Three Dads, One Day

Father’s Day signifies something different for every father and child. For many, the day presents precious moments of reflective acknowledgement and expressed appreciation. It can be a time of community in which we have the opportunity to place ourselves in our Fathers’ shoes, to momentarily see our small worlds through their eyes.

Eager to understand how and why Father’s Day is so important to us, I asked some fathers in my Church community some questions about fatherhood and how they felt about Father’s Day.

[Me]: What’s your favorite part of being a dad?

[Dad A]: I’ve loved watching my kids grow closer to God. I’ve loved watching them use their skills and talent to glorify Him!

[Dad B]: My favorite part is the privilege and opportunity I have to father three human beings. I get the chance to disciple them so that they’ll become people who will carry the same legacy.

[Dad C]: When I get to teach them God’s ways and see them following His leading.

[Me]: What are your favorite memories of your children? Do you have any particular parenting experiences that you value most?

[Dad A]: Family holidays for sure. Fishing in Southern England with my kids was one of my favorite things to do. We’d spend weekends and summers laughing together on the beach, climbing rocks, and catching crabs.

[Dad B]: Summer vacations! We got to spend quality time together as a family.

[Dad C]: I think my favorite part was the whole thing: seeing them grow into the people they are now. I love thinking back to the days when they were still dependent on me. They’ve changed so much and have different personalities! I can’t believe how much they have overcome. They faced so many challenges when we moved here to the United States.

[Me]: What do you consider to be your strengths/strong-suits when it comes to being a father?

[Dad A]: I’m not sure if I have strong suits.

[Dad B]: I believe my strength is my ability to meet them at their level. I can be their Dad and their friend at the same time.

[Dad C]: I’ll do whatever it takes to protect my kids.

[Me]: What do you consider to be your shortcomings/areas of improvement when it comes to being a father?

[Dad A]: I have lots of those! I think one thing in particular is that I don’t think I tell them I love them enough.

[Dad B]: My weakness is definitely my temper!

[Dad C]: My weakness is that I don’t want to see my family sad. And I’m really good at spoiling my kids too!

[Me]: Finally, is Father’s Day special to you? If so, why?

[Dad A]: It reminds me of my solemn responsibility to be a Father to my children and it connects me back to the fatherhood of God in my life.

[Dad B]: It feels so special to get all of the attention for a day. You get to feel like you’re passing on a legacy to your kids – especially the love of Christ!

[Dad C]: It’s a time to reflect upon what I am lacking in as a Father, a time to receive my family’s affirmations, and a time to mend and evaluate my shortcomings.

Week after week, I watch these fathers invest their time, love, and wisdom into the lives of their children. I cannot help but think of how privileged we are to have such guardians. I know many do not have the opportunity to experience the protection, guidance, and friendship of an earthly father; but we are all blessed to have a heavenly Father. And if such delight can be found in the love of a human father, how much more in the divine love of our gracious God!

“If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!” – Matthew 7:11 (ESV)

Written by Jeka

Image credit: Jeka Santos

Letter to the Graduating Senior

Dear Graduating Senior,

I’m writing you today to share some wisdom, but by “wisdom,” I really mean “thoughts” because, let’s face it, I, too, have yet to graduate and have no room to offer any sound advice for how to handle what’s to come. But, here I am anyways, so just hear me out.

I’ve spent the last three-and-a-half years of my life looking forward to graduation day. While I am still eager to float gracefully across the stage as Pomp and Circumstance loops for the fortieth time, I’m only now beginning to question just how ready I actually am. Am I ready to fly the coop, get a big girl job, and start making a life for myself? Yes, absolutely, one hundred percent. I’ve done my time, and I’m excited to start my journey, but am I ready? Can I function as a human being, on my own, without the comfort of knowing that I can come home to a secure campus with real people who face the same struggles as me? I mean, I don’t even know if “fly the coop” is a real expression, so I’ll leave that for you to decide.

All jokes aside, when I truly and honestly evaluate my preparedness to enter into the “real world,” I do feel as though I’ve been adequately equipped. The Lord has blessed me with an invaluable education, and, while four years seemed incredibly excessive and overwhelming as freshman, I’m beginning to realize now that I can never learn enough. Senioritis is real and distracting, and I’ve definitely missed out on learning some things by being impatient and trying to rush through these last two semesters. It’s hard to absorb new knowledge and information while being engrossed in fantasizing about the future and preparing to begin the next chapter of life; so, here is where the advice comes in:

Enjoy the time you have left.

