Grace for Moms: A Review of “Engaging Motherhood”


One of the things I noticed not long after I left vocational ministry was how tired everyone was. Not just physically tired but exhausted by the social and psychological hamster wheels of modern American culture. The demands of so many voices about everything from marriage and parenting and vocation and even what you eat were marking the hearts and faces of my friends and those I heard from because my writing.

The church is not immune. And when I left vocational ministry to enter the business world, the “Radical” movement was at it’s zenith. And I kept hearing from how Christians were by the demands of the church. And with nearly one voice, what I heard was, “Where is the rest offered in the gospel?”

Especially young moms.

I heard from so many mothers about how exhausted they were from being a mother and how they felt like they were not doing enough for their church or the world. They were tired. They were really tired. They felt guilty. And there were days when the only hope they could muster came in the form of a glass of wine at the end of the day or medication.

The gospel of grace had been silenced by the noises of social media, the news and their own fears. Expectations were not realized and motherhood looked like nothing they had pinned on Pinterest for 9 months.

Obviously I am not a mother. And in this world of gender confusion and the leveling out of the differences between men and women, it seems appropriate for me to point that out. I am not a mother. So while this put me at a distinct disadvantage while reading Engaging Motherhood, I knew I had heard of enough to recognize the power of this book.

First disclosure: I need to point out the first author listed is one my closest friends. So while you may be tempted to think I am doing this as a favor, know that is not the case. Actually, that is why I never do book reviews. I do not want anyone to think I am exchanging review favors – I write a “review” for them and they write a review for me. This is not the case. I chose to read and write a review of Engaging Motherhood because I know Holly Mackle. I know her desire for this book is for them to believe the gospel of grace in the trying times of Motherhood, and I know the church culture in which she and the other authors wrote this book.

Actually a review is terrible idea. This book is meant to be used by Mothers in community to help one another, as they gather around the Scriptures to believe the gospel of grace when being a mother is hard. For some this is everyday. So this is not a review so much as a commendation. From where I sit the need is so obvious.

The great beauty of this book is how the authors focus on the grit and grime of everyday life as a mother. Motherhood can be so celebrated, and it should be. But also, it can feel like a daily grind which you never clock out of. And it touches on every part of your life. Your friendships. Your marriage. Your hopes and dreams. Your feelings failure and true real, sinful failures. And what I found so compelling about this book is each day of study applied the gospel to the struggles of motherhood in a way that was consistent and refreshing when a new facet of what God had accomplished in Jesus on our behalf needed to be seen.

Engaging Motherhood is an 8 week study with the hope “you will be calmed and steadied by the experiences of some women who have gone down this road before you.” There are questions with plenty of space to write answers.

And here is the thing about those questions  – and I am not sure this as intentional or just came out of the hearts of women who wanted to encourage other women – the questions are actually encouraging themselves. We have all gone through a study and the the questions beat you down. Were they helpful in seeing things about yourself, you had never seen? Sure. But I read through the questions each day, I saw something. They consistently guided the reader to look at the good news of what God has done for them in Jesus and respond according to that, and not just their own sins and failures. This is so rare.

Second disclosure: Holly called me one night and asked if they could use my Mother’s Day sermon in the book. I didn’t hesitate. So there is an essay by me in Engaging Motherhood, but I gladly do not financially benefit.

A lot of my readers are moms (no idea why). If you do not yet have something for a summer Bible Study, use this. A lot of you are pastors and leaders in your church – push this book on the young moms. The following is a good example of what you will giving them and I will let it be my final reason for why I commend this book to the Church:

“There is no checklist on how to be full of the Spirit for everyday life as a saved sinner.  There are no set rules for perfect results. Desperation and dependence seem to open God’s heart to our emptiness. Somehow, childlike faith in his ability to do what we can’t is key – not to perfection, but to a deep rest in the completed work of Christ. We trust in his sure but unpredictable work of grace at work in us through faith, a grace that is as sure as Christ’s death and resurrection, and as certain as his faithful love. And as we wait with open hearts, he comes. This is grace.”

Thursday’s Random Thoughts


1. It’s been a long time since I’ve been unable to stop listening to an album. But Brian Fallon’s debut solo album, Painkillers, is playing nonstop on my phone at work, in my car, and soon on my turntable.

2. What is happening in politics today is not happening in a vacuum. This is the downstream effect of a culture that values Beyoncé over Dickinson. A “Dumb and Dumber” culture that eschews any deep thought in deference to brainless entertainment.

3. I’ve been reading the new book on Ty Cobb and it’s really wonderful. But it’s also sad because he was nothing like how he was portrayed by Ken Burns. He was not a bigot. His favorite book? Les Miserables.

4. I have very little worry about my son’s desire to have a girlfriend. Mainly because he is always wearing a Pokemon shirt and carrying around Ninjago books.

5. If the government does become the active enemy of the church, those who hold basic theologically conservative positions will be seen as rebels to the state. Many who call themselves a Christian and use the language of the church will fall away. Others will become our accusers.

