Articles

“You’re doing a good job here”

In Uncategorized on February 9, 2013 by scottsund Tagged:

ImageWe’re at the tail end of a vacation in Hawaii.  We pooled together a year’s worth of frequent flier miles and were fortunate enough to stay in the ocean side condo of a family friend.  We’ve had an amazing 7 days of rest and relaxation, swimming and dinners on the front lawn watching the sunset.  

But no matter the escape, vacation is also real life too.  And real life means someone has an earache on day 4 and so we take 2 busses into town and end up walking for a mile trying to find medicine.  Its hot, the kids are complaining, the earache is pounding.  It’s still real life…even on vacation.  I stopped an older gentleman riding a cruiser bike with nothing but shorts on and asked directions.  His long gray hair pulled back in a ponytail.  He pointed us to where we needed to go and his eyes were full of kindness.  I asked him, “How long you been in Maui?” because anyone that visits like me always has a piece within ourselves asking, ‘could I stay forever?’And then from the seat of his cruiser he tells me his story.  “The wife and I came 45 years ago, she’s passed on now.  The kids are all scattered from New Mexico and other places.  Enjoy it while you can- before you know it the kids will be all gone and will move away.  It goes fast.”  His face was kind and understanding, sad from the distance from his own kids.Later at Cheeseburgers in Paradise in Lahaina, Heather makes this startling revelation.  If we go on a vacation every few years, we’ll only take 4 more before Avery goes to college.”  I feel my heart swell into my throat and it gets hard to breathe.  Really?  4 more vacations?  That seems impossible that time is moving this fast.  That my little girl is now a few weeks from 9, halfway done with living under my roof before ending high school.  I have this haunting thought sit in my mind for a minute: we’re halfway done parenting her in our home.  Have we done a good job?  Have we done enough?  For most of us parents, most days we don’t think we’ve done a very good job.  

Maybe parenting is full of so many questions is because we take too much credit upon ourselves.   I know this is true for me, I worry about my own actions all the time.  But then I open the Psalms, and the very first Psalm has this promise:

“How blessed is the man who does not
walk in the counsel of the wick,  (choose wisely whom you listen to)
Nor stand in the path of sinners,  (keep your choices clean)
Nor sit in the seat of scoffers!   (don’t ridicule others)
But his delight is in the law of the Lord,    (read your bible)
And in His law he meditates day and night.   (seriously, read your bible)
He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water,   (you’ll have strength)
Which yields its fruit in its season  (the things you love will grow)
And its leaf does not wither;   (and grow)
And in whatever he does, he prospers.   (and your life will be made whole)

Parenting is a funny journey, at times revealing the very best and very worst of our own characters.  At one moment, I’m the involved father playing for hours in the pool or on the beach.  At another moment, I’m losing my temper at my 3 year old for her temper tantrum about shoes.  Its funny isn’t it?  When we lose our tempers because of the emotional reaction of a child?  It’s like a temper tantrum in reverse.  But anyone that has parented knows they are capable of this.  Parenting is hard at times. 

At the end of a characteristically loud lunch Heather took the littler kids to the bathroom while I sat and held my baby son.  I sat thinking about all these things.  About the man on the bike, about time going fast, about parenting, about the promise of the bible that our fruit will be good if we anchor our lives to Christ.  As I sat and thought, an older man sitting a few feet away (who hadn’t seemed to say a word to his party he was sitting with the entire meal) came over and bent close to me and squeezed my shoulder.  “You’re doing a good job here.” He looked at the baby and then waved towards the stairs all the family had just descended, “with them all.”

 We all need words of encouragement at times to know we’re doing okay.  And the truth is, through the challenges of parenting, we’re doing okay.  Because we are planting ourselves near streams of water.  We read the bible with the kids in the morning.  We pray at night.  We go to church together.  We’re anchoring ourselves to God and trusting Him with making our fruit good.  Making our lives enough.  And I can picture him walking around the busy restaurant of our lives, standing behind us, wanting to squeeze our shoulders and tell us all: “you’re doing a good job here.” 

