Monday, March 26, 2012

Book Review and Giveaway: A Perfect Pet for Peyton

This wonderfully imaginative children’s hardcover book by bestselling authors Gary Chapman and Rick Osborne, featuring four-color illustrations (with hidden details!) by Wilson Williams, Jr., will help children learn the importance of love. Based on Gary’s highly successful The 5 Love Languages®, A Perfect Pet for Peyton tells an entertaining and playful story of five children who each, with the help of Mr. Chapman and the unique pets at his special emporium, discover their own personal love language. Children and parents alike will experience firsthand the power of the love languages as they cuddle up and spend precious time together reading this book over and over again.
*Free interactive app with in-book experience COMING SOON to the Apple App Store.
  A Perfect Pet for Peyton: http://www.5lovelanguages.com/resource/a-perfect-pet-for-peyton/
The 5 Love Languages: http://www.5lovelanguages.com/
 
My Thoughts and Review:
Many people are familiar with the 5 love languages. This book is about the 5 love languages for kids: gifts, words of affirmation, quality time, physical touch, and acts of service. The twins Peyton and Penny have their birthday party at the Perfect Pet Pal Emporium. The twins and their friends find their perfect pet pals that match their own love language. My youngest son enjoyed guessing which animal goes to which kid and finding hidden animals. I was somewhat surprised that a cat is chosen for the kid whose love language is quality time. Cats are usually independent and don't really spend quality time with people :). The book includes the five love languages quiz for kids at the end of the book. It's a wonderful tool to help kids identify their unique love language. Parents will benefit a great deal from discovering that about their children and applying accordingly.

GIVEAWAY: You can win a copy of this book. Deadline: 4/20/12
To Enter: Leave a comment here with your email address. Are you familiar with the 5 love languages? Which is your main love language?
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“Disclosure of Material Connection: I received one or more of the products or services mentioned above for free in the hope that I would mention it on my blog. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

FIRST Wild Card Tour: The Glory of God

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!


Today's Wild Card author is:




and the book:


Whitaker House (April 1, 2012)

***Special thanks to Cathy Hickling of Whitaker House for sending me a review copy.***


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Dr. Guillermo Maldonado is quickly emerging as one of the world’s best known and beloved Christian leaders. Over 17,000 regularly attend his Miami church, King Jesus Ministry, and tens of thousands more know him through his New Wine Apostolic Network of churches in the U.S., Caribbean, Central and South America, and Europe. His weekly television show, Tiempo de Cambio (Time for Change) can be seen on the Daystar, Church Channel, and Mega TV networks and Telemundo. He’s been praised by ministry, media, and political leaders around the world including the former presidents of Columbia and El Savador, the governor of his home state of Florida, Rick Scott, and countless others including Charisma Magazine founder Steven Strang who called him “the most dynamic leader I have ever met!” Dr. Maldonado earned his MA in Theology from Oral Roberts University and Ph.D. in Divinity from Vision International University. He takes seriously the words of Jesus to “make disciples of all the nations.” His services are known for signs, wonders, and miracles. Dr. Maldonado and his wife and ministry partner, Ana, live in Miami with their two sons.

Visit the author's website.

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:


Many have heard of “the glory of God,” but who can define or explain its significance in their day-to-day lives? In his latest book, Dr. Guillermo Maldonado not only examines the meaning of the term, he teaches readers how to experience it. Using scriptures like John 17:22: “And the glory which You gave Me, I have given them,” he challenges readers to examine God’s glory as described in the Old and New Testaments, and consider how it manifests today. Those who are able to grasp and incorporate the glory of God into their daily lives, Dr. Maldonado teaches, will be able to powerfully lead others to Christ and fulfill God’s purpose for them on earth.




Product Details:
List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 272 pages
Publisher: Whitaker House (April 1, 2012)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1603744908
ISBN-13: 978-1603744904

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:







We Are Made for Glory


Did you know you are specially made for God’s glory? The glory of God was a gift to mankind in creation, and it is also the inheritance of every child of God. When we enter into God’s glory, we dwell in His very presence, receive His love and grace, understand His heart, learn His will, and experience His divine power. That power transforms lives—saving, healing, and delivering—and enacts miracles and wonders that reveal God’s majesty. Yet many Christians are not living in this glory. For various reasons, they are settling for far less in their relationships with God as they daily serve Him.
Jesus prayed to the heavenly Father on the eve of His crucifixion,
And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one. (John 17:22)
Jesus has given believers the same glory the Father gave Him. The questions we must therefore answer for ourselves are: What will we do with this revelation? How can we live according to the glory we’ve received from Jesus?


Experiencing God’s Glory


The glory of God is not just a theological concept to be learned. It is a reality that can be continually experienced. Sadly, many theologians, teachers, and preachers consider the glory of God to be a thing of the past, something that was known in biblical times but cannot be experienced today. Yet the glory of God is for this generation. Here is a testimony from a Dr. Coradin, who experienced the transforming power of God’s glory with his family when they came to our church, King Jesus Ministry:
Invited by a friend, we arrived at the church, devastated. Our son David had spent one day in jail because of a drug problem and bad behavior, and, because of this, he had lost his scholarship to Nova School of Medicine. When we arrived at the parking lot of the church, we suddenly felt a supernatural presence invade our car. My son began to cry and sob while asking God and us to forgive him. My wife began to cry and to tremble. I was paralyzed and astonished. If this was happening in the parking lot, the first time we visited the church, then what was going to happen when we entered the church? About thirty minutes later, we were able to leave the car. As a result of our visit to the church, David was transformed. God delivered him and turned him into an evangelist to drug addicts, a House of Peace [the church’s home fellowship ministry] leader, a member of the university evangelistic team, a warrior of intercession, and an example to many of his old friends. As for me, I had neglected my relationship with God and with my family due to alcoholism. The Lord delivered me from this addiction, and I was reconciled to Him. God also began to restore my marriage. My wife, Joy, was delivered from depression and her dependency on antidepressants. This firsthand experience transformed our lives and gave us purpose. It gave new destiny to my family and my future generations.
Jesus lives, and He continues to do miracles among us today. In Medellín, Colombia, there is a woman named Johanna who works with institutions for children who are orphaned, homeless, and infected with AIDS. A year ago, she accepted Jesus as her Lord and Savior when she visited our Miami church. There, she was trained to move in the supernatural power of God. When she returned to Colombia and to the orphanage where she works, she met Xiomara—a four-month-old girl who was diagnosed as HIV positive. The love of God came upon Johanna, so she began to pray for the little girl, breaking the curse that had come upon her through her bloodline. When she did, she felt the power of God and knew that He had done something supernaturally. Weeks later, after a series of exams, Xiomara was declared totally healed and was placed for adoption. Johanna witnessed the miracle take place before her eyes, and today, that little girl lives in a wonderful home with loving parents. Something similar happened to Laura, a two-year-old girl who had been abandoned by her mother—a sixteen-year-old prostitute. The doctors had declared there was no hope for her recovery, but Johanna prayed for her, also, and the power of God created a miracle by restoring her immune system and eradicating the viral infection. The last three times she was examined, the results came back negative. She was declared healthy by the doctors and was placed for adoption.
Can you imagine these types of miracles taking place on a regular basis? God can do exceedingly beyond what medicine can do! A supernatural power is in operation, and it comes through the glory of God.
Why does the manifest presence of God’s glory make such a dramatic difference in people’s lives? It is because of the nature of His glory.