6. I’m teaching a Sunday School of about 50 plus young parents and it dawned on me that most of them could have been my students when I was doing youth ministry.

7. There are few things I love more than driving with the windows down in early summer.

8. If number 5 above does happen, the NT is clear, we are called to believe the good news is true and love our enemy.

9. I’m normally an early riser but I feel like I could sleep for days.

10. “And there’s a hole in you now/Like the windshield was taken out/And everybody’s hurt, and mine ain’t the worst/But it’s mine and I’m feelin’ it now”

Thursday’s Random Thoughts


1. Did I mention that in 5 months and 24 days, I’ll see Black Rebel Motorcycle Club in concert? It will be more than 3 years since we were together.

2. One of the things that convinces me of the Bible’s truthfulness is my inability to grasp parts of it. Often it doesn’t sit well with my opinions. And sometimes I just don’t get it. This would have to be the case if it were God’s word.

3. There are two things Christians are getting wrong in politics. And they’ve been doing this for a long time. They are consumed with fear. And they cannot seem to talk about the people involved with love.

4. I cannot remember the last time I had pizza. It’s like we’ve grown apart. 

5. I’m still thinking about that video with Bono and and Eugene Peterson talking about the Psalms. And I still agree without reservation. While there is some Christian music we can call honest, not a lot of it is. Which was Bono’s point. U2 is a stadium band. The kind of band with big sounds fitting well with what they sing about. Most of the names people are throwing around as a rebuttal to Bono’s statements are singer-songwriter types. All the bands with big sounds have traded in great songs for plastic anthems with knock off U2 or Coldplay riffs, in a bid to cash in on the worship music movement. I think Bono is right, without reservation.

6. “All the projects.” – teachers

7. As much as I enjoyed my son’s baseball season, it’s been nice to come home from work and go nowhere and eat together as a family. 

8. I don’t mind working in the yard this time of year. But in August, when the humidity makes the air soupy, I’ll once again want to punch Adam in the throat before he eats that fruit.

9. I check my wife out when she walks across the kitchen.

10. Back to the conversation between Bono and Peterson on the Psalms and Christian. Back on October 12th, 2013, my best friend, Sean and I accidentally saw Black Rebel Motorcycle Club in concert at a small festival here in Birmingham. We were both blown away. Changed. I remember walking away and thinking, “That sounds like all I’ve been feeling and dealing with.” The death of my dad. Financial hardship. Misery at work. All that but still knowing there is something bigger than myself. It was a powerful thing and dare I say, life-changing? Before I got home from the show I wrote, “it was like every raw nerve being plucked by the holy God who flung it all into being.” I still stand by that. I don’t know any Christian music that sounds like that.

The Mother’s Day Sermon and the Book It’s Published In

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You’ve heard me talk about the Supper Club, right? This is the two couples Bethany and I eat with at least once a month. We have a group text that has been going on for at least four years. We spend a lot of time together but never really enough.

Anyway, one of our members, Holly Mackle, told us that her and some ladies from our church were shopping around a book/study on Motherhood. We all got excited. And then it happened and they got a publishing deal with our denomination. You can buy it here.

And then about six months ago, Holly called me and asked if they could use my Mother’s Day sermon in the book. In all honesty, I was as excited as if I had gotten the publishing deal! Anyway, I told her they could have it for free and have their way with it. And wouldn’t you know? They improved it. Next week I will post a review of the book but for now, on this Saturday before Mother’s Day, I wanted to give you a new and much improved version of No Condemnation: A Mother’s Day Sermon.

————-

As an associate pastor at a small church, one day I had a flash of fear.  You see, I thought I was scheduled to preach on the quickly approaching Mother’s Day.  My blood ran cold as I was overcome with the peculiar fear of what to say and how to say it.

Wonder of wonders, it was an error.  I realized I did not have to preach on that day.  But the sermon was already forming, and here it is.

Usually one of three types of sermons is preached on Mother’s Day.  The first one is a celebration of mothers.  You know the one: “Mothers are awesome! God loves mothers! Look at Mary!”  The second tells mothers how to be better mothers.  “Be like Mary or Hannah or…<insert biblical heroine here>.”  Basically: “Happy Mother’s Day…now here is how to succeed at mothering.”  The third sermon we sometimes hear is one that has nothing to do with mothers.  To be honest, this is the one I usually prefer.  Honor the mothers…wait – all the women in the congregation and then preach on whatever you would have preached on if it were not Mother’s Day.

So, I thought about it.  How would I honor the mothers in the congregation?  My words should be practical.  Encouraging.  And rooted in the heart of God for mothers.  And they shouldn’t be the vacuum-cleaner-as-a-gift kind of honoring. This is not a time for bitter medicine; it’s a time for affirmation.  Here’s the outline:

Romans 8:1 says, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Mothers, if you are in Christ Jesus, you do not have to fear condemnation. You stand in the righteousness of Christ and are loved by God as his daughter because of Christ’s work on your behalf on the cross.

Mothers, even though you may feel you are…

You are not condemned by your messy home.

