Happy Birtday Son

atreus birth  My precious boy, how time flies by!  Today you turn five years old and I want you to know how loved and cherished you are.   I have always wanted to be a father, and it brings me great joy each and every day to interact with you.  I love picking you up from pre school and hearing you exclaim Papa and run into my arms.  I love how watching you grow and your personality develop more.  You are such a people person, you seem to know everyone in your school by name, and greet them with great exclamation when seeing them.  I’m sure everyone who knows you is made to feel special upon arriving in your presence.  Your funny, caring, strong willed, and say it like it is, with no filter.  I am so proud to be your papa!

atreus 2Happy Birthday Atreus Malachi!

Atreus carnival

 

 

Blessed are the Meek

This week in church my Pastor continued his series on the beatitudes with Blessed are the Meek.  As he discussed most people think of meek as weak.  The Greek word used for meek here was Praus: mild, tender, gentle.  It was often used to describe a wild animal that had been broken/tamed, so you could think of meek as power under control.  That paints a very different picture however an even better description would be “Our strength surrendered, and his power received.”

When Pastor Nold made that statement it resounded deeply for me.  The men in my life group and I have discussed many times what it looks like to be a Godly man.  Is it a warrior like David, or Sampson, or a wise man like Solomon, or bold man like Paul?  What does a godly modern day man look like?  Modern day TV paints the Christian men like Flanders from the Simpsons, weak out of touch, kind of a weirdo.  When thinking about meek in this way though it cast things in a different light.  When was Sampson the strongest?  Would you even dare to ever think as Sampson as meek?  In the end of his life he was weak, eyes put out, had strayed far from God, and was being treated as a fool to laugh at, a mere trophy for the Philistines.  Then he became meek, he surrendered to God, he asked for his strength back, strength he realized God had given him in the first place, so that he could surrender his life to give God the glory over the philistines.  A similar prayer we could pray would be God fill me with your strength, because true strength only comes from you, and take my life, all that I have and use it to bring your glory not mine, because I live to glorify you.  The created exist for this purpose.

David a man after Gods own heart, did many things that don’t align with that statement.  The thing that made that true was his meekness.  When he was in the thick of battle he didn’t depend on his own strength he cried out to God to spare him from his enemies, when he took on Goliath he wasn’t brave or naive, he declared that God would give him victory, he knew his strength wouldn’t get him anywhere in combat against this monster, but his God was big.  When he slept with another mans wife, then murdered the man to cover it up, meekness  brought him to repentance.  Only a person who realizes they are broken can repent.

Paul came to God after being struck down, blind, helpless, then was brought to the enemy, the very people he was hunting and murdering and had to rely on them.  Then when God built him up and sent him to do his work,  his new strength he realized wasn’t his at all,but God working through him.

Doesn’t it makes sense then that the bible is full of “heroes”  that are often failures.  Because in their meekness they realize God is their source of strength.  Meek isn’t weak after all, meekness leads to the ultimate strength.

A letter to my Daughters

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My princesses I adore you all.  I wish I could keep you safe forever, and guard you from pain both external and internal, but I can’t.   You are to young to understand now but I hope to be intentional on teaching you this as you grow.   I pray that amidst the noise and distractions you will learn where your identity should be rooted.  Its hard to be a woman in this world, you’ll be attacked from all sides, both secular and from the church culture.
People will tell you what you should look like, should wear, shouldn’t wear, how you should or shouldn’t carry yourself.  How to best prepare to be a wife, that you should be a stay at home mom, or that you should have a career.

The one thing you should focus on is who you are in Christ.  You are the daughter of the most high.  First and foremost he wants to have a relationship with you.  Don’t waste your time worry about other peoples standards, spend your time falling in love with the one man who matters most, Jesus.  Worry about what he requires of you.  Because your a woman others will tell you your responsible for men’s thought life.  Men are responsible for their actions, don’t try to tempt them into sin, but don’t take on the burden of their sin life either.  Truth is if he has a problem with lust he will be tempted no matter how you look, carry yourself, etc.  As far as preparing for a future husband goes the answer is the same, focus on loving God.  You don’t belong to your future husband, truth is you may never marry, and if you don’t, to have spent all that time preparing for it would have been a waste.  But if you focus on loving God, it’s impossible to waste your life, and everything else will fall in line.  If your focused on loving him you will be doing what he asks of you and not doing things that don’t bring him glory.  In the midst of that kind of a life, if you are called to marry you will find the right kind of man who will love you the way God calls men to.  Be careful who you attach yourself to, whether that be friends, work, political, or a husband; and know even if you are careful and pick wisely things may still go wrong.  This world is broken, life won’t be perfect, don’t expect it to be, but know your savior will always be there for you.

Life is short don’t spend it living in fear of others, or of making the wrong decisions, be courageous!  Seek and serve God wholeheartedly, and your life will be blessed.  Also always remember Your Papa loves you from the bottom of his heart, and will always be here for you!

