Category Archives: Personal

40 is Beautiful

My wife had a birthday yesterday – the BIG one.  I gave her a hard time more than once throughout the day.  She was a good sport about it or rather, she endured it.  I was nice too, though.  I gave her presents and told her she was beautiful and a treasure.  Is it my fault she chose to go antiquing?  She set me up with so much great material!

Her version of 40 is not like I remember 40 being.  It seems younger, somehow.  Perhaps it’s because she has always carried herself with an upright maturity.  She was a young grown-up when I met her.  I’m not saying she took herself too seriously, in fact she was and is quite silly.  The times we are silly together are some of our favorites.  She keeps life fun for all of us.

For me, her 40th birthday is not a mark of her age, but a measure of the richness of years we have spent together.  I value her more today than when we first joined our lives.  In fact, her value to me is more than I could have ever imagined back then.  To me 40 is not a mark of her rising age, but of her increasing value.  I’m reminded of the line in one of our favorite movies – one of the few chick flicks I will admit to liking.

Joe Fox is browsing through the old book section in the “Shop Around The Corner.”  He asks George about a certain book there and George offers some information regarding the significance and age of the book and the following conversation is heard:

George Pappas: The, uh, illustrations are hand tipped.
Joe Fox: And that’s why it costs so much?
George Pappas: No, that’s why it’s WORTH so much.

(from You’ve Got Mail)

It’s not the age alone that brings the value –  the book was a treasure to begin with, and as time has passed, it’s kept it’s value and even increased it’s worth.  That’s my wife at 40.  She is a masterpiece and wonderfully crafted to begin with.  This has not changed.  But the careful detailing and craftsmanship, evidence of the Masters hand on her life, has been polished by the years of her living out her purpose and loving the ones God has given to her.  She was created with a purpose.  A part of that purpose, I’m delighted to say, is to be my partner, friend and the treasure I happily serve.

Happy Birthday, Melanie.

December 16, 1983

December 16, 1983 is a date, for my family, that will never be forgotten. My first memory of that day was at 5th grade recess.  Our school principal came outside to give me a message that my brothers and I would need to get on the bus to go to our papa and granny’s after school.  It seemed strange to me that he, The principal himself, came out onto the playground in the cold to give me the message personally, instead of just sending a message through my teacher.  In his demeanor there seemed to be something more that he wasn’t telling me.  But as a 10-year-old, I shrugged it off and went back to playing with my friends. We were digging tunnels in the snow which had drifted against a hill.

So after school, my two younger brothers and I boarded the bus to Granny’s, still unaware of the life-changing news that we would soon hear.  We arrived at Granny’s and were instructed to begin our homework. Mom wasn’t home yet from her doctor visit. (She was pregnant with the youngest of us 5 brothers.) I think Granny sensed our worry, or at least our curiosity as to the reason why we weren’t taken home after school.  If Mom wasn’t home yet, then Dad would have been there on the farm to greet us. I did wonder why, but I couldn’t have imagined this. She assured us that Mom was just fine after her doctor visit and that she would be coming soon to let us know what was going on.  I think Granny knew that we needed to hear about such a tragedy from our own mother.  I guess after that, we did some homework, played and caused the usual trouble.

When Mom arrived, I wasn’t ready for the news. How could I be? Mom sat us down and said, “Boys, I have some bad news.”  My first thought was about Dad.  Was he okay?  The she said the words that I would never forget.  “Our house has burned to the ground. Everything’s gone.”  We began crying as the weight of these words sank in. I still recall the pain and hurt that I felt then.  We all hugged Mom tightly and cried with her. My youngest brother cried with us, but I wondered if he really understood or if it just upset him to see all of us so emotional.  My first thought for him was about his beloved pink blanket.  In my 10-year-old mind I couldn’t imagine how my 4-year-old brother could survive one night without his pink blanky.When faced with this kind of loss, so many thoughts swirl around in your mind.  And it’s interesting how kids think of these things so differently. I thought of the money I had been saving in a Hershey’s cocoa tin in my closet.  I think I had saved about $20 from birthday money and money I had gotten from Dad for picking up walnuts.  I was saving for some Star Wars action figures to add to my collection. A collection which was now destroyed by the fire. And my $20 had burned up in the fire.  But Mom and Dad had money – no, their money burned up, too. How much had Mom and Dad lost?  I was too young to understand their loss, but I knew that it was bigger than my $20.

Later in the evening, Dad arrived covered in soot and ash.  I had never seen my dad cry until that day.  He hugged us and Mom and assured us that God was going to take care of us.  When I smelled the smoke on him, I pictured our house in flames.  I knew that he had fought the fire for his family.

