A Few Good Men

I began writing this post back in June, just a week after we lost our third daughter, Juliette, at 20 weeks gestation.  It’s one of the hardest things our family has gone through and something that is particularly heavy on our minds in the days leading up to her would-be due date, 10/10/10.  And so, this post has been on my mind again and I thought it was a good time to finish it and publish it.

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It’s been a tough few weeks to say the least.  The details don’t really matter – I’m continually reminded that we’re not the first to go through rough times like these… and besides, that’s not what this post is about.

Instead, this post is about the people you get to know as you go through times like these.  Better stated, this post is about the men I’d like to grow up to be like some day.  Christian men of the United States Armed Forces.  OK, for sure I’m making a gross generalization because I’m basing this opinion on three men in particular – and contrary to the title of this post they’re actually all Army men (although they could definitely “handle the Truth!“).  But, they are men that I’ve seen extraordinary things from – even in the admittedly few hours I’ve gotten to spend with any of them.

As I’ve talked about in detail on a separate page, my wife and I went through a tough time in our marriage five years ago.  During that time I traveled to West Point to visit a dear confidant who was teaching there at the time.  I needed a weekend away to gain a new perspective on my junk and figure out how to finally, really “own” it all.  Among the numerous things I experienced that weekend, one was a Saturday morning gathering held once a month called “Higher Ground” – a breakfast/worship/teaching gathering for the Christian men on post.  The room was packed and there was nothing particularly “special” about the meeting from an agenda point-of-view.  But I was an outsider (although none of the men made me feel that way at all) – and so in that short hour I saw something extremely rare and… well… beautiful.  No, I wouldn’t call it beautiful in a room full of infantry.

There was a level of masculine respect and intimacy among these men of faith that I had never see in 10 years of being a Christian.  There was no pretense, no favoritism, no outward barrier that kept things at the level of “see the game last night”.  Instead, the men in this room clearly stated through their actions and (when needed) words, “we are brothers in Christ, I’ve got your back and I don’t have to impress you with anything else.”  For days and weeks after being at West Point I just couldn’t get that out of my mind.  I had never experienced it – even though I’d had some deep relationships with men at my church since becoming a believer.

I’ve spoken of it many, many times since that weekend…. always slightly puzzled at how these military men have such a unique bond when Christ is among them.  I do not have a sociology degree (although I loved my freshman sociology class in college…. hmmmmm….) – but I think it has to exist simply because they share a very common lifestyle, with common threats, pains, joys and goals.  They move every few years and have to set up shop again and re-integrate their family into yet another new environment.  There’s no time to figure out if they can trust the guy across the street or rely on them to look out for their family and know that someone will drop everything if they’re in need of help.  They don’t have five years to build that foundation.  And so they show up and they serve because that’s what they’ve been training to do day after day – for years on end.

I suppose that’s probably why it’s easiest to see these men be such a great example of service to others.  It’s the reason they look you in the eye and say, “if you need help with something give me a call – I’m just a few miles down the road”… and they mean it.  They really, really mean it.  And I don’t know what to do with that because it’s so rare.  But I know I’m drawn to it because it’s real, genuine and so overflowing of God’s love – the kind of love that honestly makes me say, “I want to be like that.”  I think, at least in the example of these three men, I see a simple example of Jesus’s love lived out in simple “real man” ways.

One other thought occurred to me recently after we had a picnic at the farm with two of these Army families.  Even in the midst of a family life that’s always in transition and dad is often gone “on duty” – these families always have great kids and marriages.  They’re not perfect and not without trial, but they are strong.  Their children have a sense of purpose.  They’re wives know they can trust their men.   And together the family is close-knit and genuinely loves one another.  I don’t think it’s a coincidence.

So, when I grow up I want to be more like these men – which I’m pretty sure means I’ll be a little more like Jesus, too.  For that I’m thankful to have been blessed by these relationships.  And I’m thankful for a Father that loves me enough to give me better, tangible expressions of being “doers of the Word.”

God’s Provision

Wow. It’s been nearly a year since I’ve posted anything. Much like my desire to journal each day, this blog is just “that much” out of my reach to get to it seems. But things have been moving lately and at some point I just can’t shut up.

It seems that the Booz family has been in a fairly long period of God’s provision. I realize that Jesus is always providing for us, big or small, but sometimes we actually stop long enough to see it… be thankful for it. Somehow that culminated for me today when I ran my third half-marathon. Through the entire race I could feel his provision in my thoughts, my attitude and my actual physical strength. It was honestly, well… pretty darn great.

