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Archive for the tag “parenting”

Award Winning Book

Fun summer reading. “Monkeys In My Coconut Tree” by Ed Thompson, is a compilation of fun, easy-to-read stories of fun, family, and faith. It was a Reader’s Favorite 2016 Silver Medal Winner. So come on, check it out. Read some of the reviews and download your copy by clicking HERE. (Also available at Amazon.com, iTunes and others.)

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Grace & Traffic Signs

As usual, I was running a bit late taking my kids to school during my carpool days. I always had specific instructions not to be late.  But of course, I always was.

On this particular day my daughter, Abby, who was thirteen at the time, seemed relatively unfazed by our tardiness. Besides, she had me to blame.  My youngest son, David, however, who was ten, believes if he’s not five minutes early, he’s late. So while Abby and I were relaxed in the front seats, David was stewing in the back.

By the time we got near the school, the line of traffic was backed up for several blocks. “See!” David said exasperated, reminding me why Mom said to leave the house early.  We were inching along when we came to a side road that would enable us to circumvent an entire block or two of traffic. “Turn here, Daddy,” Abby said.  Immediately behind her, however, David, yelled, “No!  Mom said you can’t turn there because of the sign.”

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The sign in question simply read, “No thru traffic. Residents only.”  I paused for a moment considering the various interpretations of the word, “resident.”  Recognizing my hesitation, Abby began excitedly yelling, “Turn, Daddy, turn!” while David in the back seat yelled in horror, “No, Daddy, no!” I felt like Pinocchio with two opposing Jiminy Crickets.

I turned, of course.

I well understand why Oscar Wilde famously said, “I can resist anything except temptation.”  For a moment I was thrilled with my decision feeling certain I would circumvent dozens of cars and perhaps even get to school on time.

That’s when I saw the flashing lights.

“See!” David yelled out in anguish, clearly miserable with the foolishness of his father.  Abby and I looked at each other with big wide eyes.  Then we turned around and looked at David in the back seat. He was so visibly angry and upset, he looked as if someone ate his bowl of ice cream, left his baseball glove out in the rain, and canceled P.E. for the rest of the year.  And for some reason, this sight caused Abby and me to explode into fits of laughter.

About this time the officer reached our car and asked, “Do you know why I pulled you over?” speaking loudly to overcome our loud laughter snorts.  “Of course I do,” I said trying to compose myself.  “You saw the sign?” the policeman asked, apparently not accustomed to people being happy about getting a ticket.  “I most certainly did,” I answered, “but I turned anyway…because she made me” I exclaimed, pointing at my daughter who was wiping tears from her cheeks. “But my son told me not to,” I continued, “and now he’s so mad we could fry and egg on his forehead.”

The officer peered into the back seat and saw the steam rising from David’s ears. “Oh my,” he said, a bit perplexed with the stark differences emanating from the front and back seats.

Then the officer did the most unexpected thing.  He scratched his head, peered back in the car, and then smiled. “I can’t give someone a ticket who’s in such a good mood,” he said.  “Besides, looks like you have enough trouble in the back seat.”  With that he asked me to not turn there again and wished us a good day.

By definition, grace is “kindness we don’t deserve,” and I certainly received some from the police officer that day. But grace has far deeper and grandeur meaning. Christians define grace as “God’s unmerited favor.” The Bible describes grace as a gift we do not deserve, but one God gives us anyway. Church hymnbooks are filled with songs expressing the wonder of God’s amazing grace. The full impact is expressed in this succinct Bible verse, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this is not from yourselves, it is a gift of God” (Ephesians 2:8).

Grace is a beautiful thing.  Receiving it from others will make your day.  Receiving it from God, however, will make your eternity.

Surviving the End of High School Athletics

When it comes to recalling my athletic exploits, the axiom is true, “The the older I get the better I used to be”. The truth is, however, most of my athletic memories involve hospital rooms, casts, crutches, and Extra Strength Tylenol. I had a heart for football but knees for X-box.

My wife, Jenn, never actually saw me play football when we were students at Wheaton College. She did, however, visit me in the hospital where I slightly embellished how I sustained my season-ending knee ligament tear.  If memory serves, it was whilst tossing a perfect 127 yard touchdown pass between 8 defenders while being tackled by 14 rabid linebackers, the opposing team coaches, and a few cheerleaders.  It was quite a play.

