The Ultimate Bait and Switch

Peter’s Denial of Jesus by Rembrandt
I hate the bait and switch. Inside the church and outside. I don’t like any kind of tricks of the trade. And I love Paul’s statement to the people of Corinth –

“But we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God.”

The strategy/attitude of many believers, especially leaders – vocational and otherwise – is this:

Woo the unbeliever through acts of kindness and winsome discussion. Listen to their concerns. Take their arguments and concerns and past hurts seriously. Or at least pretend to. Go the extra mile. Concede non-germane points. Find common ground. Make no issue of their theological disagreements.

And then when you have them, when they finally convert – tell them what they should be doing. No need to really listen anymore. It is their turn now to listen. Their arguments and concerns are now crowded out by the plain fact of ecclesiastical authority and their need to submit to that authority.

Now we can start yelling at you from the pulpit.

This is what you bought. This is what you get.

Forget the invite to a pizza party for young people which is really an evangelistic service, this is the ultimate bait and switch.

For some strange reason, we have worked under a paradigm of thinking that says, “there is no need for patience with those who have believed and are now growing in grace. Patience is for unbelievers because they need saving grace. Believers need to just suck it up and get with program. You are on the team, act like it.”

Even though I am intimately familiar with this line of thinking and working and ministering – I number myself among the guilty – I call it “strange” because there is no good scriptural reason to be this way.

Paul continues to woo and argue and discuss and make his case to believers throughout his letters. And Jesus shows radical, astounding patience to his disciples despite their bone-headed doubts and foolish questions. Heck, he died for Peter after being denied by him. We would have just labeled him carnal and moved on.

Jesus was actually very, very hard on some people -those who thought they had it all together and lorded it over those who knew they didn’t.

The warp and woof of the New Testament is about how we are supposed to be a loving community. Sure, we rebuke and get frustrated. But we are to do it in the context of love. So, it’s strange.

But I have a guess as to why it happens. The fact that it does indeed happen, I’m sure of. Why? I am only guessing about. Maybe it’s the elevation of evangelization above discipleship. The evangelist and his deeds are the high water mark of spirituality, He helps them escape from hell and that is all that really matters anyway. Though we never say it, functionally we treat discipleship as the red-headed step-child of the Christian life. So, we put on our Sunday best (or is it Saturday night behavior?) to draw them in and then we can control them. Actually it’s not that we don’t care about discipleship. It’s that we don’t care about the disciples.

Those who argue for the primacy of evangelism use the Great Commission to argue their case. But the call is to “make disciples.” So if we concede their point, the line between evangelism and disciple-making shouldn’t be a stark contrast. (I know that deserves a looooong defense but work with me here, especially those who agree with me.) But it is, it’s very stark.

We think the best-case scenario is to be patient with an unbeliever’s wrong ideas about any number of issues – evolution, scripture, alcohol, etc. – and then once they are believers, it’s time to fix their ideas on issues as small as their thinking on well, small groups. And if we see any inflexibility, we abuse them in the name of discipline.

Woo them with patience. Change them with authority.

Why don’t we keep wooing them?

This is what God continually does with you and I. No one ever has all their theology right in the beginning. Actually, none of us will ever have it all right in the end. We will die as old men and women with wrong opinions on morals and theology. Of course, this is no argument for not caring about those things. But it is an argument for caring about them while caring for others. Belief in the gospel doesn’t free us from wrong thinking. It frees us from the penalty and absolute power of sin.

I don’t think our young people leave the church because we are not relevant. I think they leave the church because we cannot seem to walk the line of loving our theology and loving them even when they struggle with it. We love correcting people and stepping on their toes and bringing down the hammer far more than loving them. We want our pastors to bring it and “it” isn’t the mercy of God.

I used to work with young people, so I see through that lens. Loving them won’t keep them all in the fold through college and beyond. But if we listened and were patient it might help serve as an anchor to draw them back when the waves of rebellion threaten to pull them out to sea.

My temptation when I worked with young people was to shower praise and affection on the stronger ones, those who toed the line. When I probably should have bought more burgers and fries for the questioners, the ones who gave me sideways looks and made my job harder.

All that is easy to say now. I work in a bank.

Don’t hear what I ain’t sayin’. I am not suggesting we should reverse it. There are far too many people who are unkind to unbelievers and kind to believers. This should be anathema. What I am suggesting is we show loving patience and kindness to ’em all. Then our kindness will not be some trick we use to draw people in to the believing community. It will be simply who we are.

Unbeliever: “Why is he being so nice to me?”

Believer: “Oh he is nice to everyone. Sickening isn’t it?”

Otherwise we are just crappy Jesus salesman hocking spiritual goods and services, only kind and forbearing because we get the sale. Our numbers are low and we need to get them up, so smile we will and act like we care about their pitiful lives.

