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.

Aside

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

The Vanity and Laziness of Busy People

This book changed the way I think about being a dad. It hooked me first with the title that I thought was pithy and cheesy, but I realized it referred to the time spent reading the book, that it’s a quick 60-minute read that would change your child’s life.

Well, perhaps it has changed my childrens’ lives–that is a more difficult thing for me to say, but I can say it changed my life and the way I think about being a dad. I read this book nearly every year since my Mom gave it to me nearly two decades ago when I first became a dad. The insights are not groundshakingly new, but as one wise person said, “We don’t need to be instructed as much as we need to be reminded.” And this is a reminder that no one ever had written on their tombstone, “I wish I’d spent more time at the office.”

General William R. Looney III, Air Education a...

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Like Coach Tony Dungy, this book encourages men to get off their butts and get their work done efficiently and quickly, not to postpone and procrastinate work then make excuses at the end of the day that we had so much work, honey, that I’m just going to have to stay late today. When the fact for many men is that they went on a leisurely lunch, wasted time on the internet checking ESPN, let others waste their time, and didn’t take charge of their day.

Pastor Eugene Peterson and time management guru David Allen agree that people who do not manage their time well do this out of laziness and lack of vision for what they are doing. So they let others “tell” them what to do by checking email endlessly for some fire to put out or way to take their time rather than getting busy on the initiatives that move an organization forward or simply getting the job done or tasks a supervisor has already asked you to do.

I’ll close with this searing quote from Eugene Peterson’s The Contemplative Pastor, who repudiates the idea of “the busy pastor” and even titles the chapter this quote is drawn from as “The Unbusy Pastor:

The one piece of mail certain to go unread into my wastebasket is the letter addressed to the “busy pastor.” Not that the phrase doesn’t describe me at times, but I refuse to give my attention to someone who encourages what is worst in me.

I’m not arguing the accuracy of the adjective; I am, though, contesting the way it’s used to flatter and express sympathy.

“The poor man,” we say. “He’s so devoted to his flock; the work is endless, and he sacrifices himself so unstintingly.” But the word busy is the symptom not of commitment but of betrayal. It is not devotion but defection. The adjective busy set as a modifier to pastor should sound to our ears like adulterous to characterize a wife or embezzling to describe a banker. It is an outrageous scandal, a blasphemous affront.

Hilary of Tours diagnosed our pastoral busyness as irreligiosa soicitudo pro Deo, a blasphemous anxiety to do God’s work for him.

I (and most pastors, I believe) become busy for two reasons; both are ignoble.

I am busy because I am vain. I want to appear important. Significant. What better way than to be busy? The incredible hours, the crowded schedule, and the heavy demands on my time are proof to myself—and to all who will notice—that I am important. If I go into a doctor’s office and find there’s no one waiting, and I see through a half-open door the doctor reading a book, I wonder if he’s any good. A good doctor will have people lined up waiting to see him; a good doctor will not have time to read a book. Although I grumble about waiting my turn in a busy doctor’s office, I am also impressed with his importance.

Such experiences affect me. I live in a society in which crowded schedules and harassed conditions are evidence of importance, so I develop a crowded schedule and harassed conditions. When others notice, they acknowledge my significance, and my vanity is fed.

I am busy because I am lazy. I indolently let others decide what I will do instead of resolutely deciding myself. I let people who do not understand the work of the pastor write the agenda for my day’s work because I am too slipshod to write it myself. The pastor is a shadow figure in these people’s minds, a marginal person vaguely connected with matters of God and good will. Anything remotely religious or somehow well-intentioned can be properly assigned to the pastor.

Growing Up With My Teenagers: The Gift of Adolescents

Cover of "Like Dew Your Youth: Growing Up...

Eugene Peterson's Like Dew Your Youth: Click to View on Amazon

There’s a great book by Eugene Peterson titled Like Dew Your Youth: Growing Up With Your Teenager. When I read it, I felt like I’d won a lottery. I knew I wouldn’t win another one again, but I kept reading, hoping to win more gems of wisdom that are actually priceless to parents.

This was the book a parent of teens needed to find. Where was it through the first of the parenting adolescents years? Now that all my children are teenagers (or just about), this book could not have come into my life at a better time.

What is so good about a book originally written in 1976 and re-published at least twice in the 80s and 90s?

At a time when I had been groaning about teenagers, wishing somehow to fast forward life to “safety” into adulthood, fears of teens getting into various forms of trouble, I needed this book to come into my life as the voice of a father putting his hand on my shoulder and saying . . .