You are not condemned by your lack of desire to homeschool.

You are not condemned by your personal sins.

You are not condemned by the difficulty of caring for a child with special needs.

You are not condemned by the knowledge of how easy it is for you to love one child more than another.

You are not condemned by your miscarriage(s).

You are not condemned by your lack of desire to have more kids.

You are not condemned because you have no desire to adopt.

You are not condemned – even though you feel it – when you read of another’s perfect parenting moment on Facebook.

You are not condemned by your inability to cook.

You are not condemned because your kids are not “normal.”

You are not condemned because you are divorced or unmarried and doing it alone.

You are not condemned by your desire to be alone, away from the kids, for a time, every. single. day.

You are not condemned by your body, which is not what it once was.

You are not condemned by your repeated failures as a mother.

You are not condemned by your rebellious children.

You are not condemned by the frustration of having to scrape mac and cheese off the kitchen floor. Again.

You are not condemned by all the fears and tears which flirt with insanity and take you to the precipice of despair.

You are not condemned by not being able to throw the birthday party of the year for your kids.

You are not condemned for not feeding your kids homemade meals whose ingredients were recently purchased at Whole Foods.

You are not condemned by your need for a vacation. Without kids.

You are not condemned because you cannot take your kids on exciting vacations.

You are not condemned for not living up to the standards of your mother or mother-in-law.

You are not condemned by the stares of those who don’t have kids when yours erupt into volcanic screams in public places.

Mothers, even though you may feel condemned, if you are in Christ, you are not condemned. This is the real reality.

If you are in Christ, your identity as a sinner before a holy God is replaced with the righteousness of Christ alone. So go forward in freedom, with the unending affection and acceptance of being a daughter perfectly adored with an unwavering love that flows from your Father in Heaven.

The Tale Of The Superdad Weekend

Superdad Takes On Weekend Without Mom: Part 4

Tomorrow in Sunday School we will be talking about how hard parenting can be and how God  meets us in the middle of it all with grace and mercy. I figured I should tell them (and all of you) this true story from almost 4 years ago…

Friday, May 4th, 6 AM, 2012

About 3 minutes after I wake up, I find myself in the kitchen with my stomach in intense pain. I assume it is hunger. we did not have a big dinner the night before and we both acknowledged we would be hungry the next morning.

The problem was nothing sounded good. And it felt more like nausea than hunger.

“Wait, there’s a banana.”

So I ate a banana and drank my coffee – slowly. I still felt terrible. And the fear in the back of my mind was creeping to the forefront of my mind – stomach virus. The very stomach virus my 3 year old had a few days earlier, his first by the way.

I tried to ignore it. Today was too big a day.

Bethany, my wife was headed to the beach with two friends. I was watching our three kids. This was her first trip like this since we’ve had kids – just her and some friends, with us kids at home alone without her. I’d taken off work to be superdad and give the kids a weekend so awesome they will not notice how poorly they are being taken care of.

6:30 AM

Dylan, the 3 year old who had the stomach virus has not yet shaken it obviously and has gotten sick in his bed. This means cleaning him and his bed up quickly. The wife is supposed to meet the girls at 8 AM at a Cracker Barrel parking lot about 20 minutes away. I still have to take the kids to school and then come back to get her and take her down there. Dylan will be riding with us.

7 AM

My wife’s stomach is bothering her also. But it has been for a few days, so she is not all that worried. I get down a granola bar hoping it will curb the grueling hunger pains.

7:15 AM

I am on the way with the kids to school and Knox, my 6 year old tells me his stomach hurts. I hope it is hunger because he often is hungry and begins his plea for food or snacks with, “my tummy hurts.” But fear shoots through me like lightning. He tells me he feels sick and it is not hunger. So we drive back to the house. Bethany is getting worried till we see the glee on Knox’s face at being able to watch Spider-Man and play Angry Birds. So we tell him to get back in the car and I take him to school. I drive carefully because if you know anything about Birmingham, AL, there are no flat, straight roads – especially on Shades Mountain, where we live. I feel terrible, by the way.

I think it is at this point we delay the meet up between the girls.

Holly’s little Ellie has a fever.

7:45 AM

Let me preface this by saying I feel terrible but I am still optimistic. I’ve been nauseous before and seen it disappear in a few hours. When I get back to the house, Bethany is worried the trip is not going to happen. Me too. She needs this trip and deserves it. She never does things like this. I want her to go on this trip as much as she wants to go. Her excitement has been a real source of fun for us. Plus I can eat unhealthy food while she is gone and watch Phineus and Ferb with the kids.

8:30 AM

The trip is on. We load her gear up and then her, Dylan and myself are on our way. We had to stop and mail something at the post office because I didn’t want to worry about it feeling the way I did while having the 3 year old with me.

Have I mentioned that I don’t fell well? And the contours of the roads in my fair city? About 5 minutes in to the drive I burp and it helps.

