Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Boots and Bottle Caps.

This advertisement has followed me around and has been up on the “board of fame” in my office for about 10 or 12 years. My original intent was always with the next raise, promotion or when I had finally “arrived” I was going to buy these boots. The advertisement served as a sense of inspiration I guess. But with each raise or promotion life happened – a new baby, a house, bigger car, etc., and the boots never came down from the board.

Then this year shortly after coming home, having spent three straight weeks in Ghana with my adopted 5 year old daughter Akosua "Zoey", I took it down. Those weeks gave me a better perspective, so I thought, of this quote from C.S. Lewis which also resides on the “board of fame."

“Indeed, if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”

I can’t tell you the exact thought that was going through my mind when I took my “boots” down. If you’ve ever spent any time in a third world country you know there is an overabundance of events and images to mentally process. But the reality of being far too easily pleased kept punching me in the gut like the school yard bully you regrettably pegged in the face during a round of 4th hour P.E. kickball.

The vivid images of the time spent in my daughter’s village, where she still resides, and the bottle caps she uses as toys just kept spinning in my head. And believe me, there’s a lot of room up there to rattle around!
These boots and bottle caps have consumed my thoughts since my arrival home. Recently, I thought I had come to this conclusion, “Zoey and I both are too easily pleased!” Yes, both of us. That’s it!

The difference is, I’m easily pleased by my worldly minded selfishness and she’s easily pleased by her innocence.

In my selfishness I am the half-hearted creature(s), fooling about and she in her innocence wants to be a part of my world. So here we are both making mud pies in a slum together. I say this because during our stay together she uttered these words in her native Twi, “…I am ready to go, there is nothing for me here.” And as I ponder those words I desperately would like her to understand, “Baby don't be so easily pleased, there is nothing for you here either, but there is a holiday by the sea waiting for us.” As her father I’m already struggling with a way to convey that thought.

Now, here is the part of this post where after you’ve read my previous statement you will either be or are really confused, convicted or upset. Or I’ve already lost you but you’re hanging in here so you can get a firm count on my grammatical errors. Which I’m positive are in the double digits by now! I like myself a good run on sentence you can’t read in one breath now and again.

Nonetheless, I’ve said this before and I’ll say this again. America cannot, does not and will not fix her! Don’t fool yourself into believing this or think that we believe this. If you do, then honestly you don’t get international adoption. No problem, I didn’t either till God called me to it. It is true that God, by His will, has chosen us to be born and live in this great country. America has given us opportunities and has provided us a means to be a loving forever family to a fatherless child half a world away. But America does not fix her! For one thing she does not need fixed!! She is not broken!! She is perfect! What’s broken is what she’s been left in and that’s a life without a mother and father!! That can be fixed!

But herein also lies the flaw in my previous conclusion.

I actually thought when she cries out, “there’s nothing for me here” that she desires to upgrade from Ghanaian bottle caps to American boots! And I honestly worry over how to protect her from this!

Then as he has done so many times, God humbles me through a child when He whispers to me,

“Wake up Tyson.

You make proclamations you don’t even understand yourself!

But she gets it.

Arrogant boy, her cry is not for the world you live in. She knows all about the holiday by the sea because I have clothed her in innocence and it protects her from your simple minded selfishness.

Son listen when I say, her cry is a yearning to share this journey to the sea with you, her father.

Now, wake up!”

And once humbled, I do finally wake up. Now I see she and I aren’t making mud pies in the slum together. Nope, it’s just me, with a mud pie in one hand and the picture of my boots in the other. She’s already turned in her bottle caps while I stand here still far too easily pleased.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

The grand slam that wasn't!

I commented in warm-ups to our boy’s little league coach and my friend M.W. that I was a little nervous for this game. His reply, “Ah, we have a whole year before we should get nervous,” referring to the fact that next year our boys would start kid pitch baseball. My nervousness though was for Wyatt, my 8 year old middle child and youngest son. I had an athletic career plagued with injuries at the worst times, “almosts” and coming close. I had felt the disappointment of being the one to make the bad pass that loses the big game and the pain of seeing a state championship slip away in the final 10 seconds. I don’t want my child to go through those disappointments though I know full well that it’s these times that will build character. Still, I’m his father wanting to protect his feelings and I was nervous.

