Better than…

So, as is to be expected, it’s been two+ weeks since I’ve posted. ARG! But, no frustration here. 🙂

This morning, as we continue to wait and hope for this little baby to come (due date is tomorrow and Laura is MORE than ready), I have been living without much of a schedule. This means that I’ve worked late, gotten up late and arrived at work late (but then again, I was working late… so…). It also means that I’ve taken little to no time for reading the Word or simply praying.

This morning, actually getting up at a decent time (although still later than I should) – I got ready for work and decided to grab the guitar – yet another thing I swear I’ll do a few times a week but never get to. Honestly, I don’t know why I don’t grab the guitar more. If the house is quiet and I can just strum through a few basic chords – the Holy Spirit always moves in me. It usually takes a long time for me to get past the “if I just do this chord I’ll sound really good and then maybe I’ll get discovered and make a CD” thoughts. Once I’m past those, then I have to lay down the “let me find the perfect words to express how much God means to me – which of course I can then make into a song that I’ll sing at church and everyone will love me…”. Sometimes this happens more quickly – sometimes I’m just a dope and it takes a while. I’m a fleshy human I guess.

But, what I love is when I can get past those things and just find a melody that calms me down and actually begins to open my heart. This is the part where I should interject that with all of my “frustration” lately (from a Christian perspective that is) that one of the notes I’ve written down a few times in recent months is “worship seems so effeminate to me lately. I don’t feel much like ‘this is the air I breath… and I’m desperate for you’ during corporate worship with female voices leading.” I’m not saying that’s a good attitude at all, just that when I say “it begins to open my heart” – I know that there is actual work going on in my spirit that’s beyond the temporal. I love it when the Holy Spirit actually just moves past my junk. 🙂

Back to this morning. As I was playing through some chords – an old song came to mind that was perfect for this Valentine’s day. It actually moved my heart to a small time of worship. I was reminded that in all of this, the good, the bad, the frustrating – even when we’re (sometimes impatiently) waiting for our new child – God’s love is better than all things.

Your love is better than all things
Your love is better than all things
And I don’t have the strength of words
To tell You truly how I feel

Your love is better than life
Your love is better than life
And I don’t have the strength of words
To tell You truly how I feel

My God, You are the only one
For me, the only one for me
My God, Your love is better than all other loves
And now You’re drawing me
And I just want to be closer to You

Want to get closer
Got to get closer to You …

Today, worship and this music doesn’t seem so effeminate – it seems very real and very personal. That’s a good way to start Valentine’s day.

The Centrality of the Home

For those of you that don’t know we’re about to have our second child… of course, I use “we” lightly because, well, I don’t really have to do the “having”. But regardless, in light of our pending family growth (which we couldn’t be more excited for!!!) we continue to try and understand God’s design for family. To this end, as I mentioned in my mind dump last week (Frustrated) we’re continually seeking out teachings and ministries that focus specifically on Biblical family dynamics. In most circles today, this would simply be called “conservative Christian living” – probably Southern Baptist kind of conservative. And this, quite honestly, is where the Church gets me sometimes. I listen to a message like the one below and shout “AMEN” through the whole thing. But then I realize that this same pastor would likely preach that the gifts of the Holy Spirit are not for today – something that Laura and I are pretty sure Christ has given us opportunities to see that the are.

And that, to an extent, is what I’m working out. In general I’m seeing that the churches I’ve grown up in since becoming a Christian at age 21 do not focus nearly as much on the centrality of family in our faith. I’m not sure why, and I’m not really upset about it, but the more we learn the more I wish others were hearing it too. As our family grows and Christ continues to give us more and more of a passion for his full family design – I’m glad to have some other perspectives. I love having straight talk that’s not covered in anecdotes. I like being brought to Scripture and someone saying, “this is what is says. Let me show you how I came to that belief by teaching you the meaning. It’s OK if you disagree, but you better be able to back it up with Scripture.” Come on, don’t you love to be challenged by someone with that kind of confidence in the scripture?

Anyway there are two teachings the Voddie Bachman gives that are wonderful. The one linked below was the first one Laura and I heard by him, on a CD we got from Vision Forums – a homeschooling/family centered ministry we have grown to love. The message is VERY counter church culture. My entry into the church, by God’s grace, was to help with youth ministry while in college. I’ve seen youth ministry do amazing things in young adult lives. But as I grow up and examine what it appears God intended for the flow of faith from one generation to the next – this seems to make a lot more sense to me.

