Sunday, April 27, 2014
After a couple years of marriage Michelle and I were ready to start a family. Month after month and year after year we were met with disappointment. Many of our friends and family were having children and although we were very excited for them, hope became the unintended victim of each celebration and a painful reminder that our celebration may never come. In the Christian and Jewish World View, God is the Creator of life. He ordains every living thing by the power of His love. When disappointment collided with my belief I questioned. "Is there something I have done to anger God?" "Perhaps If I was a better Christian then God would bless us with children." When prayers are answered with silence or with a "no", discouragement and doubt found fertile ground. 10 years into our marriage Michelle and I were quickly giving up hope for biological kids. We longed to have a family. We talked & prayed about God's plan for us including adoption or maybe the expensive medical solutions. Both were fiscally implausible. For two people who worked for ministry and lived paycheck to paycheck, extra money was difficult at best to come by.. We knew that if we were going to have children, whichever way He saw fit to bless us - if He chose to bless us with children - it would require something that I was running short of. "By faith Abraham, even though he was past age and Sarah herself was barren, was enabled to become a father because he considered Him faithful who made the promise." (Rom 11:11) Faith fiscally will cost you nothing however faith practically will cost you everything. Faith is the most powerful tool we possess. In it the hand of God is moved - or moreso it's us that moves closer to Him - and that our heart is more closely aligned with His. The disappointment, heartache and frustration grew, however it would soon meet it's demise as Michelle and I truly began to exercise our faith.
Michelle and I sat in a crowded Baptist Church attending a concert by Phil Keagy, Wes King, and Out of the Grey. About half-way through the concert Wes King stabbed us in the heart and exposed our open wounds for all in that Baptist Church to see. Wes had experienced the same storm of pain and frustration that we were weathering and the big jerk had to get up and sing a song about it. I rarely cry in public but when Wes King sang this song, all of the deep pain that Michelle and I privately bore burst forth from us like breaking dam. This was the first time we together publicly grieved over our circumstance. In the past I would hide behind a mask which hid my heart and denied me the chance to grieve. I pretended that I was strong, positive, and Christ-like. Inside I was broken and disappointed. Emotionally Michelle and I collapsed as the truth of the lyrics washed over our souls.
Wes King - Thought You'd Be Here
Michelle and I sobbed. To the point where those sitting around us we know were uncomfortable - it's like they had a front seat to us sitting at God's feet and losing it emotionally. We decided that night that we were going to lay aside all of our disappointment and anxiety and we would simply trust the Lord for whatever He desired to do in our lives. Once we surrendered to Him, all of the pressure and stress dissolved into a simple faith that God alone was enough and that His plan is best. In this quiet place, the Lord called us to lay aside plans of adoption and medical solutions. Michelle and I both wholeheartedly believe that both these options are often God's plan for creating families and they are an equally beautiful reflection of His love (after all the Bible declares that we have been adopted into His family) however we felt God saying to us to "lay aside all of your plans and trust Me." He would make it clear if we trusted, listened to and followed Him. I also felt the Lord calling us to a life of gratitude. Instead of complaining and being disappointed I felt the Lord telling us to be thankful and worshipful.
Several months after the concert I felt led to fast. At this time in my life I hated fasting. After going without food for one day I was done. I felt the Lord calling me to do something crazy. I believe He was asking me to go on a fast of gratitude and to do so for 40 days. Such a fast was absolutely unthinkable to me. 40 days was the stuff of Bible heroes and religious nut jobs. In the past I fasted for a day or so for specific answers to prayer, but this fast God was calling me to seemed counter intuitive. If I was going to fast why not fast for world piece or an end to world hunger. I felt God saying to me "I know your hearts' desires, trust me to take care of you." This would require full and complete dependence on Him, and this was the lesson that the Good Teacher desired me to learn.
I began my 40 day fast in early January of 2000. I was afraid that I would give into my hunger a few days in. However I noticed in my gratitude fast that the more I participated in gratitude and worship, the less I focused on my hunger. I found that the longing of my heart was an unquenchable fire for relationship with my Creator. The deeper I dug into relationship with God, the greater my hunger became for Him, which in turn decreased my physical hunger. Day after day I found God more than sufficient in meeting my physical needs. As I trusted in Him for the physical strength to endure, I found myself longing to give the Lord my heart in gratitude.
20 days into my fast I went for a run after work. When I arrived home I noticed a strange envelope in our mail on the kitchen counter. My wife was sitting on the floor coloring in a color book. I asked her if she knew what the envelope was. She said "open it up and find out." It was a card with a baby elephant and a Daddy elephant, and it read "Hey Daddy! Guess Who?
I was so confused. Huh? What is this. And then - I look at Michelle in absolute disbelief - the question didn't want to leave my tongue "Are you pregnant?" I finally ask. "YES!!!" she replies. I was so excited that I tackled Michelle! "You're pregnant?" I shouted in disbelief. "YES" Michelle said. Then I realized that I had just tackled a pregnant woman. "Are you ok? Did I hurt you? Is the baby ok?" My fatherly protective instinct was already in high gear. Several months earlier we sobbed tears of disappointment and now we sobbed tears of unspeakable joy. We pulled ourselves together and with tearful words of gratitude we gave thanks to the Lord. I imagine that the Lord was present in our joyous celebration, smiling, laughing, crying, rejoicing along with us. The years of disappointment and frustration dissolved into the love of my Father. The remaining 20 days of my gratitude fast was absolutely amazing. Gratitude oozed from my whole being and the days flew by like a whisper.