Articles

Slower

In Family and Marriage, Spiritual Practices, The Journey on January 5, 2013 by scottsund Tagged: ,

“We are facing an enormous problem in our lives today.
It’s so big we can hardly see it, and it’s right in front of our face all day, every day.
We’re all living too big lives, crammed form top to toe with activities, urgencies, and obligations that seem absolute.
There’s no time to take a breath, no time to look for the source of the problem.”
-Sarah Susanka, “The Not So Big Life”

ImageHappy New Year.  It’s been a season of silence on this blog.  Though things have been busy over the last month, mostly I needed some quiet for a while.  It’s convicting as a storyteller and a blogger at times when the question arises: do I have anything to say to the world?  Am I “living” these things out?

It seems December gets busier each year as a family.  Despite the best intentions, it’s just a busy, busy month.  There is all the kid stuff at school and performances and recitals and parties.  I was fortunate enough to travel to Mexico to perform the wedding of two beautiful people.  And every day we celebrated an advent activity or spiritual practice to fill the season with meaning.  And it was a great month…but just very, very full.

We hosted both of our families for Christmas meals and gift openings and that was a real treat and our month was supposed to culminate in a cabin rental in the mountains above Cle Elum for 4 days of rest, snow and sledding, and down time as a family.  But the evening before leaving for the cabin, Heather came down sick (her second significant throwing up experience in 10 days).  Over the course of the night she threw up over and over again.  And then my oldest son got it and the two of them puked threw the night.  And then my daughter noticed our dog was bleeding…bad.  She had an exploded anal gland (yep, you read that correctly).  In the next morning of chaos, I was running around cleaning up garbage cans of vomit and cleaning the carpet of blood stains and calling the vet and opening a few of the presents that my parents had brought for the kids and just full of so much anxiety.  It became clear as the sickness lingered all day and the dog needed more significant care, we were not going to make it to our cabin rental.  Luckily, the cabin owners allowed us to use the cabin later in the spring and all of a sudden, our plans were cancelled and we had the next few days to rest, recuperate, and stay home.  3 days with nothing planned.

Sadly, my mind started to instantly go towards: “okay what should we do.”  I texted friends, made plans with the kids to make up for the disappoint of not going to cabin, and started to plot day by day how to fill the next few days.

Luckily my wife, from the sick bed she hadn’t been able to rise from for a day, held up a metaphorical mirror.  “Scott why are you trying so hard to fill in the time with stuff?  Can’t we just slow down?”

Yeah Scott, can’t you just slow down?  The answer, unfortunately in that minute, was no.  No, it’s hard to slow down.  I become adept at going and doing and accomplishing and checking things off a list and so when I need to slow down I don’t know what to do.  But over the course of that day, and the days that followed , I’ve been hearing the words of my wife- can’t we just slow down?  And this has turned into a prayer: slow me down Lord.  Slow me down.

“Sometimes it takes a wake up call to realize

we are living the fast life,

not the good life.”

-Carl Honore

Recently Carl Honore wrote a book about slow parenting and gave this TED talk about the value of slowness.  There is much to like about this talk, and I’ve now got Honore’s book on my reading list for this year, but what stuck out the most is that we shouldn’t just race through your life- we should LIVE it.  And living life intentionally, as a parent or as just a person, happens when we slow down.  When we stop looking at time as linear and wanting to move quickly through it…but as a cycle that we get to enjoy the rhythm and ritual of each day.  For it was Aesop that wrote, “Slow and steady wins the race.”  We all know how the children’s fable of the Tortoise and the Hare ends, but then why do I often live like that crazy rabbit….running as fast as I can.

The pace of life becomes unbearable.  We need to slow down.

