Sunday Confessional

4 Oct 2015

I confess that I’m really struggling to find a light hearted confessional this week. I’ve been searching my soul and I find it difficult.

I keep thinking about all the injustices in the world that I should write about. I think about the 153 million children that are currently labeled as orphans. I keep thinking about the immigration detention centers in Dilley, Texas that seem to operate more like a concentration camp that anything else. I keep thinking about the mass shootings that are plaguing the United States. Or I think about the mass flood of refugees. I keep thinking about all this and I find myself struggling. I find myself looking to the only true source of comfort that I know. I find myself looking to God. I find myself saying to God “Why don’t you do something Oh LORD?” and then I take a minute and I listen to God say “I did, I made you.”

And do you know what? God made you too. He made all of us so that we could work together to serve Him.

Sunday Confessional

I confess that some days I feel much older than I am.

I love my boys more than I ever thought possible, but some days when we sit down to eat a nice dinner that Mama has lovingly prepared, I can’t help but laugh. Not necessarily in the jovial “everything-is-hilarious” way, but rather in the “I’m-laughing-to-keep-from-crying” way. You see, during this nice meal H starts this thing he has been doing that he knows bothers his Mama. I call it being squeaky. Basically he just starts screeching as loud as he can, which his brother finds hilarious and starts imitating. Then H will get up and run around the table several times in mid squeak, while M struggles at his highchair wanting both to join in on the fun and eat at the same time. M’s struggle is real, and typically it results in raspberries littering not only his hair, but also my hair, the floor, and if he was really passionate, the wall too.

We finally make it through dinner, and I heave a huge sigh of relief. Until I look at the clock and I think time is moving the wrong way. How can there still be an hour and a half until bedtime?!? And I can’t use a bath as a stalling tactic tonight because I didn’t have the foresight to heat the water. So we wrestle, the three of us boys for the next hour and a half, while mama cleans the kitchen. The boys jump with jubilance on top of my back as I lay sprawled on the living room floor, exhausted. Then I hear the words I’ve been waiting for float melodiously out of the kitchen, “It’s almost 7.” I grab one boy under each arm and take them to the bathroom where I brush their teeth, while H screams and kicks, and M tries to eat toilet paper. I wrestle them into their pyjamas and then I read.

While I read, the boys sit transfixed. Or they throw blocks at each other, scream, chase each other, and scream some more. Either way, I read and then I pray. And then I tell H how much I love him, and kiss him goodnight. Then I swaddle M and rock him to sleep and sneak down to the mirror to make sure I still have hair.

I confess that sometimes my boys make me feel old. I’ve made my confession, now go and make yours.

Sunday Confessional

I confess that I’m struggling.

It’s a familiar struggle, one that I have fought too many times in the past decade. You see, in just around three months we will be leaving our home in Millbrook, Northern Ireland.  We will be packing up our stuff, and wiping away tears as we make the transition from this wonderful home, to Kansas City. I want, no, I need desperately to remain fully present in the present. But I want so badly to control what is going to happen in three months. I want to search for a job, I want to get enrolled in the classes I will be taking in the Spring, I want to prepare my little boys for the transition ahead.  I want to tell the makers of this program that a year is far too short a time! I want to savor each moment that I can smell the ocean and see the rolling hills.  I want to celebrate with exuberance when my youngest son turns one. I want time to slow down, but it is marching along. I want to do all these things and so I’m struggling. But I’m reflecting and remembering and cherishing.

I find myself praying deeply that God would cradle us and guide our steps into the future, and that He would help me to relish the time I have here with friends who have become the best of friends.

I confess that I am thankful for our church community, for our mentor, for our way of life here. None of it would be possible without the grace of Jesus, so I am most of all thankful for that.

I’ve made my confession. Now go and make yours.

Sunday Confessional

I confess that I didn’t think I would survive the last ten days, but here I am, so I must have! Let me back up a little bit. One of John’s courses for school was a ten day pilgrimage through Ireland and Northern Ireland which took place September 1st-10th. Eleven students and three leaders traveled to different holy sites and followed footsteps of Saints that came before us like Saint Patrick and Saint Brigid. They had a wonderful and meaningful time spent in meditation, prayer, lots of hiking, scripture-reading, journaling, and learning about Celtic Christianity.

