Jacob Taylor is 16

Jacob and I after the 2012 Tulsa Run. He had just completed his longest run to date and in an unexpectedly quick pace.

Jacob and I after the 2012 Tulsa Run. He had just completed his longest run to date and in an unexpectedly quick pace.

The moment captured in this photo is seconds after Jacob ran his first Tulsa Run, a grueling 15K race that I ran when I was his age. OK, I ran the two mile fun run in about the same time he ran the 15K. I was so proud of Jacob that day to see him appear on the last sprint to the finish line minutes before expected.

I was so startled that pleasantly surprised doesn’t describe it. I was proud enough to run down the sidewalk yelling wildly, “That’s my son! That’s my son!!

When I got to him, Jacob was ragged and worn but so happy he’d completed his longest race to date. Jacob’s running began in 2011 with a 5K our church held to raise funds for our kids camp. I thought I’d hang with Jacob, who was 12 at that point, but the race started and I couldn’t catch him. He ran with Steve Martin and Jeff McIlroy, and those guys will always have my admiration for the way they’ve encouraged Jacob’s running (and still run with Jacob, even as recently as last night!).

Jacob’s life, however, is not about running. Jacob’s life is about pleasing God, learning to be like his savior and Lord Jesus Christ, and enjoying family and friends. He knows that running is not for himself but to glorify God. He is using his gifts and working hard to develop them.

Happy Birthday, Jacob. I’m very proud of you.


I’m paying $100 for the best family story submitted to my blog. Submit by emailing me. The person with the best story will be paid $100 if I include in my next book on family life.

Submissions should be 500 words or less and include your email, physical address (only by email) and phone number.

Deadline: October 1, 2011

Announcement of Winner: November 1, 2011

$100 for your family stories

Are we intentionally inviting our children to follow Christ? Part 2

Since there is little evidence of children being converted in the early church, we ought to think theologically from Scripture and work from there.

One big theological idea that can be applied is the long-standing issue of whether an infant is born into sin. This goes way back to early church fathers, associated big time with Augustine and has continued to be discussed into the Reformation and since. The big question is, are children born into sin. Most Evangelicals don’t believe so. So we ask, Must we view children as lost before they can be found? Continue reading

My Teen, The Alien

Giger's Alien, as portrayed by Bolaji Badejo i...

From the 1979 film, Alien

Eugene Peterson says that God gives us the gift of Adolescents just at the right time, for most of us in middle age:

And then God’s gift: in the rather awkward packaging of the adolescent God brings into our lives a challenge to grow, testing our love, chastening our hope, pushing our faith to the edge of the abyss.

Stop right there! Yes, yes, pushing our faith to the edge of the abyss. So how in the world is that a gift?

What parent of teenagers hasn’t wondered, “Who has snatched my child into their saucer and replaced her with a alien in a human suit who doesn’t know how to act like the human I thought I was raising?”

A gift of an alien in the house? Well, there’s a humor blog specifically for moms experiencing this–it’s dedicated to this experience of having a teenage-alien in the house. It’s called “My Teen, The Alien” and written by two moms, Lynn Armitage and Maria Bailey. Here’s a quote from their greeting page:

Do you ever feel like someone came into your home overnight, snatched the joyful child you gave birth to and raised effortlessly (for the most part) for about 14 years, and then left this unrecognizable creature in her place? She’s moody, sassy and standoffish one minute, then free-spirited, loving and affectionate the next? Lynn Armitage and Maria Bailey started this blog to wrap sympathetic arms around all you mothers of teenagers who are wondering how the heck you’re going to survive today, let alone the next four to five schizophrenic years.

But don’t let my tangent on aliens cause you to miss something very important that Peterson is saying. I truly believe God has given us people going through an incredible transformative experience right before our eyes. The biggest surprise for me is that I’m growing up, too. Peterson says, and I agree, that the most significant growing up anyone does is growing up in Christ. We continue to grow into the full measure of the stature of Christ all through our lives. We should not squander, he says, this opportunity God has given us to grow in Christ along with our teens.

I’ll close this post with a sledgehammer of Peterson’s that may just break you wide open if you are struggling parent of a teenager (or two or three):

My purpose is to block any approach that reduces adolescence to a problem to be solved and insist that it is an experience to be entered into by the middle-aged as well as by the young as a means for growing up. But there is this difference: what the young are forced to go through by virtue of their biology, the middle-aged willingly embrace by virtue of their faith (or willingly refuse in their unbelief). And the “growing up” of parents is not to a mark on a measuring rod but to the “stature of the fulness of Christ.”

Eating Crow at Thankgiving

Families might be better off at Thanksgiving if we’d all eat some crow instead of turkey.