Appreciate today and the opportunity you’ve had to attend a university, let alone make it successfully to the end of your senior year. When you’re old and decrepit, and you’re telling your grandchildren about your college experience, is your graduation day going to be the only experience worth telling them about? No, probably not. You’ll want to share about the people you met, the places you traveled to, and the memories that have lasted a life time. Enjoy a few more weeks of making those memories, and finish your studies out strong. After all, you haven’t received your diploma yet…

Take some time to reflect.

Believe it or not, a lot has changed in your life since the beginning of your freshman year, and now is the time to reflect on how much you’ve grown. Look through some pictures from the past few years and thank God for the people He’s put on your path. Thank Him for the good times and for the hard times, too, and thank Him for the lessons you’ve learned through the challenges He’s thrown your way. Consider taking your reflection a step forward and start a journal, detailing your time spent on campus. It’ll come in handy down the road.

Always seek learning opportunities.

There is a never ending amount of knowledge in the world, so make it a goal to learn often. Find things that interest you and pursue them. If you’re like me, you’ll apply to Grad school because, while you can’t wait to start your career, you realize that there is so much more you want to know before leaving. You can never find out all that there is to discover, but I believe that, by learning about the world around us, we learn more about the One who crafted it, and there is something really special in that.

Philippians 2:13 states, “For it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” Isn’t that amazing? No matter what we might be feeling or what the Lord calls us to do post-graduation, He is working for His good pleasure. While His plans for our lives don’t always align with what we desire for ourselves, we can rest in comfort and know that there must be something better in store that we can use to give Him glory. I mean, if what He’s doing within us is being done for His pleasure, can’t we assume that we, too, can find it pleasing as well?

According to the greatest philosopher to ever live, Dr. Seuss, “You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you chose.” This is true, and you’ll probably be hearing a lot of this soon because, hello, what graduation card doesn’t refer to Oh the Places You’ll Go these days? But while you have the power to decide where you want to go and what you want to do, I urge you to consult the Lord before making those decisions. Consider how you can use the brains in your head and the feet in your shoes to honor Him with the talents you use. I promise you won’t be let down.

Happy Graduation!

Written by Haley

Image credit

Easter Every Day

Easter, considered to be the most significant Christian holiday, has come again. Filled with bunny rabbits, oval-shaped chocolates, and wild Easter egg hunts, the occasion holds more than just the short-term blessings of joy and happiness; Easter gives us a chance to celebrate and receive once more, with grateful hearts, the eternal blessings of hope, peace, faith, and love. Two thousand years ago, a Jewish man, the son of a carpenter, hung fragile and exposed on a cross. It may have seemed somewhat insignificant to the onlookers, and even today many groups, communities, and nations believe it to be so. But to the Christian, Easter commemorates the life-changing gift of salvation through the death and resurrection of the world’s Savior, Jesus Christ.

Although this celebration occurs only once a year, Christians all over the world honor Christ’s sacrifice daily. The cross is the core of the Christian faith and Christian living. It not only grants all of us a way into eternal life, but restores our relationship with our Creator. Christians, those who have accepted God’s wonderful gift, now share life with Him every day, abiding in His delightful and sweet presence, alongside Him who is a constant helper, companion, protector, and friend. With the promise of His continual presence and a glorious inheritance, we can know that God has abundantly blessed us both here on earth and in life after death.

For Christians, these truths about God’s promise of blessing hold the energy to transform our lives day by day. Firstly, knowing that God waits for us in Heaven, gives us tremendous hope: hope enough to stand when life knocks us down; hope enough for us to see the light when we feel that the darkness is closing in; hope enough for us to keep walking even when storms are headed our way. Because the cross proclaims that this life is substantially brief and momentary in comparison to the eternal glory to come, we can have joy in all circumstances. Secondly, because God has gifted us with His unceasing presence, we can constantly speak to Him, present our requests to Him, and intercede for others on their behalf. He has promised to hear us. God sees everything and generously supplies all of our needs. He has promised to carry us through every single day.

Therefore, Easter, unlike many other holidays, far transcends its bounds of one week in the springtime year after year. Instead, it permeates each and every second of a believer’s life. Outside of charming Easter decorations, blissful fellowship with family and friends, and overflowing Church services, the true joy to be found in Easter is grasped in the stillness of the mundane, in the repetition of work and routine, and in the times of defeat, struggle, and pain. The cross is worn on millions of pendants, displayed in thousands of windows, and stuck on the bumper of countless vehicles but its reach is far beyond a worldwide festival. It holds the weight, power, and glory to give hope in every situation, to shine light into every circumstance, and to remind us of everlasting love every day.