Because I didn’t want to leave the kids, I didn’t go with them, but stayed behind with a missionary friend who lives in Wicklow, Ireland. Wicklow was the starting and ending point for their pilgrimage, so it just made sense that I would be there for those times and she would keep me company while I took care of my kiddos. IMG_8432

I spent ten days with the boys without John’s help and it was quite the task! They were pretty well-behaved, especially considering they were in a new place with new surroundings, and one of their “constants” was not there. I was continuously on the move trying to keep up with them. I was pretty proud of myself and how I managed to stay patient throughout the whole time, that isn’t usually the case. I think between John and me, I’m the one who gets impatient more quickly….

During those ten days, I managed to brush my teeth (and my hair most days) but always with a little one pulling at me. (I won’t confess to how few showers I took, only that the boys bathed more frequently than I was able to…) Sometimes I’d put Moses down for a morning nap or we’d go on an outing. We went various places like the grocery store, on a walk to feed the ducks, to charity shops, to the park, etc. often accompanied by friends who lived in the area. Once back home, we’d have lunch, then afternoon quiet time, play outside, eat dinner, then BEDTIME! We all slept pretty well, but 6:30 still came way too early every morning.

One of my favorite things was when Moses would take a morning nap, because then Hosea and I got to paint together! I’m not crafty AT ALL but went to Poundland and got some paints/paper/brushes a few weeks ago to prepare for this time away. Hosea absolutely loved painting “pictures for daddy” and 3-D cardboard animals. We’d have great conversations about things during this time too.

“Why are tigers orange? How did God stretch out the elephant’s trunk so long? What sound do giraffes make?”

IMG_8358I love his curiosity.

I enjoyed those ten days more than I thought I would. I was exhausted, yes, but we had so much fun just being together! I wasn’t preoccupied with getting things done, I just made it all about them.

By the end of the day we were covered in paint, dirt, food, and sticky from who knows what, but we were happy and we all felt loved. (Yes, even me.)

IMG_8405One day our friend took us to find sea glass at a nearby beach. Hosea was in his element: jumping in puddles, finding and burying sticks, filling his pockets with stones, and climbing giant rocks. I managed to find several pieces of sea glass despite constantly fishing sand and rocks out of Moses’ mouth (he was exploring in his own way). John and I always talk about how cool sea glass is, because it starts out as a sharp shard of a broken glass bottle or something, then after tossing around in the waves for a looooooong time, it becomes this lovely piece of smooth glass! It’s a great image of how God refines us over time to become more like Christ.IMG_8442

Exhausted and back at home in Millbrook, we are all four happy to be reunited. I confess that it wasn’t just John who had a meaningful time away, but me too. Just in a different way. This is all just part of the crazy journey.

Peace.

Sunday Confessional

It’s that time again.  The weekend comes to a close, the grind of the week begins again. For many of us the autumn activities are back in full swing and life is beginning to pick up speed. I want to encourage you to find some margin in your life where you can be in the presence of God.  As the week gears up, make sure you find some time of peace in which to reflect.

I confess that I preached on Nehemiah 4 today.  Our church has been working through the book of Nehemiah together.  Ruth has taken chapters 1 and 3 while I have taken 2 and 4.  The book of Nehemiah is an opportunity to learn how we can trust that God is in the business of working through his people to accomplish seemingly impossible tasks. Chapter 4 is no different.

The chapter starts off with a man named Sanballat who is the acting governor of the region of Samaria. He teams up with a few other people and they oppose the building of the wall that Nehemiah and the Jews are working on.  Nehemiah and the Jews turn to God and ultimately are able to remain faithful and continue working on the wall until its completion.

Sanballat opposed the Jews in their quest to serve God. God allowed for the opposition because it allowed the Jews an opportunity to remain faithful to Him in times of difficulty. Fortunately for the Jews, God had already defeated the opposition before it began.  And fortunately for us, when we live in the redemption that is the blood of Christ we are able to share in the victory.  In fact we learn in John 17:20-23 that Jesus is fighting for us.  Jesus is praying for us:

20 “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21 that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— 23 I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.”

Praise God that our wonderful conquerer has come and won the battle! No opposition can stand before God.  Today, lets practice the art of celebration and live joyfully for the Conquering King!

We were blessed to go see Rend Collective play live in Bangor last night and I think this song captures the celebration of joy we can find in our Father. Take a few minutes and listen.