I was reading in the book of 1 Samuel an amazing story of slowing down.  As you may remember, Samuel was a boy who worked in the temple in Israel and had been dedicated for a life of service to the Lord.  But though he served the priest Eli, he didn’t know the Lord personally yet.  God spoke to Samuel in a dream by calling his name “Samuel, Samuel!” three times and each time Samuel ran to the priest Eli and thought he was paging him.  Finally Eli realized Samuel was hearing from the Lord and Eli gave Samuel these instructions:  “Go lie down and it shall be if He calls you, that you shall say,  “Speak Lord for your servant is listening.”  True enough, Samuel heard from God again, and this time instead of running, Samuel said: “Here am I Lord.  Here am I.”  And God spoke to Samuel personally for the first time in his life.  How do we hear from God when we never slow down?

Lately I’ve been hearing of people choosing 1 word “slogans” for the year ahead.  The idea is that this word is both a goal and an anchor for the year, a thought to pray and meditate on. Though I’m not ready to commit that this is the singular word I will dwell on this year, I think the word I’m stuck with right now for 2013 is SLOWER.   Slower.  Slower.  In a frenzied world of pace and progress, slow me down O Lord, slow me down.  How else do we get formed than waiting at the workbench- showing up with the Maker?  How else do we form our families than slowly being together?Please know, this is a hope, and not a finished product. Slow me down Lord.  Slow me down.

Here’s a verse for you: “The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, the person who seeks Him.
It is good that he waits silently.
For the salvation of the Lord….
“Let us examine our ways
And let us return to the Lord,
We lift up our hearts and hands
Toward God in heaven.”
-Lamentations 3: 25-26,40

Here’s a theme song for you on this new journey of slowing down:

Slow me down, O Lord, slow me down
Help my heart to hear Your sound
Speak into my life, Lord speak now
Slow me down O Lord, slow me down
Clear my mind, O Lord, clear my mind
Bring me peace that I cannot find
Take my worried thoughts break my pride
Clear my mind, O Lord, clear my mind
Wake my soul, O Lord, wake my soul
With this mess I’ve made make me whole
Of this life called mine, take control
Wake my soul, O Lord, wake my soul
Slow me down, O Lord, slow me down
Help my heart to hear Your sound
Speak into my life, Lord, speak now
Slow me down Lord.

Yes Lord, this year, S L O W   M E  D O W N.

Articles

Grace, Marriage, and Princesses

In Family and Marriage, God's great love, Relationships on November 30, 2012 by scottsund Tagged: , ,

grace

The best love stories are those told at the end, not at the beginning.

Lately my daughter Harper is into “marrying”.  She wants to know when Mama and I married.  She imagines marrying some day.  She talks about “kiss on da lips.”  The other night she told me she will marry the prince at her birthday party and they will dance.  She then twirled on the steps of our house and I just knew I would remember this moment when she is heading off to Prom one day or when she gets married.  From our youngest days as humans we’re fascinated by love stories.

On Saturday night I officiated a wedding at Bethany.  Hundred of people came dressed up in their finest.  The sanctuary was decorated gorgeously.  Candles shone.  After the magical wedding, a limo whisked the couple down to the Fairmont Hotel for a gala celebration.  Thousands of dollars were spent.  Hundreds of hours were spent in preparation.  And it was fantastic…but all for a 45 minute ceremony.  Ironically, we spend months or years preparing for a wedding, when it’s really the marriage we should focus on.  The wedding is not the thing.  This is just day 1 of a journey of thousands of days.   And really, the best love stories are told at the end, rather than at the beginning.  We’ve grown skeptical of people’s promise to love, we want to hear about the couple that actually did it.  That couple that made it through 50 years of highs and lows and  that left a legacy of love by their actual example.  These are the best love stories.

princess 2Ever wondered why Disney stories typically end after the adventure and courtship of dating?  The book du jour my 2 year has me read to her lately is a princess book and it ends with a princess and prince running down the steps of a castle after the wedding.  Trivia question: name the Disney movies that actually show married people?  You could list “Up” (although the wife dies), “the Incredibles”, are there others?  All I know is you’ll not find married people in a princess movie.  “Little Mermaid”, “Sleeping Beauty”, “Cinderalla”, “Snow White”- these all end at “happily ever after”, as if a kiss and a promise will ensure smooth sailing.  And yet, trouble arises.  Tim Keller of Redeemer Pres. in NYC wrote this amazing article about marriage- “We never marry the right person.”  Keller writes, “The hard times of marriage drive us to experience more of the transforming love of God. But a good marriage will also be a place where we experience more of this kind of transforming love at a human level.”  His point?  Marriage is difficult.  Marriage is beautiful.  We’re called to the struggle.

