A few times a year, I get the opportunity to preach “in big church” as I labeled it as a kid. And, for me, the process is fascinating, challenging and rewarding. I feel that way, mostly because of what it reveals about God. But, I also feel that way, partly because of what it reveals about me.
I’m preaching in the morning at Istrouma Baptist Church, and in preparation for doing so, here are the 6 things I noticed about myself:
- I love God’s Word. I realized this week, that the passage I’m preaching on tomorrow is one that I recently preached on. But, this time, I saw different things. God’s Word is deep like that, and I love it.
- I’m more confident in my head than I am in the real world. I thoroughly enjoy reading, studying, and praying over a text. And, in my head, it sounds great. Putting it on paper is where it gets hard. Courage issue? Clarity issue? Who knows?
- I love to draw from others who have already traveled the path before me. I do my own reading and studying, but when it comes to putting it all together in a communicable format with memorable illustrations, I need help. And, with the help of technology, there’s a lot of help out there. Thanks Tony Evans for some of the illustrations I’m using tomorrow.
- I still prioritize my family. It’s Saturday night, 11:00 PM, and I still have to go pick up my girl from her friend’s house across town. Part of me feels like I should be asleep so I can be at my best in the morning. The majority of me says, “Nah. It’s all good. Be a dad.”
- I still feel a sense of wonder about what God can do. And, that’s a big deal for me. As I’m getting older, I’m becoming more cynical. I’m just “over” a lot of things in life. I know I’m on a path to being Hank, the photographer on Parenthood (played by Ray Ramano). And, I know that’s not good. Thankfully, God and His Word still keeps me amazed.
- I am blessed! Not in a “see my toes in the sand on instagram kind of way,” but in a way that makes me so thankful that God can still use me, in spite of all the dumb things I’ve done in my life. I’m thankful for His grace, and that I was a full blown adult before camera phones and social media.
We don’t have to get set up to preach a sermon to allow God to use us. I hope you see how He can and is using you. And, in the process, I hope you learn some things about yourself.
Last week, I got to travel to Houston with a few other dads and our sons to see the Astros play the Yankees. It was a great experience, but what was even better was getting there early to watch batting practice.
The best place to watch batting practice at Minute Maid Stadium is in the right field stands. There, you are pretty close to the playing field and the players are cranking home runs into the stands, giving everybody there a decent chance of getting a baseball – the ultimate souvenir.
Reflecting back on our scramble for baseballs, here are 8 life principles reinforced by the experience:
- When you make a plan and stick to the plan, you achieve what you set out for. We are all busy. To make this memorable outing a reality, we had to look at available dates, pick a game, put it on the calendar, and commit to making sure nothing dislodged this from our calendar.
- Life is much more fun when seen through the eyes of children. Certainly, the adults wanted to catch a baseball, but the kids acted like catching a ball would change the world. Seeing this through their big, hopeful, expectant eyes was priceless.
- It’s better to be actively involved in life than just being a spectator. We were positioning ourselves for the “the prize”, leaping across rows of chairs, wrestling with others, and watching in expectation for the opportunity to beat out everyone around us. The actual baseball game was somewhat of a letdown compared to that.
- There’s a payoff in paying attention. Because the balls were coming off the bats in 3 second intervals, there wasn’t time to check Facebook status updates. Doing so could cause you to miss the prize or get smacked in the face.
- Sometimes, “no pain, no gain” is true. Those balls were coming fast. Unless you came with a glove (which is shameful for grown men) your hand stung from the smack of the ball. Most walked away with no pain and no gain.
- Sometimes we experience pain without gain. I watched one guy reach for a ball, get stung by it, only to watch it drop into the hands of the guy in the row in front of him.
- Sometimes we experience gain without pain. See the guy who got the ball in point 6.
- Life is just better with others. We laughed hard and made memories that’ll last a lifetime. I can’t imagine doing that alone.
It’s simple, but not easy, to break down barriers with others, and it involves speaking the same language.
Last week, I was standing in a buffet line at a Chinese restaurant. The lady in front of me accidentally knocked her empty cup off of the food bar. She glanced back and saw me pick it up and return it. Then, she surprised me by not even saying, “thank you.” Upon further observation, I noticed that she looked like she was from a different country, and I rapidly concluded that she probably just spoke a different language. However, I then thought that she could have communicated using more common language…a smile and a nod, or a “thumbs up” perhaps. But, maybe even that language wasn’t common for her.
Later in the week, my 15 year old daughter sent me a recipe on my mostly dormant, rarely used Pinterest account. I opened that account years ago, but didn’t understand why I needed it. But now, my daughter and I have more common language. And, it started with avocado chicken salad with cilantro and lime. We also currently share the language of “Dancing With The Stars.” I know I lose some “man points” in all of this, but it’s worth it. In regaining some “man points,” you should know that it’s easier for my son and me. We regularly speak basketball, hunting, and weaponry.
Most people that have kids want to be better parents. I’m one of those. And, there’s lots of books, podcasts, sermons, blog posts, relatives and friends to tell you how to do it. I recently did ONE thing that made a difference. I joined my kids on a service opportunity provided by my church.
And, that made me a better parent, because it made parenting easier. Here are 8 things that happened:
- I focused less on me and the things that bother me.
- My kids focused less on themselves and the things that bother them.
- We became more acutely aware that we can make a difference in the lives of others.
- We all became more thankful for the stuff we have, which leads to…
- We realized we have too much stuff, and that stuff isn’t really that important.
- We sensed the presence of God, knowing we are in His will.
- We became part of something much bigger than ourselves.
- Our family became a stronger “we” and not a gathering of “me.”
And, when all of those things happen, the kids fight less. It’s no longer a big deal that my daughter takes over the entire bathroom that she shares with her brother. It’s no longer a big deal that my son puts his feet on the pillow that his sister lays her head.
We see life through a different lens. And, voila, I’m a better parent. And, it didn’t take a new book, new parenting techniques, or new disciplinary measures. Who can you serve with your kids?