Nov 14, 2007

Man of Your Word

Hold on to your britches. You actually do see posts two days in a row. You best watch out. I may go on a posting tirade and be an ever-present presence on the internets.

This morning, my sweet little daughter put me in my place. She going to be four in December, but I often forget this, since she acts pretty similar to her six year old brother. Anyway, brother is sick with pneumonia and has to miss school for a couple days. So I was taking her by herself to class this morning. We're having a ball in the van, as we usually do. When we get to the school, I ask her, "Do you want me to take you through the car line, or walk you in to class?" At first, she said the car line, but then changed her mind and wanted me to walk her in.

Now, as the parental unit, I prefer the car line. I don't have to get out of my car. There is no chance for a meltdown at the door. I don't have to park and walk waaaaay across the parking lot - twice. So I said, "Honey, let's just do the car line, okay? You're a big girl. We can do this." She started to say okay, and then said, "No, Daddy. YOU asked me car line or walk in - and I picked walking in."

Spear through the heart. She wasn't being sassy or rude (trust me, I know what that sounds like). She was confused as to why I would give her a choice and then take it away. I sheepishly responded, "You're right. I'm sorry. I did ask you what you wanted. We'll park." It really got me to thinking. How many times do I do that to my kids? Answer: lots. I tell them I'll get to something later, knowing they will probably get distracted and forget. I try to manipulate their answer - or get them to pick what I want them to do.

I know that doesn't seem like a big deal, but how I can establish to my kids that I speak the truth? How can I show them that my word is good, if I constantly am showing them that it is not worth anything? I don't want to have my daughter question if I am going to be trustworthy because I have taken advantage of that trust so many time for my own gain. And what would I have really gained? A couple minutes? Not having to walk across the lot? Compared to what I would have lost - the chance to hold hands with my daughter and drop her off to start her day - it seems stupid. And it will ultimately make her question whether every guys is going to lie to her. And if I constantly lie to them, why should I expect them to believe the REALLY important things - like God and Heaven and Creation and such.

On a broader scale, how many times do I do the same thing to people in my life? And how often do they do it to me?
  • I'll call you this afternoon.
  • I'll finish that project tomorrow.
  • I'll email you in the morning.
  • I'll support your ministry.
  • I'll be there for the event.
We've gotten so good at saying those things and having excuses ready for when we fail. I know I do that all the time. I forget to do things (because I'm so busy) and then have to provide reasons for it so I don't look like a schmuck. And everyone around me is doing the same thing. I can honestly say that there is probably not even a handful of people who I know I can completely take at their word. After two-and-a-half years of doing Defender Ministries, I have learned how little a person's word means. It is never malicious or rude (according to the person doing it) and there is always a good reason.

On a global scale, no wonder marriages crumble and people don't trust politicians or businessmen or lawyers or whatever. Words today mean nothing.
  • Til death do us part.
  • I do solemnly swear to tell the truth.
  • I will never leave you.
  • There is irrefutable evidence that...
  • God told me....
We have gotten to a point where words are useless. I can say anything I want to anyone I want - and if I don't follow through I can justify that. This is obvious is sports, where coaches and players bail out on contracts all the time. It is obvious in business, where executives take advantage of the same stockholders they swore to represent. It is obvious in church, where ministers betray and abuse the staff and members they were hired to shepherd. It is a far cry from the Bible, where we are told to have our yes mean yes and our no mean no. We were told never to take vows, because it was better to never take them than to break them.

I know I have a long way to go to fix this point. I just don't ever want to have my kids question my word again. The cost of that is too great. That's something I will never be able to justify.

Nov 13, 2007


I haven't posted in seven weeks. My last entry came the day before our third child entered this world. And he's going to be seven weeks old tomorrow. See? Math is important.

During the last seven weeks, a lot has happened. We have been trying to deal with the new challenge of always being outmanned 3-2 by the kids. We have been trying to establish some sort of schedule. I built a space shuttle and a chick-fil-a out of cardboard boxes, contact paper, and duct tape. I've been writing and meeting and emailing and designing and stressing. And we have been falling asleep between 9:45 and 10:15 each night - exhausted from the day in general. Now the holiday season is upon us, with traveling and events and stress galore.

I have started to blog a couple times. I wanted to do my Summer Oscars, but didn't. I wanted to write about the birth experience, but was too tired. I wanted to gripe about Halloween (even started that one) but didn't. In fact, most of my potential blogs were whiny and negative. Actually, my perspective lately has been pretty whiny and negative. That happens from time to time - usually there is a main culprit. This time, same as most, was money.

Working for and running a relatively new non-profit ministry is one continuous challenge. You have to constantly promote and innovate and inform - hoping you catch on with the people who need to use you. And you also have to hope that money comes in. Sometimes it does. Sometimes it doesn't. Unfortunately, bills don't follow that same schedule. So, when the money doesn't come in (which has happened for three falls in a row), well you get stressed.