Here’s what I’m learning slowly after 13 years with Heather.  I love my wife.  I love her more now than when I first met her when I was 21 years old.  I love her more now than when I proposed by the waterfall in Spokane when I was 22.  I love her more now than at the birth of our first child after a delirious 25 hours of labor.  I love her now more than when we held each other tight after our son Fisher had died at 9 months in utero and Heather delivered him through the night only to say goodbye.  These are highlights…these are days…these are points in the journey.  The call to marriage is a lifetime of average days…of good and bad…happy and sad.  People throw around the phrase “marriage takes work” and though I agree, I think what people mean is marriage takes patience.  And marriage takes commitment.  And mostly, marriage takes grace.  For grace is the best term of being accepted and loved even when you don’t deserve it.  Even on your bad days.

May grace reign in your home as you step into the Christmas season.  If you are married, may grace for your partner dominate your life.  And if you are unmarried, may you feel Christ’s grace in a new way this Christmas season.  We celebrate at Christmas the very arrival of grace.  God looked down and sent His son Jesus because humans just couldn’t get it right without God’s presence here on earth and in our hearts.  God saw that we needed a new way.  May your life mirror this grace and may your relationships thrive because you are able to extend this same grace towards all who you love.

Articles

thanks

In grateful on November 21, 2012 by scottsund


An elementary definition of the term thankful would be simply to be full of thanks.  How to be full of anything in days of derision and despair?  When bombs are flying in Israel and FB is full of hate and disdain for all that isn’t your exact philosophical or religious or political opinion?  What if we don’t always feel thankful?

Lord make us one.  Lord teach me to love.  Lord teach me to give thanks.

As a new parent again, I’m so mindful of all that a baby needs.  My son Skye is 2 months and whenever he needs something, he cries out.  Generally he’s a very happy little guy, but a baby is a baby, so when he’s wet- he cries.  When he’s hungry- he cries.  Whenever something is bothering him- he cries out.  He cries out- and we come running.  Because we love him.  We want his needs to be met.  We understand that he needs us too and that causes us to move towards him out of our love.

Do we cry out to God when we need something?  Do we cry out to God when our hearts aren’t full of thanks?  Do we cry out to God to fill us up?

At times life gets so full I just stop crying out.   I make myself busy with really important things, like errands, ESPN.com, and Facebook.  And I stop crying out.  I stop seeking a relationship with God as the top priority in my life.  It’s just so easy to stop seeking Him and stop crying out to Him when there is so much here in my midst to keep me busy.

And yet we’re called to follow Him and to be a people crying out to know Him more.  To see Him move in the lives of our loved ones and our communities.  Crying out so that we would be full of thanks for all He is doing here.

My life right now probably looks like many of yours.  I’m grateful for so much, and yet, carry so many other concerns and worries.  There is so much to celebrate, and yet I find myself weary or stressing at times.  And yet today, I’m mindful that like my baby son, God in Heaven wants to pick me up and hold me.  He wants to meet my needs.  He wants me to cry out for Him so He can fill me up.

Though life isn’t perfect, I can give full thanks for that.

Father God, teach me to follow you more.  Thank you for calling me Your own.  Thank you for letting me see you and know you.  Lord fill me up with your thanks.  Break my heart with what breaks yours.  And may I be fully capable of gratitude for all the wonderful work you’re doing in my life, in my family, in our church, in this city, and in your world.  There is much unsettled Lord, and yet You are alive. And You reign.  And you will one day make all things right.  For those things and many, many more- I give thanks.  I love you Jesus.