9:00 AM

We arrive before anyone else at the parking lot of Cracker Barrel. I immediately get out of the car because I thought it might make me feel better. It does for a moment but I am anxiously looking for concealed bushes in case I get sick. It’s been many years since it has happened but I know the feeling well enough. Just typing about this makes me feel terrible. I hate being that kind of sick. I hate that I’m even having to tell you about it. But I was worried. Imagine my worry – I’m about to drive off with Dylan – who, by the way just really got potty-trained about 2 weeks ago – and will be picking the other two kiddos up a little later in the day.

I cannot. Be. Sick.

9:15 AM

The ladies are driving away and I step out of the car again and I’m worried. Another good burp makes me feel better. I start driving home but I’m worried enough to stay off the interstates. I take highways and the straighter the better. Yeah, right.

9:30 AM

OK, at this point I am done with optimism. I’m going to be sick. It is going to happen. I just want to get home first.

Because we were worried still about Dylan, we brought along a tupperware bowl. About a stone’s throw from home I needed that bowl. I will spare the details but there was one part that needs to be told.

Dylan: Are you sick Daddy?

Me: Yeah buddy, I’m sick.

Dylan: I sorry, Daddy.

And he meant it.

I know what you are thinking. But I did not call her and tell her. She needs this trip and the less she knows the better time she will have. She may kill me later, but she will enjoy herself now.

This is when I started to pray like a Pentecostal.

10 AM

Dylan is watching cartoons. I’m down the hall in bed. He can’t do too much harm. Besides, I feel a little better and I rarely deliver a sequel in these situations. But now I feel achey and feverish.

Bethany sends me a text checking on me and I tell my first of many, many lies on this weekend of Lying. I told lies of omission and I outright told some big whoppers. Sometimes the truth was technically there, but I was really a liar, liar pants on fire.

I tell her, “Yep, Just taking it easy.”

How many lies did I tell her over the weekend? Well, let’s put it this way, if there was a land called Liardom, I would be Founder and King.

But as King it is my job to protect the fair maiden of this household from the truth so she can relax in sun-soaked bliss.

11 AM

By this time, I have called my own mommy and asked her to come over and watch Dylan while I lie in bed and moan. She had already volunteered, so back off.  Bethany’s mom is closer, but if I’m going to be sick I want my own mom to be there.

The phone rings. It’s Bethany and to my dying day I will never forget her words –

“This is the call you’ve been dreading.”

“What?!” “What happened?”

“Knox got sick at school.”

NOOOOOOOOooooooooooooooo…..

At least that is what I said in my head. On the phone I responded with appropriate grief but reassured her we would be OK.

And I ask you dear reader, what could go wrong? My 3 year old got sick that morning in his crib, I got sick on the side of the road almost 2 hours earlier, and now my 6 six year old has gotten sick at school.

Scenarios rush through my mind quickly to fix this problem. I land on one. It’s solid. Secure. It will work.

“I’ll get Mom to go get Knox from school and she can just go ahead and get Emma also. And I’ll see if my mom will take Dylan and Emma home with her until I get Knox over the hump.”

Bethany is still clueless about me getting sick less than 2 hours ago.

12 PM

My mom has agreed to take Dylan and Emma with her. They are excited about hanging out at GiGi and DiDi’s house and spending the night there. I pack their things – and it was painful because my stomach hurt and every joint ached. Plus Knox was going to get sick any moment. They leave.

Knox and I watch Spider-man when I am not emptying the Tupperware bowl. He is getting sick about every 15 minutes. He is so thirsty. And sad.

1 PM

Like I pointed out earlier, our 3 year old had this same bug earlier in the week. His pediatrician called in some Zofran for him. We had one left over. So I thought I might as well give it a whirl.

The Zofran was a small pill meant to be held under the tongue. Hello? That’s gonna make a healthy Knox gag! So of course, that’s exactly what happens when I give it to him. It had no time to dissolve before going into the bowl.

Awesome.

But I wait and hope to see if it did any good…for 15 minutes.

Aaaaaaaaaand it did no good. At all.

1:45 PM

Knox has not stopped getting sick. He looks worn down. The Zofran was my own personal chimera.

At this point I begin to to think about the unthinkable. I begin contemplating a remedy I can hardly bear to think about.  You see, I have a queasy stomach. I don’t do well in hospitals. My skin crawls very, very easily. Not sure why, just does.

But I’m getting worried for Knox. And I’m tired of watching him suffer so, every 15 minutes.

So I get on the Internet. I call my friend, the doctor. And then I decide to do it.

I go to the fridge and take out the…suppositories.

NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOoooooooooo………..

Let’s just say I made it through the unpleasant experience. Knox was a trooper. But all my promises – given to him as seeds of hope he would get better never found purchase.

Right after I give him the suppository, Bethany sends me a text telling me she is not feeling too good and asking if I would pray for her.

3:20 PM

Bethany sends me another text from the place they are staying at the beach –

“I think I’m going to be sick!”

She still has no idea what is going on back home. Now is not the time to tell her.

