Friday, October 2, 2015

Trumping Tragedy: Roseburg, Oregon

When you wake up and your Twitter feed is full of commentary about yet another mass shooting you can’t help but feel an overwhelming sense of grief. College campuses are a place overflowing with dreams and ingenuity. Educators and students wake up each morning giving their lives to an idea that this world can be improved by learning how to better contribute to their communities. The students that gather in these buildings and halls breathe the conception of cures for diseases and the infrastructure of our theme parks. Every campus should be one of the safest places on earth.

Thursday morning proved that even small campuses like Oregon’s Umpqua Community College are vulnerable to hate and affliction. One person’s choice to clothe himself with body armor and enter a college heavily armed, with a large amount of ammunition, led to 10 people losing their lives and 7 left wounded, according to law enforcement officials.

Several articles have posted that this shooter targeted students that were Christians. CNN reported that one student, Anastasia Boylan told her father the gunman entered her classroom firing.

"I've been waiting to do this for years," the gunman told the professor teaching the class. He shot him point blank, Boylan recounted.

Others were hit too, she told her family.

Everyone in the classroom dropped to the ground.

The gunman, while reloading his handgun, ordered the students to stand up and asked if they were Christians, Boylan told her family.

"And they would stand up and he said, 'Good, because you're a Christian, you're going to see God in just about one second,'" Boylan's father, Stacy, told CNN, relaying her account.

"And then he shot and killed them."

As I read this article I thought…

I’m a father.

I’m a Christian.

This scares me.

I’d be perfectly fine throwing some protective bubble around all those that I love in order to protect them from the heinous circumstances that this world presents. Many will debate about guns and mental illness. Others will focus in on this being about standing up for religion. All of these topics should be talked about and worked through with the betterment of humanity at the forefront.

The thing is - we’re promised a world of tribulation. We just tend to forget. This is an over-promising and falsely captivating place of residence that teases us with safety. And even when we give all we have to make this world safe, this is not our home!

Whether you are gun rights, Christian rights, right wing, left wing, and chicken wing - you’ll never find sustaining peace in a broken, fragile world. But we aren’t left here to just drown in a cesspool while crying over a beer.

How should we respond?


Hold tight to the ones you love.

Support in every way all those in Oregon that have been hurt and affected by this senseless tragedy.

Pray reverently and fervently.

Stay away from Facebook banter and social media hating…

And mostly, take heart and hold to this promise offered to everyone that believes…

“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

The Dinner Table

As a boy growing up in Michigan, I remember dinner time being one of my favorite moments of the day. Our whole family would gather around the dinner table to share stories and what we had experienced; good and bad. It was a sacred place. It become for me a sanctuary and comfort from the chaos that begged for our attention throughout the day. Each of us had a role to play and a purpose to be there. As I got older dinner time changed. We started to eat in different places around the house. Dad would work late and sometimes not make it to the dinner table at all. Eventually our stories merely amounted to fragmented conversations and our dinner table became a decorative piece standing lonely in our kitchen. 

These days I often wonder if things would have been different for our family if that table had remained a place we gathered to pause. By the age of sixteen, my father had left the family and my mother was working a minimum of two jobs at a time just to keep up with the mortgage and to simply survive. Our new normal was far from desirable and our home never regained its feel of refuge. 

It doesn't take much to pull a family apart. Each of us have stuff pleading for our time and stirring our dreams. The competition for our hearts will always have something persuading it and asking for its surrender. The reality is everyday we sacrifice something to capitalize on something else. When we choose to rush, we sacrifice breathing space. If we take on overwhelming debt, we lose generous freedom. The ramifications of our rhythms leave an impact on our legacy. More often than not we do this unintentionally and not realizing the wake that is being created.

Most of us never start out saying we want to jack up our family and mess up our children. I've yet to meet someone that said, "I've waited my whole life to have a family just to blow it because that's awesome!" Yet it's happening and subtle choices are causing families to slowly fade apart. 

Our dinner table was nothing fancy. It was made with faux wood and covered with marker stains from childhood art projects. Even though it wasn't the most attractive piece of furniture, it stood for something noteworthy. It pulled us together and nurtured our family's soul.   

