Monthly Archives: December 2019

More Than


IMG_3087My almost fourteen-year old son Jed is obsessed with athletic shoes.  He spends a lot of time on the internet researching them.  He knows exactly when new shoes will be released, how much they cost, and whether they have a propensity to increase in value over time based on the number produced and the unique nature of the shoe.  Jed knows the details of each athlete’s latest shoe and is keenly aware of any celebrity collaborations to produce special shoes. From him, I’ve learned there is a whole community of shoe collectors who also love their shoes.  Most of the athletes who collaborate with shoe companies are NBA basketball players.  Many of them take their influence with their fans seriously and therefore try to impact the self-confidence of young people while also increasing their awareness of social justice.

LeBron James is known for this kind of positivity. In fact, one of Lebron’s latest shoes has the Theodore Roosevelt “Daring Greatly” speech printed on the insole.  Recently, Jed purchased a pair of Lebron’s shoes that had the phrase, “I am more than” written on the back of the left shoe with white space on the left and right shoes for the athlete to fill in the blanks with the marker that came with the shoes.  On his own, Jed finished the sentence: “I am more than my flaws.”

When I saw his shoes complete with his new mantra, I stopped in my tracks.  Of course, my son was more than his flaws.  I knew that, but his announcement to that effect felt important.  He was making a statement to the world that he would not be defined by his failings, real or perceived.  Jed’s comment was insightful and full of depth.

I started wondering if I believed that I was more than my flaws.  I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about my negative traits.  But all of that analysis rarely results in forward movement. Instead, I usually end up feeling bad about myself without much positive to show for it.  I’m not saying that examining life is bad in and of itself but ruminating incessantly without acting is not helpful.

At this time of year, many of us make New Year’s resolutions.  Most of those resolutions are based on the things in our lives that we don’t like and want to fix.  But many of the resolutions will fall flat, and we won’t feel any better about ourselves after the fact.  I have a letter that I wrote to myself a few years ago in the middle of the night at the end of December.  Essentially, I berated myself for all of the ways I was not living up to my expectations, but I didn’t change in the new year.  I could’ve written the same letter the next year.  I beat myself up, but I wasn’t ready to deal with actually fixing my most obvious shortcomings.  I hadn’t reached the point in my journey at which I could make the changes.  At the time, I was consumed with my flaws and thought that my flaws made me who I was.

God does not focus on our flaws though, and he certainly does not equate our worthiness with our failings.  He sees us as whole beings who are messy and imperfect but who also have strong, positive qualities.  The entire time that I was obsessed with my weaknesses, God was not. He was with me in the waiting and will always be there when I can’t find my path out of whatever darkness I face.

Maybe until we are emotionally, physically, or intellectually ready to tackle our flaws, we can try to see ourselves as God does. What if we could pick a strength or something we do well and make that the centerpiece of our resolutions?  We can resolve to do more of what we do well, devote more time to our families or communities in ways that make us feel good about ourselves.  In situations in which I’ve been a bit helpful doing something I enjoy, I’ve felt better about myself and thought a little less about my shortcomings.

Jed said it well: “I am more than my flaws.” All of us are more than our flaws. In the new year, let’s resolve to believe it in our minds, hearts, and actions.



IMG_0176“Slow down,” I’ll say. “Take turns.” Ben will chime in, “There are no more.  Once you’re done, it’s over.” We issue these admonitions every Christmas morning while our kids open presents. The anticipation of the holiday season looms large and builds until the four of them can hardly sleep on Christmas Eve. As their parents, we try to extend the big Christmas morning finale as long as possible, but it goes by fast. After a month of expectation, it’s over in less than half an hour. And sometimes, there’s a letdown that comes from completion of the gift opening. Not just for the kids either. As adults, we realize that holidays, birthdays, and other big life events can end in an anticlimactic nature, and that’s when our expectations are realistic. Throw in some unrealistic hopes and dreams, and the disappointment can be downright depressing.

The disenchantment of “the day after” in almost any situation can be difficult. I wonder what happened the day after Jesus was born. Having a baby is one of the greatest events that ever happens to anyone. The love is overwhelming. But the reality is not wholly serene. I imagine the exhaustion of his mother Mary after giving birth and hosting midnight visitors who came to see her newborn. The angels had invited the shepherds to intrude. Mary might not have extended the same welcome if the schedule had been up to her. Mary didn’t have a midwife or her mother to help her manage her physical discomfort, the emotional highs and lows, and the care of a new baby. We may like to think of Jesus as the “perfect” baby, but I suspect he still fussed, cried, got hungry, stayed up all night, and spit up like any other baby. Joseph probably struggled with how to help with an infant and worried about what he and his little family would do next.

After being terrified by the angels, the shepherds surely were excited that they’d actually found the baby as described and were not, in fact, collectively crazy. We’re told they returned to their fields glorifying and praising God. The wise men brought treasure from afar and then left town to avoid King Herod. Mary and Joseph were amazed at what the people at the stable and later at the temple said about Jesus, about how they located Mary and Joseph and who Jesus would turn out to be. Even knowing their son was special and the unusual circumstances of his birth, tales of angels and stars and prophecies were still hard to completely comprehend.

Mary and Joseph must have experienced the heights of love, the depths of bewilderment, and the lows of the day-to-day realities of newborn life. But their lives were changed forever. They had a baby and bore the responsibility to raise God’s son. The shepherds and the wise men experienced change because they’d encountered the wonder of God born into the world. When everyone that we see in the traditional Nativity scene left the stable, they were different than when they arrived.