I promised the Lord that every year I would go on a gratitude fast. I have been true to that promise. Some fasts have lasted 20 days, while many have been 40. It was at the end of a 30 day fast in 2002 that we learned that God would bless us with another child. I believe that God was and is teaching Michelle and I dependence on Him.
If you read my blogs you know that I'm a sinner just like everyone. I never speak publicly about fasting because I'm fearful others might consider me something I'm not. I look forward to my yearly gratitude fast for in it I find what my heart longs for.
My hope is that perhaps, just as I have found, you'll realize the best stories point to God and that you too will be a part of His story. Michelle and I would honor the chance to pray for you as you discover that God alone is enough. Please post your prayer and we will join you in the journey.
Kaylee "Janae" means God has answered. Stevey Wonders at the God of Wonder.
Saturday, April 12, 2014
I should have learned my lesson. A wise man once said " Out of the abundance of a man's heart, he speaks." It was a warm spring day in 1988 in the city of Detroit. I was finishing up chef school at Oakland Community College and I was working full time at a restaurant. Chef School was tough. We arrived daily at 7:00 AM and went until 3:00 PM, plus we were expected to take two academic courses on top of being in culinary art school and we were required to work in a restaurant 30-40 hours per week. After two years at this pace I was becoming burnt out, stressed out, and exhausted. The pace and the stress were making me into someone I wasn't. Between school and work I went shopping at a busy K-mart near my home. As I was leaving the parking lot the person behind me was angrily honking their horn at me. As the honking continued the level of frustration and anger began to rise within. "What is this guys problem." My inner demons waged war with my moral compass and after one more honks the demons prevailed. I stuck my middle finger out my window and I saluted the driver behind me with evil satisfaction. The light finally turns green and the honking man continues his assault. With defiant rage I salute my assailant with unbridled intensity. The man pulls his car next to mine at the next stoplight. Finally I will be able to give this man a piece of my mind! I roll down my window ready for a verbal assault on this obnoxious honking man. To my surprise it is a man, his wife, and two children waving hi. I look with a horrified expression at the man waving and I instantly recognize him as my boss. My heart and my defiant rage sink into my chest. "Oh what have I done." My boss told me afterwards that he was telling his wife and children about what a good Christian young man I was and how much he appreciated my Christ-like behavior. I vowed that day to put a guard over my lips and my finger and to always wave hi to people honking at me.
Sunday, April 6, 2014
My Mothers voice echo's through my mind "When you have children of your own, then you will be sorry!" As an annoying child these wise words of karma went in one ear and out the other, but now they have become the words I pray will echo through the mind of my son Noah. My Mom is a praying woman and I imagine she prayed earnestly that one day I would reap what I have sewn. With a regretful heart I humbly wish to declare both My mother's wisdom and God's faithfulness in answering prayers to be true and sound. I love my son Noah. He is highly intelligent, extremely creative, fiercely tenacious and full of endless energy. These amazing qualities combined with boredom make the perfect storm in creating Annoying Boy (the answer to my dear mothers prayers.) Please know that if my son Noah was annoying because of no fault of his own such such as a two year old asking endless questions, or a Middle School student well being a Middle School student, I wouldn't be writing this blog. My son Noah is maniacally annoying for the pure purpose of driving me insane and in this dubious mission he derives a type of warped entertainment. Noah's answer to his boredom is annoying me. My evil plan as a parent to protect myself from my children's abuse is for them to keep one simple rule in mind. If you mess with your Dad I will get you back ten fold.Over the years I have been true to my promise. This strategy has worked beautifully with my daughter Kaylee. She has a healthy fear of playing practical jokes on her Dad. In Noah's case, my not so brilliant strategy has back fired. In the heart of every boy is the desire to roughhouse with their Dad. I personally believe that because boys have little desire for hugs and kisses, wrestling with Dad is way of bonding with him.Noah loves to roughhouse. He will pick on me until I get up from my chair, chase him around the house, and wrestle him into submission. Dad's use a large repertoire of submission maneuvers to keep the upper hand. These maneuvers have been handed down from generation to generation. They involve tickling, arm holds, various pressure points, Chinese chopsticks, and in extreme cases the atomic wedgie. The flaw in my plan was that after years of the forementioned maneuvers of submission my son has gone to school and can now utilize them in his pursuit of annoying his Dad.Noah enjoys my ten fold retribution and he now employing it against me. Being a highly creative child has greatly expanded his arsenal of annoying to include imaginative forms of driving me insane. Noah's barrage typically happens when I get home from work. I often unwind from my day by sitting in my chair and watching TV or reading a book. First comes a poke or two, followed by annoying noises, and usually culminates into a crescendo of some type of physical torture. This occurs several times per day. I have begun categorizing Noah's attacks into different classifications. Class Annoying Sounds consists of such things as the dreaded moist sipping and sucking