I'm a parent now and we have a dinner table. Our family is psyched to close the day around the table sharing stories. It's usually a beautiful mess. There are times when I get hit with a meatball or hear a Frozen song that can be unsettling, but I still want to come to the table because it offers something truly worthy of sacrificing for.  

"Fight for your family, for there is always an over-promising and under-delivering world fighting to take you from it." - TDB

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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Father Captures Daughter Growing Up Every Week of Her Life

Photographer Frans Hofmeester captures a small piece of footage of his daughter Lotte every week. And he recently took the last 14 years’ worth of this and created a video that shows his daughter grow up right before our eyes. Take a look...

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Faith is a Vision of Reality, Not Mere Sentiment.

This post is from guest contributor Jason Helveston, Lead Pastor of Dwell Christian Church in San Jose, California. He and his Michigander wife have a young daughter and a son due in November. Jason blogs regularly at and you can follow him on Twitter: @JasonHelveston.
“Here’s my heart Lord, take and seal it, seal it for thy courts above.”
Every night before we put my daughter and son to bed we sing a song. Then we pray. Then I recite a specific blessing for each of them which I wrote before they were born. Recently my daughter has been picking up our routine and has started mumbling sounds faintly similar to the lyrics of our song. When we pray she usually bows her head and says “amen” when we’re done. And after her blessing she pulls out her pacifier, kisses me, and says “I you” (translation: I love you). Now … she’s not even two yet so I realize the details of my Christian faith woven through the song, prayer, and blessing are mostly over her head, let alone her three month old brother. But she’s obviously picking up on something.
“Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing” was written by a pastor named Robert Robinson in 1757. Its lyrics are loosely based on the admittedly obscure passage found in 1 Samuel 7:12. It reads “then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen and called its name Ebenezer; for he said “Till now the Lord has helped us”. Aside from the obvious reference to Mr. Scrooge this passage whispers one of the meta themes of Scripture–God rescues people.
As far as I can tell in the ancient world an ebenezer stone quite literally meant “stone of help”. But within this context it obviously is commemorating a specific kind of help from a specific person; namely God. Most think this specific stone was meant to be a reminder of God’s help through a recent victorious battle over the Philistines. The stone was meant to remind the current and future generations of who God was and what he had done for his people. It was meant to foster belief in Samuel’s life and in the lives of those who came after him. Suffice to say, Samuel’s faith was about something that actually happened and he wanted everyone to know about it.
The faithfulness of God through this specific battle with the ancient Philistines is the very same faithfulness I consider and remember when we sing to my kids at bedtime. As God rescued his people from the brink of destruction, so God has rescued me and my wife. To be sure we haven’t set up a stone between San Francisco and San Jose (though I’ve been tempted to do so more than once), but we each have stories commemorating our own spiritual liberation. And we are happy and even compelled to share these stores with our children, if but through a song.
I’ve often wondered what future generations thought about Samuel’s stone. At best I imagine they saw this “stone of help” and were pointed to God’s faithfulness and transformational power; their faith deepened or awakened anew. Others I’m sure were less impressed. Maybe the sentiment of it all was understood, but the stone for them would mean little more than personal sentimentality. It would represent one person’s or one group’s thoughts of the divine … but that’s all. The story would be isolated for a particular person or people for a particular time. It would be up to this person to discover faith for themselves free from the contractions of their ancestors experiences and religious constitutions.
Today I think many westerners embody the latter disposition. When other parents–friends of ours–discover or consider the idea that my wife and I are raising our children to know the Bible, love Jesus, and pray to God we get mixed reviews. Since I’m a pastor we often get a sort of “it figures” look followed closely by a subject change. But sometimes, when I’ve had the opportunity to enter into a deeper conversation I’ve heard many say the same thing. With respect, they have shared with me their hesitation to teach their own children their specific faith (or faiths) because they want their kids to choose their own path. Essentially what I hear them saying is their ebenezer stone is their ebenezer stone. Their religious experience and beliefs are customized just for them. I think I understand a bit about where they’re coming from. We don’t want to manipulate our children. We don’t want to coerce them. We don’t want our kids to become a Christian, Mormon, Buddhist, Scientologist, and so on … just because we are.
Unwittingly (perhaps) this progressive concept of faith and spirituality has pulled the rug out from under religion as a whole. Our collective intention has been to give equal credence to every single faith, religion, and worldview. However by truncating faith and limiting its effects to the individual we have actually belittled all faith. By telling our children that all faiths are possible and powerful and personal we have also told them that no faith is really true. That means when we invite our kids to choose their own path we are assuming no path leads to reality. And if as a society we have decided that no spiritual disposition leads to reality then we have in fact enforced a spiritual disposition upon everyone, to believe just that … no faith is actually real or true or viable. When we just tell our children it’s up to them to decided, in actuality we’ve only left one option on the table.
But why don’t we feel the same way about letting our toddlers play in the street?
Why don’t we feel this way about our kids sharing their toys or eating their veggies?
Why don’t we let our kids choose when they go to bed or what traffic laws they follow when they turn sixteen?
In all of these areas and more we are happy to tell our children what we think and share what we’ve experienced and even instruct them to follower our path and voice.
The difference is our concept of reality. Most of the time we don’t think religion or faith speak to ultimate reality, only our own. Thus spirituality has been relegated to a customizable buffet line of sorts. It has become viewed as a practice or habit which is assumed to be so tailor-made for the individual that corporate training, teaching, and childrearing is deemed illogical if not cruel and manipulative.
God really saved Israel or he didn’t.
God really saved me or he didn’t.
God will really save my kids or he won’t.
And that’s why we sing. That’s why we pray. That’s why I bless my son and daughter. That’s why I tell them how Jesus rescued me. That’s why we tell them the story of Jesus in all we do and say and watch on Netflix. The only way my kids' faith in anything will ever be real is if I communicate that faith is a vision of reality, not mere sentiment.
Bedtime is one stone of help my wife and I want to leave for our children. It’s a time of peace and love we hope will point them to the ultimate peace and love of Jesus. But at the end of the day they will need an experience that is all their own. Because after all, Israel wasn’t going to win the next battle just because God helped them with the last one. Another stone would need to be laid down for each subsequent generation.
The Lord has helped us. And he will also need to help them. I hope that’s what my daughter is picking up on.
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Friday, December 13, 2013