-Your son,
Scott

 

 

 

Articles

Who am I?

In grateful, The Journey on October 31, 2012 by scottsund Tagged: , , , ,

Then King David went in and sat before the Lord, and he said:
“Who am I, O Sovereign Lord, and what is my family,
that you have brought me this far?”
-2 Samuel 7:18

When I was in college I played football.  Specifically I played for Whitworth College in the years that playing football at Whitworth wasn’t something to brag about.  We were smaller and less skilled than almost every team we came across.  In addition, it probably should be noted that I played receiver, a position reserved for people taller and faster than I was.  But there I was, a little guy with a big heart, playing football in college for a team that at best, was hoping to win a few games each season.

During my sophomore season, I proudly started the season as 3rd string.  Maybe 4th string…but definitely not any higher than 3rd string.  There were some awesome athletes and guys way more skilled than I was ahead on me on the depth chart.  Faster.  Stronger.  Just plain better.  But I continued to practice and have fun with my buddies that were on the team and hope for the best.  Our coach quit literally a few weeks before the first game and so we were coached by an interim coach that was pretty hands off and let most of the duties fall on his graduate assistants, guys just a few years older than I was who had recently graduated.  We had a few victories that season but a ton of losses- and we got POUNDED on some games.  But the strangest thing happened as the season progressed- I kept moving up the depth chart as guys in front of me got hurt.  One of our senior receivers broke his hand or his wrist in the first or second game.  Then another star hurt his leg (ankle?) during a game at Central Washington University where we pulled off one of the biggest upsets that we had ever accomplished (it was our first victory over Central in over 2 decades!).  The season progressed, guys kept getting hurt, I kept showing up, and before you knew it I was starting at receiver for the mighty Whitworth Pirates.  Keep in mind- I wasn’t the best guy out there- not by a long shot.  But I worked hard and kept showing up and an opportunity presented itself.

On the final game, we played Simon Fraser University, another overmatched and under skilled team that we actually had a shot against.  We had won 2 games that season, lost another 6 or 7, and were hoping to end the year on an upswing.  The weather in Spokane that week had been bonkers- we had a foot of snow the day before the game but by game time it had turned to rain. We were playing in 6 inches of mud in places.  I had a few catches (also dropped a wide open 40 or 50 yard touchdown grab…but that is a different story) and as the game finished I caught a touchdown that put us ahead to win the game.  When it was all over, the team had won its 3rd game.  And I had caught 10 or 12 passes for over 200 yards.  In fact, I was just a few yards off the single game record (but that is also another blog post).  It was an amazing end to the most improbable seasons I could have never suspected.  After the game, the team said some tearful goodbyes and I connected with family and friends in the stands before riding my bike back to the dorm room where I lived.  It’s not a very far bike ride from Whitworth’s Pine Bowl back to Stewart Hall where I lived, but I rode slow.  I had to ride slow, because I couldn’t stop crying.  Not just the odd tear in the corner of my eyes, but literally bawling my eyes out.  “Who am I, God?” I asked over and over and over again.

The reality that hit me on that bike ride home was that God had taken my very average athletic abilities and allowed me to do great things on the football field.  It was like an inside joke between God and myself, because we both knew I wasn’t very talented, but yet God was able to use me in such a surprising and incredible way.  I just slowly peddled and thanked God and asked over and over, “who am I that you would use me like this?”  It was a lot of fun.  I was humble, and very, very grateful.  It’s like King David in the passage at the top. I love this image, him going into the most sacred spot in the tent of worship and sitting before God and just smiling and asking, “why have you been so good to me God?”

