Thursday, November 14, 2013

Echoing my Father

Hi boys. I missed you both today. I didn't get to spend any time with either of you. Not only was I at work, but I went to sit by my Dad / your Papaw's bedside in the Intensive Care Unit of the hospital. He was not well today, and will be in the hospital for a few days, but should be okay.

It was very meaningful to me to get to be with my Dad today. He was restless in bed, and drifted in and out of sleep. When he would wake, he would look at me and talk to me, and then go back to sleep. Awake and asleep, for the two hours that I was there. I talked to him when he was awake. Here are some of the things that he said.

- He said "Randy Lynn, look at you. What a man you have become!"

- He said "I love you, I love you, I love you, with all of my heart and soul."

- He sang "I love Jesus, and Jesus loves me."

- He said "May God bless you for your whole life.

- He said "What a gift it is to have children."

He said or sang all of those things to me in that short time today, and I was very moved. He is such a good man, and a caring man, and I love him very much.

And in the moments that he slept fitfully, my thoughts turned to you two boys. And I want to echo my father's thoughts:

What a gift it is to get to be your father, and to have the privilege of raising you.

May God bless you each for your whole life.

I want you to know that I love Jesus and, this I know, Jesus loves me.

I love you, I love you, I love you with all of my heart and soul - as I love my wife and your mother.

What men you are becoming. Let's finish the journey together of you becoming men in your own right.

What a blessing is this thing called life.

I am praying for you this week. Live life.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

God Sent You Help

Hi boys.

As I've watched the Illinois River swell and overflow this Spring, flooding our area, I am reminded of the old joke that goes like this:

A man was stranded in his house as the area flooded, and had to climb up on his roof to be safe.

On Monday, a man came by in a canoe and said hop in, I have an extra seat. The man said "No thanks, God will save me."

On Tuesday, a group came by in a rowboat and said hop in, we can take you to safety. The man said "No thanks, God will save me."

On Wednesday, the Coast Guard came by in a big cutter and said get in and we'll take you to safety. Again, the man said "No thanks, God will save me."

On Thursday, the man drowned!

When he got to Heaven he was mad at God. "God, I trusted you! Why didn't you save me!"

God said: "What did you want? I sent you a canoe, and a rowboat, and the Coast Guard!"

That's a funny story. And very true in our lives often.

I know we go through tough times as a family.

I know that you go through tough times as young men growing up with the issues that we have. I know that you sometimes wonder why God doesn't help you.

I want you to know this:

God sent you Mom and Dad. We are here for you. We love you more than any people on the planet do, and we do our best to help you - every day.

God sent you your expanded family, too. Aunts and uncles and cousins. They all care about you.

God sent you your church family. Pastors and teachers and classmates.

God sent you your teachers. They want the best for your education.

Look around you. See the resources that God has provided for you. Please recognize that God has provided for you. The man in the joke didn't, and he drowned!

Mom and I are praying for both of you, every day. We want the best for your lives, whatever your lives hold in front of you.

Please pray too.

Have a blessed week.


Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Sing Your Songs

Hi Boys.

Do you know what I saw today on my drive home from work? Green stuff. Spring is here! I've been looking at brown grass and brown dirt and brown riverbanks for so many months now, which is very uninteresting for a shutterbug like me. But green! Soon more colors will pop, and my senses will come alive and I'll "see" pictures everywhere...

That's my thing - photography. It's not necessarily your thing, and it doesn't have to be. I'm happy as I watch you find your hobbies and passions whatever they turn out to be. I'm happy to watch an artist come of age and do amazing things with a pencil and a drawing pad. Or an origami artist who can make amazing shapes with a piece of paper or a dollar bill.

One of my favorite quotes from famous people is this one from a writer named Henry David Thoreau, who said:

"Most people live lives of quiet desperation, and go to the grave with the song still in them."

That may not make sense or mean much to you at your young age. I understand. What he means is this: not everyone lives as big of a life as we want to. We want to be famous, or rich, or popular. We want to do big things. We want to express ourselves on a big stage - to sing our song! And we rarely get a chance to.

At least it seems that way sometimes. We live our routine lives. We go to school. We go to church. We go to work. Routine things - not the big fancy lives.

That has meaning by itself. Your grandpa and your papaw are not famous men. Did they have big dreams? Maybe? I don't know if they sang "their song" that was in them, but they lived lives that had a profound effect on a lot of people. When I go around town and people ask me "Was your Dad a teacher?", I know I am talking to someone whose life was affected by my Dad's life. It's the same with your grandpa, who helped many many people at work and at church and at a Rescue Mission. Their service to others was their song.