sounds aimed directly at close range to the victims ears, the high range note sung at a loud and consistent level and the ever dreaded chorus of flatulence. Class Annoying Practical Joke involve things such as plastic wrap on toilet seats, ketchup packets strategically put under the toilet seat, pop-its under the toilet seat, and putting rubber bands on the kitchen sinks utility hose thus soaking the first person who turns on the facet.It has made bathroom time in our home a terrifying adventure. Class OMG that was Disgusting consists of the wet willie, ( the act of putting your spit covered finger in someones ear), the snot rocket, and my personal favorite the dreaded ice cube down my pants. Finally there is annoying class Stench. These cruel techniques involve the bad breath bomb, the belch and blow,the stinky shoe, and the fart and flee. Welcome to my world people. I would like to dedicate this blog to my amazing Mom who with smug satisfaction knows of the karma of parenting and who I now believe is offering prayers of gratitude to the God who answers prayers. To tell you the truth I don't mind all that much when Noah annoys me. My son loves to spend time with his Dad and I know as Noah stands on the doorstep of becoming a man his affection will quickly turn away from Dad and turn towards friends and females. I will long with my whole heart to wrestle my little boy once again. To quote Harry Chapin "The cat's in the cradle and the silver spoon, little boy blue and the man on the moon." I love my son with a fierceness that words can never express and I desire for him to know that I cherish spending time with him. I will gladly spend time with Noah even if it is annoying time. Stevey Wonders if one day my amazing son will know of the karma of parenting.
Sunday, March 30, 2014
Brene Brown said "Courage is defined by the act of allowing others to see who you for who you really are. It is the act of allowing yourself to be seen by others." It was a warm summer Saturday in July. I woke up early to put down a 12 mile run through the beautiful vineyards, and farmland that dominate the landscape of the Willamette Vally. My route included fields of flowers, a glorious vista of the coastal range and the sun rising over the cascades. The glory of such a sunrise can make an Atheist stop and reconsider the existence and majesty of God. One of the things I love most about running is that it allows you to enjoy such beauty at a pace that speed often diminishes. After my run, I jumped in the shower and I wash off the paste that one's sweat and road dust create. Afterwards I walked into my closet to pick out my wardrobe for the day. Typically picking out my wardrobe is a simple affair. My usual Saturday attire consists of an old running race shirt,and a pair of khaki shorts.After several months of working out my waist line was getting smaller and my shorts were getting far to big. I have a very unhealthy habit of yearly taking on the nature of a bear getting ready for hibernation and I put on several extra pounds during the winter months.When Spring comes I issue an all out assault on my flabber hammock. Such a lifestyle requires two sets of clothing. With joy I pulled out a pair of my skinny khaki shorts and slipped them on with smug satisfaction. I thought to myself "skinny khaki short guy, yeah me." Today I needed to do some shopping at Target and then Erik Williams and I were going to play disc golf. Feeling superior about my amazing run and my new skinny khaki short guy status I jumped into my 1997 Saturn sedan and headed to Target. I had time to spare before I needed to pick up Erik so I spent about a half hour shopping at a very busy Target shopping center.Next I drove to my friend Erik's house to pick him up. Erik and I have been doing life together for many years. He is as the Bible says "a friend that is closer then a brother." His oldest daughter Kynzi is now a beautiful young teenager. I have known Kyzni her whole life. We often do holidays together and she and my daughter are fast friends. I knock on the door and Kynzi's warm sunny personality welcomes me to their home. I give Kynzi a hug and then Kynzi's warm sunny personality and my feeling superiority about my amazing run and my new skinny khaki short guy status come to their evil demise. In a horrified tone Kynzi says"Ah Stevie, did you know you have a rip in your shorts?" I know Kynzi as a truthful child however she does like playing a practical joke now and then. In my mind I'm thinking that this is either a small rip or a joke. I tactfully reach my hand to what I believed would be a small tear or a joke and I pulled back with the horror of knowing Kenzi is more truthful then she is a practical joker. The rip in my skinny khakis was far more then a rip. It was more like an obscene abyss of embarrassment. This tare was something that a grown man could be arrested for. I'm quite certain that this hole was larger than an emergency exit on a school bus. My feeling of skinny khaki accomplishment was mistaken for my feeling of refreshing booty air conditioning. Besides the fact that poor Kynzi is now going to need years of therapy and that the customers at Target were exposed to my risque fashion statement,is that this rude discovery was realized in front of Erik! Plus I was wearing old tighty- whities. Fifty percent of Erik and I's relationship is based on shameless mocking. This may sound strange and cruel to most females, however to men this is part of the male love language. This rip would serve as a mocker's dream come true and it will provide mocking footer for many a moon (pun intended). With the the little dignity that remained I asked for a pair of shorts from Erik, however my question was drowned out by Erik's laughter and Kynzi shouting " Oh my eyes oh my eyes" On my way to change out of my skinny air conditioned khakis Erik snapped a horrifying picture with his not so smart phone,(Lord please smite Erik's phone)