• Childlike, 1: The Delusion of Self-Sufficiency

    The veil of sleep had lifted several long minutes ago, and Madeline was all alone in the room. All alone between the bars of her crib, awake now for what seemed like an eternity. She might have been hungry, might have been frightened, might have been lonely, but one thing was certain: She was in the throes of full-on panic.

    Mother heard as soon as she opened the back door. Madeline had found an entirely new pitch above her normal pitch, and was wailing away in it, the siren of distress sounding from deep within the house — Find me! Help!

    Anyone who has raised children knows the sound and feel of a baby wailing to be gotten. There is a primal, almost irresistible instinct to respond. So the signal found its mark, accomplished its purpose, and she was still teary-eyed when Mother carried her outside to me. The hair on the back of her head — the only place hair has grown so far — was matted and damp from the exertion of crying out for rescue. She softly hiccuped for air as the rhythm of panic subsided.

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  • Showers of Blessing, Heart Full of Clouds

    Any time now, Madeline. Any time now, we expect to lay eyes on you, and hands on you, and lips on your forehead, and fingertips to your brow. Finally, your family will experience you with five full senses, unveiled from your mother.

    This is me filling my quiver. This is the Lord building the house.

    Yet, if I’m honest, joyful expectation was not one of my emotions on the day when we discovered your tiny existence, those first cells of you, here to stay. My reaction was more akin to panic — dread, even.

    One by one, the anecdotes came flowing out: “Three was the hardest number for us,” said one of my friends, father of seven. He patted my shoulder sympathetically, as if to say, see you on the other side. “That’s when you stop playing man-to-man and start playing zone defense,” he said.

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  • This Good Friday: Nothing But the Blood

    I will never forget the morning when I saw blood on my boy for the first time. He was not quite a year old, and he had pulled a side table over on himself. It landed right across his tiny upper teeth, still soft in the gums, and nudged one of them back out of place.

    I wasn’t scared for his life. I knew he would be fine and that a few days would yield the calming perspective that is a gift from God to parents. But I lost it anyways.

    I was beside myself, perhaps at the sight of such a perfect little face disfigured, but mostly because of that unmistakable color, that crimson in his grimace.

    If you are a parent, you know the scene by heart. I’m told it never goes away, that the sight of your child’s blood is never welcome. It belongs in their veins, all of it, doing life’s work inside the bodies God entrusted to you for safe keeping so long or not so long ago. Whatever else we believe about health, no matter our differences, we hold universally to a severe dislike for the sight of blood on our kids. That is the story of parents and their children’s blood.

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  • The Delight of A Father

    It must have been a routine morning for Evelyn. She seemed at home in her recliner, beneath the warm light filtering through a stained-glass lampshade. Outside, quiet rain was gathering from the low clouds that blanketed Fallbrook on this average, gloomy day.

    Pastor Stan had Isaiah by the shoulders, gently leading him from lady to lady — six of them, gathered to hear our Christmas carols in the living room of the assisted living facility. I watched as he introduced my little boy to a handful of Fallbrook’s eldest residents. This is Lois. This is Nikki. This is Evelyn.

    Evelyn was last, as they worked counterclockwise around the room. There were twenty of us in a circle, and as we started in on “Midnight Clear,” Isaiah did something that I don’t ever want to forget. I looked up from adjusting my guitar capo to see him holding Evelyn’s hand. Apparently, he hadn’t let go after they shook.

    It was tough to sing that first verse, watching my boy by her chair, perfectly content to hold this stranger’s hand. I suspected he might have been uncomfortable, but I was wrong. After intermission for apple cider, without any prompting, Isaiah shuffled dutifully back to Evelyn’s side and slipped his soft little hand into her weathered palm.

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  • Power & Praise

    if you will

    It was the final step in the process, demanding every ounce of coordination as I balanced on the arm of the sofa while attempting to drill in just the right place on the ceiling. Half an inch to the left or right and the project would be ruined, so I made the appropriate man-sounds and muttered some choice words for the dying battery my cordless drill, all of which lured the three-year-old onto the sofa with me. I didn’t even know he was there until I heard his sweet words, the faith of a child hanging in the air of our front room.

    You can do it, Daddy!

    I glanced over my shoulder and Isaiah was smiling up at me, full of confidence, rejoicing in my apparent omnipotence as a handyman. It was, at least, a pleasant distraction as I aimed for what I hoped was a stud on the other side of plaster.

    They are words that every father needs to hear from the mouth of his toddler at least once. You can do it. Sometimes your little boy is the only one who thinks so. Revel in it, soak it up, because he’s not just a waist-high cheerleader — he is God’s gift, your arrow, the beginning of your strength.

    He believes in you.

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