When God uses your little bits of talent and does something huge with them, you can’t help but be grateful and thankful.  It becomes an inside joke when you see how God is using ways you never quite expected.  God delights in using us in unsuspecting ways, and He also delights in us being grateful.  And though football was fun, I’m grateful for much bigger things now.  Things like my kids, food, friends, God’s provision.  Its not all touchdowns and big wins; learning to be grateful is also being thankful when things get hard.  But this journey of gratitude is a necessary one to give us postures of thankfulness.  Because the very best people I know in my life are people marked by profound gratitude.  Gratitude that keeps people grounded and humble and reminds them that all good gifts are signs of an even better Giver. Psalm 92 says:

“What a beautiful thing, God, to give thanks,
to sing an anthem to you, the High God!
To announce your love each daybreak,
sing your faithful presence all through the night.

 Yes, we are supposed to be full of gratitude for all that we’ve been given.  I’m reminded of this now writing from a warm house with forced heat and a fridge full of food.  Our friends and families on the east coast are in darkness as the hurricane has ravaged much of the eastern seaboard.  A team from my church is getting back tomorrow from Rwanda where they’ve been ministering to people who have so little.  The children of our church are collecting quarters and dimes and nickels to buy simple meals for children in Zambia.  Friends- don’t forget this- we have been given so much.  We have so much to be grateful for.  Personally, I’m reminded every day in the utter and joyful chaos of a family of now 6…God has been so good.  Though there are problems and things causing big challenges and lots of work on my horizon, I’m choosing to be grateful and keep myself grounded in the truth that God is the great giver of all gifts.  Who am I, God?  Who am I, to deserve all these good things?  Today is a good day to practice the fine art of gratitude.  Will you join me?  What are you thankful for today?

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Letter to my son…no matter what.

In Family and Marriage, God's great love on October 23, 2012 by scottsund Tagged: , , ,

It is the middle of the night and I’m holding my baby.  My son Schuyler has just turned a month old and we’re remembering again what it feels like to wake up every 2 hours.  My wife Heather is doing all the hard work of nursing him every few hours but in the last week we’ve settled into a bit of a routine where I take the baby starting at about 4am and give him a breast-milk bottle of breakfast and let him sleep away from Mama and let her have 3-4 hours of uninterrupted sleep.  On this morning, the baby can’t quite get comfortable after a 3am feeding so at 3:30 we tucked Mama in and Schuyler and I hung out for a few hours.  I rocked him for a good 30 minutes while he just watched me, sucking his pacifier, his eyes intently gazing into mine.  His face is still mostly expressionless; he’s yet to muster up his first smile, and these days he’s content to just watch.  He watches me, he watches the other 3 kids as they dance and twirl and carry on, and mostly he watches his mama.  This boy is a watcher.  He seems to be a deep thinker, with a sweet and quiet demeanor.  As I comforted him to sleep and laid him in his crib just past 4am, I wrote down some thoughts I don’t want to forget.  This letter is for him- but in some ways- it’s a reminder for all of us on the amazing, difficult, and transformative journey of parenthood.  

Dear Son:

Skye- my son- you have just turned 1 month old.  And though I wasn’t sure how our family of 5 would transition to 6, it now seems as if you have always been with us.  You just fit the whole Sund clan so perfectly.  Its like God had already prepared our hearts for the spot you now hold.  It is so beautiful.  And as we share our love with you and get to know you, your mama and I are wowed by your life.  I’ve done a lot of thinking in the last weeks about some things I want to teach you and tell you to hold onto.  So here is some advice from your father…I hope you are able to remember it for all your days.

As I held you and rocked you this morning, I spent a good long time looking into your eyes and wondering what kind of man you will become.  Your eyes are so dark and beautiful.  What kinds of wonderful things will you see?  What will your eyes behold?  You have a lifetime of adventure before you.  You will see great things.  Remember to keep looking.  Don’t be content with just skin-deep observations or judging others by first impressions.  Be a man who truly sees others as they really are.  Look deep.  The people I know that live the best lives are those that have developed an ability to really see.