The Essence of God’s Glory


“Weight”


The word kabowd is one of the most significant in the Hebrew language. Its literal meaning is “weight,” but the term is used figuratively in the sense of “splendor,” “abundance,” “honor,” or “glory”; it is something “glorious.” In the Old Testament, kabowd is used variously to describe an individual’s wealth, power or majesty, influential position, or great honor. Kabowd can also express fame, reputation, recognition, beauty, magnificence, strength, dignity, splendor, respect, excellence, holiness, and greatness. Hence, the glory (kabowd) of God expresses all of His attributes.
Today, people commonly use the term weight in a similar way. For example, we might say a person has “a lot of weight” (influence) with the particular leader of a country if that leader regularly listens to his or her counsel. We can also say that a person has “spiritual weight” (substance) if he possesses a mature, honorable, humble, and just character. This spiritual weight is his “glory,” which makes him stand out from others.


The glory of God is the essence of all that He is.


We need to see that God’s glory is the realm of eternity. It is infinite, boundless, with no restrictions—it is beyond the imagination of human beings. His manifested glory is eternity revealed on earth. Glory revealed is the impact of God’s powerful and unforgettable mark, seen and heard in the natural.


“Majesty”


Let’s look next at a Greek word translated as “glory” in the New Testament. When the first five books of the Hebrew Scriptures (the Pentateuch) were translated into Greek for the first time, the word doxa was chosen for the concept of God’s glory because it best expressed the meaning of kabowd, leading to the notion of reputation, honor, fame, praise, dignity, splendor, and brilliance. This translation, known as the Septuagint, was the first to use the word doxa to denote the majesty of God.
Later, that same word was used in the New Testament, including certain references to Jesus. (See, for example, Matthew 16:27; John 1:14.) Doxa speaks of the real majesty belonging to God as the Supreme Governor—majesty in the sense of the absolute perfection of His deity. When referring to the Son, it alludes to the majestic royalty of the Messiah—this being the highest level of exaltation and the condition to which the Father raised Jesus after He fulfilled His purpose on earth, defeating Satan and death.


The glory of an individual resides in his intrinsic worth.


If we unite the various meanings of the words kabowd and doxa, we could say that the glory of God is the total sum of His attributes, character, and intrinsic virtues, the brilliance of His presence, and the splendor of His majesty. Accordingly, we can conclude that the very essence of God is His glory.


The Glory of God Was Manifested at Creation


The glory (presence) of God is the spiritual atmosphere of heaven, like oxygen is the physical atmosphere of earth. Because the glory is the essence of who God is, everything is complete in the glory; nothing is incomplete.
This glory was the life and environment in which the first human beings lived. God created the first man, Adam, in an instant, out of the dust of the earth, and gave him His “breath of life”:
And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being. (Genesis 2:7)
Therefore, to truly live is to remain continually connected to God’s presence—to draw in His breath of life.


In the glory of God, every need is met.


Adam was never an infant, a child, or a teenager; therefore, he did not have to undergo the growth process we experience. The same was true for his wife, Eve. They were created and formed as adults because, in the beginning, God created all things in their finished form, while placing a seed in every kind of species so that it could reproduce.
And the earth brought forth grass, the herb that yields seed according to its kind, and the tree that yields fruit, whose seed is in itself according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. (Genesis 1:12)
In the glory of God—and in His manifested presence—everything “is”; therefore, every need of humanity can be met, so that we are complete. In the glory, there are healing, deliverance, and miracles (even creative miracles, such as new organs). When human beings were first created, they did not know sickness, poverty, or death because in the glory there is no sickness, poverty, or death. They had no knowledge of sickness or death. Yet, as we will see, after human beings sinned by rebelling against God, they had to be removed from His presence, and they began to experience these things. Also, since that time, all human beings have undergone a process of birth, growth, and eventual death.


The Presence of God Is an Environment


To comprehend what it means to live in God’s glory, we must first understand the contrast between the environment in which human beings lived in the garden of Eden before the fall and the environment in which they lived on the earth after the fall. In Genesis 1, we see that the first thing God did before creating each aspect of creation was to prepare the perfect environment for it. For example, He created the land and then created plants and trees that would thrive in the soil and its minerals. Likewise, this environment was in place before God created animals that would need to eat the vegetation for food.


Before God created anything, He first prepared the environment that would perfectly sustain it.


God created the oceans and the rivers, and then He created fish and other living creatures especially equipped to exist in an environment of water. God created the firmament of the heavens, and then He created the stars and planets that would be placed in it to function according to gravitational laws and orbital paths. (See Genesis 1:9–25.)
Similarly, when God created the environment of the garden of Eden, He designed the perfect setting for human beings. What was that perfect setting? God put Adam right into the environment of His presence and glory. He never told Adam, “I want you to search for Eden.” He placed him there. He didn’t give him any choice because that was the only environment in which he could be sustained and thrive. And, in that setting, God revealed Himself and His ways to humanity. (See Genesis 1:26; 2:7–9.)
Let us look more closely at the meanings of the words “garden” and “Eden” in the original Hebrew to draw out their meaning.
The word “Eden” means “pleasure” or “delight.” The word “garden” signifies “enclosure” or a “fenced” place. It comes from a root word meaning “to hedge about”; it is something that “protects,” “defends,” “covers,” or “surrounds.” When we are in the glory, we are surrounded by and protected by God’s presence. Therefore, I do not believe Eden was a particular geographical place, but rather a carefully prepared, delightful “spot” of glory that God designed mankind to dwell in.
Significantly, I also believe Eden was a “moment in time” in which the manifestation of God’s glory could be seen. Why do I use the phrase “moment in time”? Because God manifests Himself visibly in time (in the natural dimension) for the benefit of human beings, and because God’s glory is continually moving. When we are in the presence of the Lord, we go “from glory to glory” (2 Corinthians 3:18). No one goes from one place to another without moving. God is active and moving constantly, and He manifests Himself where He desires. And when we are in Him, we move with Him.
Almost all the geographical locations mentioned in the Scriptures have been found by archaeologists. Yet Eden has not been discovered. Why? Because it was a spot, a moment in time, where the presence came—and the presence was continually “moving.” As the presence was moving, Adam was moving.