So there we sat bottom of the 3rd , bases loaded, down 6 – 0 in the first game of the Oklahoma regional tournament for coach pitch baseball when Wyatt comes up to bat. My official capacity on this team is batboy, and the tallest and best in the entire league mind you, so being on the field I got to give him my standard last words of advice before he went to the plate. “Check your hands, check your feet, then give it a ride!”

And give it a ride he did into the deep right center gap all the way to the fence of this extraordinarily neatly manicured field. With tongue wagging he rumbled, tumbled and stumbled around the bases. I could see coach M.W. at 3rd base swinging his arm like a clock on crack, which is the universal baseball signal for, “nobody stop and you better get on your horse if you want a grand slam homerun my slow little friend!!” Down the third base line Wyatt came while I screamed who knows what as he crossed home plate! I was just thinking to myself, “No matter how bad you want to, it’s completely inappropriate to scoop him up and carry him into the dugout right now!!”

Then I hear, “Tag him! Tag him,” coming from the other team’s dugout. I froze and started to yell, but it was too late, before Wyatt could get back to touch home plate that he missed in all the excitement the catcher tagged him out.

And that’s when it happened. The son’s eyes met the fathers’. Up to this point in his very young athletic career Wyatt had never let the bad plays bother him. I had figured it was immaturity or lack of knowing the magnitude of his errors…after all he’s only 8. But this time in his eyes I could see he knew.

He knew he just had a grand slam that wasn’t and he knew they needed that extra run. It’s also in this same split second that I realized how I reacted to all this as a father may shape him for years to come. I could see he was looking me straight in the eyes wanting to know how he himself should react. I recognized in that instant where I stood, this was not a teaching moment. He knew what he did wrong; now he needed grace!

I grabbed him, hugged him, told him it was okay, congratulated him on the 3 runs he knocked in that did count and patted him all the way to his seat in the dugout! A father full grace and understanding is what he needed.

I know in life we adults have many a grand slam moment that turns out to be a disaster. Most of the time, it’s something we’ve messed up ourselves. Or maybe it’s our mess ups turn out to be of a grand slam magnitude effecting not just us but family and friends around us. In these moments we may or may not want to lock eyes with our Heavenly Father depending on how we see him.

Do you see Him as ready to smack you with guilt and punishment?

Or do you see Him as your loving father ready to pat you on the back freely pouring out grace and forgiveness?

Do you see Him as the father who hurts simply because you hurt?

The father who yearns to see you succeed yet forgets your failures with every prayer of forgiveness?

The father who invites you to sit on His lap and share your deepest hurts and regrets?

It took me about 30 years to see Him this way but once I did it literally changed me forever! I could not be more serious about a life changing event in my Christian walk than this one of how I see God.

Give it a try. A simple change of perspective in how God sees you and all your shortcomings will change your life forever. It did mine!

Micah 7:18-19 (Message)
Where is the god who can compare with you—
wiping the slate clean of guilt,
Turning a blind eye, a deaf ear,
to the past sins of your purged and precious people?
You don't nurse your anger and don't stay angry long,
for mercy is your specialty. That's what you love most.
And compassion is on its way to us.
You'll stamp out our wrongdoing.
You'll sink our sins
to the bottom of the ocean.

As a side note, the teaching opportunity came later.  I'm positive young Wyatt will NEVER EVER miss home plate again!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Greatest Hits Volume 3

This post from the archives comes as a salute to the now late Andy Griffith!  Greatest nongun carrying sheriff the world has ever known.  [Insert whistling theme music here.]

Crazy Street Preacher Guy! From October 26, 2009

I grew up in the small rural town of Maysville, OK - population about 1,000 all the time. Growing up there was great! My friends and I often referred to it as Mayberry and we still call it that do to this day. Much like Floyd’s Barber Shop in Mayberry, we had Dugan’s in Maysville. What was not similar is Mayberry’s Barney Fife was more like The Duke’s of Hazards Roscoe P. Coltrane in our town. Oh yeah! Just give em’ a reason to cuff ya' and stuff ya! I’m so getting pulled over the next time I go home.