But as I finshed and my family made it back to the hotel so that we could get ready to leave, I was more aware that the place where Christ keeps giving and giving is with my family. And of almost anything that He could do, that feels the most amazing and precious of all. It is truly overwheling.

I’ve been blessed with a wife that shares the vision of having a family that knows and loves God. Our children, although imperfectly “children” in every way, are catching the vision as well. When these things work together – I find that we often function with a peace and joy that is not of our own doing. And all I can say is YAY!!!

It propells me to look forward to each day and see us experience more of Him each day. See my children pray for each other and the needs around them. My wife held in a place of honor at the city gates. Our collective thought, words, actions and resources used to bring glory to Jesus Christ and not ourselves.

I’m enjoying the journey more now then I did before. I’m still very, very far from perfect – but I’m glad when I actually live my life and can get to the end of a day and say, “thank you Father for you graceousness today.” I hope I can do that more in the days ahead.

The Honor Dare – Day 5

(part 5 of 14 of the “Honor Dare“)

Dare: Plan a family night.  Enjoy each other’s company for two hours or longer.
Verse: If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand.
(Mark 3:25)

Laura will be the first one to tell that I’m not typically the game organizer of the family.  Don’t get me wrong, I grew up playing family games a lot as a kid – but we just weren’t the flashy kind.  I remember playing a lot of games as a kid with my friends and sister – but with my family it was usually a holiday/special occasion thing.  I always had a good time (at least when I/we won), however, the existance of games or not didn’t determine if the time together was “real quality time”.

Then I met Laura and her family.  Any time we’re together for more then a few hours somebody always utters the words, “Who wants to play a game?”  If it were always just board games that would be one thing.  Unfortunately for me it’s often the kind of game where you have to write words down on paper or act something out or… well, it usually requires effort above the actual playing of the game and often requires me to go up against a family of word smiths.  Until recently, this was not fun for me.   And the problem is, I’ve been with Laura for almost 8 years now… so it’s been a long road of getting used to the concept that it’s not REALLY family time if we don’t play a game.  (OK, in all fairness to any Nazimek’s reading this post – I always ended up having fun… it was the process that I just didn’t get.  You people rock – don’t worry!)

Probably two years ago it did finally hit me that this was a good time – that spending time huddled around a deck of Dutch Blitz, a board of Sequence or a table of speed Scrabble was a good thing.  As everyone has grown older we don’t get much time with everyone now and we actually get to talk about a lot more when we’re playing games then when we’re sitting in front of the TV or mesmorized by Facebook locked away in our room.  I actually get to find out what’s going on with everyone and laugh (and often loose too… but I digress).

Go dig through the game closet and find that game you remember playing a couple of years ago after  Thanksgiving dinner that everyone enjoyed.  Set a time, invite the peeps and make sure you have a good bag of snacks on hand.

The Honor Dare – Day 4

(part 4 of 14 of the “Honor Dare“)

Dare: Speak well of your parents to others
Verse: Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
(1 Cor 13:6-7)

We’re told that our tonges (and the words they speak) are the hardest part of the body to tame.  I’ve known this to be true in my life many, many times.  In this and a couple of other areas, I’ve known Paul’s feelings to be true when he speaks in Romans 7, “I do not understand what I do.  For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do…”  In our words this seems to be a hard thing to control.  I want to be more encouraging to others, I want speak more truth, I want to lie less… I want to speak well of others rather then talk about their weaknesses behind their back!

The really interesting thing is this. The more we speak well of others (both when they’re around and when they’re not) – the more we realize that they’re actually really great people!  Even when we don’t say a thing to them directly (although this will be a natrual outflow once you start to get in the habit of speaking well of them) – you’re attitude and interaction will improve.  That’s almost like doing no work at all.  You simply choose to speak well of your mom and dad when others are complaining about theirs – and a side benefit is that you start to get along with your mom and dad better… and you didn’t even try to do that!

Surprise yourself – find one nice thing to share about your parents with someone else.  See how it changes your attitude towards them.

