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It Really Does Matter

My first conversation with Tim was exactly a month ago. It was a call that absolutely rocked my spirit and reawakened me to the fight I am in, along with so many others.

In a perfect world, that phone call would have led to an immediate change in Tim. After all, as Christians, isn't that what we want - to see that instant change in people and to know that what we say and what we pray actually matters?

But that's not exactly how it worked. After all, we don't live in a perfect world.

Since that first call with Tim, he has lost his job and found himself again on the verge of suicide - complete with bottle in one hand, gun in the other. And on more than one occasion he has called me with doubts, questions, fears and a feeling of hopelessness.

God, though, never abandoned Tim.

My latest phone call with Tim was just about 15 minutes ago. To say that there has been a change in his life  would be an understatement. Because the man I just spoke with is literally on his way to becoming a new person!

Over the last four weeks, Tim has begun to find his way to God. He's found a new job, gotten rid of the gun, and begun to dive into God's Word. He's understanding things about God that never made sense to him before. He's asking questions that never occured to him before (and not the "why me" questions, but the "what now" questions.) And he's planning on coming to church this weekend - expecting God to move in a big way in his life...and I'm sure He will.

Tim wanted to thank me for my prayers. And he wanted me to thank you for yours. He feels them, almost literally. And he is on the verge of making the single greatest decision any of us can ever make. God is so good!

And just in case you needed a reminder: what you pray actually does matter.


Deadly Serious

The day ended with one last phone call. I was pretty exhausted from a day of fielding phone calls, responding to emails and watching all the talk over the internet. Not to mention the fact that one of the most important written pieces of the year is in the works. The work load wasn't bad. It was the emotional toll of the spiritual fighting.

Now, let me be clear. I'm not complaining. I have what I think is the greatest calling and opportunity of anyone I know. I just really didn't want to take that one last phone call, especially at the end of the day. But something in the guy's tone on the voicemail told me I needed to make this call. So I picked up the phone and dialed the number.

Right away, I found out that this man, Tim, was in trouble. He used phrases like "end of my rope" and "don't know where to turn." And I got it, I told him. We've all been there. Sometimes we just need to talk it through. But then it turned deadly serious...no. It turned eternally serious. This man was on the edge of committing suicide.

Immediately, I flagged down some other staff members, although I didn't know what they were going to do. I was the one on the phone with him. And on the other hand, I didn't know what I was going to do. I'd never been in that situation before.

But then, I asked Tim a simple question. Well, I thought it was simple. I was just trying to keep him on the line and talking. I said, "Tim, are you a Christian?" The answer was immediate and short. "No."

And for the next 2 hours, I had the opportunity to share with this man the fact that God loves him, no matter what he is facing right now. Tim had no idea about Jesus, the Bible, prayer...none of it. How he got to me is a miracle itself. But he was on the phone. God had orchestrated the conversation for a reason. So I started at the beginning in the Garden and worked my way all the way through Tim's life and how Christ is the answer he's looking for. He had a lot of questions. I had some answers. But as I talked with him, I felt a peace and focus that only comes from God. Although Tim was on the edge, God's hand began working in his life and brought him back a little bit.

I don't say all this to put a notch in my Christian belt. You can have that belt if you think that's what this is about. Tim is still far away. He's still hurting. He's still doubting. But he's asking the questions. He's seeking God. And the Scriptures tell us that when you seek God, you will find him. Tim will find God. He will find the peace that surpasses all understanding.

But as I reflect back on that call, I realize something else. In the middle of what feels like an enormous battle, it can be easy to say we want to quit. But there's a reason we're fighting. And last night, I was reminded of that reason. While Tim is the one seeking God, that conversation helped me rediscover the passion I have for the fight.

My prayer now if for Tim. He is the civilian that is often caught up in the throws of a war - a war he doesn't necessarily understand, but a war that is being fought for him.

And for those of you fighting in that same war with me, I encourage you to stay focused. Don't quit the fight. It's not easy. But when lives and eternities are at stake, it is definitely worth the cost.


Creative Consequences

(*Warning: there may be a high level of sarcasm peppered throughout this post.)

Sometimes the Boyd children aren't perfectly well-behaved. I know; it shocks me too. You'd think a 9 year old and a 7 year old who live in a house where the behavioral expectations are clear would just get it, especially having been raised in the same system for all these years. But alas, such is not the case. So, from time to time, discipline is a part of life. We don't "punish" our children. We allow them to face the consequences for their choices. Some of those consequences are good. Some are bad. But we try to make all of them, well, creative.

