kids

Stop Killing Time

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Time is not worth wasting

I have a confession to make.  It seems that I have killed a lot of time in my life. There is no way to measure the amount of time that has been slaughtered by my carelessness.  I have been a killer of time and I am not happy about it.  You see, time is a commodity that seems to become more and more important the older that one gets.  When I was in grade school I looked forward to the day being over.  I looked forward to the weekend, to summer, and to that vacation my family had planned.  I looked forward to getting to high school, getting my license, and finally getting out on my own.  All of those things came quickly though and now time seems to be moving along faster than I can watch it fly on by.  It bothers me because I know that one day I will look back and wish that time I murdered when I was younger is able to be brought back to life.  It bothers me because I keep getting these things on my Facebook feed reminding me of how quickly my kids are growing up.  I have no time to waste!  Every minute actually matters.  Every second must actually be savored as the most important moment of life.   It seems to me that life was meant to be lived right now, not for something in the future — an idealistic dream world that never actually comes anyway.  So then I wonder how it is that we can talk about how busy we are in one moment with no time to spare and then spend an hour “killing time” waiting for our children to finish their event, or our plane to board.

Stop killing time and start living your life purposefully.  Wait with purpose.  Meet new people.  Take up a new hobby.  Read a book (an actual one with paper).  Do something for someone else.  Pray.  Turn off the notifications on your phone. Find something to do.  Just don’t kill time.  It will be gone before you know it and you have none to spare.

 

 

 

 

 

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Glad I’m Not January

After a tough start to winter this year, we finally had some days where we could go outside and not have the wind freeze our flesh. It was quite the treat.  As I walked around the yard I noticed that the snow was deeper than I remembered it being and that getting that snow in your boots is cold.  Over on one side of the yard sat the Christmas tree, waiting in line to be burned in the fire pit during the summer. It still looks really green, but is not as nice as it was in the living room.  In my hands were Christmas lights that for whatever reason decided to stop working, ironically just like my preteen son.  And then it hit me:  I would sure hate to be January.

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January — brrr

December gets all the hype, fun lights, gifts, movies,elves, and sweet treats.  November gets Thanksgiving which takes food and football and merges them together in merriment.  What does January get?  Dark days and nights.  Cold temperatures.  Frozen pipes. Cars that won’t start. Ice covered roads.  Garage doors that break. (yes, the replacement of the aforementioned door is happening this week– could be a blog post in that)  All of this and the let down emotionally that Christmas has now come and gone once again.  Now don’t get me wrong, I enjoy the seasons of the year.   I look foward to them in fact.  It is just that January seems to get left out of the fun, like that one friend that nobody thinks to call and invite to the movie.  Thankfully February shares candy hearts early with everyone, which makes us look forward to spring and February 15th when they get marked down to 50% off.

Yet, as I thought about this I realized that there is a lot of joy to be had in January.  Life is full of adventure and experiences.  Winter sports are in full swing.  Movie nights in the warmth of the living room are a nice treat that does not happen in the summer.  Getting out the skis is a fun activity that even the littlest among us can figure out pretty quickly. (I mean how can you look at her and not smile?)

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Enjoy each day

Yes, I guess there is joy to be found in every month of the year.  It takes looking for something that will brighten your day and doing that.   For me it might be getting a cup of coffee and staring out the window for a while.  At other times I enjoy pulling my daughter around the yard in the sled or working on some project.  Whatever it is for you, get out and enjoy each day because each day is a true gift from God.   Yes, even January.

 

 

The Difference It Makes

I spent some time vacuuming up the pine needles from our Christmas tree this morning.  The tree had held up quite nicely, but it was time to show it the door.

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The door just wouldn’t open.

Naturally the door I wanted to show it to was frozen shut.  I guess the below zero temperatures and the snow up against it actually froze it shut.   Well, that was awkward.  That’s okay, I have other doors.  The only problem was that pulling this tree out of this other door, involved tree sap and pine needles all over the place.   They got everywhere, including in my clothing.  (enough said)

 

As I was deciding what to do to clean it up, I asked and answered a question that I answer many times each day:  What difference does it make?

We all want to make a difference.  It wasn’t very long into my attempt at cleaning that I realized the vacuum was not actually picking the needles up.  That immediately made me reevaluate what I was doing.  I do not want to waste my time running this machine over the carpet only to have the same little prickly things in the carpet when I was done.

I have thought about this a lot as it relates to ministry, parenting, marriage,friendship and my time in EMS.  Everything I do comes out of that desire to make a difference.  I hope that my ministry matters in someone’s life.  I pray that the way I raise my children impacts them positively for their entire life.  I hope that my marriage is making a difference in our lives.  I trust that when I go to help some stranger who calls for help that what I do helps them.  Nobody wants to waste their time.