But I don’t wanna be a crappy Jesus salesman, hoping my metrics appease a Sales Manager in the sky. I don’t want to be part of that sales team. There’s no joy there, there’s just transient relief.

Besides I’m a terrible salesman. And I’m not much better with loving people well and showing them grace. Usually, I want to just fix them.

But I wanna be good at this. And I want to be surrounded by people who are not interested in fixing those who even want to be fixed. I want to be patient with those I disagree with and not have that anxious feeling that if it could be articulated would sound a lot like “You’re stupidly wrong! Wrong. Wrong. Wrong.”

I started writing this a couple of days ago and I’ve been thinking about Jesus’ relationship to his disciples. They were constantly blowing it in every way they could…as they followed him. But he never berated him. He showed them a foolish amount of respect and gave them tasks in the midst of their crazy beliefs and requests for glory and staggering unbelief.

Maybe that’s our problem. We only respect those who we agree with and agree with us. Which is really dumb when you think about it. Because at some point you disagreed with them about something and vice versa.

We should just chuck it all… chuck anything that smacks of a “bait and switch” onto the fires of Gehenna and just switch – switch to a rock solid commitment to gracious patience with all who have trusted in this gospel of a patient Savior.

Comfort for the Uncomfortable

Jesus Comforts His Disciples

We’ve been visiting a new church. And I have to admit I’m not enjoying it. Not the church, the visiting. I’m enjoying the church. It’s the visiting I don’t really enjoy. I’m not used to it. We have not done much visiting of a church since I was in Seminary. Since then, each visit has been as a candidate to be a pastor on staff. Which is not like this kind of visiting. Even though we know the pastor and a number of members, it’s been weird.

But they’ve been in the Gospel of Mark.

I have to admit, going to church over the past 6 months or so has been hard. No so much because I don’t want to go. But because I’ve had to go for so long. You have to go when you are in Seminary. And when you are on staff you have to go. Even when the kids are sick, you go. It’s part of your job. It’s not that you don’t want to go. There are just no options, so you go and wanting to go is neither here nor there on one level.

But now, it is no longer part of my job. So we go because we need to go and sometimes because we want to go. The first often makes up for the last. There are some Sunday mornings when my chair is just really comfortable and another cup of coffee sounds like a mini vacation and getting the kids ready sounds horrific and the drive is extensive.

But we know we need it, so we go.

We need to be with God’s people and experience the means of grace and be prayed over. I don’t go solely to learn anymore. And I certainly don’t go to experience or feel God. God knows, I often don’t feel a whole lot. No, we go now because we need Christ. And this corporate gathering is given for that reason. We mess it up sometimes, but it’s God’s idea, this gathering as a church.

Though it feels uncomfortable to go we go and hope for a little comfort.

Back when I was single, the Singles group I was part of had a retreat and Michael Card taught the sessions. I think I fell asleep while sitting on the front row in the first meeting because I stayed up with friends the previous night (that could have happened the year before with Jerry Bridges teaching, can’t remember). So I moved to the back row for the next meeting. In one of these sessions – not the first – Mr. Card said something I have never forgotten. He said, “It is comforting that you can always go to the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) and find Jesus there when in need.”

Or something along those lines.

I don’t remember the context. But I’ve never forgotten what he said. It’s been an an anchor for me over the years and even more so now as I navigate the waters of no longer being in vocational ministry and doing work I am pretty sure I am not crafted for. In the middle of this whirlwind of change, my soul’s great need has easily been reduced down (up?) to a need for Jesus – his words and his deeds.

When I go to the Gospels I can “hear” Jesus say, “Come to me all you who are weary, for my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

I can “see” him loving the rich young ruler even as he rebuked him. I need to be rebuked and I need to know I’m loved.

I need to see him dealing with sinners and saints and legalists and family and followers. I need to hear him eat food and speak loud enough to be heard above the blowing winds.

I know the prevailing wisdom tells me I should feel his presence in my life when I sing worship songs and pray. But that rarely happens. They are helpful in other ways but what really helps me fellowship with Jesus is when I can see his life on earth in front of me on the page. It’s when my life can be tethered to the life and ministry and death and resurrection of Jesus regardless of how it feels.

Look, I’m no “red letter Christian.” Christ is on every page of holy writ. But I am comforted by being able to go to his life in the Gospels and in a way commune with him there.

All this landed on me in a real way as we, the visitors, sat on the 2nd row this past sunday, in front of God and everybody. It’s a little uncomfortable for me, sitting that close when you are a longtime member. Even more so when visiting. The life of Christ in the gospel of Mark pushed out much of the anxiety. He was comfort for the uncomfortable.