The memories get further apart after that but I know we stayed the first couple of days with Granny and Papa.  The very next day Granny and Mom went to town for some shopping.  We’d lost everything.  Now, in my mind we needed everything. What store do you go to to get everything?  I remember my papa had given Mom some money to make sure each of us had nice clothes to wear to church.  We were still singing “What Child Is This?” for the service on Sunday, and he knew we that would need something nice to wear.  A few days later we moved in with my other grandparents.  They had more room and the extra bathrooms necessary for our big family.  We celebrated Christmas there, and I got the Star Wars toy that I wanted – the toy version of the hoverbike from Return of the Jedi. (By design, it broke into 3 pieces on impact, just like in the movie.)  I appreciated that toy so much and the giving hearts of my parents.  It was strange to celebrate Christmas in a home that wasn’t our own.  Our home was gone now.  Or was it really?  Words like “home,” and “family” now took on a bigger meaning than ever before.

Everyone Needs a Break

I last blogged on my birthday and have had several occasions since where I might have blogged, but other things have taken my time and priority.

First, I spent a week at the National Worship Leader Conference in Kansas City, Kansas. It was a fantastic time and I was able to spend some time under the teaching of some godly men, women and mentors. I sat under the teaching of Leonard Sweet, Scotty Smith, Tommy Walker, Tim Hughes, Rory Nolan and Buddy Owens, just to drop a few names.
As a worship leader this was a week to learn, grow, fuel and be challenged. All those things took place in me. I was exhausted when it was over and ready to rest. Having been to NWLC the last two years, I was prepared and already scheduled a week vacation following the conference. (Foresight is a wonderful thing when I can get it.)
I had every intention of sleeping till noon, indulging myself in my favorite books and shows on netflix. God had something different in mind and I’m so glad that at least on this occasion, He found me listening.
Here is what I heard my heavenly Father calling me to… Spend quality time with my kids and wife. The time schedule for this pastor of worship can be demanding. (my friends tease me that it must be tough only working on Sundays) Added to that my older 3 kids are teenagers and have many activities throughout the year. It’s tough to get quality time with them and when I do get time it is usually with 2 or 3 of them at a time, so one-on-one time is even more rare.
My 3 year old gets one day with me every week throughout the year, so God impressed upon me that I should offer that to my teenagers as a part of my planned week off. Here is how it set up. Tuesday was Daddy-Jared day, Wednesday was Daddy-Hannah day and Thursday was Daddy-Timothy day.
Jared and I started our day with some work. Together we stood out in the hot 100+ degree morning and changed the driver-side head lamp assembly in my van. I’m not a mechanic and don’t pretend to be, but it was good for Jared, I think to see me struggle to figure out how to get the old headlight out and the new one in. And he got to help and use his creative thinking gifts as we worked it out together. After, we went together to pick up Hannah from band camp, went to lunch together and did one more job before spending the afternoon watching some hero shows on Netflix. During our time I was able to share with Jared how, as a teen, I experienced many of the same pressures and teasing that he sometimes experiences. Too often I present myself to my kids as a “sure-of-myself, successful man.” I allow them to see my successes but rarely my failures. Mistakenly they may only think that I have experienced success and have always been popular and sure-of-myself. On the contrary, this is far from reality. I pray that they don’t think that they have to live up to a misunderstood concept of their dad.
Hannah and I got to make a trip to the city on Wednesday, and she drove. She has been anxious to try her driving skills in the city and on the interstate. She did well. Especially when she had to keep her cool when we encountered a tire tread which had recently been deposited in the middle of our lane. At first unsure of which way to go around, she slowed and chose the shoulder rather than changing lanes. It was the right choice as there were several cars behind us and in the next lane over. Her reward? Splitting a full slab of ribs from Oklahoma Joe’s with her dad. It was a good time together.
Timothy and I also started our day with some work. I had recently built a raised bed for next year’s garden and was needing to cut the tips off of the screws so we wouldn’t cut our hands while digging in the dirt. I pulled out my dremel tool and showed Timothy how to use it. He caught on quickly and did the large share of that little job. We also needed to change a light in our stairwell, so I borrowed the long pole from the church and showed Tim how to use it. He also did great at this. We went to lunch with my friend Bob, and Tim got to hear what it is that grown men talk about: baseball, Bonhoeffer, theology, politics, church life. After the work, Tim schooled me at Halo 3, and we watched some Star Trek Voyager on Netflix.

Ending the week I got to spend some wonderful time with my wife. During the week we had begun reading a book to each other in the evenings, and Sunday we celebrated our 18th anniversary. We watched Captain America at the theater then went to supper and finished off with some Cold Stone, Coffee Lovers (our favorite) ice cream.

Too many times during the business of life, I’m putting off those little times I could be spending with my kids. It’s easy to be exhausted mentally after a full day and full week of carrying the weight of my job on my shoulders. I’m getting better, but I still knew that I owed this week to my family. This vacation was more for our together time. I’ll get “me time” later. I always seem to find time for me.

What is the best quality time you’ve spent with your kids or wife? Are they seeing the real you or are you only showing them the “you” that you wish you were?

Birthdays Matter

Today is Nathan’s 3rd Birthday. We can’t believe that he is so big! He was such a surprise blessing to us 3 years ago. We never saw it coming, but God did. We are thankful! He is 10 years younger than his next sibling, Jared.