David surrounded by family on Senior Day

I exchanged my football cleats for a seat in the bleachers long ago.  And what a great seat it has been.  Front row and center for the past twelve years; a constant barrage of football, soccer, basketball, volleyball, baseball games and practices.  But then, in an instant, it came to a jolting stop.  Our youngest played his last high school game and suddenly, it was all over.

We knew this day was coming.  It had to.  It took a slow, inevitable route beginning with our oldest.  I distinctly remember his last high school football game and the slow, agonizing walk off the field. Shoulders were slouched giving way to heavy sobs.  And my son wasn’t doing much better, either.

But when our eldest son’s high school athletic career came to an end, we still had two more to cheer on.  That meant our calendar remained full of football, soccer, basketball, volleyball, and baseball.  Then suddenly, my daughter’s soccer games were over; then her volleyball.  The writing was on the wall the entire time, but with one kid still in the system, the busyness continued.  Then, on a normal day, our last high school game was played and just like that, it was over.

Erma Bombeck said she took a very practical view on raising children.  She put a sign in each of their rooms which read, “Checkout time is 18 years”.

My wife continues to remind me that our job as parents is to prepare our children for “checkout time.”  As custodians of God’s prized possessions, we hope and pray we’ve filled them with confidence, dreams, determination, and faith and trust in a loving God.

When checkout time arrives, the ones with the biggest adjustments are often us parents.  We go from years of whirlwind activity to the unfamiliar territory of calm and quiet.  Suddenly, it’s just the two of us again and that’s both exciting and a little scary, too.

As it turns out, hanging out with my wife is pretty awesome.  And to my great relief, I think she likes hanging out with me, too.  So, it appears we’re going to survive the end of high school athletics. And if our recent trip out west is any indication, this new chapter  in our lives is going to be rather fun and exciting.

Today, highlighted on our calendars, are those wonderful college break visits and vacation days.  And of course, just because they’ve “checked out”, doesn’t mean they won’t be visiting.  After all, right next to that “checkout” sign is another sign that reads “welcome home”.

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P.S.  To our great delight, our youngest (David) is continuing his athletic career at the University of Miami.  We have many football and baseball games yet to enjoy.

Talking to Moses

I answered the phone the other day and the person on the other end asked to speak to my Dad.  I joyfully responded, “I’m sorry, he can’t come to the phone right now, he’s busy talking to Moses.”  There was a long pause and then he said:

Salesman: When would be a good time for me to call back?

Ed:  Want me to put you on hold?

Salesman: Do you think he’ll be long?

Ed: Well, you know Moses, he can be longwinded.

Salesman: Which Moses are you talking about?

Ed: How many Moses’ do you know?

Salesman: I’ve only heard of one.

Ed: Well, that’s probably him.

There was another long pause as the salesman was trying to put two and two together.

Ed: Do you still want me to put you on hold?

Salesman (still a bit unsure):  How long do you think he’ll be?

Ed: Forever!

Our conversation ended as the salesman apologized and said he wasn’t able to wait “forever”.  I have no idea what he was trying to sell.

It’s interesting the kind of things you miss about someone.  I was very close to my Dad and everywhere I turn there are memories of places we enjoyed being together.  It seems I miss him the most in the simple routine of our various activities.  I catch myself thinking, “Dad would have really enjoyed that”.

But given the choice, there is no doubt talking to Moses and living–really living–in a place where there is no sun, moon or stars because the light radiating from the presence of God illuminates the entire place; wins out every time.  And how beautiful that the Bible describes Heaven as a place where God wipes away our tears; where there is no sadness, no sorrow, no sickness, no heartaches, no disease, and no death.

I’d always get my Dad a little something for Father’s Day.  Usually some clothes or some little trinket.  Truth is, I’d be hard pressed to remember any of the things I bought him.  “Things” seem rather trivial when you know your Dad is living in utter joy in the presence of Jesus…and talking to Moses.

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  Dad and his 4 boys

 When I first became a father, I experienced an instant and intense love for an infant that could do nothing for me. It was perhaps the first time I tasted what unconditional love is like.  Of course, I am greatly polluted by sin and thus even that is tainted. But on my first Father’s Day–the day my first child was born–I remember holding him in my arms with one primary thought running through my brain: I want to be with you forever!