The glory of God was the original environment in which mankind lived.


God is everywhere, all the time, but He doesn’t manifest Himself everywhere on earth today. He manifests Himself where He is welcomed and where people are in right relationship with Him. Eden was an environment that was a “gate” or “portal” to heaven because God manifested His glory there to human beings who were made in His image and were in unbroken fellowship with Him. God’s presence with humanity was truly heaven on earth.
I like to define Eden as “a spot on the earth for a moment in time where the presence of God is a gate to heaven.” Jacob caught a glimpse of this type of glory when he dreamed of a ladder ascending into an opening to heaven. (See Genesis 28:12.)


Mankind Fell Short of God’s Glory

For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. (Romans 3:23)
Tragically, human beings’ existence in glory did not last. Adam and Eve sinned by choosing to go against what God had told them to do and eating of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. As a result, they were disconnected from the life of God and were exiled from Eden—from the glory. (See Genesis 3.) They fell “short of the glory of God.”


Sin caused man to fall short of the glory of God and to be exiled from His presence.


What fundamental change happened when mankind fell? The Bible says that God sent cherubim to guard the entrance to Eden—to protect the presence—because the glory is not a place; it’s an environment. God’s presence is pure, uncontaminated. Mankind did not fall from a place; it fell from God’s presence, from the environment of glory. So, human beings as a whole have been “short” of His glory from that day.
In addition to protecting the presence, God protected human beings. He didn’t want us to be doomed to a state of eternal spiritual death, which might have happened if He hadn’t intervened to separate Adam and Eve from the tree of life until they could be restored to Him. As we will see, God had a plan of rescue and redemption for mankind that would unfold in human history, which He first announced directly after the fall of man. (See Genesis 3:15.)
When Adam and Eve sinned, their spirits—the essence of who they were as human beings made in the image of God—died. They also began to die physically. However, we read that it took more than 930 years for Adam’s body to completely stop functioning. (See Genesis 5:5.) I believe that the residual glory that remained in his body kept him physically alive for that long.


Life Outside Our Natural Environment


If something is removed from its natural environment, you don’t have to actively kill it; it will die on its own. For example, if you take a fish out of water, it will slowly die of dehydration. Likewise, if you pull up a plant from the earth and set it on top of the ground, it will soon wither and die from lack of water and nutrients.


That which is created cannot live independently of its God-given environment; it will die.


In the case of Adam and Eve, they essentially removed themselves from God’s presence by choosing to go against His ways and seeking to live outside the parameters of His glory and protection, so that they had to be exiled. Yet God created mankind to live in His glory—that was His plan from the beginning. This is the reason human beings die when they are estranged from His presence. It is the environment we were designed for!
Likewise, today, every human being experiences a process of death due to being disconnected from the glory and presence of God. In effect, this process starts from the moment of birth because it is at that moment that the curses of living under a “ticking clock” and moving toward the inevitability of death, which are associated with fallen humanity, begin to operate on us and in us.
Human beings’ life on earth under the curse of sin is one of lost relationship with God and lost potential of life in His glory. Left to ourselves, we are unable to live in accordance with the high existence we were created for.


“The Glory Has Departed”

Then she named the child Ichabod, saying, “The glory has departed from Israel!” because the ark of God had been captured and because of her father-in-law and her husband. (1 Samuel 4:21)
The loss of God’s glory on earth was a tragedy that is graphically illustrated in the account of the death of Eli, the high priest and judge of Israel.
Eli had judged Israel for forty years, and he lived in Shiloh, where the tabernacle (the center of worship) was located. When he learned that the ark of the covenant—the place where the presence of God was manifested—had been taken by the Israelites’ enemies, the Philistines, he fell backward and died of a broken neck. Then, when Eli’s daughter-in-law heard of his death, as well as the death of her husband by the Philistines, she went into premature labor and gave birth to a son. Before she died, she named him Ichabod and said, “The glory has departed from Israel!” In Hebrew, Ichabod means “without glory.”The manifest glory of God had departed from Israel when the ark was taken. Shiloh had been the center of Hebrew worship until that moment, but it never recovered that distinction.
It is sad when the presence of God departs, and it is pitiful to observe believers, churches, and ministries today that “survive” without it, having only an appearance of holiness and godliness. On the surface, everything may appear to be fine, but the truth is that the presence of God is no longer on the inside. When you see a church in which no one is getting saved, people are not changed or transformed, holiness is not encouraged, miracles, healing, and the power of God are nonexistent, and God’s presence is no longer evident, it means that place is without glory—and this is equivalent to death.
We were created to live in His presence; otherwise, we’re going to die.



Restored to Glory!


The Bible says, “The Lord is…not willing that any should perish” (2 Peter 3:9). God provided a way for us to be restored to Him and His glory, implementing a plan of action to rescue us that included: (1) sending His Son, Jesus, to earth to be born and to grow as a Man who lived a completely sinless life; (2) Jesus dying in our place as our Substitute, taking our punishment for sin; (3) Jesus being raised from the dead and ascending to heaven, thereby conquering sin and death. With the shedding of His blood, Jesus redeemed human beings from sin and sickness; and, with His resurrection, He gave us access to eternal life.
The final objective of Jesus’ sacrifice was to restore human beings to the realm of God’s glory, for which we were created.
For it was fitting for [God], for whom are all things and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to make the captain of their salvation [Jesus] perfect through sufferings. (Hebrews 2:10)
When we are reconciled to God through Jesus, we receive His Holy Spirit, our spirits are brought from death to life, and we have access to His glory. Spiritually, we can now live in the environment of heaven. We still die physically because our bodies have not yet been resurrected in glory for eternity—an event that will take place when Jesus returns. (See 1 Corinthians 15:42–45.)
The plan of salvation demonstrates that, even though mankind sinned, God’s purpose will be carried out according to this cycle: the glory of God was present at the beginning of creation, and it will manifest powerfully in the last days—it will be seen in our time—and we will be returned to living in His presence. The redeeming work of Jesus allows us now to approach, walk in, and live once more according to God’s glory in spirit, in soul, and, even to a large extent, in body. It may not be easy, but we will go “from glory to glory” (2 Corinthians 3:18) if we believe and persevere. His glory is in us. Jesus’ atoning blood gives us access to the Father and once again connects us with His presence while our bodies wait to be completely redeemed from death as well.


We are carriers of God’s presence through His indwelling Spirit.