Anyway…if you’ve ever heard that joke about living in a small town that when you cuss while out with your buddies your mom knows before you get home and is waiting on you with a bar of soap, is not too far off.

The other thing about living in a small town is you know who the “crazies” were, ALL OF THEM, and you weren’t even to go near them or within a city block of where they lived.

One of our local crazies was this older guy who often preached from the street corner at the highway intersection in town. I don’t remember him being on the “STAY AWAY” list but he was noted as a local crazy and most stayed away simply because he was an annoyance…I mean the guy was going off about God, beating his Bible for a congregation that passed through at 35 mph for goodness sakes…this qualified you as CRAZY!

Fast forward to today. Here I am acting on this call from God to minister and plant a church. Giving sermons about worshiping God anywhere anytime with unbridled devotion. Then what do you know but I’m driving down the road where we live in Ada, OK, a lot juices were flowing from a sermon I had been listening to earlier in the day, the right song came on KLOVE (Christian radio station) and the next thing I know I’m so overwhelmed by the love of God, his Holy Spirit and the fact that Jesus came here for me that I could have pulled over right then and there at the car wash and thrown down an impromptu Spirit filled sermon that Billy Graham would have thought twice about responding too…I was on fire!! At that very time I felt like preaching to a 35mph congregation.

HOLY COW I’ AM NOW OFFICIALLY CRAZY!! I’m turning myself in. Tell my family I love them and what day visitation is.

NO! I’m not crazy I just needed an outlet.

Looking back at the crazy street preacher guy where I grew up. He had a calling. He was overwhelmed by the facts that Jesus is the only one that can make us right with God,

He’s the only one that cares for us day in and day out regardless of our faults,

He’s the only one who died so we wouldn’t have to and that feat defeated the devil for us, and


Crazy street preacher guy was so overwhelmed that he needed an outlet and he chose what he felt was right and that was to preach at the cars passing through his town.

Do I think it’s the best approach at reaching people? Not really. But that was his calling not mine.

I’d would much rather answer to God someday for responding and it not being the most effective approach than I would answer this question, “Why didn’t you do anything?” “You didn’t even try to tell people about me.”

God hasn’t called me to preach from the street corner…thank you Jesus. But He has called me to plant a church in a town known for a church on every corner and reach out to those who desire and love Jesus with all their heart but aren’t sure how anymore because they’ve been hit by a Mack truck called religion. God has called me, that through the messages He lays on me, to create servant minded Christ followers who overflow with the same love Jesus had to the point it overflows and breaks them. And then they can truly see the injustice around and can’t help but love and aid those in need!! That’s my calling.

Do the facts that Jesus is our healer between us and God, He cares, He died and He’s coming back move you? Does it make you want to take a step closer to your calling? Does it make you want to devote to Him? Does it make you want to answer that tug at your heart called Jesus and say I’m going to change "blank" today or I’m going to do "blank" for Him today? If it does, YOU’RE NOT CRAZY…well you are…crazy for Him and that’s AWESOME! Especially when the world talks about what they see you doing for Him.

Do I think some see me in the same light as I saw “street corner preacher” for so many years? Absolutely, because human nature is to mock what we don’t understand! And to that I say, “Thank you Lord I must be doing something right!”

Luke 6:22-23 (The Message)

"Count yourself blessed every time someone cuts you down or throws you out, every time someone smears or blackens your name to discredit me. What it means is that the truth is too close for comfort and that that person is uncomfortable. You can be glad when that happens—skip like a lamb, if you like!—for even though they don't like it, I do . . . and all heaven applauds. And know that you are in good company; my preachers and witnesses have always been treated like this...”

To close this post I have written a formal apology to crazy street preacher guy.

“Sir, I apologize that I wasn’t mature enough in my faith to understand that you were only answering your calling. I admire you for standing up in the face of mockery day in and day out. I will see you in heaven someday brother. We’ll sit down over a cup of coffee and you can preach to me every sermon God ever laid on your heart…don’t worry if there’s 1,000 sermons I’ve got an eternity to listen and the coffee will never get cold in heaven.”