3:45 PM

The suppository always works. Always. And….and the unpleasantness of the experience is supposed to be offset by the surety of it all stopping. At this point I decide to call the pediatrician. I get a receptionist who listens to my pain.

“Who is your child’s doctor?” is her response.

Thanks.

(Parenthetical thought: Listen, I think everyone who works with people day in and day out should be nice and friendly. Am I crazy to think the person who answers the phone at a Pediatrician’s office should be more so than most? First qualification? Winning a Miss Congeniality contest. OK, I’m done now.)

Then I rehearse the whole ordeal again to the nurse. Who responds by telling me she will talk to the Doc and call me back. She seemed particularly interested by the ineffectiveness of the suppository.Knox is now sleeping because of it and only wakes up to get sick. But hardly anything is coming out. As soon as he finishes he closes his eyes and sleeps for about 12 minutes.

While I’m waiting for the nurse to call me back, I’m getting more and more anxious. This is not like any other stomach virus I’ve seen hit my kids. Though I only got sick once and am starting to feel remarkably better, I am worried about Knox. His tendency is to get over these things quickly.

The questions start forming. Do I tell Bethany? How much do I tell Bethany? When do I tell Bethany?

I decide to at least wait till she is better.

4 PM

The nurse calls me back”I just talked to the doctor and she said you need to take Knox to the Emergency Room at Children’s Hospital.”

May 4th, 4 PM

The drama had reached a fevered pitch with the pediatrician telling me I needed to take Knox, my 6 year old, to the ER at Children’s Hospital.

To say this is not what I wanted to hear is an understatement. But to be honest I was not surprised. This was not my first rodeo. We’ve had to do this before. We have experience with dehydration and ERs and hospitals for Children.

My first thought when the Nurse told me this was, “Man, I don’t wanna sit in an ER room holding a bowl for Knox.”

I called my Mom and Mother-in-Law and let them know what was going on. I made them swear they would not tell Bethany.

4:15 PM

Knox and I are on our way to the ER. He and his little body are up front with me. I’m holding the bowl.

I shoot Bethany a text while sitting at a light.

“How are you?”

“I think I am better.”

Phew.

We get on the interstate and it’s only a few minutes till we get to the ER from there. But it’s after 4 PM on a Friday on I-65, the largest parking lot in Birmingham.

So Knox gets sick before we even get off the interstate.

Now, I have only been to Children’s Hospital as a visitor. I’ve never taken a kid there. So, here I am driving around downtown Birmingham looking for the ER entrance holding the bowl with a boy who could need it any minute.

Finally, I figure it out and as I pull up I think about Brian Regan and the need for valet parking for the ER. And then there it is, in brilliant Red and White for all of us to look upon and rejoice over –

“Free Valet Parking”

Yessssssssssssssssss!

4:45 PM

Knox and I walk into the ER. Thankfully a kind face greets us and I explain the situation. I assume we will fill out a bunch of paperwork and wait. But we didn’t. I answered a few questions and they took us back to a small room to get vitals.

Wait? I don’t have to wait out there with the others?

Yessssssssssssssssss!

Bethany sends me a text.

“How is our little boy?”

“This is the longest he has gotten yet without getting sick.”

Now that was a true statement as far as it goes. Of course she had no idea we were in the ER. But I mean, it would have done her no good to know. I had it all under, ehem, control.

5 PM

The nice young nurse takes us back to a shared room with Disney Jr. playing. Knox lays down on the bed and goes right to sleep and then gets sick. Another nurse comes in with purple Gatorade. I’m supposed to give him a syringe full every 5 minutes till he gets sick and then they will check him out.

So I do. And he gets sick after the 2nd.

Courtney, our awesome nurse then pricks his finger and he barely notices. He is worried about a shot and who wouldn’t be?

5:15 PM

Our brave little boy is getting an IV put in. And he does great. He has gotten sick again but only minutes after the Zofran courses into his little vein, he starts perking up.

He cannot understand what is happening as they push in this little miracle drug through his skin. He keeps looking at me wide-eyed.

Next the fluids. And he reacts to the coolness flowing into him, again, not understanding. This is all new to him and might as well be science fiction for all the science he grasps. I tell him it’s kinda like getting super powers injected into him.

“They come from that bag?”

“Yeah buddy, they do.”

“Maybe I’ll be able to shoot out bags!”

6 PM

Knox is better. He looks like himself and is smiling and talking and not getting sick. He says his tummy no longer hurts.

The doctor is encouraged. Dad is relieved…and pretty much ignoring any texts from the wife.

6:30 PM

The change is now dramatic. He is cold but being silly.

And now I begin to wonder, “Why can’t we have these machines at home?”

7 PM

I’m exhausted. And now my stomach hurts and I’m achey again. I’ve been taking Tylenol but now that I’m in the hospital, I don’t have any. So I ask the nurse for some and she kindly sends me to the Pharmacy.

I buy some in hopes it will help.

7:30 PM

The Doctor orders us up some tasty “Gatorator,” as Knox calls it. Old school green. But he is happy to be drinking anything. Heck, he’s just happy. We both are, Phineus and Ferb just came on.