Blessed

US   Today I can’t help but feel abundantly blessed and thankful.  Most of all I am thankful for knowing the fullness of my Fathers love for me.  In Ecclesiastes 8, and 1 Peter 3 we glean the wisdom of Solomon in his advise to know who we are in God because who knows whats going to happen, but if we know who we are in God, as Peter says the storms will only draw us nearer, refining our faith as fire refines gold.

Today my pastor spoke on the beatitudes specifically on blessed are the poor in spirit.  The Greek word he used for Poor wasn’t just not having enough money, it was desperately poor, broken in spirit.  For me it took being broken, having life fall apart to realize how deeply I need my Father first.  But the truth is we are all broken, Pastor Dan worded it like this “Blessed are the broken for they are ready to surrender”  and “an unbreakable spirit might be the only thing keeping you from heavens blessings.”  Not monetary blessing, a good life blessing, things going easily and being happy blessings.  God’s blessings are much more deep, he’s not interested in you living the American dream, he wants YOU.  As Matt Chandler says in the Explicit Gospel, he wants all of you, you either buy in and are all in or your all out, there is no luke warm with God.  The true gospel changes who you are, and it starts with that realization that your broken.  That’s where the blessings start, because once you realize how broken you are you become grateful for all he has done to fix that relationship.  Our father loves us so much that he gave everything to bring us back, to restore the brokenness.

I knew he loved me before I weathered the most turbulent time in my life, but I didn’t have the perspective I have now.  I am broke without him, I am desperate for my father first, everything else comes after.  Nothing is in line if that isn’t first, nothing else has meaning without him.  In Ecclesiastes Solomon went on and on about the meaningless of life, wisdom, riches, family, pleasure, nothing has meaning without God, because in the end we all die.  Everyone, we can’t escape death.  But the Father gives us LIFE.

So yes I am thankful for my beautiful kids, my family, friends and church family, and I’m excited about some amazing things he’s doing right now in my life, some big God sized changes, but it all starts with him.  I’m also blessed and thankful for the storms I’ve walked through, for being broken so I could receive the blessing of knowing how deeply he loves me, and how tightly he holds me.  What an amazing fathers day this was, what an amazing Father in heaven I have.

 

 

He taught me to fight

My father is a worker.  Nothing ever came easy to him but I think he prefers it that way.  For as long as I can remember he instilled in me the value of hard work, and doing it right.  As a child he gave me chores and checked up on me, he gave me feed back and made me fix it if it wasn’t right.  At times I thought he was to hard on me, but I worked harder and learned from the critique.

He was the type of guy that never took the easy road, and if he was leading other guys on a job he got down in the dirt with them and wouldn’t send anyone else in to a job he wouldn’t do himself.  He worked hard, and persevered, and all the while he trusted God in the hard times and gave him credit in the good times.  When things were tough he had faith God would pull us through, when he was winning awards for top performance at work he said it was nothing he did, but that God provides.

Something I never saw as a boy was how much of a fighter he was.  He was never a really tough guy, in fact most people that know him would describe him as friendly and light hearted.  He was never overly athletic but his spirit is unwavering.  He never gives up when it comes to the important things in life.   I saw him go from top selling salesman at a thriving company to minimum wage earner after a corporate buyout but we always were provided for, and he was always optimistic, life beat on him at times but his faith kept him from giving up.  Watching him go through the tough times while staying joyful and persisting has taught me how to struggle through life.  His warrior heart has taught me how to fight, never give up, and cling to the Father when life is tough.

He is such a humble and loving man.  Devoted to his family, serves his church, and gives his best at the toil God gives him.

I am so thankful for this man that has taught me so much about life.  The most important thing being his faith in God, and he taught me to never give up, the importance of family, and to give your best at anything you do.  He’s not perfect but no man is, we haven’t always seen eye to eye, but we have always loved each other, and he’s always been there for me.  Thank you Dad, from the bottom of my heart.

Life’s not fair

I know we have all heard this phrase, probably from our parents and if you are parents I’m sure you found yourself saying these words as well.  Today while talking to my daughter the phrase really sunk in, and a recent sermon from Tim Keller came to mind.  Keller was speaking on suffering and preaching from 1 Peter 1:6-9; 3:13-18.

In his sermon he pointed out that suffering is not only inevitable it is necessary.  We live in a broken world full of sin, so we should expect suffering, it shouldn’t be a surprise.  The fact that we don’t expect it, and are surprised by it compounds the affects of it, and keeps us from seeing the good that can come from it.  verse 7 says

    “the tested genuineness of your faith-more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire-may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”

  Trials like fire remove the impurities in our faith, and draw us closer to God.  Without trials our faith is mute, it bears no witness.  Peter could have said he believed he could walk on water but he wouldn’t have grown had he not taken those steps, and even though he doubted and fell he learned a valuable lesson about trusting in God.  Maybe closer to the point would be Job or Joseph.  Both men went through trials they didn’t deserve, life wasn’t fair, but Gods goodness came through those trials.  with Joseph “Mans intentional evil became God’s eventual good”(Max Lucado) and with Job while he lost everything he grew in a deeper understanding of who God really is then actually prospered two fold.