In Christ, we are all carriers of a “portable Eden”; in other words, wherever we go, we carry with us His glory through the indwelling Holy Spirit. We have access to our original environment through the blood of Jesus. When we remain in our true environment, we will have true life. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6), and “He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me, you can do nothing” (John 15:5).
Remember, you are made for glory—for existing continually in God’s presence as you live your life. Although the Holy Spirit already dwells within you, you need to actively seek God and His glory through worship, praise, surrender to His will, and faith. Why? Jesus said, “The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matthew 26:41; Mark 14:38). Until the day when we will once again live in uninterrupted glory, we must seek God’s glory daily!
In the next chapter, I will share how God manifests His glory, even in our day, just as He did in biblical times.


EXPERIENCES WITH GOD
  • Commit to praise and worship God for a certain amount of time each day, to generate an atmosphere of glory. Prepare your ears to hear, because God wants to talk to you from a “cloud of glory” generated by your worship.
  • If you have trouble accepting God as your Father and considering yourself His beloved child, ask Him to reveal Himself to you as Father as you meditate on Scriptures such as Matthew 6:32–33 and Ephesians 5:1.

Monday, March 19, 2012

FIRST Wild Card Tour: Wednesdays Were Pretty Normal: A Boy, Cancer, and God

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!


           Today's Wild Card author is:




and the book:


B&H Books (March 1, 2012)

***Special thanks to Haverly Pennington of Lifeway for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Michael Kelley is a Bible study writer and editor whose previous works include Holy Vocabulary and The Tough Sayings of Jesus. He holds a Master of Divinity degree from Beeson Divinity School in Birmingham, Alabama. Michael and his wife have three children and live in Nashville, Tennessee.

Visit the author's website.





SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:


“Wednesdays were pretty normal,” writes Michael Kelley, looking for a bright spot amidst the chemotherapy routine brought on by his two-year-old son Joshua’s cancer diagnosis. His book of the same name offers much to anyone who’s tired of prescriptive spirituality and would rather acknowledge and work through the difficulties of faith with some transparency.

Joshua battled and beat the disease, but not before his family had to reconcile what it means to believe in God despite a broken world. His dad’s personal account of that fight to survive sparks a larger discussion of how Christians must learn to walk in the light of Christ’s promises despite the dark shadows of earthly pain. Indeed, it’s pain that sometimes opens the door to a deeper experience with Jesus, an authentic relationship that holds steady even when life loses the comfort of normalcy.

Endorsements:
"Get ready to go on a remarkable journey . . . Faith is more than a gift we're given; it's a tool we must exercise and use in order to experience its supernatural power. Michael Kelley poignantly illustrates the process of turning faith from a noun to a verb and how it can transform and shape our ability to persevere. Everyone needs to read this book." 
Pete Wilson, author of Plan B

"I sat down to skim this and instead read every word start to finish. Reader, please listen to me: If you have ever suffered, struggled, doubted, wrestled with a God who allows hunger and disease and two-year-old boys to get cancer, if you have attempted to believe God in the midst of devastation or fear, please devour this book like the gift it is. Thank you, Michael, for not only honestly sharing your story with us but drawing us deeper into the true, rich, genuine love of Jesus who cries with us, stays by us, and redeems us." 
Jen Hatmaker, author of 7

"Anyone who has ever had a sick child will find much needed words of comfort, encouragement, and a powerful reminder that you're not alone. Whether for yourself or your friends, you'll discover divine solace in these pages."
Margaret Feinberg, author of Scouting the Divine and Hungry for God

"A huge man and a tiny child walk hand in hand through these pages, then right out of the book and into your heart. Read it for your own edification, if you wish! But be alert, there are other parents you may not have noticed, who grieve quietly and are much afraid . . . They need this book."
Calvin Miller, author of The Singer trilogy

"In the midst of a battle no wants to face, Michael wrestled issues about God and faith and the difficulty of life that most of us will in some way. Honest, heart breaking but beating loudly with hope, Wednesdays were pretty normal is a beautiful book."
Jon Acuff, author of Quitter and Stuff Christians Like

"Michael points back to a God that is deeper than the pain and doubts, and guides us beyond Christian platitudes to genuine rest in the arms of our heavenly Father. I look forward to recommending this book to people in our church."
J.D. Greear, author of Gospel

"Michael Kelley is a gifted communicator and offers the church in this generation much promise. I am pleased not only to recommend this book, but also to commend this faithful servant of the Lord."
Thom S. Rainer, president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources
 
 


"This is not a sentimental memoir or another theoretical look at suffering. Instead, Michael leads us to the intersection of faith and life, of God's love and our pain, of God's plan and our questions."

Trevin Wax, author of Counterfeit Gospels and Holy Subversion


"I feel very strongly that this story is one that must be shared again and again. You'll find yourself seeing faith, hope, and ultimately, God, in a much more intimate way than you have before."

Mark Batterson, author of In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day

". . . It is also a story about hope and the God whose love reaches us in the deepest depths, the God whose middle name is Surprise! You must read this book!"
Timothy George, founding dean, Beeson Divinity School of Samford University


Product Details:
List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 264 pages
Publisher: B&H Books (March 1, 2012)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1433671697
ISBN-13: 978-1433671692

MY THOUGHTS AND REVIEW:
A boy, cancer, and God...is what this book is about. But there's much more than that. Doubt and faith...struggle and hope... anxiety and peace...questions and trust...as real as it gets. The author transparently shares his experiences during the three and a half years of taking care of his young son who had leukemia. His knowledge about God collides with the reality of his pain and suffering. I enjoyed reading the book and really appreciate the author's brutal honesty and Biblical insight. As a parent, I can relate to what he talks about. As a Christian who has been through trials in life, I can definitely relate to what he deals with and how he feels. He learns that "Who" is more important than "why" always. An encouraging read, indeed!


AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER (Please click the cover below to LOOK INSIDE!):




Used by permission Excerpt taken from Wednesdays Were Pretty Normal; A boy, cancer and God /Michael Kelley/c. 2012/B&H Publishing Group

Saturday, March 17, 2012

PhotoHunt: Play


It's time for another weekly photo hunt, hosted by Sandi at The Saturday PhotoHunt. This week's theme is Play. Last night, we had lots of fun playing ping-pong, pool, foosball, and cool group games with our LJ Fellowship (a group of international students whom we have Bible Study with weekly). "LJ" stands for Love in Jesus or Loving J.O.Y. (Jesus Others You). Last night was our game night.
My husband and youngest son

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Book Review: The Complete Zoo Adventure by Mary and Gary Parker