The Honor Dare – Day 3

(part 3 of 14 of the “Honor Dare“)

Dare: Pray for your parents with a sibling or friend
Verse: Again, I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven.
(Matthew 18:19)

This is a rather simple day.  And here’s the kicker – if you start with this dare each day for the rest of the “Dare” it’s bound to be “easier” for you.  Somehow in our small Christian worldview, the practice of prayer is often to daunting, to boring, or to misunderstood.  No matter how much we talk about it, hear about it and… well, pray about it… it often seems to always end up as our magic little bullet… the lifeline.  I’m finding, albeit slowly, that everything I’ve been told for all of these years (as a kid before I was a Christian and for the last 12 years as a Christian) – really is true.  Let me explain.

I’ve been a Christian for 12 years now and I’m finally starting to (by pure “will” sometimes) approaching my day in prayer.  And God has honestly been showing me that He is there, He is listening and He is doing His work within and through me.  Who knew!  Specifically in relation to my family.  As I’ve come before Him most mornings, I can tell you that I’ve seen a direct relation between what God is doing around me and what He’s directing me to be faithful in prayer about.  Whether it’s been for Laura and the girls or for my extended family, I can actually see days later that things were moving in those areas.  Not exactly as I had wanted every time, but moving non-the-less.  It’s been a very exciting thing to be honest.

Which brings me to your parents and family.  Prayer is the simplest and most powerful thing you can do for them.  It may seem cliche to say it – but at some point you realize that if enough people say it, it’s probably true (like “kids grow up so fast…” – true!).  Humbling yourself for five minutes of your day to simply ask that those around you would experience God’s love, would be open to Him throughout their day and that your relationship with them would be more loving and kind (Oooo, kind, that was yesterday’s challange!) isn’t a big chunk of your day.

Take five minutes right now… give it a try.

The Honor Dare – Day 2

(part 2 of 14 of the “Honor Dare“)

Dare: Do something kind for your parents.
Verse:
Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you (Ephesians 4:32)

Kindness can be a hard thing, especially in relationships where there is a structure in place that says, “you do what I tell you to”.  Our natural tendency to sin in our attitude, the one that says, “whatever, I’m old enough to make my own choices now.”  When those feelings creep in and start to grow deeper, we can easily start forgetting about kindness – because if we did, we’d have to worry about serving someone else.

I remember a profound thing that Laura’s mom used to say to her whenever Laura would call home from college upset, depressed or angry about something.  After listening for a while, Laura’s mom would end the conversation with, “Tell you what, how about you go do something for someone – go serve someone else for a little while, and then call me back.”  Inevitably, when Laura would do that (help a friend, go work in a soup kitchen, etc.) – there wasn’t much of a need to call her mom back to complain or grip again.  Serving others does that – puts our current agenda, wants, desires and general “me first”-ishness into perspective – makes them all seem pretty small.

And so, what better way to serve someone then those that have quite literally sacrificed a lot for you to exist and survive.  Cut them a little slack for once and do a good turn their way.  And remember, this isn’t a dare where you check something off the list and then forget about it, it’s a dare where you build each day upon the next.  So, today, as you set the table, clean your room, restock the wood pile or cook everyone’s favorite dessert for dinner – all without being asked – make sure you do it with a spirit that says “Yes, mom” and “Yes, dad” through the whole thing.

Just remember, if they look at you a little weird – if means you’re probably doing the right thing.  🙂

The Honor Dare – Day 1

(part 1 of 14 of the “Honor Dare“)

Dare: Respond, “Yes, Mom” and “Yes, Dad” all day.  No questioning or ignoring.
Verse: Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.
(Ephesians 4:2)

At 33 years old, I’ve had more then my fair share of anger, frustration and total annoyance at my parents.  Three years ago, however, because of what God did in my life, I’d like to think that my relationship with them has transformed as I’ve become more of the man that God has always desired I be.  Although it was my marriage that was near destruction, my parents once again showed the amazing kind of love and sacrifice that you have to stand back and be amazed at – even if you don’t see it in the moment.

When I finally started to “get it” at age 30, it was difficult sometimes to look back and realize how often I’d totally taken my parents for granted… how often I’d set my own desires and wants above theirs – and then expected them to serve me in getting what I wanted!  Trust me when I say, it will matter to you one day how you treated your parents and the amazing sacrifice they’ve made for you… even if it’s hard to see right now.

Today, you’re to practice the “first commandment with a promise” – a promise that deals with you directly.  The first step to honoring your father and mother is to learn how to submit to them humbly.  There is no simpler act of humility then to simply say “Yes, Mom” or “Yes, Dad” and not question or argue.  We’re sinners, we’re not wired to submit naturally.  But if you don’t learn to do this with your mom and dad, you will NOT learn to do it with the Creator of the Universe.  It’s impossible to say “I’m a follower of Christ” and yet not obey the first commandment dealing with your relationship to those around you… specifically mom and dad.