Confessions from Dad: Date Night at Home

This post is from guest contributor Joshua Reich, Pastor of Preaching & Vision at Revolution Church in Tucson, AZ. He and his wife , Katie (follow her on twitter @KatieReich), have 5 kids, 4 boys and a girl. Joshua blogs regularly at and you can follow him on Twitter: @JoshuaReich.

Unless you have free babysitting every week, there is a good chance at some point you will have a date night at home. Often, this feels like a letdown for a couple because there is something fun and exciting about going out. There is something freeing about someone else putting your kids down. For Katie and I, most of our date nights are at home after the kids go to bed. 

Here are a few ways we’ve made those special:

Have a plan. Nothing hurts date night more than having no plan. In the same way that you plan going out, plan what it will look like at home. What will you eat, who is doing what, what time will things get started. You may have to be more intentional about the plan for date night at home because you are at home.

Stay dressed up. Don’t get into your pajama pants. Nothing shuts your brain down more at the end of a long day like getting into comfortable clothes. Stay dressed up. Wear what you would wear if you were going out.

No electronics. The fastest way to kill most date nights is turning on the TV, no checking out Facebook or Twitter or your email. Concentrate on each other.

Plan a fun meal. It doesn’t have to be expensive or a feast, but something special. Something you wouldn’t normally eat. Katie and I love to try new recipes, so we’re always searching. Katie uses this blog a lot for our meal plans and we’ve found a ton of recipes that have been great for date night on this site.

Eat with your kids. At home, we do an appetizer while our kids eat so that we can still eat dinner with them, talk with them about their day and it helps to hold us over until we eat.

Know who will cook and who will put the kids down. It might be more relaxing for your wife to cook. She may want you to handle the kids, or vice versa. Whatever it is, communicate that and stick to it.

Pick a night you are awake for. There are certain nights you are more alert and awake than others. Find that night and do date night on that night. If you have a long day on Tuesday, don’t do date night that night. Maximize the night where your energy levels are highest. I find knowing which night date night will be helps me to be mentally prepared for it.

What would you add to make date night at home just as good as going out?

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