  In our situation there was a fight, a younger brother didn’t share equally and an older sister that was wronged was screaming about the injustice.  A teachable moment was found and a sermon on suffering combined with life’s not fair spoke into the heart of a child that is suffering.  Speaking to the injustice of the sharing situation I explained first your right what he did wasn’t loving, but neither was your reaction.  And judging from your reaction you have an expectation that life should be, and that things should go well.  Sweetheart I said, life’s not that way, we had just read about how Jesus was born to come save us, he didn’t die so life would be easy for us, and he never promised life would be good or easy, but we have hope because he promised he would be with us.  People won’t share, they will be mean, bad things will happen, life will be tough.  But  we need to be loving, and knowing that truth about life should make it easier because you know what to expect.  Expect it not to be fair, and to be hard, but know God is always with us.

  Then an amazing thing happened, the words sank in, and she didn’t hear her father but the voice of The Father, a tear streamed down her cheek and I knew she applied this truth to a deeper hurt, a tougher struggle she’s facing, and she hugged me and cried.

  It’s great to hear great sermons and glean truth, and miraculous when they apply to our circumstances, it’s these moments I hear his voice the loudest, feel his comforting presence the strongest.

A Mothers Heart

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  This week I’ve been reflecting on motherhood, my mother the mother of my children, and mothers in general.  This reflection has brought such great feelings of joy and thanksgiving. I am so thankful for the wonderful woman God blessed me with as my Mother.  She cared for me, loved me, nursed my many inflictions both physically and emotionally, and guided me through life living as an example of an unselfish parent that served her family to her utmost.  Not only has she loved me well but she loves her grandchildren so well.  She traverses great distances biweekly to take them home with her and love on them while I have to work, not only without complaint but with the greatest joy to have the opportunity to help me and spend time with them.  This woman is such a gift and blessing and I am so grateful my children have the opportunity to experience her presence so often.

  I’m also grateful to the woman who bore these children and for the six and a half years I was blessed to raise them along side with her.  She tediously planned each holiday to be intentionally celebrated and special, packed with memories that touched each sense, aromatic, palatable, and full of spiritual instruction.  Though the family looks different now it is so important not to forget the great gifts and joy that were given, especially in the form of four wonderful children who wouldn’t be who they are without the mother they have.

  The unexpected blessing I have found over the last year has been the women; some actual mothers, others women with a mothers heart, that have loved on my children and ministered to them in ways they may not realize.  They’ve filled a void of presence by simply being present.  They are teachers, Sunday school teachers, mothers of my children’s classmates, friends of mine, and babysitters.  They have instructed, lovingly corrected, played, cuddled, listened, and most importantly loved in a way the kids needed from someone other than me.  For these women I can only offer my deepest gratitude, you probably do not even realize the blessing you are or the ministry you are carrying out daily in the lives of the children you come in contact with.  Though many of you do not have children of your own you are mothering and are irreplaceable.  Thank you!

  Being a mom is not just about birthing, it’s about loving.  Not keeping the perfect house, or preparing pinable meals and moments, but being present and aware.  Mothers day is a great time to celebrate moms, but also women with mothers hearts.  For both we are grateful and blessed by.  Please take a moment this Mothers Day to thank the moms in your life as well as those with the heart of one.

Identity

During the past year I’ve had a bit of an identity crisis.  My life fell apart and it caused me to question who I was.  It’s so easy for us to tie who we are to what we do, who we love, successes, failures etc.  But ultimately I’ve found who we are has less to do with us and more to do with who Christ is with in us.

It is so easy to tie who we are to the tangible things in our life.  What we can see, feel, do.  Speaking from my own experience I know men especially find ourselves getting wrapped up in what we do for a living.  When we get together with other men we ask hows work, or even when asked how we are doing work is the first thing that pops into our mind.  The problem there is what happens when work isn’t going well, or if you get fired; you can become depressed or maybe even worse if work is going well, your achieving great success, you think to highly of yourself and become overly confident.  Paul talked about this as well in a letter to one of the churches and told them he didn’t care what other thought of him and that he shouldn’t think about how he thought of himself either but the right answer is to focus on what God thinks of us.  If we have a relationship with him he see’s us as his children.  This is our true identity, we find it in Christ.  This frees us from the oppression of others as well as the strain and pressure of having to achieve to find worth.  If our worth is found in Christ we see this life for what it is, a vapor, a short spans in time compared to the eternity that will be our lives.  For me my identity was shaken because I centered so much of it on the here and now instead of eternally, then putting everything else in the right priorities.