Two weeks ago I suggested that Garnett members prepare some “flocks and herds” like Jacob did when he returned to meet his brother. To translate to our cultural metaphor, “eat crow.”

Jacob had ripped off Esau’s deserved double portion of inheritance and blessing of the eldest brother. Esau was so furious that Jacob ran for his life and didn’t show his face in Edom for nearly two decades.

When he did return, he took his wives, servants, and children. And some of the servants went ahead with literally hundreds of herds and flocks to appease the anger of his brother Esau.

Jacob actually thought Esau would come out against him in battle, but Esau welcomed his brother with an embrace. At first Esau rejected Jacob’s restitution, but Jacob convinced him to accept, and they returned to Edom together.

Later God in Israel’s life would help them develop burnt, grain, fellowship, sin, and guilt offerings that placed emphasis on the treatment of neighbor (Leviticus 6:1-7). We often think of restitution only in legal terms, but it extends to relationships as well.

Restitution is the act of making right something that was wrong and adding some type of payment, often in excess of the victim’s loss, to make amends for an offense. A police officer once told me restitution is an important idea in law enforcement, and it certainly remains part of the United States justice system. Often called “punitive damages” today, restitution not only discourages the offender from doing it again but also sends a signal to witnesses to curb any desires of breaking the same law.

In the case of Jacob, he made restitution. Seeking forgiveness, Jacob gave a “moral gift” of flocks to his brother Esau. While some might feel shame from having sinned against a family member or embarrassing themselves years before, one benefit of this kind of public humiliation is that it’s already out there. It’s known in the family, and you don’t have to explain–instead, you can ask for forgiveness and offer some kind of restitution.

I don’t believe restitution must be a sentence or punishment. Restitution can be done voluntarily. I recently did some restitution to restore a relationship at Garnett Church. I bought a gift and wrote out a prayer as a way to help heal a heart I had wounded. This is not always easy to do, but I eat lots of crow throughout the year personally and professionally. As my friend Rubel Shelly says, “It’s not easy but after all, eating crow is fat free.” Seems to be part of the territory of being human.

What about you at Thanksgiving with family or friends? Do you have some herd gathering to do before you go?

A perfect 10

Jacob turned 10 this week. Double digits.

I asked my son whenelse is he going to get another digit in his lifetime.

“Ninety years from now,” Jacob said.

“I hope you live that long, son,” I said.

Jacob looked through the windshield and we adjusted the cupcakes we were holding between us while we drove to school.

“This is a big day, getting another digit. Don’t ever forget what it’s like in the single digit world. It’s rough but fun in the double digit one, but welcome buddy. We’re in this together.”

Jacob blinked and turned his head a few degrees my direction to somehow acknowledge my odd comment without overdignifying the silliness of it. We arrived and Jacob kissed and hugged me and got out.

I hope there’s still tenderness for Jacob in the double digit world. At least there was today.

Throw a pie

Left over ice cream pie from Ashley’s birthday party. Melted but still ice cold. Who wants a pie in the face? Anna sprints to her room and returns with a shower cap. Watch.

Jacob runs camera and commentary, laughs with his mom. My family laughing is music to my ears. For 23 years one of my favorite things in the world is my wife’s laugh.

Baptism on ice

I’m going to tell you a story about how my wife and I tried to plan our daughter’s baptism and how snow and family travel plans and a broken baptistery met with resolve of a young girl to be baptized in the place where her church worships and nowhere else.

The details might bore you, but they are told to show a different way of baptizing our children that includes advanced planning for presence of family members and friends and celebrating with words of blessing. If you want to skip the story and read the baptism ceremony plans, those are at the end.

We’d been planning for several months to baptize our thirteen-year-old daughter December 1. In the 48 hours before that day, Tulsa was snowed in with a record storm. Jill’s parents were to fly in and my parents were to drive down from Bartlesville, Oklahoma. Flight was postponed to Friday and my parents couldn’t even get out of their driveway. We got stuck in the airport parking lot picking up Jill’s parents.

Meanwhile, the aging baptistery at Garnett Church of Christ had no working heater, filter, and it leaked. This baptistery was laid in before the 2,400 seat auditorium was built. It’s like a small pool. So plans had also been made to start work on this same weekend to cut out the old fiberglass and replace the baptistery with a newer, more efficient, smaller one. The decision was made Wednesday, before the storm, to allow a crew to try and rip out the old baptistery and put the new one in before Ashley’s baptism. Then the storm hit and the complicated (it took two huge semi-truck-sized dumpsters to dispose of mildewed old staging, planters, and baptistery) work took longer than expected, and my parents still couldn’t get out of their driveway, and we were faced with a decision to move the baptism to Sunday, December 3. Ice was still bad, and church was cancelled. We moved the baptism to December 10.

