Thursday, February 7, 2008

The Daily Blessing

It is my habit when tucking in our girls at night to say a prayer to end their day to prepare them for sleep. It is the daily blessing I give as a father to my girls. We have a routine to our prayer, we pray to bring honor to God and His name, we pray to grow in His knowledge and grace, we pray for various people, and for our family. Sometimes we pray for various issues in life that we are concerned about.

The night before last I sent the girls to bed and allowed them to watch some television until I could come to tuck them in bed to say the daily blessing. By the time I went into their room, Hannah, my middle child, had fallen fast asleep while Zoe was still awake. I said a prayer with Zoe, and then I said a prayer with Hannah, even though she was sound asleep. I became concerned about how Hannah was going to react if she woke up before sunrise in the morning because Hannah is a stickler for routine, and when a routine is broken she becomes very upset. I knew that if she woke up she was going to think that her daddy had forgotten to come say the daily blessing with her, and it brings me heartache to think that she would believe that I had forgotten her.

Later that night in the wee hours of the early morning, sure enough Hannah woke up and she quietly opened and shut the door to the bedroom and came quietly to find a sleepy daddy to see why I had not said the nighttime prayer with her. Hannah spoke to me in her broken toddler-like English which actually tends to sound more like Chinese at times. I was tired and sleepy so I really did not understand the words she was speaking to me, but I did know what she was trying to communicate to me because I know my girls and have done my best to study them. When you live with someone for a time you get to know them, their habits, the way they think, their personality. I knew Hannah was asking me why I had not come to say the night-night prayer with her.

I got up out of bed and we went back to her bedroom. She was very pleased when I got up. She headed right back to her bed and crawled up in bed in the manner that only Hannah does. I gave her, her three blankets. She wrapped two of them around her body like a cape and then tucked them completely around her so that she looked like a “pig-in-a-blanket.” (A pig-in-a-blanket is a food item in which a hot dog or small sausage like food is wrapped in bread dough and cooked till done) I laid the last blanket on top of her and then tucked her under her comforter. I proceeded with the daily blessing again, except this time she was awake and conscious of my blessing, then she chirped, hummed, and make bird-like noises which are signs that she is pleased and content. I also kissed her on her head. She was going to sleep again knowing now that her daddy had now officially fulfilled the daily blessing duty in her mind. I returned to my bed. I too now could sleep peacefully and happily as I smiled knowing that her heart was satisfied and secured by the daily blessing and the love of a daddy who met her spiritual needs. I felt fulfilled as a man and a father, as if I had just completed a task for which God had assigned for and created me to do.

Hannah is about 2 ½ years old and Zoe is almost 5 ½ years old. My, oh my, how time does fly!

Saturday, January 12, 2008

What Motivates Me - Part 2

I wanted to talk more about why love motivates me when life gets difficult and hard. I don’t always communicate my heart clearly or in accurate words and terms, so with God’s grace and help I hope to turn my lemon into some delicious lemonade.

It is so easy to love when life is easy, pleasant, and fun just like a Walt Disney theme park or like a fairy tale when the “good” characters live happily ever after. The reality is that life is trouble from the day we are born till the day we die and not everyone gets to experience a golden life or have happiness in their life. Hence the founding fathers of America called it the “pursuit of happiness.”

My best friend, Kevin, used to tell me what his dad used to tell him and that is when life gives you a bunch of lemons then you make lemonade. I used to carry a bunch of lemons around in my life that I was unable to turn into lemonade because ultimately it was and is beyond my own power to make the lemonade. An example of this is losing someone you love either to death or by separation.

I can see lemons in my own kids’ lives, especially when they are little and have no concept of time yet like when I drop them off at daycare and have to go to work. In their little world they do not understand that when I leave them with the intention of only a temporary separation all they understand is that they do not know if they will ever see me again so they begin to cry and mourn for me. Just being separated from the ones they love and who bring them security is too much for them to bear.

The fact is that life’s lemons come in all shapes and sizes. Lemons can be just the same monotonous experience day after day such as going to work or living the same routine every day. Lemons can be a small as stubbing your toe or getting a paper cut or as large as experiencing a car wreck, enduring a hurricane, a job loss, or the loss of your home. Lemons can be experiencing a sickness or becoming poor. Lemons can come from the ones you love as well as from your enemies; they can be unintentional as well as intentional. Lemons can even come from yourself, such as your own weaknesses, limitations, and character flaws. Lemons can test your endurance, your patience, your very character. Lemons are trials and tribulations.

I believe that God allows lemons in our life so that we can learn to make lemonade. It is part of my faith that God has been trying to teach us to make lemonade from lemons from the very beginning of creation, and the ultimate example God has given to us is of Him becoming a man in order to show us the way to make lemonade out of all the lemons in life. In the end Jesus shows us that God is ultimately responsible for turning the ultimate lemons of evil, pain, suffering, and death into lemonade through the victory of Jesus’ righteous and pure life culminating ultimately in His resurrection into a new and glorious immortal life.