Can we say the same? We rush to and through Christmas only to feel down when the presents are opened. Or the time with the family doesn’t go as planned, or we don’t feel appreciated or loved. But instead maybe we can stop and take the opportunity to truly experience God’s presence during this season. To seek God’s comfort for our weary souls. When we visit the miracle of the manger, we can ask Jesus to change us. What does God want us to learn from him during this season? Let us reclaim the days after Christmas so that we enter the new year refreshed in our faith, renewed in our spirits, and most importantly, reminded of God’s great love for us.

Which Way?



Ben and I have an ongoing debate about the usefulness of traffic navigation apps.  He swears by them, and I do not like them in most circumstances.  His favorite is Waze, and he will plug his destination into that app almost every time he gets in the car, even daily when he goes to or from home and work.  He drives from our home in Frisco to downtown Dallas, which is about a forty-minute trip with no traffic.  Every morning and evening, however, the lanes become virtual parking lots.  Ben will travel a different route every day if the app says there is an accident or construction and that a faster, easier way exists.  He doesn’t mind driving through neighborhoods or side streets.  He says he has not followed the app’s directions in the past and has regretted ignoring its suggestions, so now he does not doubt Waze’s wisdom.

I, on the other hand, only use navigation devices if I actually do not know where I am going.  If I know how to get to my destination, I do not bother with an app.  Now, I usually do not leave Frisco for days, but when I go to downtown Dallas or somewhere else farther away, I still don’t use an app if I know where I am headed.  I like to go straight to my intended location.  Even if I have to sit in some traffic, I prefer to go the way I know without variation.  I hate going through neighborhoods and side streets.  I think Waze has figured out that I don’t like it because now whenever I try to use it, it says “oops, something went wrong – try again.”

On a recent road trip, I was driving when Ben’s app said I should get off the interstate to save a half hour.  I didn’t argue with him because I could see up ahead that traffic was stopped. That didn’t mean I liked getting off the interstate though.  I didn’t enjoy driving down a two-lane highway or going 35 miles per hour through a small town.  Nor did I care for the fact that there were about seven other cars driving this same route in caravan style because they were apparently following along with the same app.

I started wondering why I am so opposed to using these apps.  They are supposed to save time, and I admire efficiency in most respects.  But these apps just bother me.  Then, it occurred to me that perhaps the bottom line is I don’t want to get lost and I don’t trust the apps to prevent that from happening.   Ben is perfectly content to take a detour.  He believes he will get to his destination eventually, faster even than if he stayed the known course, and he trusts the app to get him there.  He is not worried about getting so off track that he can’t find his way back.

My take on the navigation apps is similar to my approach to life.  I would prefer a straight shot to get to where I’m going, reach my goals, check all the boxes.  I think I know the best way to reach the end point, and I don’t want to take a route that differs from my plan.  I don’t want to admit that the other road may end up being better than my original one.

And, if I’m being honest, I have a tough time trusting God to help with the navigation.  I remain stubborn and focused on what I want to accomplish in the exact way I want to do it instead of realizing God may have another plan or a very different way of meeting the goals I have.  I don’t fully believe that there might be amazing discoveries along the side roads or that this alternate journey could be better than the one I had mapped out. God’s path may be more circuitous than I like, but I could save myself a lot of angst and anxiety if I better believed that God will get me to the place I need to be eventually, on his schedule.

God only has my best interest at heart.  He is not going to lead me down a road that is not good for me or will leave me irretrievably lost.  He is not a cold computer app telling me what to do and where to turn.  I still may not love the navigation apps, but I understand that I need to work on having greater trust for God who loves me and will not lead me astray.


Table Time


IMG_3786Our kitchen table is a mess.  Even when it is wiped clean and clear of clutter, it is still stained.  Splotches of red, pink, and green paint won’t scrub off.  Black permanent marker bled through paper.  Pencil scratches and indentations mar the surface.  A water glass ring remains.

This table serves as the place where the kids do homework, make crafts and build school projects.  We eat most meals in this space, whether home cooked or from the fast food restaurants we frequent too often.  I cover it up with a tablecloth when we have guests, but underneath the scars are there.  Sometimes, I am embarrassed about how unkempt the table looks, but I won’t get rid of it, whether we ever get a new kitchen table or not.  The memories that table represent are too strong.

In the Christian tradition, we talk a lot about Jesus at tables, hanging out with people, eating, sharing time.  Many of those people were outcasts in their society, and Jesus’ willingness to sit and talk with them shook the norms of the day. When we share communion, we come to the “table” to remember Jesus’ last supper with his disciples, his life, death, and resurrection.  At our church, all are welcome to God’s table, especially those of us who are imperfect and wounded.  And aren’t we all?

If we visualize God’s symbolic table as physical and present today, we would see a crazy mess too.  Set full of food and drink to be sure, but the table’s surface bears the blemishes of the many people throughout the ages who’ve spent time with God.  That table discolored with tears, sweat and blood stains.  Prayers are written in pencil and permanent marker too.  The pockmarks left by the people who’ve scratched and clawed for survival or banged fists in frustration and anger clearly evident.  Glorious marks of creativity and inspiration splattered throughout.  The table has worn edges because it is crowded, but with room for more always.  The love contained in the stories and memories shared is ingrained and never erased.  God doesn’t feel the need to cover up this table to hide its imperfections.

As we journey through life, facing hardship, feeling desperate, expressing gratitude, or experiencing joy, let us imagine that table where we can meet God.  Pull up a chair and make your mark at the table.  Or yet, pull up chairs for others and demonstrate God’s love by welcoming them without reservation.  God is always at the table ready to talk.  Let us find peace at his table and follow his example.