We all have them. Some surface thoughts, some culturally driven, some are a part of our base human nature, and others very deeply held. To take the word values at it’s highest tree top level thinking you’ll come up with words like attitude, standards, morals, belief, code or ideals. Taken to the root of the word, the thought, you come up with words like conscience and integrity.

So what are one’s values and how deeply do they hold those values. I’ve seen a lot in my half century plus of walking to and fro and breathing in and out of persons and their relationship to their values. I’ve seen persons take values, once deeply defended, and place them in a heap on the side of the road of their life like so much trash floating in their automobile. I’ve seen persons take up values and champion them based on nothing more than an emotional response to an emotional event, and I’ve seen persons literally lay down their very life for values that many will claim but were unwilling to pay that degree of sacrifice for.

Have your values added to your life? Have your values enriched your experience? Have you had to pay a price, small or great, for the values you possess? This I think is a profound question facing our western society in this day, perhaps more profoundly than ever before. In an age of social media dominance, me centrist thinking, feelings based attitudinal responsive mindsets, values are less concrete and more gelatinous. The price of values, what they cost you, how they enrich you, has never been more diverse or in flux.

I have been faced with a question of values for the better part of a year at this point. A relationship started with a person, friendly, probing at times, still very much on the surface of things and thoughts, but always a question of what price my values will extend in this interaction. This person constantly pecking at the edges of my already stated, openly held, plainly expressed Christian values. Me carefully stating my stand on matters but being certain to remind that my values are mine, not required to be theirs, and that their beliefs, while different, were none the less legitimate to them and respected by me. A tedious waltz at times. In truth, I had hopes of freeing myself from one circumstance to have the opportunity to place myself in another in a business relationship with this person.

Ultimately, it would seem that this person while probing beyond my stated line in the sand, was offended that I would not quickly give up my values for a very lucrative business opportunity. Contact has stopped. Conversation, inquiry, and general how ya doing, nonexistent.

Have my values cost me something?  Maybe. Have my values enriched my life at this point. I think so.  Through the eyes of the world, it would be easily said that I was or am a fool. Few would know of my compromise. The financial gain would open avenues for me to embark on long held dreams for my family and myself. Take the money and run. Salve your conscience in the privacy of your own thoughts. Shore up your integrity in your own mind and heart and damn the rest. Money solves it all. So, yes, in that world view, my values cost me a great deal financially. I would say it cost me personally as well. This person, while very different from me, was someone I wanted to know better. For whatever reason, I saw them as part of God’s created and wanted to have an influence on them and they on me to some extent.

As to enrichment, yes, my values have and are enriching my life. Given a biblical world view, I am reminded that this is not my home. My place is with another. He sacrificed a tremendous amount to have a relationship with me. I am in debt to Him. However, my relationship with Him is not one of indebtedness but of love. I love Him.  Not because of the price He paid, but because He loved me first. Because of this framework, my devotion to Him and the values, ideals, conscientious thinking, integrity that I derive from that relationship is enriched by my obedience to them and to Him. That obedience enriches my life and my experiences.

I will not mourn the loss of an opportunity. I will mourn the loss of a relationship a little. I will celebrate the deepening roots of my values. If only by a millimeter at a time, ever stretching for the living water of Christ and His living through me I will find great value in values. May they ever be founded on Him, and deeply held.

Sixteen And Never Been…..

Today is the day. The day my one and only son turns 16. For such a small number it looms so large in my mind.

Sixteen years ago he quite literally spilled into this world and forever turn mine and his mother’s world upside down. It rained bath tubs the day he was born.  You’d have thought it was the second coming of the biblical Noah it rained so much.  I remember how mad your mom was that your birth came on a Friday the 13th and here we are again, full circle, on a Friday and the 13th.

I’m not really a superstitious man. I don’t worry about black cats or ladders or most any of the other common superstitions. That being said I’d still never touch the chalk lines coming in or going out to the field playing ball. For all the ideas people may pontificate on regarding your birth date, they can generally agree on several things.

My boy is a good boy. Full of silliness and as much so as any young man of sixteen years, but in all a good boy. My boy is kindhearted. He has always had a soft spot for people and particularly those who may not be the pinnacle of what society holds as worthy. He tends toward the underdog, the lesser, the marginalized. His heart just works that way and it makes his mom and dad very proud.  My boy is strong. Not strong so much in the physical sense of the word but in the moral context. He has his weaknesses as all do, but when it comes to justice and rightness, he is strong and he exerts that strength in a quiet and gentle manner that proves formidable when the times call for it. I’ve seen him defend the defenseless, be a protector of the weak and friend to the outcast many times and many more that I haven’t seen but only heard about. My boy is strong. My boy is also funny. Sick sense of humor and all. He continues to hone the craft of a well turned phrase. Not always successfully but then again, he is only sixteen. Feel free to ask him what the most important thing in comedy is.

Such a small number but there are volumes in that number. Page upon page of growing, and doing, and being, and living, laughing, crying, and flying. I marvel at this thing I see. I marvel that I am able to be so close to something so magical and marvelous. Mystery and revelation rolled into one. I marvel that I am given this thing to love with a passion that escapes my ability to express it. That moment when I say goodbye each morning to hear him say with that little upward lilt at the end “I love you too”. That is enough to allow me to face down the ridiculousness of what is to walk in this world with all its brokenness. I marvel that such a creature could love me back, as broken as I am.