Schuyler, your mom and I pray for you every day.  We want you to be a man who loves God in his heart and displays that love by serving others and changing the world.  When King David was dying, he gave these wise words to his son Solomon: “As for you my son, know the God of your father, and serve Him with a whole heart and a willing mind; for the Lord searches all hearts, and understands every intent of the thoughts.  If you seek Him, He will let you find Him; but if you forsake Him, He will reject you forever.  Consider now, for the Lord has chosen you to build a house for the sanctuary; be courageous and act.”  I hope you have my faith son.  I have seen a lot of people try to live life on their own and it just isn’t how we’re wired by God to live.  We’re called to follow the One who made us.  Follow Him!  Seek Him…the bible says He will let you find Him.  Cling to that promise.  In the verse David is telling his son Solomon to build a literal house, as he was charging his son to build a great temple for God to live in.  And Solomon built it.

I don’t care what you build with your life son, whatever profession your choose or vocation your end up doing.  But build something great with your life, in your relationships, in your service to others; make your life beautiful by displaying God to the world.  That is your highest calling.  David also told his son some words I want to share with you: “Be strong and courageous and act; do not fear nor be dismayed, for the Lord God, my God, is with you.  He will not fail you nor forsake you.”  Skye, God is with you.  You can be strong not by your own will or own accomplishments, but what God has already done in you and wants to do through you.  Never forget- God is near.  Honor and serve Him and in this way your life will be greater than you ever imagined.

I need you to know, as a pastor’s son, the world will put pressure on you that you must look a certain way or act a certain way.  Disregard other’s false judgments on who you are.  Look only to God and cling to the values of your family, but feel free to carve your own path.  Your mama and I will love you no matter what.  We are prepared to love you even if your choices don’t look like ours, no matter whom you choose to love, no matter what you choose to do.  You will make mistakes- we’re prepared to stand by your side no matter how bad the consequences are.  You will hurt and we’re prepared to hold you until you can walk on your own again.  And you will sometimes fall- and we promise to help you get up again.  We love you son.  I love you.  I look forward to watching you become the man that you will grow to be.  I look forward to spending time together and teaching you about fishing, and the ocean, and relationships and serving others and everything else.  I’m not perfect son, but I will share with you what I’ve learned over the years about living the awesome adventure of following Jesus.

The reality is that though David said those good words to Solomon, and Solomon followed God and did great things early in his life, Solomon eventually left a life of following God.  He disrespected women and had almost a 1000 wives or partners or relationships.  He disrespected his father by becoming an oppressive ruler to the nation of Israel.  And he disrespected God by building shrines to other Gods and worshipping many other Gods (even one that was a God of child sacrifice).  Son, there are moments when you’ll be tempted to turn away, to listen to the Lie that God isn’t real, that our family doesn’t believe in you, that goodness can’t win in the end.  Cling to the truth.  Seek God.  Love others.  Do not depart from the way that Jesus taught.  As Jesus said, “I came to bring you Life, and life abundantly.”

I’m thankful for your life, baby boy.  I promise to stand with you forever…no matter what.  I came across this parenting manifesto recently and it speaks pretty well of the promises I have made to you.  Enjoy.  I promise to love you with all that I am.

-Papa

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The 38th Year

In grateful, The Journey on October 2, 2012 by scottsund Tagged: , ,

Tuesday was my birthday and sadly, I’ve reached the age where birthdays feel like less of a celebration and more of a memory test: how old am I again?  This actually happened to me earlier in the year when Heather had to correct me…I had actually forgot if I was 37 or 38.  Is it too early for dementia?

But birthdays, though at my age not marked with huge celebrations or landmark coming of age movements, are still incredible moments to stop, pause, look around, and do an inventory on how life is being lived.  It seems when I talk to people, there is often a notion that “back then was the good ol’ days.”  I don’t really think this is true anymore.  Don’t get me wrong, I have great memories from the past.  But I don’t want to live in the past; I want to cling to the belief that life continues to get better.  Yes, these are good days.  Perhaps the best is yet to come.  Our head pastor Richard preached about this on Sunday: “Sentimentalism about the past leads me to disengage in the present.”  I’ve seen this happen again and again.  I often meet people who want to go back in time to be in high school again, or college, or before they had kids.  But this kind of thinking causes bitterness and aloofness for the present, and hopelessness for the future.  No, there is  a better way to live, living in the glorious present.  We only have today, tomorrow, and that which lies ahead; we can’t go back.