Thursday’s Random Thoughts

1. Thinking about writing a memoir of my time as a banker and titling it, “The Worst Banker in the World.”

2. A steady diet of C.S. Lewis is good for the heart.

3. I renounce Satan and his Sonic the Hedgehog cartoons on Netflix.

4. Still mad at Yoko.

5. This may go down in history as the worst fantasy baseball week ever.

6. The longer I live in the land of grace, the more I see the value of sowing and reaping.

7. I am not sure it’s possible to like anyone who is looking for a house on House Hunters.

8. Remind me to talk to our therapist about the lack of bacon in our home this week.

9. You know what’s funny? Funny stuff.

10. Wife: When are the Summer Olympics.
Me: Summer

Tuesday’s 10: Books for the Young, Restless and Reformed

Back about two years ago, a young man confronted me on Facebook. He could not understand why I was plugging a particular Christian writer/pastor when I could be reading and plugging the “Johns” – Jonathan Edwards, John Calvin and John Piper. I explained to him I started those guys when he was still reading picture books. I also explained the need for us to read broadly and to not dismiss those we may disagree with, so offhandedly. 
He was not impressed.
But hopefully you will be. Hopefully, you will see the value of reading those authors and books less obvious within the Young, Restless and Reformed camp. Some of these will be more off the beaten path than others. Some will be so off the beaten path, you’ll need a machete to find them. And then you’ll have read them in secret.
But do it. You need varying perspectives. And you can learn things you did not know and see things you would not have seen about yourself and God and others by reading outside the “canon” of the YRR a little.
This is not a definitive list, just my list.

1. Eugene Peterson. I owe Peterson my sanity. That is no exaggeration. His vision of pastoral  and ecclesiastical life were an oasis for this parched man. He taught and is still teaching me that God is very often in silent out-of-the-way places. Start with Christ Plays in Thousand Places.

2. C. S. Lewis. You may have read some Lewis but I encourage to move beyond the obvious and read something like On Stories. His writing is superb and his perspective is singular.

3. Thomas Merton. This one is going to be hard for some of you because he was a Catholic Monk. But he was a renegade and his writings are not only poetic but also full of the kind of gems who can think on for months on end. Start with his memoir, The Seven Storey Mountain.

4. Anne Lamott. I’m late to the party on Lamott. But just glad I arrived. She will offend on one page and then warm you to the core of your being on the next. Start anywhere.

5. Francis Schaeffer. I discovered Schaeffer in college and fell in love with his writings immediately. his love and respect for unbelievers is a model for the church in the West. Or at least it should be. Start with The Great Evangelical Disaster.

6. Rob Bell. I just blew your mind, I know. But hang on and let me explain. I have not read a lot of Rob Bell. But what i have read has been helpful for two reasons. First, my primary exposure to the “emergent church” was through criticism. And reading Bell gave me a closer look and helped me relax my criticism. Second, while I disagree with Bell on Hell, I think he genuinely cares for people and for the reputation of God. Reading that book helped me see this. By the way, he is closer to Lewis on Hell than you are.

7. Steve Brown. If you need a guy who oozes grace from every pore and page, this is your guy. And unless you are reading Keller, you of the YRR are probably not getting a lot of grace while talking about it. I owe you all a  review of Three Free Sins, his new book. Start there.

8. G. K. Chesterton. Witty, funny and my favorite apologist for the Christian faith. Also a Catholic and one who is very critical of Calvinism in Orthodoxy, you may want to take off your Jonathan Edwards is my homeboy T-shirt before you begin.

9. Donald Miller. I was a vocal critic of Miller until I actually read Blue Like Jazz. Shockingly, I liked it. And he just seems like a likable guy, who can write well and pull back a layer of hardness to reveal the fleshy tenderness of a soul.
10. Mary Karr. Sorry, she’s Catholic too. You know, they are the best writers. And her book Lit is outstanding. It’s the story of her overcoming her alcoholism and her embrace of Catholicism. I cried like a school girl often while reading of her failures and victories.

Superdad Takes On Weekend Without Mom: Part 4

Go here for parts One, Two and Three.

We pick up the story with Mom calling at 3 AM to tell me Emma has been getting sick every 15 minutes for a few hours.

Saturday, May 5th, 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.

Thankfully 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? And maybe some eggs benedict?”

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.

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

Finis…thank God.

Superdad Takes On Weekend Without Mom: Part 3

Parts 1 and 2 for those who need to catch up with the action.

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.

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.”

(To be continued)

Part 4 here

Superdad Takes On Weekend Without Mom: Part 2

The first installment ended with me feeling awful and getting a call from Bethany (who is on the way to the beach) telling me our 6 year old had gotten sick at school.Friday May 4th, 11 AMNOOOOOOOOooooooooooooooo…..

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.”