You know that I've known Mom for a very long time. I know that she has many talents, and had more hobbies - like singing in the choir in high school and at church. That was her expressing herself, and getting her song out - literally! I'm so glad that in the last few years she has discovered that she loves to paint!

She needs that time away from taking care of you, which she does so very well, to take care of herself. To feed her soul. To be creative in her own way. Let's all three make sure that she gets time to sing her song through painting.

What is my song, that I want to get out? How do I want to express myself? Through my photography, absolutely. That is fulfilling. My pictures are my view of the world around me. Publishing them on my website - whether anyone sees them or not - is my song. Writing is too, but it's a song still in me.

You both know that I was sad last week when my friend Roger died. You know that I spent a lot of time writing comments on his website. Time that I now wish I had been writing letters to you here instead! I enjoyed the conversations with my friend so much. We disagreed a lot, yes, but we had a friendship anyway. We wrestled with a lot of big issues, and that debate helped me get my song out as well.

One thing that my friend Roger and I disagreed on was about how we see God. My friend grew up in a church, but lost his faith in God as he grew older. He did for many reasons, but mostly he said it was because his understanding of Evolution made him doubt God. That happens a lot. People mistake understanding the How and When of our creation with the Who and Why of our Creator, and they decide that the don't need God in their explanation of life. They say I respect the church, but I "cannot believe in God".

That makes me sad. I want you to know that I have thought about this question a lot over my lifetime. I have studied our faith. I have studied science - which I respect greatly. I have chosen our faith on purpose at the end of all of that study. I believe in the story of the Easter Passion Play that we watched together last week. What a story! Wow. Remember that play, and stand strong in your faith.

I want you to grow, and to learn, and to question, and to study. I know there will doubt at times in what we believe, and that's okay. Ask me questions - I can guide you through those times.

I want you both to have fulfilling lives. To be educated. To find fulfilling work and to find a suitable mate. I want you play guitar and draw pictures and go fishing! I want you to be kind to each other and to serve others as you can. I want you to have great friendships, like I had with my friend Roger and the friends that I met through him. I want you to sing your songs all of your lives, and not take them to the grave.

What is my song, really? It's helping you both, and Mom, to sing your songs. That makes me happy.

Be at peace with life. Do what we have to do and need to do, first. But, sing your song this week.

I'll be taking pictures of green stuff...

Saturday, April 23, 2011

The Meaning of Easter

Hi boys.

Tomorrow is Easter! I know how much you both look forward to this Springtime holiday. You can thank your mother for that, because she works hard each year to make it a special day for you. She dies eggs with you. She hides eggs for you. She makes you each a basket full of candy. She is one of the very best mothers that there ever was, and you are lucky boys that she is your mother. Enjoy the day.

But, we know that there is more to this day than eggs and bunnies. We, as Christians, know that Easter is about our Father - God - and his only begotten Son - Jesus - who defeated death on that Easter long ago. Easter is a day that we remember the resurrection. That special moment in history when God became man, died for our sins, and then came back to life and defeated sin and death. It's quite a remarkable story!

Not everyone you know believes that story. A lot of people on Earth believe it is false. Made up. A myth.

I want you to know that I believe it. Your mother believes it. Your grandmothers and grandfathers believe it. Your uncles and aunts believe it. And we are not uneducated people who believe in things that are not true.

Enjoy the day. The eggs. The candy. The bunny is the made up thing that we have fun with.

The resurrection of Jesus on Easter is the truth. And people the world over will celebrate that with you tomorrow.

I love you both.


Sunday, March 6, 2011

Encounters with God

Hi boys.

Wow. What a year we have had as a family! Who knew what was in store for us this last year?

We had good times together that I will always remember. Like the good day that we had together on Valentines Day in the picture above.

Or the nights that I got to go individually with each of you for some "Dad time".

Like to the Rivermen game:

or to the Rock and Worship Roadshow concert with Matt Maher:

Those are great memories. Let's hold on to these great memories when we have difficult times as a family. And we certainly had tough times to get through this year as a family. But, we made it through them and I won't dwell on them.

One special thing about our family that I am remembering today is the we each - all four of us, individually, had our times to have an encounter with God.

Mom started us off by going to an "Encounter" weekend at church. A whole weekend of learning, singing, praying, and spending time refreshing her experience with God. You know that she was blessed by that weekend, and encouraged us to go.

And I went to my own "Encounter" weekend and had a similar experience. Touched again by God's grace.

And then each of you in your turn. Having your own weekend to get blessed and to learn about God's love for you.

Your mother and I want all the best for you in your lives. Always remember what you learned in these encounters with God. Stay with God your whole life, and you will be blessed for it. We believe that, and want that for you.

