So on my daughter Ainsley’s 4th birthday I bought her a bow and arrow. Mind you, this was before Hunger Games, Brave and the t.v. series Arrow even came out. I was like a hipster dad. I am not talking a plastic shaft with some elastic string and suction cup darts here, I mean a real bow and arrow. This thing had enough power when shot properly to pierce a pop can or her sister. You should have seen the look on the faces of the other mothers (including my wife) at the birthday party. You would have thought they were going to call child protective services and lead me away in cuffs. I thought it was one of my better moves. Here is why…
As a father of daughters, I am always looking for ways to spend time with my kids that is unique and fruitful. In other words, I love creative hobbies with a purpose. Sure, we play dolls and the usual sports, but we especially have fun when we learn something together. I had no idea how to shoot a bow and arrow. Archery for me was about Robin Hood and Hunger Games, neither of which personify real great parenting. But, here is what I learned…
Archery is about posture and breathing. It is about muscle control and patience. It is about self confidence, intentionality and individual goal setting. It is competition really only with yourself and the instrument. Shooting a bow and arrow well demands taking in all the elements and determining a planned approach. It is about self control. Bingo.
I long for all my daughters to embody all of these values. It isn’t that I just want them to be and do these things, I mean I want them to become models of patience, self confidence and intentionality as they grow into young women. I do not want them to be mastered by other people (especially teenage boys), but to be at peace in the elements and live intentionally. I’m not sure there is a more beautiful activity that my children could be a part of.
As a result, all of my daughters now own a bow and arrows. Like any man that decides to engage a new hobby, I have a number of archery devices. My girls and I love it. My wife, well lets just say she is coming around. When the season is right, we go outside and make up fun games. We set up a range at the house and set goals for ourselves regarding self-improvement. We play battleship and a game we made up called Robin Hood (which is basically like the basketball game Horse, well you get the idea). Safety first, but creativity is a close second. In the end, I can only hope the disciplines of the sport become spiritual disciplines in my children’s walk of faith.
We hung our stockings at the foot of our beds when I was a kid. The strategy here was that we would be preoccupied with our stocking in the wee hours of the morning long enough to allow our parents to sleep in that much more. Of course, all we did was open our stocking earlier and then run to rattle our mom and dad as the sun was rising while yelling, “Santa was here!!!!” Paper flies everywhere and we spend the day in pajamas playing with whatever toy will now be added to the pile in the closet. When I reflect on it, I think what I really loved most about this great holiday was the sense of anticipation. I loved the nerve racking waiting, the decorating and the constant questioning of my parents, “how many more days?”
I love Christmas as an adult as well. I revere the smells and the scenery. But, what I really love are chocolate oranges. I am fairly certain chocolate oranges were made in eden and have somehow been preserved over the centuries. If elves make these things, I picture them in a super secret lab with the highest level of security so that the flavorful ingredients never leak into the kitchens of civilians. Mmmmmmm, chocolate oranges.
With small children, Christmas has re-emerged in my life as a great endeavor. There is nothing like seeing their faces on Christmas morning or getting to shop for them weeks, days or moments in advance. As a parent, I feel like I finally get what it means to anticipate Christmas. This idea of waiting for something great to happen, knowing that it will happen, is not to be taken for granted. I think I finally get Advent.
When we know something is going to be great because it has always been great and we love greatness, we get excited. Not exactly rocket science. This is Advent for me. There is greatness in the anticipation. There is a unique value in the preparation process as well as the result. The Lord planned it this way. Our waiting for the King has its own beauty. Keeping our lamps trimmed and burning is a celebration in and of itself. It is a testament of our faith in the one to come and the greatness that we know he brings. He always comes. We are always changed.
As I longly await my chocolate orange to be in the bottom of my stocking this Christmas, I remember how great last year’s was. Sure I could just go to the store and buy one, but where is the spiritual lesson in that?
When my wife and I found out we were going to have our first child, like most new parents we whipped ourselves into excitement trying to decide on names. Also like most parents we came up with a boy and a girl name. We batted around different ideas. My wife suggested the name of her great grandmother, Mederise (meh-de-reese), to which I quickly responded, “…a french name for my Irish Catholic little girl!” Not true. Actually, immediately I fell in love with the name for its uniqueness and beauty. The name also demands attention to tradition and the strength of my wife’s homesteader family. I tacked on the middle name Michelle, after my cousin and aunt. Both are incredible women and drum up pleasant memories for me personally. All five of my daughters have had the same boy name, Timothy, after my best friend from High School. Not sure I’ll ever get to use that one.