The infant is a gift of God by which we are given renewed access to the forms of childlikeness through which we receive our Lord and enter the kingdom of God. But the adolescent, though not so obviously, is no less a gift of God. As the infant is God’s gift to the young adult, so the adolescent is a gift to the middle-aged. The adolescent is “born” into our lives during our middle decades (when we are in our thirties, forties, and fifties). In these middle decades of life we are prone to stagnation and depression — the wonders of life reduce to banalities and the juices of life dry up . . .

And that, says Peterson, is when God brings the gift of adolescence into our lives through our teenagers.

It’s easy to call a baby a gift. It ain’t easy to call teenagers a gift, but that’s exactly what teenagers are. Pure energy and life flow through the veins of teenagers, however erratic their emotions and hormones may be.

At a time when life turns grey and forty-ish parents are prone to mid-life crises and sluggish metabolisms, God at the right time gives us the gift of teenagers.

But there’s much more to this–a gift for what? I’ll post on what this gift is for tomorrow.

In what ways do people have to put up with me at Thanksgiving?

A family therapist called in to the Diane Rehm show this morning and said when his church has done pre-Thanksgiving seminars to help people deal with tensions, these are some of the most attended classes! Rehm asked him to give some suggestions for family relationships at Thanksgiving.

He said the key is putting aside differences for the 24 hours or so family gathers and value the family as a whole.

I would add the following suggestion. Ask yourself, “In what ways do people have to ‘put up with’ ME during the holidays?” What if you listed a few of those things on an index card and put the card in your pocket for your gathering?

On the other side of the card, you could list positive qualities of family members and add them discretely during the day. I’m going to try these two exercises this Thanksgiving, and see if I become a brighter and more thankful presence where we are.

One problem comes when someone thinks he or she is not part of the family problem or dynamic. Along with putting aside differences, we ought to realize that we are each part of the family dynamic. So, what are you doing to address the problem about which you are complaining? You may not be instigating a problem, but your response or lack of one IS part of the dynamic.

Take a deep breath, drink in the atmosphere of family, food, fellowship, and tell people around you that you’re thankful for them, quirky as they (and you!) are. We don’t chose our families, but we chose the way we respond to family.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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.

Amazed at Family & Children’s Services

Met yesterday with 40 case workers and therapists at the East Tulsa Family & Children’s Services office. I was amazed and overwhelmed that this “army” of workers rolling back in after a long day of case work and counseling at schools.

I told them how much I respect what they are doing, how ministry is done not at churches but in our lives, our jobs, our neighborhoods . . .

That’s why Jeff Krisman and I had come to meet with this group, hosted by the director, Whitney Downie. We were sharing with them about Neighborhood Kitchens, a place where people can come and share a meal and their heart. We’re a group of educators, government worker/volunteers, business people, representing a variety of faith communities who want to change the world . . . starting in East Tulsa.

Each week we host a meal and invite our neighbors and so far each week we have 70-100 adults and children who are coming to eat and talk about how to make our community a better place to live–less crime, teen pregnancies, gangs, drugs and more life, healthy families, joy, and shalom.

Jeff Krisman has a vision and he asked me and the Garnett Church of Christ to join him. We did. You can read more about it at www.neighborhoodkitchens.pbwiki.com. You’ll see at this link that we’re working with several community groups, including the East Tulsa Prevention Coalition and OU-Tulsa to develop the project.

We asked the group at Family & Children’s to participate in the Neighborhood Kitchens project, help us assess where people are in need. Then I told them each day when I see my kids off to school I kiss their heads and whisper the priestly blessing of Numbers 6 over them. I said I wouldn’t be kissing any of them on the heads but would say the blessing over them and the tremendous and challenging work they do. I told them our church comes to the community with the humble realization that we can’t educate, fund, counsel, do all this group does and schools do and businesses do, but we can open ourselves up, be the church we are and share God’s love and partner with our community.

So I said, “May God bless you and keep you . . . the Lord make his face to shine upon you . . . and give you peace.”

Hey Dad!

Two words, an exclamation–my kids say, “Hey Dad!”

That’s the moment of truth in every dad’s life
Will you make time? Will you “block out your schedule”?
Will you say, “Hey what?” and listen and go where they want to go?

Recently, in one beautiful day, I noticed all three of my children say “Hey Dad!”

“Hey Dad! Will you play catch with me?” Jacob is eight.

“Hey Dad! Would you read me a book?” Anna is eleven.

“Hey Dad! Want to play basketball?” Ashley is almost fourteen.

They are getting older and I so am I. Turned 40 this year. But I no longer dread when they will never say those words again. Instead I simply take them up on the offers and enjoy the moment.

For some day we will say, “Hey Child!” and they will either answer or they will not
It depends on how we answered them as children.

For “Hey Dad!” is really not an exclamation. It is a question.