Love you both.


Sunday, February 21, 2010

Life is Like Sled Hill

Hi boys.

Are you watching the Winter Olympics from Vancouver this week? Exciting! Competition at the highest level.

American Shaun White won a Gold Medal for snowboarding. He doesn't look like a typical athlete, but he's really good at his sport. Not only can he go fast downhill without falling, but he can throw all kinds of crazy scary flips and 540s and half-pipes (whatever they are!).

While I was watching the snowboarding competition, I was thinking that life is like sled hill.

Boys, you are beginner snowboarders right now. You can stand up on the flat spot at the top of sled hill. You know what it's like though to start heading down that hill and struggling to keep your balance while you are picking up speed. Watch out! Could be a spill! Or, you can make the run safe and sound.

You could take a safer way, and stay on a sled going down that hill:

I can give you a push, and you'll slide safely down that hill. But, eventually you are on that snowboard and you are on your own with a bigger risk and maybe a bigger thrill.

Life is like that. There are times that you are a beginner, safely in the care of your coaches (parents). There are times that you are learning new things, like getting on that snowboard and learning to keep your balance. There are times that you are flying down that hill enjoying the thrill of the speed. And there are times when bumps and the slickness knock you off of your feet - but you get back up and climb back up that hill and try again.

Live life. Learn the basics - like you learned the sled. But have some adventures, like you snowboards.

Your mother and I love you both deeply, and want the best for both of you. The safety of the top of the hill. The comfort of the sled. The thrill of the snowboard. Live life.

Now, Go Team USA!!!

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Only One Life

Hi boys!

Have you seen this plaque hanging in the hallway at the top of the steps now. Mom put it there, and I see it every time I come home now.

It says:

"Only one life
Twill soon be past
Only what's done
for Christ will last"

Let me tell you about this plaque, and how it came to be in our home. It's an interesting story.

A long long long time ago I started dating your Mom when we were in high school. I was a shy goofy kid, but I really wanted your Mom to like me.

I also wanted her Mom and Dad to like me, so that they would let me keep showing up to date your mother. That's where this plaque comes in. When Christmas 1977 came around I bought a present for Mom, and also picked out a present - this plaque - for her Mom and Dad for their home. I thought that they would like the saying on the plaque since they were Christians, even though it didn't mean much to me.

They seemed to like it, and hung it on a wall in the back hallway.

Your Mom and I married three years later, and we made several visits to your grandpa and grandma's house. Everytime we went to visit, I would see that plaque hanging there on the wall. And every year, after I became a Christian, that plaque meant more and more to me.

Here's the thing: when you are very young, as I was when I bought that plaque, it doesn't seem like life will ever end. "Only one life, twill soon be past...." doesn't seem true. But it is. So, be careful how you spend your life. That's the point of the plaque.

What does it mean when it says "Only what's done for Christ will last"? This is an important question! It means that the stuff that we accumulate in life (cars, houses, TVs, video game consoles) don't matter much when you die. The things that we do for God (worship, taking care of your family, helping others as God asked us to do) matter. So:

- Spend time knowing what God wants for your life. Go to church. Read your Bible. Pray. Learn what God's purpose for your life is.

- Spend your life doing what God wants for your life. Be careful to become a Godly man. Be careful to choose a Godly wife. Raise Godly children. Give of yourself to help people.

Your Grandma knew this. She knew over the course of her life what the plaque said. She did a lot "for Christ", and it had a lasting effect on your Mom and me.

You know, boys, that when Grandma died and went to Heaven this year that we had to clean out their home so that Grandpa could move into his apartment. That was hard for your Mom. The brothers and sisters got together and decided how to divide all of the possessions that Grandma had accumulated in her life. They are good memories, but they are just possessions. Your Grandma's life was more valuable than just her possessions.

Your Mom called me on the day that your aunt and uncles were dividing up the possessions. Who would take what? Your Mom asked me what I wanted from the house.

"I only want one thing", I told her. "I want that plaque". It means a lot to me now, though it didn't when I first gave it as a poor gift.

Here's what I ask of you: every now and then, when you come home from school and walk up the stairs take a look at the plaque.

Only one it well.

I love you both.


Saturday, April 26, 2008

Every Day is a New Day

Hi boys.

I woke up excited this morning! I'm going to China!

I didn't go to sleep this excited last night. In fact, I went to sleep exhausted and agitated and nervous. I was exhausted because I haven't had much sleep in the last few days. I was agitated because I had one of the worst travel days yesterday that I've had in my career of travel days. I was nervous about the long flight to China and how I will survive it.