Over the years, we've done our best to take a cue from our Pastor and be as creative as we can when it comes to teaching our children and correcting their behavior. Many people have asked us about some of those adventures in discipline, so I thought I'd share just a few of the more effective (and let's be honest, amusing) consequences our boys have faced.
  • Pick up the phone. When our boys decide that their extra-curricular activities are rights rather than privileges, the results can sometimes be seen in their behavior. When it escalates to the point of ridiculousness, the ECA for the day is out of the question. But it doesn't stop with not getting to go. They then have to pick up the phone and call the coach themselves to explain why they won't be at practice. For some reason, having to talk about poor behavior choices with another authority figure outside the family brings it home or them. (The latest situation will have Jackson writing a letter of apology to his teacher, which is an adaptation of the phone thing.)
  • The 5 Minute Rule. Our boys dawdle. A lot! And for some reason, it's worse during shower time. So we've employed the 5 minute rule. We allow them 5 minutes of hot water during their showers. After that, the hot water gets shut off. The kicker is that they still have to finish their shower. Cold, I know. But effective.
Anyone with more than one child knows that, although they can be sweet to each other, the peace and harmony can just as easily give way to bickering and quarrelling. And just like in any multi-child household, our boys fight. What we've done in those cases has varied. It really depends on what we feel like putting up with. Some of the things they've had to do as the result of a brotherly battle have been:
  • Write down 10 things they like about each other. After that, they have to sit facing one another and read the list to one another. This always results in laughter and smiles, which is a nice bonus.
  • Work together. The one I have in mind is the time they had to pick up the dog poop from the back yard. What should have taken about 30 minutes ended up taking 5 1/2 hours. That's right. They spent the entire Saturday picking up dog poop. (I told you they dawdle a lot.) But by the end, they were goofing around and having a great time with each other.
  • Just sit there. Once at NRH2O, they got into that bickering, back-and-forth fighting that is always so fun to deal with in public. But, rather than hauling them off to some corner to discipline them while trying to maintain some level of dignity in the eyes of compelte strangers, we decided not to deal with it at all. We simply told them to go sit at a table. The killer part was that we stayed in the pool where we could see them and they could see us. I can't imagine what was going on in their minds while they watched Mom and Dad have a blast in the wave pool, but I can tell you that the rest of the day we didn't have a single problem.
  • Just lay there. One of my favorite so far was one Carissa came up with in the spur of the moment. They were treating each other terribly one day after school. And she had just had it. But she didn't yell. She didn't scream. She just had them stop what they were doing, go into the dining room and lay down. On their backs. Staring at the ceiling. Did I mention we have concrete floors? I'm not sure how long they laid there, but it left enough of an impression on them that they still talk about it today.
These are just a few of the things we've done to help our children learn the right behavior. Has it helped? I hope so. But I'm sure there will be many more situations over the coming years. But my prayer is that through it all they come to understand that, while we got some amusement out of the creative ways we discipline, the point is always that we love them.

Do not withhold discipline from a child... Proverbs 23:13


When the sun rises again

The hardest part of writing, to me, is always the first few words. I've heard it said that in speaking, the first 30-45 seconds are crucial to capturing the audience. I believe in writing it's the first 5-10 words. Because it's the those few precious words that can capture the reader and draw them in. It's also those first few words that set the tone. They can lay a foundation for hope, or set the tone for something completely different.

If you're still reading this, then those intial words worked. Or perhaps you're still reading because you know me and you wanted to know what I find to be the most difficult aspect of what I do. Either way, thank you. And hang in there...this really is going somewhere.

The last few weeks, no...the last few months (and in some cases years) have been challenging for a lot of people close to me. Some would say it's "just life," but there have been circumstances and situations that have been especially difficult to process. Some of them avoidable; others not. But no matter who or what caused them, they are happening.

As I have faced the latest of these, something came to mind that I'd never really considered. The hardest part of facing a difficult situation, for me, is the very beginning. It's that first thunderclap that rattles me the most. It's not that the repercussions aren't hard to handle. There are lives affected, questions unanswerd and pieces scattered, left to pick up. But it's those initial moments that are the hardest, because it's then that the memory of how things "used to be" is still too fresh. And the prospect of life taking a different direction after the storm is simply foreign.

But I've also thought about something else. It's in those initial moments that God seems the closest. Those "initial moments" might be a few days; they might be a few years. But no matter how long they are, that's when God's power, his love and his grace are most evident.

I say that because, as the situation becomes more distant; as the storm calms, I have a tendency to allow life to become the routine that can so often make God's omniscience and omnipotence seem less, well, omni. It's not that I don't recognize the fact that God is God. But I get to a point that, in my mind, even he becomes somewhat  routine.

Not any more.

I've gone through enough...let me rephrase that. He's brought me through enough that I don't want him to be routine in my life. Ever. So as I draw further from the last difficult situation and closer to the next one, I am approaching each day as the adventure it was intended to be. Because it's through adventure that I can recognize my own frailty and God's ultimate power. It's only by wathcing the thunderstorm roll in and then out again that I see the majesty of my maker and fully enjoy the peace that comes when the sun rises again.