This holiday season we get to focus on one important name for God, Emmanuel. I use to think this was just a pretty title or a foreign slang term for the baby Jesus. This couldn’t be further from the truth. God gave this name to Mary and Joseph through the voice of an Angel (Matt 1:23). It certainly has intention. The name means “God is with us” and stems from Hebrew origin. Most of us know that but somehow forget it. Emmanuel sums up the deepest longing of our creator. It expresses the most prolific miracle in the history of the world and insists on an eternity of victory for all humanity. Its no Mederise, but it will do. Emmanuel is truly the name above all names in the sense that it declares a reality all believers must come to reckon with. Not bad for your first kid.
In Romans 8:31 Paul lays down one of his more popular lines, “If God is for us then who could be against us.” Yes, the line fits well on a coffee mug and/or a convention t-shirt, but it also should rip us apart. God is with us and for us. This puts all the pressure on us. The “us” in this scenario need to get off our butts. He doesn’t need us. He wants us. He wants us to know he is with us and for us. At this point we must respond.
This holiday season remember that he knows your name. He took special care crafting the creation that led to your arrival. The master of the universe likes you enough to dig deep into his reservoir of creative authority to make sure the world is a place for you to celebrate his victory. Better yet, he loves you enough to be with you through the heart of his first and only born son. Remember to say thanks between the ripping of paper and sips of Tom and Jerry during the time of year when we are asked to simply remember his name.
When I was in fourth grade (Catholic School mind you) I threw my math book at my teacher because she made me stay in at recess and redo my homework for the fifth time. She was a great lady. I was a moron. Upon realizing what I had done, I promptly ran and hid in the bathroom where I figured nobody would dare find me. After she called my name from the doorway for about fifteen minutes, I panicked and ran to the Church where I sat in a pew staring at the cross. Perspective was the order of the day. This is where it hit me…literally. I had done a pretty stupid thing. I knew I was in for it. I knew that my actions had created a bit of a desperate situation and that I would be the one encountering the repercussions on somebody else’s terms. Was this what it meant to find refuge?
Baseball is the perfect combination of team and individual effort in a game. Nobody can help you when you are in the batter’s box facing a Felix Hernandez fast ball or and R.A Dicky knuckler but you. You got to time it right. You have to adjust your hands and your hips. You have milliseconds to make dramatic decisions and the majority of the time you will fail. Sound like fun? At the same time, you are not the pitcher and the catcher and the shortstop and the left fielder. You have one position and you play it to the best of your abilities. A win is a team effort. Your presence and participation are imperative. See where I’m going with this?
Sometimes we need to get hit in the face with a breaking ball that doesn’t break. Sometimes were are going to strike out or foul tip or get dropped looking in the clutch. It is going to happen. In our individual failures and miscues, isn’t it assuring to know that we have a team?
My mom walked into the Church and picked me up. She was pissed. My dad was a yeller and he let me have it when I got home. I was upset. I apologized to my teacher the next day and got on with the awkwardness of fourth grade knowing that I had a seat in a Church that would always welcome me. A worshipping community is necessary in the life of a Christian because we can only do so much on our own. As a sinner, I know I need a redeemer and a community. I know that my actions are going to derail my walk of faith a lot. Spiritually, I hope to bat at least .280.
I love a good drug-free homerun hitter. I love the guy who grinds out the base hit when the team needs it for the extra inning win. But I especially love the consistant presence of player that understands the value of great at bats and the worth of a team. I am a practicing Catholic Christian man because the pursuit of holiness is not only for me but also for my family, my community and my brothers and sisters of faith. What about you?
This is blog about being a dad of five daughters, a husband of over 11 years, a youth minister of over 15 years and a baseball fan. I was raised Catholic and continue in the pursuit of holiness. I fell in love with a farm girl by the grace of forgiveness and a bit of divine intervention. I had a dream when I was 24 that I would have three daughters…the Lord found that funny and decided to put a little sugar on top. I fumbled into a career of youth ministry by way of circumstance, luck and passion. I fell in love with baseball in the Kingdome of Seattle, WA in the 80’s when Mark Langston threw the ball 98 mph and Alvin Davis was the best there was. So far, all has served me well. Better said, I have desperately tried to serve. This blog adventure will be a humble walk of reflections, questions, advice, expository, oratory, commentary and hopefully a lot of laughs.