Jared turned 13 before Christmas. We are so proud of the young man he is becoming. He has so much to offer the world, and Christ is living in him and growing him physically and spiritually. We are having a party for him and invited guests this Saturday. It will mostly be family and a few friends, and just for the guys.

Several years ago, Mel and I decided that we would make the 13th birthday a special experience for each of our kids. We try to emphasize how we see God growing them into the young man or (young woman in Hannah’s case) that he designed for them to be before the ever took their first breath.

On Hannah’s 13th she had a tea party – I wasn’t there (Girls only)

Timothy’s 13th was spent in the woods at Clinton lake because he loves the outdoors and enjoys time in quiet solitude – we had a fish fry and the mentoring men in Tims life were their to encourage him- (Guys only)

Jared’s 13th will be at our house and we will spend time playing board games – because Jared is a socializer – he loves to spend time with people. My prayer is that this will be an encouraging time for Jared too. (Guys only)

Have any of you reading this blog done something similar to recognize your kids “Growing in Christ?” Please leave your comments below. I’d love to hear your ideas; things you’ve attempted and if they were successful or not. Maybe you have participated in one of our kids birthdays and have some feedback.

I hope we have been successful; we’re trying. We love our kids so much and look forward, expectantly to the great adults they will become as the grow in Christ.

Feeling Enriched

…And yet I/We have so much work to do!

What a great Marriage Enrichment Workshop at FSBC family. Thanks to all the team who worked so hard today so that other couples could relax and take it all in and focus on their spouses! Also, thanks to the team from West Side Family Church for their great leadership and all the break out classes.
It helps all of us to take an honest look at ourselves in regard to all walks of this Christ life but even more so in this most precious gift of God… MARRIAGE. I think we can easily get weary of continually trying to compromise/get our way/give in/give up, that we take so much of the simple wisdom for granted. Jesus is the center – period. There is no other way. We honor Him to work hard at unity. Here is the the list of things I’m trying to apply from this weekend. Remember this is just me, not Melanie. She has her own take away which will also benefit us both.
  1. Be the Lamb and/or Owl (the other animals don’t work)
  2. Compromise sometimes means the other person gets their way. (and it’s okay!)
  3. Communicate at level 5 always (even when you don’t feel like going upstairs)
  4. When you come to an agreement keep it (and forget the other options you passed over – they are no longer relevant or helpful)
  5. Talk about your budget (yeah that means together)
Well, If I can do these things and keep Jesus at the CENTER of 1-5 and all the rest that well follow, then our marriage will keep getting better and better. It’s what we wanted when we said “I Do” and we want it more than ever now and for tomorrow. I’m so happy I have a godly, patient and growing wife! It was a great time for us to stop and refocus.

I’ve Lost Something Inside

After a year or more of on-again, off-again chronic pain in my abdomen, I’ve had my gallbladder removed. Come to find out it was sick! This is a surgery I would not recommend. I’m left with 4 holes in my belly and forced to a strict bland, no fat diet. The positive is I’ve lost about 12 pounds.

I thank God for a capable surgeon who listened to me and allowed me to ask questions. Even more I thank God for a great wife who waited on me and helped me whenever I needed anything. It will be 3 weeks this coming Monday and I’m just starting to introduce “real food” to my stomach again. I even mowed part of the yard today! Since my “episodes” seemed to occur every 6-8 weeks, I won’t be able to confirm that this was all about my gallbladder for a few months. But I am already feeling better than I did prior to the surgery, so I’m very hopeful that this has taken care of all my issues I’ve been enduring over the last 14-16 months.

Missing Papa

We lost Papa to cancer a couple months ago. It was hard to take. I regret that I waited so long to ask him to teach piano tuning to me. I had thought to do it years ago but didn’t want to be an bother so I didn’t ask. I will never forget the time we spent together. And I’ll always remember the things he taught me. I’m sure he’ll be disappointed that I didn’t practice tuning for two full months following his funeral. But I did tune my piano last Saturday, so hopefully I can get back on track. There is a PTG (Piano Technicians Guild) convention in a couple months. I think I’ll sign up for it and take some more training there.

That’s What I Get

I’ve been learning the craft of piano tuning and repair from my grandfather. Both for the heritage value and to fulfill my current desire to do something new and challenging. It’s been fun. I’m learning a lot but, it takes a lot of practice. I must be catching on because me Papa told me “Now when anything goes wrong you can just say ‘That’s what I get for being a piano tuner!'”

Quote of the Day!

“MacDougal has overcome his early-career tendency to treat the strike zone like a foreign object.”


I love baseball!

My Favorite Time

Chilling single digit temperatures in the Kansas City area this morning, but my blood is warmed by the fact that Pitchers and Catchers report to Spring Training today. No, it’s not the first ballgame, or even the first Spring training game. But, it is the first step. That first step to the season is one step closer to my hometown Royals closing the book on a 106 loss season. I can’t wait ’til the first home game!