So, as a shout out to all of the men I’ve talked with that say they reading and homework, when it comes to learning Scripture, isn’t for them (yes, I’m a card carrying member of that club as well – but I’m slowly being transformed) – heres something you can listen to instead. 🙂 Please let me know what you think.

The Centrality of the Home – by Voddie Bachman


…has been my word for a long time. Every once in a while when I realize I’m in a horrible tail-spin of attitude and annoyance (frustration) I try to figure out when it all started. The first time I remember really throwing a fit was when I was in seventh grade. I have no doubt there were plenty of other times, but this is just the first one I can recall that was very much “flesh”. I wanted a Nintendo – who didn’t. (BTW, that?s the original Nintendo…) And I had actually been saving money for it. But, one Sunday afternoon I was doing what any kid would do that just moved to a small farm with his family – I was playing in the barn breaking old sticks. Well, one of them broke (after all I was breaking them) and a couple of splinters got in my eye.

After a few hours of mom telling me to “lay down on the couch and it will go away, I’m sure nothings in your eye anymore…”, I finally convinced her that something was indeed still in there. So, off to the hospital on a Sunday evening. After a long wait (and yes, my eye hurt very badly with every movement) a doctor pulled out three splinters – once of which was at least a quarter inch long. Good news is that the eye is the fastest healing organ in the body (according to the doctor) and I was on my way looking like a pirate with a patch on my eye.

Well, on the way home mom needed to stop by Hills, a pre-WalMart type store that was the “go to” place in town. And there it was, the Nintendo. Somehow in my little seventh grade mind I knew that I had an advantage here. I had just gotten splinters take out of my eye, had a patch on it and was looking pretty sad. So I struck – the little selfish, fleshy Ryan emerged. My mother, the poster-mom for being frugal with money (which I am now VERY thankful for!) resisted. And so the fit started to well up. In the middle of the store I remember my mother almost not having a choice. Of course she did, but I remember making it pretty hard. I think that I even pulled out the “but I just got splinters out of my eye” line.

I walked out of Hills with my Nintendo.

And it went on from there. Within the next few months, because I was the smallest kid in class and the “city slicker” that had just moved to the valley, I was “beat up” more and more – usually starting in home room when the teacher wasn’t there yet. Twisted arms, pulled backs, fat lips. I could feel the frustration growing. It also happened that at about the same time I began to be molested by a family friend for the better part of two years. Talk about being frustrated and feeling helpless. I think Satan knew exactly what he was doing.

Here’s the thing though, that’s all nearly 20 years ago now. There have been many ways I’ve dealt with all of those things. Most of the time I can honestly say that I don’t believe they effect me day to day. But over the last few days, I’m once again realizing that I still haven’t gotten over it. In most everything I do, in most of my reactions, I’m still the little kid that needs to prove himself to be better then everyone, more of a man than I assume people see me – to put up with my annoyances and my complaints… as if they were the most important things for everyone to deal with. In a word (or three) – me, me, me.

Man, it really sucks when you come face to face with it again (and again, and again…)

So, through my latest round of me, me, me – Laura and I have been talking about it. Well, I’ve been frustrated and angry about it, Laura has been talking. She puts up with a lot. But the end result is that God has given her great wisdom to speak hard truth. The biggest one of all being…

drum roll….

I do not have a teachable spirit. (THUD)
I am generally not of a humble nature (double THUD)

And she’s right. When it comes to most of the things around me, no matter how much I really do want to become a stronger man of faith, or the Word, of truth – I just assume I know better than everyone else. Well, that’s not completely true. Just most of the people that are in direct authority over me. There’s always a better speaker out there with the ideas that I really want to emulate. But that just gets me frustrated that they’re somewhere else other than here. Which leaves me with CDs and podcasts, one sermon at a time. But man, I want to interact with these people on a consistent basis. Surely if I could be under someone like “them” – my life would really start to take off. I?d lead my family with all encompassing godly authority that would be the awe of everyone I come in contact with. My words would be insightful and truthful – I’d expound on the Word of God with authority unseen by most people.

Wait a minute!! Just wait a minute!! That might not be true!! (thud again…). Turns out that I’m am where God has put me for a reason. I’m in the workplace and church and town that God has ordained for this time. I have amazing, Godly friends that God has ordained for this time. I have the family, and hopes for my family, that God has ordained for this time. And believe it or frickn’ not, I have the CDs and podcasts that God has ordained for this time. What I seem to be lacking is the spirit of Christ that God has ordained for my lifetime. Yes, I know without a doubt that I have salvation through the author of Life and the death of His Son on the cross for my sins. But in eleven years of being a Christian I have continually neglected to submit myself to the work Christ would have me do to become the man he greatly desires I be. I know that because if I was doing it, I wouldn’t care if I was the best, greatest, smartest or even coolest guy in the room (or church).