Written by Jeka

Image credit

Take Chances, Make Mistakes

Over the Christmas/New Year holiday, one of my family’s favorite traditions is watching the annual Mythbusters marathon on the Science channel. For anyone who actually has things to do over the holidays and has no time to flip channels, Mythbusters episodes—all fourteen seasons—run back-to-back for nearly two weeks, saving everyone the breath it takes to moan, “There’s never anything on over Christmas!” It’s almost as good as a college education, but with practical knowledge instead of vague theories. (Sorry, college.)

Among the many notable quotes from the show (e.g. “This is starting to sound like a bad idea,” “Am I missing an eyebrow?” and “I reject your reality and substitute my own”) is one used quite often throughout the show’s run. In the episode in which this particular quote was first used, the Mythbusters hosts attempt to get two trucks to fuse together by crushing a small car between them at high speed, but no matter what they do, some part of the experimental process goes wrong. After several failed attempts and discouraging results, the hosts finally manage to completely demolish the trucks and car, but, just before the test, they spray-paint a valuable lesson on the sides of the semis: “Failure is always an option.”

The idea of failure being a viable option is easy enough to learn when the whole idea of an endeavor is to learn whether or not something can be done, like in the process of myth-busting. When the stakes are higher—say, a student must make an A on her final exam in order to pass her class—failure suddenly becomes a lot scarier. When we think of failure, we often think of an ashamed student refusing to look his or her angry parents in the eye as they wave a test with a big, red F scribbled across it, but it’s not always that simple. Failure can take different forms for different people; even the student with a 4.0 GPA can live in fear of that first A- (ask me how I know). Writers know this well; after all, what if their manuscripts aren’t good enough for a publisher to accept?

Sometimes we need a little push to get going on a task and do it well, and fear of failure is as good an incentive as any. However, letting that fear of failure run our lives is a much bigger mistake. Say, for example, all your friends are going ice skating at the mall, and they invite you to go with them. The thing is, you’ve never skated before, and you’re sure you’ll end up on your backside, bruised and embarrassed, with the entire mall laughing at you. What’s the harm in saving yourself a little dignity? Besides the fact that you could be a great skater and you just don’t know it yet, you’re giving up valuable bonding time with your friends. Plus, even if you do have trouble simply standing in skates, you might have a good time, anyway.

Most importantly, though, failing gracefully in a small instance such as this failed ice skating excursion would give you the ability to fail gracefully in bigger situations. I can’t stress enough how important it is to train your mind to not beat yourself up over mistakes. It takes conscious effort to say, “Hey, that didn’t go well, but I’m still smart and capable, and I can learn from this, so I can avoid making the same mistake again.” However, as hard as that can be, completely forgiving one’s own mistakes is even harder.

There are endless Bible verses about forgiveness, but sometimes we forget that those verses aren’t just for sinners to receive admittance to heaven. We can rest easy in God’s forgiveness, knowing that “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). Our sins are covered, so what are our blunders to God? They simply don’t matter. That means we can forgive ourselves; we can refuse to dwell on our mistakes and move on; we can learn from them, but they don’t have to signify the end. In that sense, failure is absolutely an option.

ms-frizzle

The end of the Mythbusters story didn’t come for another four years. This was the time when the valiant Mythbusters decided to retest the myth—only this time, the test was successful. The ultimate conclusion, that two semis cannot fuse together via high-speed collision, was the same, but this time, everything went according to plan, and everyone was satisfied (except for the unfortunate assortment of vehicles, of course; they didn’t stand a chance against a rocket sled). That’s the thing about failure—it’s almost never final. In a vast majority of cases, failure is still a perfectly viable option. Failure is a chance to learn and grow. Don’t rob yourself of that chance. Go out on that limb. Maybe you’ll regret it in the moment, but chances are, you won’t regret it forever.

Written by Catherine

Image credits: Header image, Ms. Frizzle

The Most Miraculous Time of the Year

I don’t know about y’all, but I love Christmas – the cold weather, the sweaters, scarves, boots, and most of all, the cheesy Christmas movies, which are so alluring to me. It isn’t called the most wonderful time of the year for nothing. The atmosphere is full of happiness and love. Families come together to celebrate and exchange gifts while roasting chestnuts on a fire. Hot cocoa and apple cider are the choice beverages of the season. But despite all the many glorious things that Christmas brings, perhaps the most important aspect of this season is the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ.

