Father’s Day & Pink Flip-Flops

061514_1633_FathersDay1.jpgToday is Father’s Day. I got to sleep in – a rarity on a Sunday. On several occasions my daughters attempted to wake me up – not an easy chore. As I attempted to look through bleary eyes, I saw wispy hair and eager smiles, ready to celebrate their father. I’m a blessed man, for many reasons.

I’m blessed to have a good and godly father. He has blessed me with the love of God, life, family, learning, reading, writing, and so much more. I have countless fond memories with him – he’s the best dad! Quality family time was always important to him. From my earliest days I can remember sitting together reading our nightly Bible story followed by a chapter or three of “The Chronicles of Narnia.” At the end of each chapter my sisters and I would chant, “One more chapter!” I loved our family camping trips, where I learned to setup tents, build fires, and explore nature. Dad would play his guitar around the campfire and we’d sing. I enjoyed the songs he made up the most. But my love for my dad is not a thing of the past. I love how our relationship has grown. I still call him regularly – sometimes just to chat, and sometimes because I need his wisdom, advice, prayers, or listening ear.

I’m also blessed to be the father of my own three little princesses. I certainly don’t have this “dad” thing down yet – but I’m trying. I’ve learned from my father what quality family time is all about. This past week was full of memory-makers. Camping, campfires, s’mores, song time with the guitar, bedtime stories, sandcastles on the beach, Bible time, bumper boats, mini-golf, and picnics on the porch.

Having three daughters is certainly interesting. Living in a house with 4 ladies is never boring. Sometimes I’m not sure what they want or need. I’m learning that sometimes they just need their dad. That’s a humbling thought – because I know my own insecurities, shortcomings, and failures. I feel like I don’t have much to offer them when all they want is me. This Father’s Day serves as a reminder that I need to be the best godly man I can be – for them.

While I find myself greatly outnumbered, I’m also greatly blessed.

-DJFA

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Graduations

This past week was full of celebrations. I had the privilege of being a part of five separate graduation services, from kindergarten on up through college. It is exciting and encouraging to rejoice in their accomplishments. I was overwhelmed and sometimes surprised by the flood of emotions and random inner dialogue. For instance…

2014-06-04 10.37.55Kindergarten Graduation: I never used to get the value of this ceremony. Sure, they can color in the lines a little better, but they’re not “going anywhere”.  They’ll be in the same school next year. But as I saw the joy on their faces, saw them experience the pride of their parents, I couldn’t help but think – they really are “going somewhere”. I’m particularly proud of our middle daughter, Alexa. In addition to coloring within the lines better (“coloring in the lines” of life isn’t her preference), she’s clearly going places. She now has a best friend – two inseparable peas in a pod. She can read – when she wants to. She’s emerging as a fearless leader. She loves Jesus, and excels at memorizing Bible verses.

Sixth Grade Graduation: I was asked to be “the speaker” for this exciting observance. It was clear to me that the students had worked hard at their academics.  The list of awards went on and on. I was particularly impressed with the emphasis on Christian character and Scripture Memory.  Parma Heights Christian Academy, where my children attend, does an excellent job at blending faith and scholastics. I was most moved at the end of our service, when I invited the parents to join their children on the platform. As I prayed for God’s blessing on them I was overcome with the responsibility I have as a parent. Raising godly children is no easy task. I’m grateful for a school that shares our values.

High School Graduation: We honor our graduates in a variety of ways. We give the youth group time to reflect and share fond memories. We gift them with a Study Bible. (I regularly use the one I received from my parents at graduation.) We share a tribute video, chronicling highlights of their lives so far. On Graduation Sunday, I get to bring a challenge to them, and the rest of the congregation in “big church”. This year, I preached on “Passing the Baton” from 2 Timothy 3. Again, I was taken by the colossal obligation of raising godly young men and women. I’m thankful to be a part of a church that partners with us in this task.

In each of these celebrations, I found myself standing in between parents and students. Speaking for parents in a formal way. Articulating our pride and love. I did have one thought that went unsaid, but I hope that each of our kids knows. “We’re doing our best.” We’ve never been parents before, and there’s no how-to manual for each situation. We try and fail and try again. We know you’re going places – and we hope you go farther than we ever will, both because and in spite of us.

-DJFA

It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

Most Wonderful Time“It’s the most wonderful time of the year.”  I’m still eating turkey leftovers, and I’ve been hearing this song for a couple of weeks.  I’m the type of guy whole likes his holidays one at a time. I want to focus on gratitude and thanksgiving before I see Christmas trees, Festivus poles, and rosy-nosed reindeer. Yet, I think Thanksgiving is possibly my favorite holiday. For me, it’s the most wonderful time of the year. Continue reading

Superman Syndrome

superman_kryptonite11_138I greatly despise being sick. Which, when I think about it, is how just about everyone feels about getting ill. When I’m sick, it boggles my mind. I feel as if someone has secretly stashed kryptonite into my cargo pants pocket. Therein lies the problem. The problem isn’t that most of my wardrobe can be described as “cargo” or that I get sick. It’s that I too often see myself as Superman. The guy who’s always strong, and never shows weakness. The guy everyone can count on. The guy who never fails. I think it’s called pride.

So tonight, Wednesday, was Youth Group night. Instead of connecting with teens and parents, and teaching the Bible, I was sitting at home feeling sorry for myself, searching for the secret stockpile of kryptonite.  Well, mostly. As I sat, I realized, once again, how grateful I am to serve with an amazing team of volunteer youth leaders.

These men and women dedicate endless hours each year to our teens in service to Christ. I am grateful, and humbled. I certainly have my place on the team. I’d like to think that my absence was missed. That’s not the point. The point – I’m grateful for my team. They carried on tonight just fine without me.

I tried my best to work from home today. I actually got a lot done, including final edits to our seniors’ video. I communicated primarily through email, since I have virtually no voice. My administrative assistant must have been getting tired of hearing from me when she replied, “DELEGATE!” There it is again – the Superman Syndrome. She went on to remind me, “Everyone is replaceable, but everyone is also unique. There is just one you.” I guess we can all be grateful for that.

So, since my Lois Lane won’t come near me without a hazmat suit, I’m going to bury my sorrows in some ice-cream and thank Him for my team.

♫ He’s Got the Look ♫

This past Tuesday we hosted a youth ministry network that I co-lead called Motus. Ever since then I have had the Roxette song, “She’s Got the Look” stuck in my head. This gathering of 72 youth workers and pastors was an amazing time, and I have so many take-aways. I’m still processing it all. One obscure observation: the newer model of youth workers has “a look”. Rest assured, this is not a rant on “kids these days”, a case of judging a book by its cover, or over-stereotyping. It’s simply an observation, nothing negative implied. I was not the only one to notice.  One of my volunteer youth workers leaned over and asked me, “Are they in a band?” I chuckled.
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Motus: The Birth of a Youth Worker Network

Youth Ministry is exciting, energizing, and amazing. It’s also challenging, tiring, and sometimes lonely. I often think we should measure ministry years in dog years. 1 ministry year can feel like it takes about 7 years out of you. That’s why I have always sought out encouragement and support from other like-minded youth workers. This has taken on many forms in different seasons of ministry. This past year, it has been through an electrifying upstart youth network in the greater Cleveland area called Motus. (Latin for a movement.)

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