The end of all this (kind of funny to type something and realize that very few people will ever read this…) is that it’s time to anti up – to humility. I’m 100% sure that without an overwhelming change of heart resulting in a humble spirit – I will not be a teachable man. Which means I will never reach the potential or dreams that Christ has for my life, the life of my family or the life of those around me. It has nothing to do with me being pivotal in any of those realms necessarily (God can overcome my lack of contribution in spite of me) – but it would be much better if I were in a place to play my part.

If I really “believe”, there are a few things that will happen:

  1. I will walk what I talk and realize that nothing (work, exercise, computers, home projects… even family) is as important as my maturity in Christ. All of those things (starting with my family) will be enriched to untold degrees when my maturity in Christ is in continual forward motion.
  2. I must realize that there are plenty of men that Christ has placed in my life that have much to teach me. Some the deep digging apart of Scripture, some the ways I need to grow as a man, husband and father, and some how to just have fun.
  3. Wherever I feel the “teaching” is not complete, I must seek out every opportunity to get more. As Laura cleverly suggested last night, I might simply start by emailing a few of the men I have listened to (CDs and podcasts) and try and start a dialog with them.
  4. I will seek counsel and accountability from close friends that will lovingly kick me in the butt when I am not approaching my life with a humble and teachable spirit.
  5. God will use me to lead other men – not for my own reward – but for the purpose of passing on the Truth He desires for each of us to lead our families and to live in contrast to the world around us.

So, let’s see where this goes from here. While I think about it and hopefully keep my thoughts updated, check out one of the men I’ve been listening to lately. (definitely look at the YouTube stuff)

John 9-10

A few quick thoughts about John 9 and 10 this morning.

John 9: The man born blind has his sight restored by Jesus – a story most Christians know well. In fact, most of the world has some of this scripture memorized (thanks to that oldie-but-goodie “Amazing Grace”) – “I was blind and now I see”.  Anyway, what strikes me this morning is that this “blind begger” was such a great evangelist!  The guy is blind from birth, probably in his 20’s (his parents say “he’s of age…” and he’s been a begger already) he gets his sight. I’ve heard stories of blind people having even partial sight restored through surgery and it’s tremendously overwhelming. Can you imagine being completely deluged with light and sight (you’ve never seen any of this before – and it’s not even gradual – it’s all at once). BUT he can’t even take the time to deal with it – he’s immediately questioned and told he’s a sinner and a lier, etc. Even his parents can’t seem to commit. Even still he seems to quite simply say, “this is crazy, I was blind but now I see. From where I’m standing it’s pretty clear that this man, Jesus, is the real deal! Man, what a bunch of schmucks you are!” (OK, look at 9:30 to get the real deal – this is my paraphrase)

So, what about me?  What in my life points to this kind of faith?  (that’s what it is, right?)  If I was questioned as to the power of Jesus and his real identity – what in my life would point to His real work.  Even Jesus, in John 10 (coming next) says that “even if you won’t believe in me because of the Scripture, at least believe on account of the miracles I perform” (paraphrased).  So, what would that be and why don’t I talk about it more?  This morning I can point to a number of miracles in my life that, if you know my life (as these people knew this blind begger) – you’d know it was outside of my doing.  1. My restored marriage.  2. My marriage to begin with (seriously, I married way beyond my league!) 3. our children – we were told that getting pregnant was virtually impossible without drugs – our second child is due in February!

I know there are more – but these are the ones that immediately jump to the front.  In these cases, I think I can pretty clearly share how it “had” to be Christ because it wasn’t possible otherwise.   It would be cool if I could say, “seriously, how can you not see this.  I was near divorce and now I have no doubt this is going to last forever in this life.  You’re just silly if you don’t get that!”  Or, “what about, ‘you will not be able to conceive without medicine’ don’t you get!  We have two kids for crying out loud!”  I know I shouldn’t want to be so confrontational, but I just wish I had a better reaction when I hear people say that Jesus just isn’t real or they’re not religious or whatever.  Who knows..

John 10: ran out of time to type this morning.  Hopefully this evening.

Pouchy Pouch

As little V grows up (all of a ripe 2 years, 4 months), I have begun to notice that routine is a beautiful thing for a child and how much I’m going to hate losing it over time. I know it’s bound to happen, but I definitely don’t look forward to it. Here’s what I mean.