I’m not sure that I have clearly communicated such a difficult and painful subject on life’s lemons, but I have given it my best shot. In the end being able to endure lemons in life relies upon faith in God who has not just told us the way, but has lived through the lemons in life so that we could follow Him and one day taste the sweet lemonade of victory!

If you want to know why I am a Christian, then this is one of the main reasons why. No other religion, faith, or worldview that I know shows the way to make lemonade out of all life’s lemons and has such a guarantee of obtaining the sweet fruits of victory!

Friday, December 28, 2007

What Motivates Me

I had had visions of catching up on my blogging while I was on my Christmas vacation, but alas life does not always go as planned. It seems that when I was child and a young adult that I had plenty of time during the Christmas holidays to do whatever I wanted, but now that I have been blessed with a wife and a family my priorities about what is really important have changed, like blogging for example.

Blogging is fun and it is a means and medium for me to express myself to whomever cares, but blogging loses its fun, its appealing luster compared to serving my family and meeting their needs. Please do not misunderstand me though, serving my family and meeting their needs is not always fun, clean, restful, exciting, a highly praised, and a painless affair, in fact most of the time it is quite the opposite. Therefore, the question you are now asking is if serving and meeting my family’s needs is mostly unentertaining, dirty, sleepless, boring, a thankless, and a painful affair then why am I doing it…what is my motivation?

I can sum up in one word what motivates me to serve my family even when it is so unpleasant, and it is the word, “love.” Some people are primarily motivated by duty, by fear of loss, by selfishness or by some other motivation, but it is the call of sacrificial love that motivates me. It is not to say that I am always motivated purely by love, I do fall short of the glory of pure love, but my relationship with my wife and girls is based upon a calling to and a covenant made in the name of love. Daily I strive to remember my God who showed me the true meaning and depth of His love, who humbled Himself as less than God to become a man in order to serve me instead of demanding His rightful service, who came to create peace between God and man, who was willing to suffer greatly and ultimately die as the just for the unjust. It is when I remember the meaning and the depth of the love of my God that I gain the power, the strength, the pure motivation to serve and meet the needs of my family, even when my family occasionally treats me unjustly or with disrespect. For the love which God has given to me conquers all evil even when evil has tortured, raped, and taken my life for in the end God justly resurrected His son back to life again and has promised to resurrect those who are so willing to follow His son down the same path of God’s pure love.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Leadership Styles in the Home

I have always had a heart for family life ever since I was a little child, being very sensitive to whether family members were connecting and relating to each other in love or whether those relational connections were impeded or broken. Thinking back in time on how my family was from when I was a child, in hindsight, I realize that my family was really a dysfunctional one. To sum it all up in a nutshell the foundational reason why my family was dysfunctional started and ended with the unstable relationship between my mom and dad which started off on the wrong foot and suffered much, so that by the time I reached the end of my junior year in high school my mom filed for a divorce from my dad.

With family as one of the high priorities of my heart I have taken my role and responsibility as husband and father very seriously. I am trying to take into account many factors such as the perceived shortcomings of my parents without overcompensating for them, take into account my family life as a child, take into account observations from the family life of others, and most of all directly apply the counsel of Almighty God. I have been trying to correct for the dysfunctional model I was raised with as a child and striving to live out a more functional and godly model within my home. A man needs all the help he can get to carry out this overwhelming role and responsibility, especially the help of the Divine Creator.

I have really been excited about one source of help that I am currently receiving and that is through Men’s Fraternity at my church. Men’s Fraternity provides men with the counsel, help, and encouragement that men need to have in order to be the man, the husband, and the father that men should be, and most of all it is seasoned with the salt of God’s counsel.

One of the subjects recently discussed within Men’s Fraternity was the four basic leadership styles within a home. They are:

1. Authoritative

2. Permissive

3. Neglectful

4. Authoritarian

Authoritative leadership is marked by lots of love and lots of discipline and instruction. Permissive leadership is marked by lots of love but low in discipline and instruction. Neglectful leadership is marked by a low level of love, discipline, and instruction, and Authoritarian leadership is marked by a low level of love but with lots of discipline and instruction. The interesting statistic about all four of these leadership styles is that the order of best to the worst style of leadership is the same order as given above with the Authoritative style the best and the Authoritarian style as the worst. Men tend to naturally express the Authoritarian style of leadership while women tend to naturally express the Permissive style, and interestingly a neglectful style with little love and little discipline and instruction is better than the Authoritarian style that has little love and lots of discipline and instruction. I muse that tyranny in any form is worse than anarchy because in anarchy at least the individual can somewhat express and live out freedom.