160 Pages • Spiralbound, Hardcover, Published by Master Books (a division of New Leaf Publishing Group)

About the Author
Dr. Gary Parker has a B.A. in Biology/Chemistry from Wabash College, Crawfordville, IN, a M.S. in Biology/Physiology, and an Ed.D. in Biology with a cognate in Paleontology from Ball State University. Dr. Parker earned several academic awards, including admission to Phi Beta Kappa, election to the American Society of Zoologists, and a fifteen-month fellowship award from the National Science Foundation. He has taught biology at Eastern Baptist College, Dordt College, Clearwater Christian College, Christian Heritage College, and ICR's Graduate School. Dr. Parker and his wife, Mary, live in Florida and this is the sixth book he has written for Master Books.
The Complete Zoo Adventure is a unique book that will educate and entertain animal lovers anywhere. It's practically a field trip in a book. A trip to the zoo will never be the same :). The book is divided into 3 main sections: "Before the Zoo," "At the Zoo," and "After the Zoo." The first section includes a planning calendar, 7 devotionals, 7 creation lessons ("Looking Ahead"), and field trip prep time. The second section includes 27 encounters with God's creatures, Hooty's smart rules, 27 field fact cards, 7 biome cards, 3 field journals, and 12 name badges (the last four items are all packed in the tool kit which is attached to the inside back cover). The last section includes questions for discussion, 35 reproducible activity sheets, suggestions for group activities, Scripture memory texts, and professional educator notes for parents/teachers. The animals covered in this book are organized into 5 different categories: Birds, Paws & Claws, Hooves, Reptiles, and Amphibians. A zoo glossary is included at the end of the book.

I enjoyed using the book with my sons. I appreciate the clear creation message presented throughout the book. The photos are beautiful and colorful. Every chapter points to our Creator. It's a great field guide that will enhance your zoo experience. God is totally awesome! His creation definitely reflects that. My kids and I love discovering all the cool facts about these incredible creatures that God made.

Did you know...
that an eagle can spot an animal the size of a rabbit from a height of 10,500 feet?
that meerkats are immune to most venoms, including that of cobras?
that tortoises can go without eating or drinking for up to a year?
that the flying tree frog spreads its webbed feet to make four parachutes and glide gracefully?

~I received a free copy of this book from New Leaf Publishing Group in exchange for my honest review.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

DVD Review and Giveaway: The Woodcarver

                              (releases today, March 13th, rated PG)

About the Movie: 
Matthew Stevenson is a troubled kid from a broken home. When he vandalizes the local church to get back at his parents, Matthew has to repair the damage to the church to avoid criminal charges. While working at the church, he meets Ernest (John Ratzenberger), an accomplished wood carver who created the intricate woodwork decoration that Matthew destroyed. Ernest has become something of a hermit, but reluctantly comes out of reclusion to help repair the church. Now Ernest and Matthew must work together to preserve the church's beautiful antiquity, and along the way, they also manage to restore their faith in God and in life.

My Thoughts and Review: 
Troubled teen. Separated parents. Reclusive widower and woodcarver. When the local church is vandalized, these lives converge. My family and I enjoyed watching this DVD. I even got teary eyes a few times. Ernest Otto becomes a mentor who takes fifteen-year-old Matthew under his wings with one condition. Matthew is to ask himself WWJD (What Would Jesus Do?) before making any decision. This concept changes Matthew and his changes affect others. The theme is restoration. The plot is pretty simplistic but the story is still beautiful :). John Ratzenberger's performance is excellent. Faith. Family. Friendship. Fantastic film!

GIVEAWAY: You can win a copy of this wonderful DVD! Deadline: 3/31/2012 

To Enter: Leave a comment here with your email address. What do you think about the WWJD concept?
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Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Review: BetterTogether Curriculum



Mike and Susan Reinfeldt have designed a curriculum for family group Bible studies called BetterTogether. Mike is the senior Executive Vice President and General Manager of the Tennessee Titans, and Susan is a marriage and family therapist. Their goal is to help create Christ-centered family community groups. They want to see families with all ages be able to connect and study the Bible and Christian principles together. Their core values are faith, family, and fellowship.

There are two books (available in both digital and print formats) in the Discovering Christ in Community Series. Each contains 10 lesson plans. Each lesson includes Biblical references, a fun group activity, a relevant movie clip (that you can watch online), a family time activity, Susan's Faith Focus, and Mike's Game Plan. I have enjoyed using the lessons with my family during our Bible study time. A variety of important topics covered in the series includes gratitude, prayer, integrity, forgiveness, decision-making, contentment, peace, trials, pride and humility, identity, and many more. I really like the discussion/application questions that help us reflect and give us opportunities to share our thoughts/feelings with one another. My 13 yo son loves football so Mike's Game Plan section (football-related stories) grabs his attention. I find this curriculum easy to follow, creative, and interactive.

Check out their website at http://bettertogethergroups.com/.

Monday, March 5, 2012

FIRST Wild Card Tour: What Every Man Wishes His Father Had Told Him

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!




You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

                                                  Today's Wild Card author is:




and the book:


Harvest House Publishers (February 1, 2012)

***Special thanks to
Karri James of Harvest House Publishers for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Byron Yawn is the senior pastor of Community Bible Church in Nashville, Tennessee and a much-sought speaker. His book Well-Driven Nails received much positive acclaim from prominent ministers, including John MacArthur and Steven Lawson. Byron has MDiv and DMin degrees from The Master’s Seminary, is married to Robin, and has three children.

Visit the author's website.



SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:
A powerful and compelling new voice in Christian publishing, with a message urgently needed by today’s Christian men.

Every man encounters significant struggles in life—struggles that result in poor choices and decisions. Frequently these mistakes can be traced back to a common problem—a father who (even unintentionally) failed to provide counsel or a positive role model.

In What Every Man Wishes His Father Had Told Him, author Byron Yawn offers vital input many men wished they had received during their growing-up years. This collection of 30 simple principles will help men to...

Identify and fill the gaps that occurred in their upbringing
Benefit from the hard-earned wisdom of others so they don’t make mistakes
Prepare their own sons for the difficult challenges of life

The 30 principles in this book are based in Scripture and relevant to every man. They include affection, courage, balance, consistency, and more. A true must-read!

Product Details:
List Price: $11.99
Paperback: 192 pages
Publisher: Harvest House Publishers (February 1, 2012)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0736946381
ISBN-13: 978-0736946384

MY THOUGHTS AND REVIEW:
Fathers have very strong influences in their children's lives, whether they realize or not...whether they want to admit or not. Men are affected either positively or negatively by their relationship with their Dads. The author presents important lessons that every dad should tell his son(s). He also points the readers to the portrayal of real manhood: Jesus Christ. I love Mr. Yawn's no-nonsense approach. He does not sugar-coat anything. Sometimes, it may even seem harsh but the message needs to be heard. It's never too late for men to learn these Biblically sound principles. Some of the topics covered in this book include grace, accountability, marriage, ambition, work, and integrity. Excellent read!


AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:






The Space Where
a Dad Should Be
Then Joseph fell on his father’s face,
and wept over him and kissed him.
{ Genesis 50:1 }
What kind of relationship did you have with your father?” And a thousand little memories flood the mind of a son. Immediately a forty-one-year-old husband and father of three is eight again. Few questions have the force to stop grown men in their tracks as does this one. The feelings run deep here. I mean really deep. I asked it of a rather spry waiter once to prove its power to a friend. The waiter was so struck by the apparent insight into his life he was inclined to lie down in the booth opposite me and assume the fetal position. Ask someone yourself. You’ll see what I mean. It evokes either warm reminiscent smiles or deeply resentful gazes. It opens a window into a soul. Fathers are important. I mean really important.
Maybe the best answer thus far has been “Good, but not much.” Which means, of course, Dad was a good man but not readily available. In the vast majority of cases, however, the answer is not even this favorable. Rare is the smile. Disappointment reigns. Some dads were “merely” negligent. Some were too busy. Some were passive. Some were mute. Some were angry. Some were physically abusive. Some were decent. Some were shells. Some vanished. In nearly every case—even in the worst-case scenarios—the answers are tilted toward gracious and affable. They’re more like excuses than answers. Sons have an instinct to cover their fathers’ failures. Sons love their dads even when their dads did not love them. It’s part of being a son. It’s also a sign of how sons are doomed to mimic their fathers’ primary failure—denial.
If you’re in the minority that considers your dad’s impact as generally favorable, I’d have you ask a deeper question. Was your dad simply around, or was he actually engaged in your life? There’s a big difference. One is a figure. The other is a mentor. How many life lessons did your dad actually offer you? How many principles did he offer when you were eight that you remembered when you were twenty-eight? How many of us had dads who were observant enough to step in and guide our hearts, or facilitate our calling in life? Maybe your dad taught you how to manage money, or instilled a work ethic. But did he teach you how proper money management and a work ethic are tied to much bigger realities? Did he expose you to the deeper joys of such virtues?
Many men will insist their dad’s inattention has had no great effect on them. Trust me—they’re lying. Boys need fathers like trees need trunks. I’ve seen strong and sturdy sixty-year-old men weep in sight of the empty space where a dad should have been or at the indelible marks left by tyrants who posed as fathers. So much in a man’s life can be traced back to the father—good and bad.
You’re Not Crazy
A prime example is the epidemic struggle with sexual sin among Christian men. Oftentimes, when helping men deal with this sin, I will ask, “Did you receive any instruction on sex in your adolescence?” In almost every case the answer is no. Your dad may have offered a single awkward lecture on anatomy, but that’s barely even helpful. Mainly we (the church) give the impression that sexuality and the natural desires of young men (or women) are something to be ashamed of. Is it any wonder it’s such a pervasive problem? When MTV is teaching our sons everything they know about sex and how to value women, they’re doomed.
At the exact moment a young man faces the most substantial physical, emotional, hormonal, and social changes of his life, he’s left to figure it out for himself. We stay on them about cleaning their rooms, but don’t say a word to them about sex. They go to bed dreaming of Legos in their childhoods and wake up Sasquatch. No one warns them of what’s coming. No one does them the incredible favor of assuring them that this bizarre physical transformation is normal. They grow up thinking they’re crazy.
In the absence of a guide it’s impossible to maneuver this space and live to tell about it. An unsupervised adolescent boy doesn’t have a prayer in this culture. You might as well drop him off at the porn shop on his thirteenth birthday. Seriously. Point is, in most cases this struggle (and many others) in men can be traced back to the empty space a father was designed to fill. Is it any wonder adult sons are so resentful of their fathers?
Father Wounds
At the same time, there are way too many “men” blaming their personal issues on their fathers’ failures. You can justify almost anything by lifting up your psyche and showing people your “daddy wound.” I know of men who’ve abandoned their wives and families and offer their “wounded spirits” as justification. At present, blaming our hang-ups on our “father wounds” is the default position. It’s trendy to have one. Like psychological tattoos. They all read, “Dad hurt my feelings.” The expression “father wound” is now in the realm of Christian clichés. Which means…it’s virtually meaningless.
Nonetheless, deep behind the lines of “suburbianity” this psychosomatic phenomenon is assumed to be true. Men eat it up. You mention the concept to fresh ears and to them, it magically explains the origin of every flaw they’ve ever had. Some of the most popular books on men are perched on this singular conviction. It’s always a pleasant little journey from assumption to foregone conclusion.
Just consider the number of men’s Bible studies and accountability groups dedicated to this concept. Men sit around and discuss it for weeks on end, sounding more like girls than men. There’s no way this is healthy. What good does it do to incessantly identify a chronic ache without taking action to correct it? It does no good. It makes us more self-absorbed than we already are. Trust me—the men in your small group may be nodding in affirmation on the outside, but they’re rolling the eyes of their heart on the inside. They’re tired of hearing about your dad’s lack of affection.
I get it. I’m not suggesting there’s no truth to the concept of emotional wounds. Some of us had messed-up childhoods. I have friends with painful stories. In some instances their personal suffering was so intense it’s hard to relate. Comparatively, my dad never beat me with a half-inch thick branch or made me sleep under my bed so as not to hear me sob. Some dads are pure evil. Generally, all of our dads made mistakes and had moments (or decades) of angry excesses. No man is perfect, and others are as far from it as possible.
Honestly though, so what? Get in line. Who hasn’t been hurt or sinned against—even by people we’re hard-wired to trust? Should we ask our wives about the innumerable “stupid wounds” they've received at our hands? Or should we talk to our kids? Or do we want to compare wounds with the Savior of sinners? This planet is littered with fallen narcissistic scavengers (including you and me) who’ll do almost anything to get what they want. Besides, if we were as angry at our sin as we are with our dad, we might actually get past some stuff. By the third (or ten thousandth) sad retelling of our disadvantaged youth, what good has it done anyway?
What the Cross Says to Victims
There’s a fine line between blame and acceptance. The balance between focusing on the injustices in our life and taking personal responsibility for our lives is difficult. Many men are imprisoned by memories, or the lack thereof. They can’t make it past the inequity of their experiences. The solution here is mainly theological and not therapeutic. It’s a matter of focus. My point is, it’s not about becoming intimate with your hang-ups. It’s about becoming intimate with your Creator. Will you spend your days examining self, or something greater than yourself    ? Other men with equally painful memories have found freedom in the cross. They have a different type of internal struggle. They can’t get over the “inequity” of Christ’s death.
What’s most notable about this last category of people is their normalcy. They’re stable, grateful, and productive people who love Christ. They seem never to draw attention to the scars etched in their lives, but are simultaneously better people because of them.
Those who adhere too tightly to the father wound philosophy tend to approach life as victims. Victims of their circumstances. In some cases childhood memories serve as the basic justification for their own misbehavior and delinquency. “Someone hurt me; therefore, you must cut me slack as I destroy everything in my path.” Life is spent examining their wounds ad nauseam. Daddy wounds are like rocks in their shoes.