Sometime around the 25th of December way back when (most experts think He was born in spring) two expecting parents in the Middle East, Joseph and Mary, sought shelter for the evening. They had ventured to Bethlehem, Israel, the place of Joseph’s birth, for the census required by Caesar. Having found none who would take them in, they were forced to rest in a stable. That night, it came time for Mary to have her baby. In the midst of the livestock and hay, a beautiful baby boy was born, and they called him Jesus. This was the baby promised to them by the Angel Gabriel. Little did Jesus or his parents know the amazing things that he would do in his life.[1]

In a cave elsewhere, shepherds were protecting their flocks. An angel of the Lord came and spoke to them declaring that the wondrous birth that had just occurred. They began their trek to marvel and praise God for the little baby. Likewise, three wise men saw the Star of David appear in the sky and came to bring gifts to the newborn. Gold, frankincense, and myrrh were presented to the “king of the Jews.” It was a marvelous sight: Mary and Joseph bent around a manger holding Jesus, livestock stood and slept around them, and shepherds, wise men, and angels praised God.

Most people have heard this story time and time again, but I think we often forget the magnitude of hope that this story brings. I go to a Christian school, I work in a strong Christian atmosphere, I am involved with a Christian sorority, and I serve on Wednesdays with the youth at my church. I am surrounded by Christianity and Jesus on a daily basis. Sometimes, I get a little numb to Christian topics as a whole, so when I hear the Christmas story, it goes in one ear and out the other. But when I really look and dissect the story, it is quite extraordinary. Jesus is the Son of God. He did not have to come to earth in the form of a baby; He could have simply appeared in His true form. Yet He came as a lowly baby to identify with man. If He did not come to earth as an infant, He could not have lived a fully perfect life as a human, and then He could not have died a wrongful death on the cross. This birth was required in order for Jesus to be unlawfully crucified, buried, and raised on the third day to conquer sin and death. In order for us to be reconciled to the Father in Heaven, someone had to die. But this someone had to be blameless, which was only credible through the Son of God.

What a miraculous story it is. When we think about it, it is actually very beautiful. I am comforted by the fact that, through Jesus’ birth, life, death, and resurrection, I can now come boldly to the throne of God and worship at His feet. Let us not forget the weight and necessity of the Christmas story. When we walk past nativity scenes, let’s not allow our eyes to glaze over and simply keep on our way. But let’s ponder the significance that is the birth of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world.

[1] See Luke 1: 26-2:20 and Matthew 1:18-2:12

Written by Maddison

Image credit

The Nature of Beauty: Short Story Day 2016

Two men stood upon an edge of a cliff, overlooking the land. The first was blinded in a childhood accident; the second was his dear friend, who took care of him every day.

“Can beauty be taken from a man?” The first cheerfully asked to the second.

The second scoffed. “It was taken from you, for you cannot behold the sight before us. Indeed, I know you cannot remember this sight from our childhood. I pray to the Almighty every day that your sight might be returned, that you might know beauty again.”

“Is beauty something one must see, then?” the first asked.

“Obviously. How can you appreciate a work of art without seeing it? Paintings and drawings must all be seen.”

“I can hear a piece of music,” the first hummed. “The chatter of men, the singing in a theatre.”

“Fine, fine. You can find beauty in music, in sound. But you still cannot behold most kinds of beauty.”

“And what of the sculptures found in the king’s gallery? I can feel the edges, the smooth curves, the grooves formed by the chisel. Can I not feel and behold that work of art?”

“I suppose you can behold the beauty of those works of art,” the second admitted.

“And I can eat,” the first grinned. “I love the taste of a pastry in my mouth. That, my friend, is beauty from a chef’s hands. Can I not behold the art of such a masterful chef?”

“I suppose you can find beauty in a chef’s work,” the second frowned.

“I can smell that same pastry as its being made. I can enjoy flowers. The fresh smell of rain, during and after, is nature’s own way of singing in joy that I can partake in.”

“I see you’ve thought this through quite thoroughly.”

“There’s more, my friend. What of the beauty of love?” the first said. “Can I not hear the kindness in her voice, feel the softness of her touch, and laugh at the sharpness of her wit? Can I not feel the thrill, the pulsing of my heart whenever she is near?”