So I have been very worried about money. In addition to our other bills, we had our start up costs for our new domicile, an out-of-control power bill thanks to a non-optimized A/C unit, and a speeding ticket (mine - i firmly blame being zoned out and tired and missing the ridiculously low speed limit sign). Then there are the standard needs every November. The kids outgrow their long pants and long shirts from last year, so then need replaced. School has pictures and projects and parties. Travel for holidays and such burns gas (at $3.07 a gallon in Orlando). It all adds up.

So I get very stressed and gripe. I want to know why God hasn't fixed my problem. You know how you get after a few weeks of that? Everything becomes a crisis. THE NEW MAC UPGRADE WON'T LET ME GET ON THE INTERNET AT HOME!!! THE CABLE BOX IS MESSING UP REPEATEDLY DURING THE KIDS' SHOWS!!! WE'RE OUT OF MILK - AGAIN!!! I BANGED MY TOE ON THE STOOL!!! A LIZARD GOT INTO THE HOUSE!!! Soon, instead of being my usual Eeyore self, I turn into a horribly depressed and unpleasant Eeyore. My language starts to slip into college-era. I snap at everyone. My fuse is about five seconds.

So today God decided to give me perspective. As I working in my office, a man came up and asked if I had a jack to fix a flat tire. Being well-trained by my many years of church work, I immediately was on guard. This man was wanting some help - and he could be a fraud. Before I could realize what I was saying, I said, "No, I don't have one." I thought to myself, "Yes, you do. It's in your trunk." The man's face fell. He said, "I just got hired at the new Lowe's yesterday. Today's my first day and I don't want to lose this job already."

I felt bad, and tried to figure out how to save face and solve the problem. "Do you have Triple A?" He looked at me like I was a dope. "No, I don't have money to pay for that." I tried to figure out if any of the counselors would be in soon to bail me out. He was getting desperate. "I have been unemployed for months. I can't lose this job." Finally God broke through and I realized my pride was not as important as this man. "Let me make sure that I don't have one."

We walked to my car and I started pulling stuff out of the trunk - it is full of Defender boxes. I knew right where to look - under the spare. He got excited. "You DO have one." He scampered off to work on his tire and I put the stuff back in the trunk. I walked over to his car, and realized that the was putting the jack in the wrong place and it was going to damage his door and frame. After hesitating (yes I am THAT selfish and stupid) I got down in the dirt and helped him. We changed the tire. It was shredded. There was no scam going on, his tire was used in the first place and it was toast. He's lucky he didn't get in a wreck when it blew out. I put it in the trunk and saw the food he had in his trunk. Canned food from a food kitchen type place and a loaf of old bread with a little mold on it. At that moment I got my perspective.

This guy was broke - really really broke. He was terrified he was going to lose his own small hope for survival. He didn't appear to have a family to go home to and feel blessed (never mentioned one). He was eating food I would have donated or thrown away. And he really needed help. That isn't saying that our struggles are not real and genuine. But we have hope - thanks to generous family members, donors, upcoming bookings. This man had no hope or way to escape his lot. He was very upbeat too. "Now you know you have a jack." (Added guilt pangs.) "If you know anyone who needs a job, tell them go up to Lowe's. They are hiring all positions." I felt like a dirtbag. Before he left, I asked him his name. "Jeff Williams." Easy name to remember for me - same as an old friend from Tampa. I gave him what little money I had in my pocket. "I wasn't asking for your money, sir." I looked at him and said, "I know you weren't, but I know you can use it."

And that was that. Trust me, I'm not trying to make myself look like a saint. In fact, I am probably the villain in the story. I'm too quick to put on that defensive shell - to make someone prove that they are hurting before I help. It is like the Bible story where the servant had a great debt and asked for mercy. His master forgave the debt completely. That servant then found a guy who owed him a couple bucks and had him arrested. The master called the servant back in and blew his stack - reinstated the debt and tossed him in prison. I'm that jerky servant a lot. I expect God to provide when I'm hurting (which is a legitimate prayer and hope). But I look around me and judge other people for their spending or their financial state. I worry that every panhandler is a fraud, everyone who comes to a church for help is a faker. Makes me look like a total punk.

Did I learn my lesson? Probably not. Not even five minutes later one of the counseling clients out in the lobby came in my office and asked if I had a cup she could use. Her medicine was drying out her mouth. I looked around and said, "No, I'm sorry." I then saw my box of cups that I have saved over the years - ones I designed or got as gifts. My initial thought was, "You can't give her those." And I almost let that thought win. But I called her back and gave her one of them. At least it took less time for me to switch from my initial reaction and to do something. I just hope that eventually I will be able to get rid of that first response. I need to keep my perspective.