A letter about life written to my two oldest kids, but maybe others can find some encouragement, instruction, and peace within its lines.
Max and Kaitlin,
Good morning. I’m sitting in that big red chair, watching the flames in the fireplace shoot up and down. I have no clue who invented gas fireplaces, but I like them! It’s so much easier than the wood one your grandparents had when I was growing up. Popo and I used to cut down trees in our forest and chop the wood by hand. I wonder if I ever told you that before? One day, when I was sitting on the top of our woodpile, Popo took a big swing with an axe, and shot a big chunk of wood back in his face, breaking his glasses and giving him a big cut right off his left eye. He ran inside to wash off the blood, and tape up his glasses. It wasn’t near as bad as the time six years later when he fell off a ladder and dislocated a bunch of the knuckles on his left hand. There was a whole lot of blood and he had to drive himself to the ER, while I sat in the passenger seat staring at those horrible, unforgettable knuckles. I offered to drive my dad to the ER if he couldn’t, and I didn’t get much more than weird look and a head shake. Can you imagine having Josh or Summer drive you to the ER while you’re dealing with bloodied, dislocated knuckles? And I was a year younger than them.
Those are my most vivid memories of accidents I saw my dad experience as a kid. You can’t do anything about flying wood and sometimes ladders aren’t as sturdy as they look. Neither of those things were dad’s fault, but they both messed him up pretty good. Life happens, right? Some things you just can’t prevent.
And some things you can. I watched first hand as your grandfather drifted more and more away from the best things EVER in this world. I did not sit idle, either. As that eleven year old kid, I remember pleading with him to stop drinking so much wine. He just gave me that same look he did when he didn’t let me drive him to the ER. This time he should have listened to me. Dad allowed the foundational truths in his life to erode over a period of about three years, and by within five, he had zero interest in his spiritual growth, being part of a church, or encouraging his family in their love for God. It was no accident, it was simply his choice.
You see, our relationship with God is always a choice. If you fall off of a ladder, totally a “life happens” thing. If you drift away from a relationship with God because “life happens”, that’s on you. And you will be judged by God for your choices. There are specific reasons why the scriptures tell us to “fear the Lord”, but too often in today’s Christianity it’s been replaced by a good looking, young, Bernie Sanders version of Jesus and not much more.
The drift. That’s we’ll call this, and it’s exactly what dad allowed t0 happen to him. He didn’t build and maintain a strong foundation in his life, but made excuses and then sat there as the most important things in his life drifted away. The drift.
To build and maintain a strong foundation, you need to be proactive. It’s really not hard; it just takes a love for God and a commitment. People say they’re a Christian all the time or they’ll tell me “I believe what you do”, but their live don’t make any sense if that were true. 71% of Americans say they Christians, but we see that obviously isn’t the case. They haven’t built a strong foundation.
Here are a few specifics on how you both can build a strong foundation in your lives. I’ll be as detailed as possible, which will allow you to live in between the lines. Here goes –
- Wake up every day to something good spiritually. This could be one Psalm, a worship song, five minutes in prayer or maybe you do a whole devotional at this time. You choose! But having just a few positive impacting moments with Jesus to start your day can make your days start so much better.
- Read at least one chapter in the bible each day. If you read 3-4 everyday, you’ll read the entire bible in one year. I was 22 years old when I read through the bible in one year, and I’ve done it 3 more times since. If you feel bogged down or heavy, just a Psalm might be enough, but try to make it meaningful. Block out the world around you for a few minutes and you’ll be on the right track.
- Prayer – it’s impossible to have a relationship with anyone if you aren’t communicating. The more time you spend in prayer, the stronger your relationship with God will be. You may want to spend a few minutes in a quiet place on your knees, or be like Moses and get on your face. Remember, you are communicating with a massive and Holy God, but he loves you, so it’s good. Sometimes, when I wasn’t sure how to pray, I find a Psalm that feels right, and pray that as my prayer. A lot of folks pray off of lists, and that’s a great way to go, maybe even the best. It’s not a check off list, though. This is all about communicating with the God of all creation.
- Church – you need a solid base of Christians around you. Not some jokers who are religious or some folks who have excellent behavior, but you need people who actually love Jesus in your life. Those religious jokers will leave you feeling heavy and burdened, and the good people offer little but a high moralistic perspective. Find a legit group of other Christians who are actively pursuing Jesus and stick with them. This was the biggest thing that went downhill in your grandpa’s life and it went fast. He gave up on the church and didn’t see it for how great it was.
- You should always try to be reading one good book that encourages on your Christian walk. They are free for you because we all share the kindle, and Melanie and I can always help with recommendations. We own some really great books.
You are both old enough to figure this out, but you can’t do it alone. You’ve always got me, and don’t ever underestimate Melanie. She is brilliant and strong and would help you all if you ever need it. But we aren’t enough, so stay on point 4, the church. Don’t minimize that point, ever.
The devil will try to make these things feel heavy and burdensome, but literally this is about thirty minutes a day, outside of the church stuff, which is a lot of fun anyway. And you will be in CONTROL of your life. Unless you’d rather be controlled by your circumstances or even the evil one, this is the path you need to pursue. This is my best counsel on how you can live a blessed life in God’s love and grace, and it also outlines the choices you need to make to protect yourself from the enemy.
My entire life I have had the shadow cast by my dad hanging over me, until about ten years ago. You see, I finally realized that I wouldn’t be like him one day, forsaking everything I believed in for another life. I understood I had built a strong foundation, and it was God’s love, grace, and that strong foundation that kept me following God no matter what life threw at me.
So, this is it. This is my best effort to set you up for your future, keep you close to God, and to protect you from the enemy, the devil, the one who seeks to destroy all of your life.