Sunday Confessional

I confess that I have forgotten to post the last couple weeks. We’ve been away a bit and I’ve been focusing on school, finishing up one class and beginning another. I confess I’m actually very nervous about this upcoming class.  It’s a pilgrimage around Ireland and Northern Ireland to see various holy sites.  I’m really excited about the course content and the opportunities presented.  I’m nervous because Abigail and the boys will not be going on the 10-day journey.  I have spent `a grand total of two nights away from Abigail in the five years that we’ve been married, only one away from Hosea, and 0 away from Moses.  I am, at my a core, a family man. I love my family, and I love spending time with them.  It hurts me to think about spending that much time away from my family.

I confess that I plan on using this time of pilgrimage to seek God’s will for our family and what our next steps will be.  When Abigail and I returned to the States from Haiti in 2012 we had a hard time adjusting.  I didn’t realize why I was having a hard time until I heard Pastor Tim Suttle preach on the importance of finding margin in your life. Just carving out time for God. We had done it without thinking in Haiti because often, there wasn’t anything else to do some days. I would find myself sitting on the roof of the hotel reading my Bible in the warm Haitian sun.  I had concentrated time of margin where I sought the Lord.  It was so good. I hope to use the time during the class as a bit of margin.  A time when I can pause and pursue and be refreshed.

I want and crave that time of renewal and refreshment, but I can still feel a bit of clinging sadness for leaving my family for a time.  I will desperately miss my boys.  I always put my boys to bed at night, I read to them and then pray with them and rock Moses to sleep.  It has become part of the rhythm of my life and I think a part of me depends on it.  Bed time at our house is a calm time, and its typically a time when I can really have some of my best conversations with Hosea. So I will miss my boys. I will miss my wife as well.  I will miss making her breakfast in the morning and I will miss lying in bed next to her.

I know I will only be gone for a few days, but I’ll miss doing life with my family. I cherish the everyday moments leading up to these 10 days away.

I confess that I am both anxious and excited for this course.

Praise God from whom all blessings flow.

I’ve made my confession, now go make yours.

Sunday Confessional: Our story

I confess that today is my wife’s 26th birthday. We’ve been married a bit over five years at this point and I think I should share a bit about how we met. Over the next week or so I will chronicle a bit of our together story. Here is goes:

It wasn’t until the spring semester of our junior year (3rd) in high school that our paths finally crossed. Our choir took a ten day trip to the Republic of Ireland, where we toured around the country. This trip was essentially a whirlwind of activity and I’m sure I did a poor job appreciating the weight of everything that I saw. What I was able to appreciate was a few of the new friends I had made on the trip. It was the year 2006, fat drops of rain fell onto the windows of our tour bus, the sky had opened up like the angels themselves were crying.  Our high school choir had just finished singing to the rhythmic crashing waves at the enormous Cliffs of Moher when we had to make a mad dash for the bus. As our group pulled out of the parking lot we all began to talk.  There were two girls in the seat in front of mine and I introduced myself. Abigail was one of them, and during the trip we talked frequently enough that when we returned home we stayed friends. We would get together sometimes as friends and go for walks together. At this point we had no idea that we would one day fall madly in love with each other, which is good because I had not yet met Jesus, and begun my walk as a Christian. When high school ended we stayed in touch and it is through staying in touch that we were able to take our relationship from friendship to marriage.

I’ll tell the some more of that story in another post this week, so make sure you check back in if you want to read some more.

I confess that I’m in love with my wife! I also confess the blood of Jesus as my redemption!

I’ve made my confession, now go make yours.

Sunday Confessional

I confess that today was a good day. And that Sundays are my jam.

I love Sundays. I often leave the house an hour early so that I can be there for Praise Band rehearsal, and I treasure the few minutes I get to myself as I walk down to the community centre where we meet. A few minutes to think, pray, and take a breath.

It’s especially fun (i.e. interesting) to sing at church on a day when John is preaching. As we’re finishing up going over the last couple songs before the service begins, I see John come in wrangling both boys on his own, always playing the part of “Super Dad” with the superpower of endless patience. I give them all a quick hug before I’m back up front for the service to begin. While singing, I get to watch my boys worship in their seats. Moses likes to call out in his loud baby-voice whenever he hears music, so there’s that, but also there’s my big boy clinging onto his daddy. He doesn’t know it, but that’s a huge way his little body can praise God; enjoying a few minutes where his mind can hear the music and listen to the love-filled words while safe in the arms of his earthly father. At some point Hosea goes off to the creche and as we sing our last song, I quickly get to my seat and take over being in charge of the baby. This is when John goes up to the front and starts to preach. Then, once he’s finished, we swap places again when it’s time for the praise band to close the service with more music.