But that was last night. Today is a new day. I woke up excited! My hotel was two blocks from the ocean, and I got to stop and take some sunrise pictures over the Atlantic Ocean- including this one. That made me feel good.

Life is like that a lot.

We have bad days in our house. Boy, do we! We get angry and frustrated about things. We say things we regret to each other.

We make mistakes, every day of our lives.

But, the good news is that every day is a new day. A new fresh opportunity to have a good day.

Make that your attitude. Wake up every day expecting it to be a good day.

Say a prayer to God as soon as you wake up to thank him for the new day he is giving you.

Say "Good Morning Mom" with a smile and a hug.

Every day at school is a new day as well. Go each day expecting to learn something new and to enjoy your friends and your teachers.

Life is good - mistakes and all. Enjoy each new day. And make the most of your opportunities each new day.

I'll be gone a long time - almost two weeks. But I love you and I'll be thinking about you each day as I travel. I'll have stories and pictures when I get home.

I'll see you when I get home.

Love you both. Dad.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Know when to Work and when to Play

Hi boys.

I was thinking about you this week as I was driving around the South for my business trip. As you can see by the picture, I had a rare treat this week in my rental car - a convertible sports car! I knew it was going to be fun sometime during the week, but not right away.

First, I had to make my sales calls and I couldn't arrive all windblown and mussed. It wouldn't be professional and it wouldn't help me in my job. So, I kept the top up and the windows rolled up during the day as I went about doing business.

But, when the sales day was done I put the top right down and hit the highway after hours. It was fun, driving with the wind blowing through my hair and feeling like I was outside. I could even stop and take pictures easier along the road with the top down. I had a lot of fun this week driving that convertible.

Having that car to work in reminds me of a good lesson in life. It's this:

You have to know when it's time to work and when it's time to play. It's a balance.

(Another way to say it is what you've heard me say all of these years: "You have to do what you have to do before you get to do what you want to do!")

Getting that lesson right is one of the keys to happiness in your life. Trust me on that.

You have to put this lesson into practice even now in your life. There is a time to work, and that is going to school, doing your homework, and doing chores around the house. And there is time to play: at recess, after school, and on weekends.

When you are young, as you two still are!, the balance is in favor of more time to play. Enjoy this time of your life, and play when you have the chance.

When you're older, as your mother and I are, there are more times to work than there are times to play. You will someday have more responsibilities and be the ones to raise your own families. It's a lot of work. And it helps a great deal in getting this right if you set the habits now while you are young.

Enjoy this time now in your life. Play, when it's time. But get your work done first.

I'll be home soon.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

A Guide and a Map

Hi boys.

I was thinking about the two of you, and the lives that you still have in front of you to live, as I was driving today on business in New England.

I was driving up into some mountains. I love mountains. I've wanted to see these particular mountains for a long time now, and here I was with a chance to drive through and explore them. The thing is that the weather conditions were getting worse as I approached them. I could see a storm gathering in the mountains on the road ahead of me. (You can see it in the picture here that I took today.)

I had a choice.

Yes, I am an experienced traveler and I often go down roads that I am have never been on before. Yes, I have driven into hazardous conditions before - like slick snowy curvy mountain roads. I could just drive into them, and I probably would be fine.

Or, I could stop and ask for help from someone who has been on that road before, and may know some things that I don't. Things that could help me save time or that could help keep me safe.

I chose to stop and ask for help, at an information center in a rest area. They had a very helpful guide - a local resident - who knew the road very well and who showed me a route on the map that I had not considered taking. A scenic but safe route.

Not only did the guide help me with good advice, but she gave me a map that I could carry with me on the upcoming miles where she could not be with me. A map that marked the way through the hazards.

I made it safely through the mountains, by keeping the map on the seat next to me and looking at it several times and by taking the route that the guide showed me.

I was thinking that this experience is like the life that you have ahead of you.

It's your life. No one can live it for you. You have to live your life, and in doing so make choices.

Yes, you are smart and talented boys and you will probably make good choices in your lives. But......I want you to think of my story and understand two things:

1. You have a guide! Two guides, actually. Your mother and I are with you for that very purpose - to be your guides in life. Given that role by God, and by law. No one is better suited for that role. No one on this planet loves you two boys as much as your Mother and I. No one wants more to guide you.

I want you to understand one simple fact. We - your guides - have been down the road of life before you. We know what hazards are in your path. We are capable of guiding you safely, if you seek our guidance and listen to it. We know a lot about the way through the mountains.

2. You have a map! It's the Bible. It has the path marked out for you for a life that handles the challenges. Don't keep it tucked away, but on the seat next to you and refer to it often.