Laura and I have been pretty consistent on having a bedtime and making it a “routine”. Milk, potty, teeth, prayers… good night. Over the last few months as Vivienne has started to really dig patterns in life bedtime has become my favorite time with her. Laura graciously lets me take the duty whenever I can (which thankfully is most nights). There are many “on your marks, get set, go…” throughout the routine – but the end result is that I know I’m going to get some laughs each night. I know we’re going pray together. I know mommy is going to get a “… hug and a kiss and tell her I love her…”.  I know that I’m going to get a hug and a kiss. And… I know that Vivienne is going to get two flying kisses – one on her head and one on her cheek – from daddy. This is all an amazing thing to look forward to.

But back at the “… tell mommy I love her part…” is where I got stuck tonight. I was laying in Vivienne’s bed waiting for her to come back from saying good night to Laura (I wait in her bed so that she can find me, jump on my back and tickle me) when I heard her usual line… “I…. um…. pouchy pouch you…”. At some point we were successful in teach our daughter some very keen language skills. For instance, “pouchy tink”, “pouchy pouch” or “pouchy poink” will get you a laugh every time. That means that for the last three months, Laura always gets many “…I… pouchy pouch you” before she finally gets a “I love you mommy”. And that got me thinking – Vivienne is probably not going to be saying “I pouchy pouch you mommy” when she’s 7, or 10, or 15. At some point that routine will be over and we’ll move onto the next one. I got to wondering in bed when that will be. When will Vivienne not want a flying kiss from her daddy on her head and cheek?

I don’t know – but I’m going to miss it terribly. Each night, no matter how long the routine takes or how many other things I think I could be doing with that 30 minutes (or longer) – I wouldn’t ever want to give that time back for the world. Hopefully we can use Jingle Bells (Vivienne’s name for her baby brother/sister in progress) and teach him/her to do all of this stuff before it gets old for Vivi. It won’t be the same but at least it will prolong the memories for a bit longer.

Hey Vivi… I pouchy pouch you!

Mary Poppins

Yeah – you read that right. Mary Poppins – and in the “Faith/Scripture” category none-the-less. We’ll he’s the deal.

On the way to Lansdale (Laura’s parents house) on Friday night – Vivienne watched Mary Poppins in the back of the car with Laura. Because the computer’s speakers are very loud we had to pipe the sound through the car’s speakers – which means that I could only hear, but not see, the movie. Always an interesting way to experience a movie. You can imagine (as I had to the entire drive) what it’s like to try and recall what’s happening in a favorite children’s movie from years past. The jokes, singing, laughing people floating, chimney sweeps tap dancing, children running from the police and a grumpy old bank man (who I assume looked just like Mr. Potter from “It’s a wonderful life” – the only kind of grumpy old bank man there is). It was all very fun (for Vivienne especially), even if I had no idea what was really going on.

But, as the movie was wrapping up, I suddenly got it! I actually got what the movie was about. I haven’t seen the movie since I was a kid. The only mentions of it in the last many years is when someone randomly says “superkalafragalistic”. Most of us know the song and can recall a few funny scene’s from it that tickled our funny bone as a kid (who didn’t wish they could float whenever they laughed.) But in the end, it wasn’t about any of that. It actually had a point much bigger than entertaining us kids with fanciful images.

It was about restoration (of the Banks’ family – father/children) and redemption (Mr. Banks finds his joy again). Maybe not on a spiritual level – but it doesn’t matter. God still used it to teach me a profound point. (profound to me at least) My life, especially my faith, is usually like this. I see the entertainment value early on. I get excited about the interactive/visual stuff… the things on the surface. It’s usually the stuff that gratifies some immediate “need” of mine. And then I move on – pick one or two memories from the interaction in the back of my mind for a feel good “pick-me-up” when I need it. Eventually, however, the Holy Spirit pulls one or two of those out and asks me to dig deeper – past the feel good moments. He teaches me what those times were really about and how He has used and is using them for His purposes in my life (and usually those around me).

And that’s when it occurred to me that this was exactly what Paul was taking about when he spoke in 1 Corinthians 13:11-12. As I grow up into more of the man God is calling me to be – I know He’ll use more of these opportunities to see the world/my situations through “man” eyes – not simply through the eyes of a child. There is a time and place for everything (it’s definitely cool to be excited about some things like a little kid again – to take them for face “bring me joy” value) – but He’s calling me to more… I think He’s calling all men of His Kingdom to more. To see he is a God of love, redemption, restoration, healing – who wouldn’t want more of that??