Jill’s parents would not be able to witness the baptism, but they gave Ashley a necklace, a card, and verbally blessed her and prayed over her before they flew back out after the weekend.

Our desire to plan and have grandparents travel to bless Ashley, to plan a celebration with communion and cake that one grandma would bake and engraved lockets and balloons and planned prayers and blessings, was thwarted by weather and a baptistery transition.

At various suggestions and jokes that we baptize her in another church or in pool or pond (break the ice), or in a snow drift, or by sprinkling, Ashley said, “I want to be baptized at my church.”

Ashley read the following ceremony plans and suggested that it’s too formal, and it is for us and it won’t be followed verbatim but with feeling and heart-felt remarks and skipped parts and choked up tears and thoughts from several people who are witnessing.

Note: I wrote the following after reading back over a section in Down in the River to Pray that I adapted from a Mennonite baptism ceremony. I realized that even in the book, it wasn’t done directly but more like a report of what Mennonites do. This is more of a direct ceremony plan, and you are welcome to use and adapt it for your purposes. Please send me adaptations if you like. I’ll be happy to continue to make this better. The key, I think, is to personalize it and bring the community directly in, and connect everyone to Father, Son, Holy Spirit who together make the whole moment real and living and beautiful.

Baptism Celebration

Leader: “Those gathered here with you have pledged to renounce Satan and our sin of self-centered living and to bind ourselves under the authority of Jesus Christ to live in God’s holy community, the Church, according to Christ’s rule and kingdom.”

Leader: “Do you join with these believers gathered to witness your baptism into Christ’s body in pledging to renounce Evil and your sin of self-centered living and to bind yourself under the authority of Jesus Christ to live in God’s holy community, the Church, according to Christ’s rule and kingdom?”

Disciple: I do.

Lord’s Prayer
All: Our Father . . .

Uniting with Jesus
Just as Jesus was baptized and the Spirit came down on Jesus like the presence of a dove, and God the Father said, “This is my son, in whom I am very pleased,” so I say to you, my child, I am very pleased with you, your mother, brother and sister, grandparents and other family members and Christian family are pleased with you, but we also call you into a different kind of life, one united with Christ. It’s time to put on new clothes of Christ, to wash away your old life and begin anew, to be transformed and receive God’s Spirit.

We now baptize you in the same way as Jesus was baptized, with the presence and the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit with you, that you may receive forgiveness of sins and continual washing by the gift of Jesus’ sacrifice for us, that you may receive life everlasting.

After baptism
Welcome circle (Pops)

Song: I have decided to follow Jesus

Blessings (Nammy, Mimi, Pawpaw, others)

Place hands and pray (Jill and Greg lead and all gather around)

“Arise, shine, for the light of the Lord is upon you.” (Ashley’s friends, Anna, Jacob)

All together: “We make a covenant with you as we renew our own covenant with our Lord: to bear one another’s burdens, to share in the experience of forgiveness, to share in the abundance of this world’s goods, to assist each other in times of need, to share our joys and our sorrows, and in all things to work for the common good, thus manifesting God’s presence among us to His glory. As we unite with each other now, may we all be joined with Christ our Lord.”

Communion and cake and celebration

Praying the Bible with your family

Praying the Bible with your familyI really like the series of books David and Heather Kopp have produced, for their focus on prayer practiced in families and home life. One of their books, Praying the Bible with your family is a great resource for family devotional times.

Here is an example of the format:

Quotes Job 38

Brief meditation on Job

Two questions: What do you think is the most amazing thing God has ever made? What does it tell you about God’s character?

Biblical principle

Prayer from the Bible: “God of hippopotamuses and hailstones, Lord of rainbows and coconut trees, Maker of snowflakes and snails and parakeets, Father of every living person–especially in this house . . .”

I was sold on the book while standing in the bookstore reading that prayer. I smiled and tucked the book under my arm and headed to the checkout. We soon began using it in our family times.

Labor Day Activities

What do you do on Labor Day?

Today Jill and I are doing long runs to train for the Route 66 Half Marathon. Otherwise, we’re being lazy and hanging out with the kids.

My prayer for today as I ran was this: Lord, if I do nothing else today, help me be a good father, a good husband, and that will be enough.

For us Labor Day is a good time to access the routine we’ve already established since beginning of school in mid-August. Sports schedules are printed, and Jill and I talk through scheduling of the fall. What do you do on Labor Day? Do you have a standing event or gathering?