8 PM

Knox has kept down the Gatorade and so they are sending us home. I call everyone and let them know. Everyone, that is, except Bethany. We thank the Doc and the nurses.

8:30 PM

We get to the house and immediately set up our little “sleepover” in Daddy’s bed. He is excited about sleeping with me tonight. He falls asleep almost immediately.

There is a bowl between us, just in case.

I watch Braves baseball and read, just so I can keep an eye on him. Bethany and I text each other and I use his sleeping to keep from talking on the phone. She is relieved that she is feeling better. And even more relieved Knox feels better.

I’m thinking, “We are going to survive.”

9:30 PM

I decide to turn off the lamp, put down the book, turn off the game, and go to sleep. And it comes quickly. It’s been a long day and I’ve longed to be here in my bed with a healthy Knox.

Saturday, May 5th, 3 AM

The phone rings. I’m delirious and cannot understand why my Mom is calling.

“I hate to tell you this but Emma has been sick now for over 2 hours.”

3:15 AM

I’ve gotten myself ready. I’m awake for the most part and in shock.

And the question that keeps running through my mind with ferocity is, “Why in the middle of the night? why not during the day, after I’ve slept and recovered from this insane day?”

“Why God?”

I tell you the truth, it sounds funny now but it was really horrific at this time of day. You see I hate everyone at 3 AM. When I was a youth pastor – that is after my first gig – I wrote it in my contract I would not do lock-ins. I don’t like hating people. And at 3 AM, I get crazy.

Not even God escapes my irrational fury.

Plus, I like to sleep.

Now I have to wake up Knox. This is surprisingly easy. I grab him a change of clothes and we get in the van.

3:30 AM

“Daddy, where are all the cars?”

“In their respective garages, buddy.”

The fog was thick and we were indeed virtually alone until we merged onto the interstate. This is the same interstate we were on earlier. No longer is it a parking lot. We are traveling in a different direction. And Knox is no longer sick. In fact, he is wide-eyed. This is really an adventure for him. He cannot stop smiling and asking questions about the fog and our inability to get away from it.

Finally, he just declares it “creepy.”

3:45 AM

We pull up to my parents. The street is dark – the house darker. But my mom is waiting and she ushers us both upstairs. Emma looks terrible. Just like Knox did about 15 hours earlier.

A suppository always works for Emma so I decide to use one.

I know what you are thinking but you have to understand we have had to admit Emma twice to stave off dehydration. And I’ve already been to the ER once in the past 12 hours. This madness has got to stop.

4 AM

The suppository has been, errr, administered. Knox is on a pallet at the foot of the bed Emma and I are in.

Now, we wait.

5 AM

No change at all. This virus is having it’s way with her just as it did with Knox. Every 15 minutes a nightmare.

5:45 AM

I’m having to come to grips with the fact this looks exactly like what happened with Knox. And the result is going to be the same. I call the ER at Children’s. The doc I get tells me the exact opposite of what I was told by the pediatrician earlier in the day.

Dear Doctors, Can y’all get on the same page, here? OK, thanks!

6 AM

The sun is up. Lights creeps through the blinds. For some reason this brings relief and resolve. It’s around this time, I realize I feel fine. No nausea and no achey joints. Just worry over Emma.

I’m going with my gut. I let my mom know, Emma and I are headed back to the ER.

6:15 AM

So I dress my beautiful little girl, pick her up and carry her down to the van. Bowl in hand.

She also gets sick on the way to the ER. The drive is twice as long as when I took Knox. But she does well. She sleeps most of the time.

I should probably admit that if there had been no free valet parking at the ER I would not have been as ready to go. Feels good to admit that.

6:45 AM

We walk in with a couple of nurses who I assume will be starting their 7 AM shift. No one is waiting in the waiting room. We go back at once and are helped by the doctor who I talked with on the phone. He takes vitals and is nothing but kind to Emma and myself.

7 AM

We are in a private room and in walks a nurse – one of the nurses who helped us yesterday. She wonders what is going and realizes it is a different kid.

“It spread, huh?”

“Yep.”

I explain that she reminded me too much of what I saw in Knox. And she responded by telling me they would take care of it.

Phew.

They may think I’m insane but they did not say it to my face.

7:30 AM

I am now famous throughout the ER for being the Dad to bring in two kids in two days while mom is on vacation. They know she doesn’t know. There is often 3 to 5 people in our room – nurses, doctors – some helping, some just talking and hanging out.

I’m kinda one of them now. I mean, I know where the bathroom is, how the TV works and where the Pharmacy is. I belong.

T

hankfully they give Emma some Zofran. It works like magic. I make a note to invest in Zofran and hoard supplies of it.

8 AM

They finally let me know I made a good decision in bringing her in. She was “very dry” according to the awesome young lady Doctor.

She does not do quite as well as Knox with the IV but once it’s in, she goes right to sleep.

9 AM

I’m glad to see Emma already doing better. There is much more color in her face after an hour of fluids. But now I’m wondering how Bethany is.