As I recovered and refocused on my true identity I found myself not only more joyful but thankful for the good as well as the bad.  Both serve their purpose in my life and both are gifts from God.  True some bad things happen because its a fallen world and thats how things are and will be until Christ returns, but we can also gives thanks for the challenges because they allow us the opportunity to depend on our savior, and shape our character.  For example Joseph’s brothers meant to do him harm; they intended evil, but God used it for good.  Max Lucado talks about this in his book “You’ll get through this,” “men’s intentional evil is Gods eventual good,” his brothers sold him into slavery, Potipher’s wife wrongly accused him, but God used these circumstances to grow him and to put him in the right place to do his perfect will, and eventually save a nation and even his brothers that originally intended him wrong. Joseph could have easily fallen into a depression wondering why God could allow these terrible things to happen to him, or to just wallow in self pity because his status of favored son, then favored slave where lost, but because he stayed focused on who he was truly, God’s child, he continued to do his work for the Lord knowing his Father would look after him and loved him.

I’m thankful for a loving father, and hope to do his work in this short time he has granted us.

Gifts

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Today is my “day off.”  The day I do not have to go to work, but catch up on the cleaning, baking, laundry, and errands.  While cleaning and folding for a moment I was overwhelmed by all that I needed to get done.  I spotted a couple trees my older two had brought home from school and wanted me to plant, and have been reminding me to buy soil for.  I thought about the fact I needed to get that done because surely they would have something new today they would add to this list, of things they wanted me to do, then it struck me.  These things are almost always things they want to do with me, and if anything when they are asking of me it always includes me.  At this point in their life that’s how they love me, they need me.  They need me to wash their clothes, help them clean themselves, hold them when their sick, or scared and even pick up after them. However needing me is part of how they love me.  Most of the time I’m doing these tasks and they are around they “have” to be involved, want to help me cook, and clean etc, and while it would be easier to do myself I’ve realized what they are craving is me, and to be with me.  What a beautiful gift that is.  To have the opportunity to be needed and relied on so deeply.  Being the only parent present is exhausting and stressful but also such a gift, because things could be different, in many cases even if dads want to be involved they don’t get the opportunity, or get limited opportunity.

The men’s group that’s been meeting at my place is studying Ecclesiastes and last night we were in chapter 3 which talks about a time for everything.  It basically states there is time for good and bad, hard and easy, work and relax etc  and it goes on to say that God makes all things beautiful, and ultimately it is good for man to eat, drink and take pleasure in all his toil, because it is Gods gift to us.

So I was both grateful for how much my children love me, and the opportunity that I have to show them my love, and our fathers love.  As well as being reminded to enjoy the work, and take pleasure in these gifts he has given me.  Some of the gifts are that going through struggles builds our character, causes us to cling to our father and depend on him because we cant do it on our own, and the opportunity to serve others instead of just focusing on ourselves, and getting to go through these struggles with and while serving those that need and love me deeply.  It reminded me of Ann Voskamp’s book 1000 gifts and how a grateful heart is a joyful heart.

 

 

A Fresh Start

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We are all unique with our own stories that have been crafted by the father through circumstances and choices in our lives.  God gives us the opportunity to share our story to show his glory in our lives, sometimes in the glorious mess we find ourselves.  The most wonderful thing is how he uses our mess/story to touch the lives of others and reveal himself to those who may be struggling through similar circumstances.  Prior to a year ago I didn’t feel like I had much of a testimony, I was a pretty normal guy that grew up in the church gave my life to Christ young, and was definitely a believer but I would say I was rather luke warm.  In the last year God has brought me through some most turbulent times, but he has shown me his greatness and love through these times, and is leading me down a new and more radical path in my relationship with him.

I believe it is important to share our stories however in doing so I wish to be careful only to tell mine and show love to those who lived it with me.  I do not do so out of bitterness for where I have traveled but out of love for the God that guided me.  A little over a year ago I went from being a rather normal middle class American, happy husband, home school dad, and small business owner.  Today I am a single father of four, low income, divorcee which by most standards equates to a failure and believe that’s how I have felt for a while but I’ve also seen how God uses circumstances to make himself known and bring us close to him.  My greatest comfort this year has been in reading Max Lucado’s book “you’ll get through this.”  He used the story of Joseph to show how one persons intentional evil is God’s eventual good.  Joseph was rejected, discarded, and even wrongfully accused, then one day found himself saving a nation and the very brothers that intended him wrong.  Even when life is hard and pain filled, God is good.  Even if you never get to a point where life seems easy or happy, this life is but a vapor and a very small portion of our eternal existence to short to waste.

Thank you for reading and I hope to share more of my story and passion with you as my family continues our journey in a life of Avodah.