Silly saying, “Sixteen and never been kissed.”  I’m under the assumption the boy has been kissed and that if he is reading this he is grinning that grin and turning a shade or two of red. I know this however.  He is sixteen and…never been loved more. Every age of my kids is my favorite age. Memories are precious, but the now is the thing. The now of my boy being sixteen is awesome to me. He’ll drive soon. He’ll be away from us more as time goes on. He’ll go to college, meet “the” girl, marry, and maybe, if he’s really blessed, raise a boy of his own. Those are hallmarks of larger numbers than sixteen and many days into the future. For now sixteen is big enough.

He has a very busy weekend this weekend with other responsibilities besides a birthday, but I hope he knows and never forgets. Noah, we love you with a love that transcends ages and epochs, the barriers of time and space, and physics. We are proud of you and have only the highest hopes for you and your future. You are crossing a milestone. Continue to walk as your namesake walked, “But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord. These are the records of the generations of Noah. Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his time; and Noah walked with God.”

Happy sixteenth birthday son. I love you.


Wedded Bliss…Yep!

TWENTY-ONE years! Amazing.  As someone would surely say, That is a long time to be married to the wrong man.  You hear a lot of marriage jokes: “We’ve been married 15 years and it’s been the best 5 years of my life.” OR “We’ve been married 5 years and it’s been the best 20 years of my life.”

Jokes are jokes but this twenty-one years has never been a joke. A ton of laughter, but no joke.

My wife, my bride, my honey bunny, my sugar booger is truly one of the greatest blessings of my life. I hate to say it but I don’t deserve a wife that loves me and puts up with my silliness as much as she does.

Who knew some twenty plus years ago that it would be this fine? I had high hopes.  I meet her at church. She is so very fond of telling the story on me that I ignored her for a time. Truth was I thought she was older than me. I had dated, very briefly, a girl who was a number of years older than me, and, in a word, it was weird. I knew real clear, I didn’t want to walk down that road again. We went to a singles retreat and during the ice breaker I had the epiphany that she was younger and it was on like a chicken bone from there. I had to do a lot of fast talking and clearing up my mess and even had to divert another fella onto another prospective girly girl to make sure he wasn’t gonna beat my time.

I still remember our first date. We were going to go to lunch and then the Planetarium but soon realized the Planetarium was closed. It was my birthday, right before the 4th of July and so there ya go. We ate at Keifer’s (still love that place) and decided to see a movie. Sleepless in Seattle. Major chick flick but it got me down the road for a second date and we were good from there.  I knew she was the one inside of about three dates. She came to one of my softball games once. The guys were razzing me for bringing a date to the game. I told them, “Guys, this is a down chick.  Watch this. Hey baby, call the hogs.” to which she promptly stood up and gave a loud Suuuuuewheee Razorbacks cheer.  The guys stood there gobsmacked and I beamed because I had the cool girlfriend.

We peeked around the edges of the engagement talk for all of 6 months when I proposed to her. I had just gotten a huge promotion but was about to leave town for the next couple months only being home for a weekend about every two weeks during that span. I knew I couldn’t leave without asking her to marry me. I didn’t know the day I was going to ask her that she was having dental surgery and was half looped out on pain killers when I got to her apartment. Some would say that was all part of the master plan. I say, you take your gifts as you get them. As inauspicious a start as that was, that was no omen of the times to come.  I spent the first year worried she would leave me just because it didn’t measure up to her expectations, but we married and have had one heck of an adventure through those twenty-one years.

Seven years of fun and travel and enjoying each other. The birth of the boy, who still brings great joy, frustration and entertainment on a daily basis. Then the girl, who also brings more than her share of drama, intrigue and stellar facial expressions to the mix. Two of the finest and greatest joys in our daily lives. We would be lost without them, although getting lost for a bit is always welcome on the journey.

We’ve seen the death of both our father’s and the continued aging of both our mothers. We’ve been fat and lean, both physically and financially. We have cried our hearts out a time or two. I’ve made her head spin around in anger like a scene from The Exorcist only three times in those 21 years. Two of those prior to the engagement and wedding and one inside the first year. I’m nothing if not a quick study. More than anything we have laughed. We laugh, really laugh, every day. Mostly at the kids or the dog or just the ridiculousness of this fallen world in general. And from time to time at each other, but the laughter has been there always. Like a steady current in the river. As sure as the sun rises and sets.

She is my very best friend. If given the opportunity, she is the first and highest on my list of people I want to hang out with. Preferably sans children. She gets me better than anyone I know. She loves me just a little less than Jesus and that’s the best second fiddle I can play. She is gracious, funny, beautiful, hopeful, supportive and amazingly talented. Do I really have to mention the cakes?

I don’t get everything right in my life, but by the grace of God, I aced it on this one thing. Glory to God for it. I ain’t that good but He is.

Happy Anniversary baby.  Straight up, I love you with my whole heart.