I love these “tag team” Sundays, and I missed this experience last week! Hosea’s first few chicken pox had just started appearing so John stayed home with him (and Moses). The worst part was when I left the house and Hosea was crying his little eyes out,

“But I want to go to church! I love church! I don’t like my chicken pox! I want to go to church!

Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday were really tough. Poor Hosea was itchy all over, had a fever and incoming molars, and even had chicken pox on his tongue (which made eating VERY difficult)! He was really achy (who can blame him?), so we held him most of the time. He was hungry but broke into tears with every bite because of his swollen gums and sore tongue…So he ate a lot of homemade popsicles. He was sweaty from his fever, and a greasy/sticky mess from the anti-itch cream I made him. We couldn’t really go anywhere because he didn’t feel good and so we watched movies, drank tea, gave him oatmeal baths, read a lot of books, and cuddled on pillows and blankets in the living room.

As the week progressed, things started to improve, and we were able to get outside for a bit, and thankfully made it to church this morning! A day to focus on God, family, and rest? Yes please! Sunday morning is our family’s favorite part of the week. The people there are our Northern Irish family, and it stinks when we don’t get to see them! I told Hosea that I was soooo happy we could all go to church together today and he said, “me too!”

I love Sundays, but I especially love that Hosea loves them too.

I confess that I’m not always grateful when the hard days come around, but today was made better because we got through hard days this week.

I’ve made my confession, now go make yours.

Sunday Confessional

I confess that I skipped church today.  The first Sunday of every month is a time of breakfast, fellowship, and a guest speaker at Millbrook Church. I was slated to speak about our time in Haiti with my lovely wife.  This morning I went into Hosea’s room and he was covered in the early stages of chicken pox.  I picked my boy up and carried him into our room where his mom and little brother were already snuggling on the bed and the two boys immediately started to wrestle. I looked over at Abigail and told her that she would be the one speaking at church today.

Normally when we speak, I’m the one that does most of the talking but I was confident that Abigail would do an amazing job.  I told her to go because I know that she is an incredible communicator when she is confident in what she knows. I told her to go because it was her turn to get out of the house for a bit, and she hates missing church. I knew it would be so much harder if she took Moses with her so I asked her to leave him too, and the 3 of us had a boys day.

Today I skipped going to church, and instead I was the church to my boys. I put my sweet baby down for his morning sleep, and then I held my sick big boy while we watched How to Train your Dragon and put lotion on his itchy spots.

There are times as a parent, and as a minister of the gospel, when I am called to stay with my children and show Jesus to them. Today was a “stay home day” filled with wrestling and cuddling.

I confess that my heart is full and my body is tired. I love my family so much!

I’ve made my confession, now go make yours.

Sunday Confessional

I confess that I have been spending far too much time on my phone while we are at home.  I noticed it this last week, when I got upset at Hosea.  He was jumping on his brother and I had asked him to give Moses a little space.  Only instead of actually asking him I briefly looked up from the email I was reading and told him.  Then I told him again, and again, and when he still didn’t listen, I yelled at him.

Yelling always makes everything worse.  I felt terrible the moment after I yelled, and I apologized to him, but the reaction was still there.  Later that night after Hosea had gone to bed, I found myself thinking and praying about why I had snapped at him so easily.  I realized two things. For one, I hadn’t been engaging with him and he was aware of that.  He knew I wasn’t paying attention and he was just being a little boy with boundless enthusiasm. I had not been paying attention and was therefore missing out on spending quality time with my boy because I was reading an email, or scrolling Facebook or some other silly thing that could have waited.

I confess that I don’t want to be that kind of parent.  I don’t want to teach my boys that its okay to half-way engage in what you are doing because you’re playing on your phone.  I definitely don’t want to be the kind of parent that snaps at his boys.  I want my parenting to be marked with grace, and I want my every moment in life to be marked with that same grace.

I am so relieved that God gives me grace in all things, because it is a huge responsibility to be a parent who models Jesus.  I find I have to ask for forgiveness from God and from my boys much more often than I would like.  Praise God for grace.