She sends me a text –

“How are y’all?”

“We are doing good. How are you?”

“Woke up feeling normal!!! really hope that continues. So glad y’all are better.”

“I feel totally normal also. I’ll call you after I get the other two and get home.”

“OK.”

Phew. I don’t like lying to her and leaving out the fact I am in the ER for the second time in 24 hours but she is about to have an epic day at the beach with two of her best friends. She deserves this.

The truth can wait.

10 AM

Green Gatorade!

“Ummm, can we get some red?

Red Gatorade!

She barely wakes up to drink a little every 5 minutes or so.

11 AM

Doc says she is looking good, so we are free to go. I make all the calls necessary letting the in-laws and my folks know we are leaving the hospital soon. My mom says she will have the boys ready when we get there.

I start calculating – 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 – OK, all of us have had it now…

Breeeeeeeeeeeathe.

11:30

We pick up the boys, thank my parents for the heroic help, and head home.

Sat. 12 PM – Sun. 6 PM

It was pretty much sleep, sleep, Phineus and Ferb, Spider-man cartoons and more sleep. There was one point not long before bed time where Emma said her tunny hurt a little. So I quickly called my father-in-law who lives around the corner and got him to run down to the Pharmacy and pick up a prescription for Zofran. He made it just as they were closing, like a hero. I was stoked to see this was a drinkable version and she was feeling better within minutes.

Wait, I need to back up.

Sunday 5 PM 

Bethany is about an hour from home. And so I decide to tell her the whole story before she gets home. She didn’t even know Emma had gotten sick. So I started by telling her that because I didn’t want her to worry about her getting sick. She can relax knowing we’ve all had the disease now and lived to tell.

She was thankful but could not believe it.

A

nd to be honest, I lived through the whole thing and I still have trouble believing it.

Finis…thank God.

Random Thoughts for the Weekend

  
1. It’s true that Bob Dylan made some albums that were, ummmm, less than stellar. But he also had songs like “Tomorrow Is A Long Time” and “Lay Down Your Weary Tune” which barely saw the light of day. And they are the two most beautiful songs I know.

2. You can always count on some difficult days at work in the week leading up to the Sunday School lesson on work and vocation.

3. You know, we make a lot jokes about people taking pictures of their meal and sharing them on social media. We talk like that’s silly. But really it makes perfect sense. Excitement over the thing that sustains us which has been given by God is better than thinking a meal is not worth photographing.

4. Jesus humbled himself to come and serve us in his life on earth and then through his death on a cross. I get depressed about learning from those who would have been in one of my youth groups just 10 years ago. I’ve so much to learn yet about this following Jesus.

5. With another high-profile Acts 29 pastor being removed from the pastorate, I wonder when and if Acts 29 will ever talk to those of us burned by them. At what point will they ask, “What is wrong with us?” 

6. Three years ago we were at the hospital every day watching my Dad joyfully slip into eternity to claim the frame he was made to wear.

7. Is it okay for me to talk about how much I like seeing my wife in shorts?

8. It has taken me a long time to see that believing the gospel in the midst of a hard time is shown most clearly not in good feelings but in loving kindness toward others.

9.  The new guy at work who sits right next to me loves Van Morrison and this is a gift.

10. Preparing for and teaching this new Sunday School class is life-giving in a way I can only barely understand.

Random Thoughts for the Weekend

  
1. One of the great experiences of studying the Scrptures is how it doesn’t need to have an immediate impact to be profitable. It can take root and need years of experience and suffering before it bursts into full bloom before your eyes, now glassy with wonder.

2. I listen to podcasts while I run and usually those are about music. I’ve been listening to U2 a lot this week, so I looked for a podcast about them. I was excited to find one almost two hours long about The Joshua Tree. I could overlook their use of the word “like” every other word. I could overuse their insipid use of profanity. But when they said “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” was not a religious song, I could go no further. I mean, the podcast. I kept running.

3. The Cardinals finally won a game. So, the family can now eat again. The fast is broken.

4. Speaking of U2, I was listening to their first album the other day and it reminded me of a time when  I began to listen to music as if hanging on for dear life.

5. When you read the book of Acts, you read about men and women consistently harassed and killed by politicians. But the way the early church talked about the politicians is so different than how we do. Everything was seen in terms of God spreading his gospel. You want an argument for evangelism? There it is.

6. I started teaching SS last Sunday and the class was bigger than the last Church I ministered in. Is that exciting? Yes. Is it a little intimidating? You betcha.

7. I try to run over every stick in the road just in case. I’d hate to see that stick slither away to safety when I had a chance to make the world a better place.

8. Using a day off to study and write is not good for one who misses studying and writing during the day.

9. I know what you’re thinking. “All snakes are not poisonous.” Look, that’s just a PR campaign from Lucifer himself.

10. Even when she’s laughing at me, my wife’s laughter is the best thing. And she laughs at me often.

Random Thoughts for the Weekend

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1. Spring in Alabama is glorious. The colors are almost false. But memory serves and the blooming brilliance rings true. And then the mercy of dusk when the cut sweet smell of grass dances with the wild onion and you wonder if the moment will ever come again.