“Fine,” said the second. “But what if all these things were not enough, if all these things were only pain in the end? If you were isolated, starved, your skin burnt ‘til you could not feel, and your ears deafened, you could not know beauty. All that would remain would be pain; therefore, beauty can be taken from a man.”

“What if the pain changes day by day?” The first asked. “If it does, then beauty, to that person, would be the times that pain lessens.”

The second grumpily huffed. “What is your point, my friend?”

The first smiled. “It seems to me that it is in man’s nature to seek beauty in all things.”

“Even in pain?” the second questioned.

“Especially in pain,” the first said, “for we seem to understand that there is a way things should be, and we search for glimpses of those moments.”

The two stood in silence. The second slowly realized that the first was, despite blindness, more able to perceive beauty than he.

“We would not have had this conversation without your blindness,” prompted the second.

The first smiled once again. “Indeed,” he said. “I believe your prayers have been answered, for I can see beauty far more clearly than before I lost my sight. Is that not something beautiful as well, that my blindness should be used to redeem my perception?”

The wind whispered gently over the two.

“This is how the Almighty works,” the second concluded, “in ways that create beauty from pain.”

“You are close to my point,” the first said, a thrill in his voice.

“Which is?”

“The Almighty, who created all things, who created mankind, who allowed us to see, to touch, to taste, to smell, to feel, is the source of all this beauty. And though His creation was corrupted, He still creates from the pain more beauty, which we otherwise would not know. He is truly everywhere, for He is beauty, and it is a miracle that we exist and experience Him.”

Written by Isaac: Many thanks to Brandon Sanderson for the inspiration of this short story—the first half is basically just retelling a conversation in the book Words of Radiance from his series The Stormlight Archive.

Image credit

This Is Halloween

Halloween, or at least the celebration of it, is probably one of the most controversial topics in Christianity. I’m including baptism versus sprinkling, communion versus the Lord’s Supper, and Hillsong versus hymns in that assessment, too. Parents all across America argue over whether or not the celebration of Halloween, or the distinct lack thereof, encourages their children to participate in witchcraft. The topic is polarizing; in many people’s minds, a person is either pro-boredom or pro-Satan—nothing in between will do.

The exception: my house.

We didn’t really celebrate Halloween until I was older. We might have worn costumes we already had around the house and eaten candy we got at church, but trick-or-treating was for the neighborhood kids. We didn’t even watch the Peanuts special when I was little.

Then, as I got older, Mom got outnumbered, and we went trick-or-treating for the first time when I was in high school. (Note to parents: your teenagers will be somewhat miffed if you do this, because they get funny looks from the neighbors if they’re unaccompanied by smaller kids. Trust me.) To fifteen-year-old me, it wasn’t all it was cracked up to be, but the younger kids in my family had fun.

Astonishingly enough, out of the eight of us, zero have shown any interest in witchcraft. Granted, one of us is two years old, but still. An amazing statistic, right there.

So, which perspective saved our spiritual lives? The anti-fun perspective or the anti-Jesus one?

Neither. I’ve never considered Halloween to be any different from any other holiday, save for the unfortunate lack of canceled classes. With Thanksgiving, I can focus on the feast and the football, or I can focus on thanking God for my bountiful life. With New Year’s Eve, I could get drunk and make out with some stranger, or I could spend the evening praying and asking God to bless the new year. Valentine’s Day? Even without a “significant other,” I can focus on the infallible love of Christ in my heart.

Halloween is the same way. I could dress like a vampire and go around sucking blood (wait, nobody actually does that?), or I could take the opportunity to reach out to all the kids roaming the neighborhood. Schools don’t typically talk about Jesus, so trick-or-treating is a great way to briefly encounter all the kids in the neighborhood at once. That doesn’t happen every day!

It is possible to throw a pack of Gospel tracts in the bucket of candy without dressing up. It is perfectly reasonable to host a movie night without bubbling cauldrons of potions. It’s these sorts of acts that will truly help get the message of Christ out to the masses—more than any candy boycott or angry internet post.

It’s okay to dress up and hand out junk food if it’s clear that getting down on the neighborhood kids’ level is the best way to reach them. It’s also okay to avoid those things if doing so will only raise suspicions or guilt. Buy leftover candy on clearance on November 1st if you must. (I know I will.) None of this makes a person any more or less of a Christian by itself. What makes someone a Christian is Christ’s presence in the heart, and no little cowboy or witch at the door is going to take Him away.

Be cautious and be discerning, but be open. After all, we still have to decide between “Oceans” and “It Is Well.”

Written by Catherine

Image credit