Me and Rocky!Less than 12 hours ago I was finishing my first half-marathon… 13.1 miles – the Philly Distance Run. It’s been a dream for a number of years to do a long run – especially since I saw Laura run this same race four years ago (she made it look fun and that really got me interested) – but for the last several years my attempts to do this race have been thwarted by various injuries. This year, however, I was able to do it (and get my picture with Rocky finally – although it is disappointing that it’s not at the top of the art museum steps like in the movie). Not without injuries/soreness the last few weeks, but God once again proved faithful (has He ever not??) and allowed me to do it.

Overall, I’m happy with how I did. My goal was to come in under 8-minute miles, but I didn’t quite make it. For about the last 5 weeks I’ve had a nagging on-again, off-again pain in my right knee. Sometimes I could run 10-miles with no problem and then the next run of 4 miles would find me limping home after just 3. But I made it until about 9.5 miles before the pain showed up and really kicked in. I ended up stopping a few times to stretch my knee out – determined to finish this race. Had I not had to stop, I would have made my sub-8 goal. But for the last 12 hours I’ve had to remind myself that… um… I was able to finish it! So next year I’ll be more prepared and ready to try for it again.

A few quick things I realized while running – usually the best place for me to clear my mind enough to actually communicate with God for a little bit.

  1. This was impossible to do without Him. At about mile 8 I realized that I was running about 10 sec./mile faster than I thought I would be at that point and I was still without pain in my knee – and in the same moment I clearly understood
    that it was not possible with God. Even when the pain started I had no one to rely on except Him. As hundreds of runners went by as I stretched, I realized that He was the only one waiting for me. This was, for today at least, the best way I could have done “church”. Laura reminded me before the race to think about the beauty of running especially once we were out by the river – and it was true. There are things there I would never notice driving by in a car. Even in the center of city, God’s creation is alive and well (despite us).
  2. I will always be a small fish in a very big sea. There were, supposedly, about 17,000 runners. Quite honestly, there were many people that ran by me, or that I was running with that I was kind of surprised by. They didn’t look like a runner or in tip-top shape. But like me (and in many cases better than me) they ran on just the same. For some reason, running is one of those things that the Holy Spirit has welled up in me as a desire to excel in – to the best of the ability He has given me. It’s very unlikely that I will ever win a race of any kind – but the more I run, the better I want to do. It is something that does push me to my limit and makes me want more. The only thing that’s ever been similar in my life was rock-climbing – but with running you don’t have to dangle on increasingly more exposed cliffs to excel. I’m excited to see where he takes me with this – at the very least I think I’m going to learn how to push a little harder to reach the next goal.
  3. This is analogous of life. In the last few years I feel like I’ve become more teachable than ever before. I’m still stubborn and prideful MUCH more than I’d like to be – but the hard work of doing this race and the pay-off to complete it PALE in comparison to what I’m called to in my every day journey of faith. My marriage is immensely stronger now than it was two years ago (when it nearly fell apart) because He called me to something greater out of my weakness (ok, stubbornness and pride) and I finally decided I wanted to do the work, to crucify Ryan in the flesh for something greater – a man that learns to “…love his wife as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her…” (Eph 5:25-33). The same goes for my life as a father, friend, neighbor or employee. When I can see that there’s real work involved in stepping to a higher level, something worthy of Christ’s call, something that requires me (the fleshy, selfish, needy me) to be crucified – it’s a good thing. I want more of that, like I want to be pushed more in running. I think right now, that’s the tool He’s using to work stuff out in me. Let’s hope I keep learning to enjoy the work as well!

So those are my few epiphanies. Not much, but it’s what I learned in an 1:46 minutes. I’m excited for more – I’m definitely excited for how Christ will develop me as a man of God through the process.

Because I feel left out…

So, it’s official. I’m starting a blog. In general it’s because I feel left out – everyone’s doing it and has their own little place on the web to rant, talk, think deeply – or just ramble because they don’t have enough else to do late at night.

But, mostly, I’m doing it because my wife, Laura, finally decided to do a blog… and it’s inspiring! In the span of a week, she’s changed my view of what a blog could be. The only blogs I typically use are technically minded when I’m searching for a solution to problems at work. But Laura’s stirs my heart.

I’ve been telling her for at least a year now that I thought she’d enjoy blogging because of her love for thinking life through on paper in a journal. Her heart is constantly working through things in a journal until they eventually come out in a conversation and it becomes – “I wish I could share this…”. And now she is. And I’m excited about it. In a way, I get to see a side of her that I normally don’t – unless I crack open a journal of hers when she’s not looking. :-).

So, based on that, I’ve decided to try it. From time to time I feel like God is stirring my heart to share something as well – although I rarely end up knowing how to articulate it. But hopefully this becomes that place. Only time will tell.