But can you actually measure all of that?  I mean, who is to say that even if I can’t answer  that question, that a difference isn’t being made?  I have been on many EMS calls where the only help I provide is someone to talk with.

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“Being with cows makes me happy!”

Did that make a difference?   I have  had many parenting moments when I have wondered if anything I was doing was even making a difference.  And yet, my kids surprise me at times with the way they reciprocate affection to me.  One of my sons loves farming so much that just spending time with the cows makes him happy.  The other kids don’t care that much.  To him it makes a difference.  In my over 10 years of ministry, I have preached sermons that have connected and some that have been somewhat flat.  And yet, God takes those efforts and uses them for His purposes.

 

One day I decided to send a card to someone who I had not talked to in a long time.  I had no idea why they came to mind that day.  I sent it off and thought nothing of it.  What difference would my simple note of encouragement be to them?  Would they even read it?  A few weeks later I received a response.  They said that they had received my note at a dark moment, on a day when they needed to know that God was there.  I had no idea, but it made a difference.

I guess this is a challenge for all of us to live a little more free.  Free to love.  Free to give.  Free to be so full of life that you are willing to do things for people even if it makes no obvious difference to you.  Why?  Because it makes a difference to them.

Just Be There

I am not sure what I am supposed to say and yet here I am.  This young man just learned his fate “cancer.”  And I am in a car alone with him on my way to a waiting group of high school students wondering what is happening.   The very thing that never happens to you or someone you love, was happening.  What do I know about cancer?  I was just the youth pastor who was now just a bit more concerned with the faith of a few of the students in my youth group.  They were already confused and now this. The first one approached me almost immediately with  “If he dies, I am done”   Oh, God knows I prayed that was not a place I was going to have to go with them.  But this was an honest sentiment, which I appreciated hearing.  It represented real hurt and confusion.  I get it. I felt it.  I saw it in eyes and heard it in conversations.

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Care enough to enter another person’s world.  This is what Jesus did for you. 

I have often thought about those early days and about how much of a privilege it was for me to be brought in to such a personal journey.  I also thought about how inadequate and exhausted I felt during those many trips for treatment.  What did I have to offer?  I didn’t even have words to make anything better and my attempts to brighten the day wasn’t always met with great joy. And I can’t say I even blamed him for it because, let’s be honest, cancer is horrible enough without the chemo.  Add chemo and it is like hell on earth for people.  If you want to feel compassion for people, go into a cancer center sometime and hear the sounds, smell the smells, and see the 3-year-old kids pushing their chemo around.  It is gut wrenching at the best moments.   But there I was and  for over a year, I did the best I could to follow the example of Jesus Christ.  “Just be there”  was all I could do and it seemed like it mattered to some extent.  Interesting how God works because the end of 2013  after being there, I left Cape Cod and moved many miles from this church family.

And so a message came to me in November of this year that this young man was nearing death.  My heart hurt.  My mind raced.  How do I pray?  What do I do?  And then when I got the news that this young man died, I wept.  I was really surprised by the emotion that I felt and came out of me realizing that he was free from this pain now.  I guess that is what the Bible calls”sorrowful and yet rejoicing.”  It is this strange dance of emotions and I did them both.   In that moment I knew I needed to get there for the funeral.  I just needed to be there.

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A ride my boys did to support those with cancer. 

As only the Lord could have planned, I was already planning on being gone on a Sunday from my current church and it was that Sunday that the funeral was planned.  Now the hard part:  getting an affordable flight on Thanksgiving weekend.  Through a variety of circumstances, God provided and there I was.  I was there.

I didn’t know what was going to happen.  My mind went back to a time when I was in High School and a young boy was killed in a car accident.  I remember the youth pastor up front, weeping, completely broken.  They always told me that if you do youth ministry long enough, sooner or later you will bury one of your students.  I just could not believe the day had come.

But in all of this, I was struck again with this simple realization.  There is great power in just being there. And all I shared were stories, reflections of my time being there.  In all my time playing games during chemo, I didn’t really provide a ton of insight, I provided my presence.  People in the church were overwhelmed that I had made the journey.  It inspired them in a way that I was grateful for, but wasn’t expecting.

This is what the Church is all about.  This is what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ.  You don’t have to have all of the answers.  You don’t even have to have an answer at all.  I didn’t.   You need to simply be there.  Learn to live in relationship with others.  Love people.  Allow yourself to care for them.   I learned the power of that in a profound way.  It is a privilege I will never forget.