There is only One person who can make that happen…and it’s not Moses…and certainly not me.  The only thing I have ever really wanted for Father’s Day is the same thing my Dad wanted.  It is the gift of being together forever.  It is a gift only Jesus can give.

Remember the story of the Roman jailer who was about to kill himself because he thought all his prisoners had escaped, including Paul and Silas?  It’s a great Father’s Day story found in Acts 16.  The jailer is about to fall on his own sword when Paul shouted, “Stop, we are all here.”  Instantly recognizing it was God himself at work, the jailer fell down trembling before Paul and asked, “What must I do to be saved?”

Paul then delivered a life-changing, uncomplicated, directly to the point 16-word sermon: “Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved, along with everyone in your household” (Acts 16:31 NLV).

Words cannot express my joy and thankfulness that Jesus has given me the ultimate Father’s Day gift.  Jesus has saved me and my entire household.  And just in case you didn’t know, that same gift is for you, too.  Oh, it’s FREE.

Sure, I’ll accept the little trinkets.  I love getting presents…and I could use a new 3-wood (hint, hint).  But my Father’s Day gift has already been given.  And one day, we’ll all be hanging out with Dad…and talking to Moses.

Happy Father’s Day…Forever!

Lemonade Stands

According to those who make calendars, summer is officially over on September 23rd.  Sadly, the end of summer also means the end of most neighborhood lemonade stands.

I love lemonade stands.

In fact, my wife and children know that it is almost impossible for me to drive past a neighborhood lemonade stand.  I’ll circle blocks, make illegal U-turns, and drive over rusty nails and shards of glass to get to a neighborhood stand.  I’ll even call my wife and kids and ask them to get in their car and go get some lemonade.

It goes back, of course, to my grade school days when I proudly operated my very own lemonade stand in my front yard.  I remember setting up the table by the street, making the signs, and wondering how much to charge for a wonderful ice-cold glass of lemonade; a nickel, a quarter?  Is a glass of lemonade worth a quarter?

Of course, mom would help make the lemonade and would even supply a small box of change.  Then, finally, after all the preparations were made, it was time to sit in the chair behind the table and wait for the line of cars to show up driven by thirsty people.

That’s usually where the entire operation broke down.

Long, lonely minutes would creep by as I sat there anxiously waiting for a car—any car—to pull down my street.  And nothing would crush my spirit more than when a car would finally come into view only to rumble past without giving me or my lemonade a second thought.  (There’s just something un-American about that.)

There is one summer day that stands out in my life as a lemonade salesman.  It was a particularly hot day and ideal for selling lemonade.  No one, however, seemed interested in my stand.  Cars were driving by that day, but none stopped. My ice had melted.  The lemonade was hot.  The apple I had set on the table to give away as an incentive to my first customer was rotting.  Yet, no one stopped.  And I was fairly miserable.

I was just beginning to close up shop when off in the distance, I noticed a car coming my way.  It was a familiar car.  It was my Dad’s car, and Dad was in it.  He pulled up to my stand and rolled down the window.  “How’s business, young man?” he asked with a big smile.  All I remember was bursting into tears.

The next thing I know, Dad is asking for a glass of lemonade and about the rotten apple on the table.  “Are you selling that apple, too?” he asked still smiling.  I guess I managed a “yes” through my sobs but informed him it was a little rotten.  “My favorite kind,” I heard back.

I have a vivid memory of handing my Dad the warm glass of lemonade and then the rotten apple through the window of his car.  He leaned back and drank the lemonade in one long swallow, smacked his lips and stared at that rotten apple…and took a big bite.

He reached into his wallet and pulled out a bill and handed it to the little boy trying to overcome his heavy sobs.  He said a big “thanks” and drove away.  He was around the corner and out of sight by the time I looked in my hand and saw the bill he had pushed in my hand.  Twenty dollars!

Have you ever gone from despair to joy in under a second?  Well, I certainly did that hot summer day.  It left a powerful imprint on me that lasts to this very day.

It is easy to drive by lemonade stands.  After all, we’re busy and have places to go and people to meet.  But sometimes, if you stop and invest in a “small cup of warm lemonade and maybe even a rotten apple,” you may never know the impact it could leave on someone’s life.  In fact, God could even use it to turn someone’s despair into joy.

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