(To be continued)

Part 3 here

Superdad Takes On Weekend Without Mom: Part 1

This is the first of at least a four part series. Everything I am about to tell you about this past weekend is true.

Friday, May 4th, 6 AM

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.”

(To be continued)

Part 2 here

Thursday’s Random Thoughts

1. Let me start by thanking all of you for praying for my fantasy team. I can see that you are praying just by looking at my stats.

2. I now only have one or two pastors in my twitter “reading list.” I can only handle so many mini sermons a day.

3. After a thorough review, I heartily approve of Aldi’s bacon.

4. Speaking of prayer, would you pray the vault doesn’t open today so my 4 day weekend would transform into a 5 day weekend? Thanks.

5. My wife is going to the beach this weekend and it will be just us kids.

6. Suddenly, no one is all that passionate about justice for Trayvon. Go figure.

7. My wife just asked me how old she is.

8. I’m calling it – the argument that evangelicalism is too wedded to politics is preposterous.

9. You know what’s awesome? Awesome stuff.

10. Some days work is so bad, I ask my friend Sean to send me Red Sox Trivia. I’m a Yankees fan.

Tuesday’s 10: Reasons to Read Make Your Own Application by Michael Newnham

I don’t really enjoy writing book reviews and you don’t usually read them anyway. But you do read these lists. So let’s meld the two – because I really want you to read Make Your own Application by Michael Newnham.

Michael is one of my favorite bloggers. His thoughts and observations are always helpful. I sometimes skip over a lot of stuff in my blog reader to read what he has to say. I don’t always agree with him. But here’s the thing – I always feel like I need to pay attention and I always feel like I can learn something.

Out of his blog has been born a book. Here are 10 reasons why you might like it.

1. It’s a book of original stories. It’s fashionable these days to talk about “story” and the importance of them. I hope it stays that way and doesn’t fade. Christians need to tune their minds and eyes and hearts and souls to see and hear and feel all the little stories happening around them. This is a book of these kinds of stories – the little ones we are prone to pass over. Usually it’s the little ones that contain the truths we need to apply early and often.

2. The writing is very good. I often get asked, “What is good writing?” All I know is what I like – the writing that draws me in and keeps me there long after I’ve stopped reading. This book has that kind of writing. I actually started reading it, thinking I would do so over a few days. But I kept picking it back up and finished it very quickly because I wanted more. Good writing is rare in Christendom these days, and this is some pretty dang good writing.

3. It’s unclassifiable. I have no idea how you would classify this book. Really, no idea. And that’s a good thing. Maybe you are like me and feel you have read it all before. You want something different…you know, something without shunned Amish wild girls or gospel-hyphenated titles. Nothing wrong with those, of course. But sometimes you need something out of the box. Make Your Own Application is that book

4. It’s funny. Listen, it is hard to find a funny book written by a Christian. We are not known for this. (If they are funny, it’s at the expense of others a la Mark Driscoll.) But this book has some great humor in it. It’s not a comedy book. But sometimes the little stories God uses to teach us are full of comedy. I found myself in these stories a lot and usually I was laughing at myself.

5. This is a book for everyone. From skateboarders to cat-lovers. You think I’m kidding? I kid you not.

6. Great illustrations for teachers. I don’t know about you but if I hear another sermon with the story of Eric Liddell (“When I run, I feel God’s pleasure”) or of Aslan (“Of course he is good, but not safe”) I’m gonna become go postal. These stories are true and and the kinds of stories we see around us every. single. day. We can all relate. If you are a preacher, you need these kinds of stories to take up residence in your mind.

7. These are mundane stories. One of the things Make Your Own Application can do for us is tune our own eyes to see and then tell similar stories. We tend to tell stories of the fantastic. We tell stories of celebrities. We tell stories of the super-spiritual pastors who are legends. In other words, we are just like our culture. These stories are for the most part really ordinary. But Michael does a masterful job of making us pay attention to them and see ourselves and our world within.

8. It’s short. Never trust a person who does not like short books. If you think only long, thick, heavy books are what christians should be reading, I don’t like you.  And neither does God because the books of the Bible are pretty short. So is The Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence. And many of you will think this is great – “I may actually finish this one!” It is a small book with a price-point to match.

9. You can stroll or dash through it. Maybe you are like me and have trouble reading slowly and taking your time with books. You run through them with breakneck speed and then sit back and enjoy what you have written. This is a book for you. Or maybe you are the kind of person who can stop reading as easily as you have started. You read a passage and feel you must stop and let roll around in your head for awhile. This is a book for you. I dashed through it the first time and now I’m strolling.

10. I wish I had written a similar book. Seriously, I wanted to write a book based on lines from songs and movies and let them be illustrations of various transcendent truths. This book is way better and I wish I had written it.