The Lego Jar (9/20/14) – Summer Winds Down — Fishing Winds Up

I have not done a Lego Jar post in a while simply because my time has been limited.  The who idea of the Lego Jar was to design a post that gave me a chance to write about all the various random events that take place.  There has been no shortage of random around here, I assure you.  I thought I would share a few pieces of the summer, mainly the fishing that we did.    The problem is that I did not catch too many fish when I went with the kids this year.  I wonder why? scenery

The summer season has wrapped up, school has started, and the nightly battle for homework has begun.  Don’t you just love the fall?   Thankfully with the fall weather comes even more time for fishing, since I am trying to get my fishing day count up.  I feel like I am making up for the years on Cape Cod that I didn’t get to fish too much.  Yes, there was water on the Cape, but I had younger children.  Taking younger kids fishing is as fun as tying knots all day long because that is what you do.  Take a kid fishing and you will know what I mean.  For an extra amount of fun, take a couple of kids fishing in a canoe!  Thankfully we have done that this year many times and have had pretty good success with it.

canoeOur most recent trip was on a canoe trail that took us onto the Mississippi River and then back.  After my boys got over the fact that there were big boats out there, they enjoyed the time.   There were a few fish and very little complaining.  Usually no fish means a lot of complaining.  My kids are growing up!

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We stayed away from this one

The thing about fishing with kids is that they want to keep every fish that you catch.  In their mind every fish is a keeper.  Now that I think about it, I do have a Northern Pike head in my freezer yet.  That was not to be eaten, but to be shown around as proof that we actually catch more fish than the little ones.

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This is the time of year when apples are starting to be more available.  We were able to press some cider recently.  The problem we ran into was that there were two bulls in the field that we did not know were there.  All of a sudden there they were.  It was a dramatic time for my 7 year old son who screamed “I’m too young to die”  Needless to say, they don’t want to go pick apples in the pasture anymore.

Some people have asked me how the kids have done with the transition.  I would say after a full summer of fun and a new school year that is underway, they have adjusted well.  I was at a cafe for breakfast with the two older boys and they said to me “dad, I feel like I know everyone in this town.”   I wonder how many people they will know after we have been here an entire year.  Such is life in a small town.

As I wrap this up, I have been asked twice if we can go fishing today.  Is that not what it is all about anyway?  Each season has its own unique rhythm to it, but all of the seasons have fishing attached to them.   Time to get on with it.  After all, the only way you catch fish is by fishing.

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At family camp

The Lego Jar – A Brief North Pole Visit (3/1/14)

It has been a while since I have written one of these.   We moved to Wisconsin the end of December, which gave us many things to do in a very short time.  Moving is a stressful endeavor.   Moving in the middle of a school year is difficult.  Moving to Wisconsin in winter seems kind of crazy.  But since when have things made sense?

I grew up in Wisconsin, but 3 of my 4 kids were born on Cape Cod.  That means their idea of winter is snow that melts in two days.  That has made for some minor complaining and wondering about the deep freeze and the cold.  I have been asked on more than one occasion if we will ever see the grass.  The sunsets are beautiful though.

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We do have some snow.

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The kids do amaze me with what they come up with.  My daughter told me one day that she wanted to cut my hair “all by herself” and then ran off to get a knife.  One of my boys came home with something that made us smile.  His dream is that everyone would read the Bible. How can you not smile?

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The kids have been making new friends.  Last Sunday after church we went out to lunch at a Mexican restaurant.  Somehow we managed to have a whole bunch of young kids with pool sticks running around.  Well, actually, they were attempting to play the game.  I just stayed out of the way.

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As I reflect on the last year, I am amazed at where we are today and especially God’s faithfulness to us.  For example, we moved from Cape Cod to Southwest Wisconsin in the winter and had no problems with weather.  In fact, the day we unloaded the truck was really warm.  It was the last warm day before some very cold weather.  I mean it feels a like we have turned the page on a different life.  I know that sounds weird, but things are much different here.  We are so grateful for how God lead and planted us here.

But for some of us, it will be nice when summer comes.

Time to Worship

Tonight before I put the kids to bed I was able to have a brief conversation with my oldest son about heaven.  We were listening to a version of the song “Be Unto Your Name”  I told him that around the throne of God there is constant worship going on.    It was a special time in the midst of a chaotic day.  The kids have gone a little stir crazy with the cold weather we have had.

Yet,  for all that we do with our kids to try to entertain them, what could be better than helping them worship God on their own.   They need an authentic sense of worship.  They need to catch a vision for the glory of God! Maybe you need some time in the throne room of God right now.