2. There are a number of pastors you can hear from on social media and they do not sound like the gospel is good news in any shape, form, or fashion.

3. Who wants to start a business where we are not staring at screens all day?

4. The remarkable thing about listening to Jason Isbell live is he sounds the same, only better.

5. Once again I’ve heard from a man leaving the pastorate. As one who left also, I understand. But I also want to communicate how much I’d like to return. How much I miss. And how I feel like a square peg being pushed through round pin holes.

6. The great thing about buying albums on eBay is that you have to wait at least a week for it to come in a world where everything is instantaneous.

7. If you could pray for my fantasy baseball team. I have some hard decisions to make about who to start in the outfield.

8. I understand people’s need to make Easter something to be happy about. The day of the year. But happy doesn’t cut it. There a 364 days in the year when the good news of the resurrection is necessary information to be reminded of.

9. Bethany by the window in the early morning light.

10. The week after Easter I’ll start teaching a Sunday School geared toward young familes. I cannot stop thinking about it. Every event, every song, every word read seems relevant, useful, spoils in the war east of Eden.

 

Random Thoughts for the Weekend

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1. The significance of Jesus’ preference for keeping company with those on the margins is grasped only when you realize they would look for hope and be exhausted by the search.

2. On this day in 1962, Dylan released his first album for Columbia records. It only sold 5,000 copies in the first year and never charted in the U.S. But it moves me every time I listen to it.

3. Last night I finished a great book about Cash’s At Folsom album. As soon as I put it down, I picked up Willie Nelson’s recent Autobiography and put it down after three pages because it was already doing two things I can’t enjoy. The first is needless and constant foul language that sounds like a frat boy trying to impress his “brothers.” The second is political discussion without nuance. So, moving on.

4. My wife made bread this week that I’m now angling to eat at every meal.

5. If you are on Twitter for any length of time, you will catch sight of anonymous accounts. These are people who usually for humor hide behind an account. Often these accounts are used to make fun of famous people. And there are many that take aim at famous pastors and Christian writers. I used to follow some of these because they are actually funny. But I’ve rethought this and think it’s out of step with Jesus and his gospel. There are good reasons to criticize many of the famous pastors of our day. I’m pretty sure anonymous ridicule is not the way, though.

6. “Wedding Bells” by Hank Williams is the saddest song I know.

7. I guess if failure is what it takes to see the grace of the King, then we should not be afraid of it.

8. There is nothing in the NT that justifies a Christian’s fear of a political candidate. The opposite is true.

9. My daughter had been gone on a trip for 3 days and I miss her terribly.

10. I have a very simple test when I listen to music. “Can I sit out in my yard and listen to this as dusk gives way to the star-strewn night? Will it satisfy in that moment?” If I can’t imagine that, it’s not going to hold my attention very long. I know the songs won’t be something I look forward to after a long day. This week two friends of mine released an album of the most heartbreakingly beautiful, high and lonesome music. It’s the kind of music I’d be evangelizing about even if I didn’t know Corey and Ashley. In The Meantime is a live studio EP with no frills. You can hear the sounds of the room putting you in the space itself. Corey’s playing, singing, and songwriting reminds me of the best of Texas country. I compare all country to Townes Van Zandt and if sits well alongside him, then it’s the real thing. Corey’s songs are that good.  Ashley’s voice rivals Alison Krauss. I don’t have a better compliment because Ashley’s voice may be the best I’ve ever heard. And the band playing behind is perfectly sparse for these songs, giving a chance for each player to shine in the dark corners of the songs. I listen to a lot of country and americana music and this short album of six songs is now among my favorites. You can download it here.

Random Thoughts for Thursday

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1. If this weather is the result of global warming, I love global warming.

2. This past Monday I watched a baseball game while eating hot dogs and it was perfect.

3. I am glad to be unnerved by the Scriptures. If they were never unnerving, they could not be the Word of God. The Scriptures are certainly more than unnerving, but they are not less.

4. Hope is exhausting but it is never foolish.

5. I should publicly admit how wrong I was about the ballpark. It’s true there are parents who take it too seriously, but I love the friendships that are developing with other families. No agendas, just enjoying being together.

6. I know you won’t believe me but free-range peeps actually taste better.

7. Yesterday one friend had an all clear on cancer and another had a pacemaker put in. Both my age. Both pastors. Both, the kind of men you look up to.

8. Putting a record on the turntable for the first time never gets old. I wish I could get paid to do that.

9. My daughter got a new Language Arts teacher yesterday, who just happens to be our next door neighbor.

10. People look at me sideways when I talk about my love of Loretta Lynn. This morning I was driving to where I run and thinking about my kids and asked God, “Why would you give *me* kids like the ones you gave me?” I wasn’t complaining. I wasn’t sad or angry. I really wanted to know. I was listening to Van Lear Rose, the Loretta Lynn album produced by Jack White and this was what I heard…

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