As a small child it seemed like my family was Authoritarian but by the time I became a teenager it was more the Neglectful style of leadership, and I can understand why since the relationship between my parents suffered to the point of divorce. In my home it is my goal to model the Authoritative style of leadership and at worst to err on the side of Permissiveness since I know that my natural inclination as a man is to be Authoritarian which would be the worst style possible to model for my family. There will be no tyrants in my home. I need to balance discipline and instruction with lots of love and depend upon the grace of God interceding upon my behalf for my shortcomings and failures as a man, a husband, and a father.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Thanksgiving Vacation Extended

I have really enjoyed my Thanksgiving vacation this week. I have tried to do my best to take advantage of every moment and opportunity to enjoy the company and love of my family. Originally, my vacation was going to last till the Friday after Thanksgiving Day and then I was going to have to work the weekend, but yesterday my family and I went to the playground at the local city park and while we were there I received a telephone call at home from work. When I got home yesterday afternoon I listened to the telephone message and I was told that I was not going to be needed at work this weekend after all because the work load was so light, so I received great news that my vacation was going to be extended by two more days! Thank you Lord for this grace!

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Thanksgiving Vacation 2007

It really has been very busy at my place of work the latter half of 2007. Between work and home life I am exhausted at the end of the day and once I have a moment to sit still for about five minutes my eyelids drop on me and I fall fast asleep. This routine deeply bothers and concerns me because it adversely affects my family and my pursuit of happiness, and because by the time I get home to spend time with my wife and kids, who I love most, they get Daddy’s leftovers. I am really looking forward to enjoying my 2007 Thanksgiving holiday because I will not have my energy divided most of this week between work and leftovers for home, but I will have the opportunity to have all of my energy devoted to serving and building up my family.

It is going to be by the amazing grace of God that my family is going to live within this world because I am unable by my own power to meet all of their physical, emotional, and spiritual needs. To accomplish this goal I pray as often as I can to God to supply the needs that I am unable to meet by my own power. Lord, have mercy on me and my family! We need your Divine Hand of Blessing and Providence!

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

One of the Best Parts of My Day as a Dad

One of the best parts of my day as a Dad is when I come home from work and I open the door to my house and walk in the door. It is because I know from many prior days of experience that as soon as I open the door the faces of my oldest girl Zoë who is now four years old and my second oldest girl Hannah, who is now two years old, will light up like sunshine and overflow with excitement and glee as they hear and then see me come in through the door. My heart wells up with very deep emotions of love just seeing the full and unconditional love of my children for me as their faces beam with uncontained excitement and the biggest smiles on their little faces that their bodies will allow them to make. They run to me with their happy faces and call out as loud as they can, “Daddy! Daddy! Daddy! It’s Daddy! Daddy is home!” I call their names out loud in return, “Zoë! Zoë! Zoë! Hannah! Hannah! Hannah!” Then they reach out with outstretched arms for me as I reach down to them and pick them up all the while continuing the chorus of calling out each other’s names. I’ll bounce them and hug them tightly and give them kisses on their cheeks and I always do my best to make sure to tell them that I love them saying, “I love you Zoë!” “I love you Hannah!” At this point they will tell me that they love me, tell me that they missed me, tell me something they thought was exciting about their day, or do some combination of the three. Since Hannah is two and her ability to communicate clearly is limited she will babble broken English and other words that sound like Chinese to me, but I gladly listen with joy and care even though I don’t fully understand. If it is important to my girls then it is important to me.

Every time I experience this moment with my girls I do my best to keep it secure and safe deep within the secret chambers of my heart and locked within the memories of my mind. This moment to me is even better than if I had played in a multi-million dollar powerball lottery and hit the winning numbers. My mind cannot help but think about the biblical story of the prodigal son and the loving father who at the sight of his returning son began to run with compassion to meet his lost son and then the father embraced, kissed his son, gave his son new clothes, a ring, and new shoes.
Luke 15:11 – 32 If you are familiar with the story, you will know that when Jesus was telling this story He was referring to God as the Father, and us as the prodigal son, so when I see my children I can identify with God’s love for us as our Father. Because of my deep love for my children and the sacredness of this moment I have with them, I have gained insight as a daddy into the depth of God’s love for us.

However as joyous as this part of my day is as a Dad, I know that as my girls grow up they will one day cease to show the full and unconditional love like they do now. I can already see signs of this beginning to appear in my oldest girl Zoë. Her enthusiasm when I come home is not always as consistent or shown as brightly as she once did when she was Hannah’s age. I know as they mature they will begin to understand and see Daddy in new ways and our relationship will become far more complex. In the future depending on how our relationship develops they will be aware that they have the choice to not love me if they so choose. I just fervently pray to God that when my girls grow up and mature that if they choose the path of the prodigal son that God will show them grace and my girls will come to their senses like the prodigal son did and return back home to Daddy. If that day should come when they return home then I will be the one to light up like sunshine, overflow with excitement and glee, and call out their names once again like I did when they were my little girls.