re a parent of teenagers you probably want to go far away, but you probably don’t trust them enough to leave ‘em at the house. If you’re a parent with young kids, like me, you consider a trip to Disneyland.

Which we did for a few seconds, then remembered our new mortgage and endless projects so we took a mini vacation: 2 days, 1 night. 30 hours to be precise. We planned this one month’s ago when the weather headed south. Yes. A trip to Great Wolf Lodge. (Or as our five year old pronounces it: “Graydulf Lodge.”) A beacon of sunshine in the midst of our gray, damp winter. For those of you unfamiliar with GWL, it’s a hotel featuring an indoor waterpark. There are about ten across the country – ours is about 2 hours away. Great customer service, good food, a wee bit spendy, but very fun.

Ahhh! The blast of hot, humid air as we entered the giant, glass front doors was like taking your first bite of cheesecake after an arduous month of dieting. A bit shocking to the system, yet oh so sweet and familiar. In a millisecond I remembered what Texas’ weather is like. The contrast was even more significant since we’ve had a few weeks of weather in the 30s and even more snow.

As kids your time at waterparks is filled with running from slide to slide, fabricating your tales of epic rides, and slowly tiring yourself as the hot sun slowly vacuums away your energy. Your only worries are that sunburn and long lines preventing you from riding the Maui Zowie less than 16 times. Fast forward a few years and your days at the waterpark (and vacations in general) completely change. Success is: not throwing up in the water, not losing your children, swimmy diapers that hold everything in, keeping your own bathing suit on despite little ones who yank on them to get your attention, and only having to console one bawling child at a time. Naps are lost; stimuli are everywhere; other families’ kids are squirting you in the face with water guns while you’re juggling towels, goggles, clothes, and wet wipes.

Maybe it’s taken me a while to accept, but…I accept. Jana and I are waterpark junkies. We love those slides, warm water, sunshine, not to mention waffle cones with mint chip ice cream. But going to a waterpark is no picnic anymore. Two sets of eyes have to watch three bobbing and weaving bodies. We circle like vultures, ready to intervene at any moment. I think we are prepared for air traffic control because of these experiences. But we wouldn’t trade it. In fact this was a self-inflicted experience. Our personal exhaustion was worth it. We got to watch our kids have a blast.

The theology of a waterpark? God delights in our delight. “Taste and see that the Lord is good!” says Psalm 34. Raising us is no picnic for him either, but He loves us so much that he gives us a lifetime filled with many waterpark experiences. If you have the perspective of God as a killjoy looking to ruin your day with parking tickets and flat tires, think again. All these cool things (beaches, friendships, babies, sunsets) are His. Ask Him what He’s got in store for you.

Monday, February 21, 2011


Listen, my son to your father’s instruction and do not forsake your mother’s teaching. They will be a garland to grace your head and a chain to adorn your neck. – Proverbs 1:8

Where do you go when your in trouble? Uh, not the bail bonds kind; the quandary type of trouble. The correct answer would be to drop to your knees, pray for wisdom, help, and peace. Step two – do your best to recall anytime you faced the same dilemma in the past and do the opposite in case you blew it the first time. Finally, seek out wisdom.

I’d love to say this is what I always do, but often one or more of these steps are skipped and I enter the panic phase. This includes sleepless nights and an exorbitant amount of doomsday scenarios being crafted in my mind. This clearly contradicts Jesus’ words, “Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

This year I have been guided/mentored/advised – (how about enwisened?) by about five men and women. They have been a Godsend – literally. I believe God has put them in place to counsel me, keep me sharp, reexamine my motives, and offer new ideas. It’s a different role than my wife and parents, all of whom ooze wisdom. If my family members were my teammates on a basketball team, these mentors are like my own personal coaching staff.
When I’ve faced a seeming impasse at work or in life, their input has been invaluable. I consider myself a pretty smart guy, but perhaps my greatest morsel of knowledge is that I’m not smart enough to get by on my own. There are so many people smarter and wiser than me. (Some of you may be saying, “No kidding. You’re about the dumbest guy I know.”) Some of them live locally and some of them far away. Fortunately the interweb and telephones can erase that distance.

If I were to characterize these mentors, they are about 10-20 years older than me. They are people of faith, attempting to make Jesus the center of their lives. They understand my role as pastor/parent/spouse. They listen well. They offer me lots of grace. They speak truth into my life.

My advice to you? Seek out wisdom. Read Scripture, pray often, and find people who have been in your shoes. We’re not designed to handle life on our own. Thank you, mentors and friends.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got some praying to do and a few long distance phone calls to make.

Monday, February 7, 2011

At the moment my brain is like the hourglass on my computer screen. It’s taking a long time to process the week gone by. I woke up at 8am today, then again at 2pm. A long sleepless week and a disagreeable Saturday diet meant I spent most of Superbowl Sunday and the wee hours of Monday shifting every five minutes, hoping to find the right bodily position to sleep in to appease my stomach. I’m confident that I’m coming out of my stupor, but wouldn’t be surprised if I typed the words “blah, blah, blah” 200 times.

I think there’s a certain aptness to last night’s fitfulness. It mirrored the six days I spent in Chicago at the ECC’s Midwinter conference. The majority of that time I spent inside a hotel catching up to speed on Covenant theology and dealing with many present realities I face at work. It was a lot to process. Plus I’m not used to sitting at a table eight hours a day in a room without windows.

The rest of the week was spent meeting new colleagues and catching up with others I’ve met in the past few years. A few times I was adventurous enough to brave the elements and find coffee, Thai food, and the best Barbecue I’d ever tasted. (10 is not a temperature! That’s not weather!) But the most pivotal event of the week was catching up with two old friends not even part of the conference. They live in Chicago and after 14 years I got to see them.

Kirk was my faithful mentor, choir director, handbell choir director, and co-participant in the 1988 Marching Handbell Choir at the Rose Parade. His is a spirit of joy, of constant laughter, and humility. It was the first time I had seen him since his wife, Louise, passed away from cancer. His spirit still seemed the same despite losing his best friend of so many years. I ached inside for someone who doesn’t deserve this.

I also babysat Kirk & Louise’s three kids for a couple of years. Three great kids: Rachel, Meagan, Jonathan. They’re all grown up now. To my surprise Kirk said I was a godsend to them as a babysitter. (I’ve had a few of those babysitters in my life too.) But what truly sets the bar high is the gif that Rachel has been to him. When Louise got sick four years ago, Rachel quit her job, left her Virginia home, and moved to be with her parents. Now she is Kirk’s encourager and frequent companion on weekends and snow days. “Dad, I tried to call you to give you directions,” she said in the car. “I never heard the phone; let me check. Oops, it wasn’t turned on.” She shook her head with a smile like many do when technologies seem to confound their parents.

The short three hours we had together was enough to remember times gone by. Of being a teenager looking for meaning. Of being thankful for people that gave it to you. It was tough to walk out the car door and know I wouldn’t be in the neighborhood to stop by and encourage my friends. To in some way reciprocate the innumerable ways that family cared for me. But this family I do hold dear to my heart and will never be too far away to pray for.