This outlook on life is why some men never grow up. It’s an excuse for immobility and failure. They have trendy haircuts at fifty, frustrated wives, wear skinny jeans (strangely resembling elves), discontented jobs, massive debt, still shop at the Gap, try way too hard to be hip, and every single conversation you have with them is about them and why they are still living in their mother’s basement emotionally. It’s hopeless.
The other perspective has God and the cross in view. It takes in the same pain from a completely different angle. The cross looms over and brings clarity to the trauma that creeps into every life. It alone explains the real reason people do the horrible things they do—they’re sinners. This perspective requires humility because it acknowledges the mystery of sin. Who can explain why sin causes people to do the things they do? No one. Sin is intentional and irrational at the same time. People do these things because it’s in their natures to do them as sinners. But, rather than ending in fatalism, this awareness frees us. It keeps us from fixating our attention on the why of our circumstances. This world is sinful, that’s why people do the things they do.
The cross promises all the abused and abandoned that there will be justice. No one gets away. But, the cross goes farther. It doesn’t let the “victims” off the hook either. We’ve all sinned against people. Everyone has made a victim of someone. The cross is essentially screaming this at humanity. We’re all bad people. God did not die to save us from our daddy wounds. He died to save us from ourselves and the consequences of who we are. He died because rescuing sinful humanity from the wrath of God required a brutal death. We’re brutal people. This fact brings our self-fulfilling unending therapy session to an abrupt close. Before God we’re no better than our abusive, negligent, or “good, but not much” fathers.
Furthermore, the cross proves that our greatest need is not psychological and/or therapeutic, but spiritual. Understanding our circumstances, backgrounds, or psychological makeup may be helpful as far as it goes, but it can’t change your heart. It won’t help you truly forgive because it begins with an imperfect standard—you. The cross presents us with the perfect standard. It’s the truth about it all. The greatest tragedy in human history is the death of Christ. The innocent Son of God died in the place of guilty sinners. He was brutalized at the hands of ungrateful rebels. In this sense, the only innocent victim on the planet is Christ. The rest of us—all of us—are guilty. The cross puts the spikes in each of our hands and makes us face the truth about who we are.
From the view of the cross our forgiveness of others is based on the infinitely greater standard. We forgive in view of the forgiveness we’ve received in Christ. Our willingness to release others is not based on our pathetic self-estimation. It’s true forgiveness. It comes from a heart that has been transformed and is being transformed by a growing awareness of the grace of God toward sinners in the cross of Christ. It comes from a life that has been set free from a defense of self. The cross proves unequivocally that there’s nothing worth defending.
But we’re not left here to despair. The cross also makes sense of our life and its pain. In fact, what we did before Christ is nonsense and what we once considered absurd now makes complete sense. There is nothing in our life out of God’s control. The therapeutic perspective can’t get here. It can only patch us up and teach us how to walk with a limp. The gospel of sovereign grace transforms us and gives us new legs. It sets us free. All that happens to us—good and bad—presses us deep into the liberating reality of the mysterious cross. Our trials become messengers from God that teach us how to live with the rest of the sinners on this planet. Even our dads.
Alone Is Hard to Take
My biological father was a drummer in a rock band. My mom fell hard for him when she was really young. As a result, she never let me get near a drum set. (I think that qualifies as a “mommy wound.”) They ran off together with Springsteen’s “Born to Run” playing in the background of their naïveté. The joyride came to an end with the birth of their first child, my sister. It came off the rails with the birth of their second, me. As soon as my mom could raise enough money she left him to pursue his rock-and-roll fantasy. She was a mom now. That changed everything. He never grew up. Some things never change.
I was too young to know what had happened between them, or care. All I recall of my progenitor was an occasional visit in the summers of my youth. He was a cool customer and drove an even cooler custom van. Just imagine the seventies. He always had some beautiful woman with him who bore a striking resemblance to my mom. He would show up late morning to take my sister and me to lunch. The brief visit would end with a whirlwind trip to Kmart. With the brisk scent of materialism in my face he would confidently announce, “You can have anything you want, except a bike. That’s too expensive.” I settled for the Fonzie action figure with the movable thumb and miniature leather jacket. Then he would drop us off around three o’clock and leave. I had no idea who this guy was and why he bought me stuff. They told me he was my father, but that didn’t make any sense. Weren’t dads supposed to be around? Eventually, those outings came to an end.
I remember my mom being angry on the days he did come. That’s about all I recall. Well, that and the fact that the arm of the Six Million Dollar Man action figure came off, revealing bionics. My mom would sit on the couch at my grandparents’ home watching me play with my new little trinkets and weeping bitterly. She would eventually exit the room with a slam of the door. I would push my glasses up on my nose and stare curiously at the door through my cloudy little lenses. Adults were complicated. I was innocent and clueless. I imagine that’s the only thing that saves a kid in my situation. Truly, for a five-year-old, ignorance is bliss, but short-lived.
I now know what it was about that scene that hurt her so deeply. Me. There’s nothing so sad as a boy without a father. It’s like the emotion we have when we see people eating alone in restaurants. Alone is hard to take. Maybe the only thing more regrettable is the son whose father is present but might as well not be. Ultimately, both are alone in this world.
Who Doesn’t Want a Father?
Despite the absence of my biological father, I’ve avoided becoming a statistic. God, in His grace, sent me a replacement dad. Not long after my mom relocated she ran into a childhood friend of her brother’s, Victor Yawn. Several years later—after they were married—I was sitting on a wooden bench outside a courtroom, legs swinging back and forth in thick Southern air. Victor came and stood across from me, then squatted so as to look me right in the eyes. He then asked, “Do you want to be my son?” A strange question for a kid who already assumed he was. I looked at him and said, “Yep.” He disappeared into the courtroom. Later that day I was endowed with the worst last name a preacher could ever ask for, Yawn. A name for which I will forever be grateful.
That question is etched in my mind. It is a treasured memory. Imagine a day when the man who’s already functioning as your dad makes it official by asking you the most obvious question on the planet. Who doesn’t want a father? Believe me, I never took his presence for granted. In some ways I think there are a lot of men with biological children who need to get around to asking this same question. I’m pretty sure how their kids will answer. After all, who doesn’t want a father?
Despite the fact I was adopted by him, I didn’t realize he was my stepfather until many years later. For many it is the opposite scenario. Despite the fact that sons know who their biological fathers are, they don’t actually know them. My dad’s love was unconditional. This is why I have never referred to him as my stepfather, and bristle when others do. He never gave me a chance to know the difference. This only goes to prove the fact that many men who have kids aren’t fathers at all.