It's your life. Live it. Make choices. And don't be afraid of the hazards. Just know that you have a guide and a map to get you through.

I'll be home soon. :)

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Technology is a Wonderful Thing

Hi boys.

Wow, the technology that you have available to you today! As Mom and I often say, we didn't have most of it when we were growing up. But you do, and I am amazed by the barrage of technology at your fingertips. And technology in the news.

Two things today caught my eye.

1. A lunar eclipse, visible where you are but not where I was. Yes, there have been lunar eclipses ever since God created the heavens and the earth. What's new is this: not only do we know in advance now that an eclipse is going to happen - you can go on the internet and find the exact time to go outside in the yard to see it happen! Amazing.

2. The U.S. military, under orders from President George W. Bush, shot a missile at a failing satellite in space - destroying it in space before it fell uncontrolled to earth and hurt someone. It takes an unbelievable amount of math, and technology, to shoot a missile up into space and hit an object as small as a satellite and moving as fast as the satellite is through space. Cool!

The lesson here is to pay attention to math and science in school! It may come in handy some day if you get a job involving space. :)

Go. See this Amazing Country called America

Hi boys.

One of my regrets as you've grown up is that we haven't gotten to take you to see more of this amazing country we live in - America.

I get to see a lot of it as I travel. I'm fortunate in that. Your mother and I have been to some amazing places, and seen some amazing scenery, in our lifetimes.

We've seen the lush farmlands of the Midwest where we live. We've seen the rolling waves of the oceans. We've seen the country life of the deep South. We've seen the broad expanses of the West. We've seen the incredible mountain vistas of the Rockies and the Smokies. We've even seen the wilds of Alaska and the many shades of blues in the islands.
I wish that for you too. Go, as you live life, and see as much of this amazing land as you can.
See the oceans. See the mountains. See the woods and national parks. See as much of it as you can.

Whether you take pictures of it all, like Dad always does, or not. Go, see it.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Honor Your Mother

Hi boys.

Here's what I'm thinking about today:
I want you to honor your mother, every day.


Well, for one, because it's one of the Ten Commandments, given to us by God in the Bible to teach us how to live. It's the Fifth commandment, and it says this:

"Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you." (Exodus 20:12 NIV)
That's a commandment with a promise - so that you may live long! One of the benefits of honoring your mother is that by listening to the advice and guidance of the people who God has given the task of guiding and protecting you - you may live longer (and healthier!)

Another reason to honor your mother is to make the most of the time that you have with her. You only have so many years to live in our house under our guidance, before you have to go out into the world and live on your own. You have a special situation with your mother working in the home and not out at a job. It's a choice we've made, a sacrifice for you. Make the most of that time at home with your mother. You will appreciate it later in life, trust me on this. I'm a Dad, and Dads Know Everything.

What does "honor" meany? Good question. According to the dictionary, it means:

"respect and esteem shown to another"

How can you honor your mother? Here are some ways:

1. Listen to her - she is very wise and loving and only wants the best in life for you. She can teach you a lot about life, and is in fact your very best teacher.

2. Help her - it's a big job raising the two of you. There is a lot of work to be done around the house each and every day. Help her. Pick up your messes. Help with chores. You honor her with every small job that you do in the house. Remember - SHE IS NOT YOUR MAID OR SERVANT.

3. Respect her. Every mean word that you say to her wounds her, emotionally. Every kind word and hug lifts up her spirit and makes her day. Speak to her with the respect that she deserves, every day.

4. Obey her. She has rules. They are for your benefit. You know what they are. FOLLOW THEM, every day.

5. Love her - she loves you. Love her back, and make sure that she knows that you do.

Boys - Honor your mother. Now, in the few short years while you are with her every day.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Boys, Listen to your Parents

Hi boys.

You know, and I know, that I don't get to be with you nearly as much as I would like to. To share life with you. To talk with you. To answer your questions and mentor you.

What I would most like you to know and understand about your mother and me is this:

Listen to us.

No one on this planet cares more about your well-being than we do. We love you. We care about what happens to you and about what kind of men you will grow up to be. We only want the best for you.

And one of the ways we care for you is to teach you by giving you advice. You should want and carefully consider our advice. We have lived a lot of life, before you ever even came along, and we have much to teach you. I know that you don't realize that fully. But, trust us on this.

Listen to us.

This blog will consist of letters to you from me. You get to hear Mom's advice - excellent advice that you should take fully to heart - every day at home. Not so much from me, because of my demanding travel schedule, which I deeply regret.

So, here is this blog is what I have to say to you, as it occurs to me. I hope it helps you in your young and precious lives.