You have nothing to loose – except maybe a little bit of that selfish, me-first greediness that we’ve all grown accustomed to.  You do, however, have EVERYTHING to gain if you try it… really.  Imagine a home that’s peaceful simply because sons and daughters decided to say “Yes” without first saying “Why do I have to?” What do you have to loose?

Back again…

Surprise!  I’m back.  🙂  Yes, it’s been a long time since I’ve posted – but there are only a few people that would ever consider checking this blog anyway – so I don’t think anyone is terribly let down.  But, a lot has been going on in our lives and I’ve had this big itch to try and start posting again.  Events of this past weekend put me in a spot to start again – maybe it can become a regular thing – maybe not.

Laura and I had the privilege to speaking at our churches youth retreat.  The theme was “God’s Surprising Love” – shown through gifts, words and family.  The weekend was unique because the students had no idea what they would be doing – it was billed as a “Mystery Retreat” – only the parents knew what was happening.  The students didn’t know that when they showed up, they would be split into two vans, guys and girls, and head opposite directions.

Friday night didn’t go exactly as planned because half of the students were taking part in a school dance and so the other students took part in a video scavenger hunt, ending at the school dance to “crash it” (they had the schools permission) and pick up the other students.  Laura waited at one local camp for the girls and I waited at another camp at the other end of the county for the guys.  Although it was a late night and weekend of little sleep – the students didn’t arrive until about 12:45AM – we both enjoyed preparing for the weekend and working together on the message for Saturday night.

My heart, when it came to the young men was to talk about one of the most overlooked gifts of the Christian: God’s Word.  I tried to demonstrate through the weekend that we’ve been fed a diet lacking in Christian Worldview and God’s given us the very tool we need to form it’s foundation.  We focused specifically on the Ten Commandments as the foundation of our Worldview and then talked on Saturday morning about what the world has to say about/to us (their worldview) and how we can respond.

We culminated the weekend last night giving the students a dare in the spirit of the “Love Dare” from the movie Fireproof.  We called ours the “Honor Dare” and encouraged the students to honor their parents – putting their hearts and passion where God intends it to be at this stage of their life… their homes.

With that in mind, I’m going to attempt to augment the slightly-larger-then-a-bookmark size 14-day dare card with a brief story/encouragement dealing with the challenge of that day.  Who knows if this will get me in the posting habit or not, but hopefully for the next 14 days (at least), I’ll have a few things to say.

The Heart of the Battle

This is probably the most important post I’ll make in a long time.  I’ve added a new “page/tab” at the top you might notice called “Daily Victory“.  It’s the audio and slides from a talk I gave in church a few weeks ago (4/13/08) about my struggle with pornography addiction and how the battle to find victory nearly destroyed my marriage, family and life – but how His unrelenting pursuit of me just wouldn’t let go.  The end result is a marriage and family that is strong (not perfect mind you – we still have a lot of learning to do) and a strengthened passion for helping men find freedom from this junk and step into their calling as a man/husband/father.

With that in mind I approached the elders recently and asked if they would let me use some/all of the men’s ministry budget to help subsidize accountability software for anyone in the church that wanted to use it.  They were all for it and so I presented that to the church by sharing my story.  I pray that as men (and women) choose to become accountable for this one area, it will free them up to step into the calling God has placed on their lives in other areas.  But, for this generation, I believe that this is one of only a few major battles for our future and our growth in Christ as a whole.

Please let me know what you think.  It’s tough to take off the mask sometimes, but if Christ is glorified – then it’s all worth it.

Listen to the talk

Real Faith – Part 2

Watching the three people you love the most pull away at 5:45 in the morning for a trip to grandmom and grandpop’s house. I’ll be joining them on Thursday – but trusting my heavenly Father to go before them is something I have no trouble doing – and yet I can’t help but be in a continuous state of anxiety at the same time. Weird. The three best gifts I got as they prepared to leave were:

– A wonderful smile from 5 week old Lia
– “I really love you dad. I can’t wait to play with you…” from Vivienne
– A hug (and a kiss and a hug…) from Laura that just made me feel like the man I desire to be in her life (and the lives of our girls)

We have some great easter family pictures from yesterday – but they must be on the camera still. So, this is the next best one I could find of my three girls…

My girls…