Let’s be clear. Any beast aroused at the right time with a suitable mate in view can produce an offspring. But only men can be fathers. Furthermore, it’s one thing for a father to be around; it’s another thing for a father to be engaged. Obviously, being around is better than not being around, but being engaged is invaluable. One simply fills a role. The other anchors a life. It’s obvious when a dad is merely tolerating his kid. No one knows this more than the kid. At the same time, nothing so enlivens the life of a child as a dad who cares. When dad is listening and tracking and caring for his son’s soul, the world is a safer place.
It’s unnatural for a father to ignore his children. It’s cruel. It’s a subtle form of abandonment. Kids are satisfied with the smallest crumb that occasionally falls from their father’s table. Since most children get very little from their dads, they’re content with whatever they get. Hence, “good, but not much.” Dads can do the smallest things and effect enormous joy in their children. Just coming home from work is an event. Dads don’t just come home. They arrive.
Most dads never notice the deep need for approval their sons carry around. It’s potent. One word of encouragement can have a lifetime of effect. It only takes one sentence to change a son’s life forever, “Son, I’m proud of you.” Those men who’ve never received this type of approval spend a lifetime working for it. Those who get it have a sense of assurance the rest don’t.
No dad is perfect. For the most part King David was a good father. Obviously he had some serious baggage, but he engaged with Solomon, warning his son to avoid the mistakes he made. Yet Solomon ended up the Casanova of the Bible. Then there was Saul—basically the Darth Vader of the Old Testament. Despite his stupidity he had an exemplary son like Jonathan. I guess the point is that so much is dependent on God’s grace. You could be the best dad on the planet and still have a bonehead for a son. Or you could be a total failure and have a son who honors you despite your inability to be a father to him.
Some fathers are good at some things, but no father is good at everything. Some things we have to figure out on our own. Those who never had fathers, or had really poor ones, can take some comfort in this fact. Eventually, even those who had ideal relationships with their fathers find themselves in the tangle of their own lives, wishing their father had told them a little bit more.
A Dad to the End
Dr. Victor Yawn and my youngest sister were crossing over a long country road. She was taking him back to the ER. As I recall, he had been watching his granddaughter in a play. They looked both ways down the familiar expanse and then proceeded across. The car that hit them was hidden by a dip in the road. It was a freak accident. In the very moment they turned to see what was coming they could not see it. But, it was coming. When my sister awoke—having been knocked unconscious at impact—he was lying against his seat looking at her. He had been waiting for her. When their eyes met he asked, “Sweetheart, are you okay?” She said, “Yes, Daddy.” He then closed his eyes, lay his head back, and surrendered to the internal injuries that eventually took his life. A dad to the end.
It was a bizarre phone call. “Your dad is not well; you should come home.” I had listened to my dad make the same call to the families of his patients a hundred times. I knew what it meant. This agonizing awareness filled the six-hour ride home. A strange painful anticipation. I knew he was gone. It was the longest ride of my life. I collapsed in tears in the ER parking lot when I finally received the inevitable news.
When I encountered my mom some time later, she asked the most appropriate question I’ve ever heard: “What are we going to do without him?” There’s only one answer to that question: “I don’t know.” Patriarchs are a tough loss. I’ve certainly not done as well as I would have otherwise.
Weeks before, my dad had been at my home in Dallas, Texas, where I was an associate pastor in a Bible church. We played golf, ate greasy food, contemplated life, annoyed our wives, and laughed. Father and son. He held my one-year-old daughter for a photo just before he departed. It hangs on the wall of my home.
In a sublime moment before his departure, which I will never forget, he took me around behind his Suburban. He looked me right in the eyes—no longer needing to squat down—and said, “Son, I’m so proud of you. I’m proud to call you my son. I just wanted you to know that.” Then he left. I remember walking into the house after our encounter and telling my wife, Robin, “God just gave me a tremendous gift. Dad and I are no longer just father and son; we’re friends. Best friends. I love that man.” Two weeks later the phone rang.
What comforted me most in the days leading up to and following his funeral was the closure. It was all done. The last thing I ever said to my dad was, “I love you.” We so often communicated our love to one another there was nothing I needed to say to him. As I’ve grown, however, there’s plenty I wish he had said to me. I’ve faced a lot of questions where my impulse was to pick up the phone and call him. There’s much more I wish he had said while he was still alive. Wisdom is a precious commodity. There’s none so valuable and trustworthy as the wisdom of a father.
In a weird providence, I’ve been fatherless twice. This fact has caused me to know the value of male influences in my life. I’ve sought out these influences. I’ve asked thousands of questions. My dad died when I was twenty-seven. From there to here I have taken careful notes and paid close attention to good fathers and consistent men. I’ve listened.
I now have three sons of my own. One awaits me in heaven. The two remaining here on earth are affectionately known as “Hammer and Nail.” Brothers. A fraternity I never had the privilege of experiencing. I love these boys. These boys love their dad. In many ways I’m a mooring for their lives. In others, they are a mooring for mine. Sons need dads in ways only being a dad makes obvious. All these principles I’ve picked up are now bombarding their world. Much of it is the content of this book.
I’m afraid for them. This world is brutal, especially for men. It’s a grinder. So I try not to waste a moment. I give them every ounce of wisdom I have to give about everything I can imagine. This includes simple and mundane things. Why you should never cut into a steak to see if it’s done. Why prevent defense never works. How you swing a hammer by holding it at the end of the handle. Then there are larger realities. Integrity. Love. Sex. Money. I never stop thinking about them and their future wives and kids. But mostly I pray. I know full well I’m a sinner raising sinners. Only God can do what needs to be done in their lives. I’m just an instrument.
The following chapters are some of what I want to say to my sons, as well as what I wish had been said to me. Principles. They come from various places. Some are hard-earned lessons. I’ve tried not to waste personal mistakes. As I have had the opportunity to do exit reviews on my blunders, various principles have emerged. My prayer is that what I’ve learned from my failures can preserve my sons from a similar fate. Other principles are borrowed from the wisdom of men in my life. I’ve made them my own over the years. They’ve been invaluable.
As you read, you’ll notice gaps—things proved to be valuable in your own life that aren’t included. This is inevitable. I’ve not intended to say everything that needed to be said, but only some of what every man wished he had known before. But as you compare notes with me, you should write down your thoughts. In fact, send me your suggestions, and I’ll add them to my list. But, more importantly, get up and walk down the hall to your son’s room, or pick up the phone to call your son. Tell him yourself. He’s been waiting for this moment. Call your dad. Tell him you love him.
I know one day my sons will wish I had told them more than I did. This too is inevitable. Fact is, I can’t tell them enough. So much will be up to them. As of now I’m trying—by God’s grace—to give my sons the best head start in this life I can. So, I talk to them. I’m engaged. Every night I’m home to put them to bed, without fail I bury my face in theirs and say, “I love you, son. I’m proud to have you as a son.” This isn’t everything they need to hear, but if it were the last thing they heard from me, there’d be nothing left to say.