And though the days are sunny right now, with a new son and so much to be grateful for, I’m also mindful that others are struggling.  The reality is that yes, life is hard.  I have a friend who recently reminded me of this as we drove to the funeral of one of our closest friend’s father (who died much too young).   We drove south on I-5 and as he discussed the challenges of his workplace, of being the light of Christ in the midst of a very dark place, he said, “You know, life is hard.  And if you don’t see this, you’re either living with your eyes closed or you’re not paying attention.”  Yes, life is hard.

I was thinking of this as we sat through the funeral. The funeral was a very touching celebration of my friend’s father, a good man who had a big impact on those closest to him.  Midway through the funeral, a young woman stood up to play a song of tribute on her flute to her deceased grandfather.  The song was a religious song of some sort, I’m now forgetting the title.  But as she played, the emotion of the moment caught up to her and she began to cry.  But with both hands on the flute she couldn’t wipe the tears away, they merely rolled down her cheeks and puddled on the instrument.  And as she tried to keep her now sobbing breaths measured to exhale the notes into her flute, she would pause between notes and take a deep, sobbing, tearful breath, and play again.  This continued for the duration of the song, beautiful notes punctuated by deep breaths of tearful inhales.  Each crying inhale filled the church with her emotion.  I realized, with tears standing in my own eyes, these sobbing breaths were the real song, not the notes from the flute.  And don’t get me wrong, the flute playing was flawless, but the raw wordless emotion from this young woman conveyed more than words could convey, more than musical notes could convey.  For her crying breaths told the real story of her heartache, but also of her love, and of her hope in Christ to hold her in this difficult time.

For this man who passed, though his life had ended too soon, had lived a good life.  His life hadn’t merely unfolded; it had been sculpted.  In the program of the memorial they printed out a page from his bible that had all his favorite verses written down.  And then they read this verse, Isaiah 40:31, his favorite: “but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.  They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” I’m thinking of this today as I think of my 38th year.  Lord how will I sculpt a beautiful life out of the clay of my existence?  How will I allow God to help me build?  What greatness awaits?  Time will expire on us all…will I be ready?

In the book of Jeremiah, God sends the prophet Jeremiah to a potter’s house.  After watching a potter fashion a vessel, throw it away, and refashion another vessel the Lord asks: “as the potter molds the clay, can’t I do the same with the nation of Israel?”  The question is rhetorical; Jeremiah knows the answer.  Yes Lord.  You form our lives, collectively and individually, like a master artist forming mud into something useful, something beautiful.  The ability to be great rests not in the inner superiority of “my dirt”, rather, my value comes when I let God move over me, through me, within me to make me into something better than I could be on my own.  It’s not up to me.  My life rests in God’s hands.   This is good news for this means the pressure is off and I can live boldly into the future knowing as I follow God, He’ll be remaking me and forming me to do things for the Kingdom.

In the new Avett Brothers song “The Once and Future Carpenter”, there are lyrics that have been rattling around my brain all week:

“Forever I will move like the world that turns beneath me,
and when I lose my direction I’ll look up to the sky
and when the black cloak drags upon the ground
I’ll be ready to surrender, and remember
well we’re all in this together
If I live the life I’m given, I won’t be scared to die.”

Yes, in this 38th year, I’ll live the life I’m given.  I’ll seek to live a life of integrity and purpose and rest and joy.  I’ll give thanks for all the good that surrounds.  I’ll rage against the darkness that I see destroying the joy and hope of those around me.  And I’ll cling to God.  And I won’t be scared to die.  I’ll be more scared of not really living.  That’s the danger facing many of us these days.