Author Archives: rdavidwest

Alone In The Rain

My children and their cousins longed to go outside but a heavy rainstorm sentenced them to indoor play. Some of them chopped firewood on the porch, others sat and read books, while still others played cards at the table.

The cabin, visible only from the caretaker’s place was our home for the holiday. My wife’s uncle was the caretaker and we were his guests. The cabin was set on a hillside and overlooked a small lake – the lake where my children learned to fish. Whether they were fishing from the boat dock, the “slippery dock”, or out on the water in the small aluminum boat, the bass were easy to catch. They seemed to jump onto the fishing hooks. The children had a lot of fun, even catching fish with homemade lures.

Usually rain wouldn’t deter the children from outside play but this storm dumped the water. The fishing, four-wheelers, and wood gathering would need to wait.

I was inside and enjoying the warmth of the crackling fire. But the solitude of the outdoors called to me. At times, life needs to be refreshed. This was one of those times for me. Not only did I need to get away from the city but I needed to get alone. I needed some time to think, to pray, to quiet myself before the Lord and to listen.

So, while the others milled about indoors, I took the opportunity to go out into the rain. I put on my jacket and hat, walked outside and down to the dock, and launched the canoe.

I knew some of the family were watching from the cabin window and thought I was crazy, but I didn’t care. I relished the time by myself. Just me, the Lord, and the wonders of nature.

IMG_2234

I paddled away from the dock and toward the middle of the lake. In the center of the lake I paused. I looked around the lake and then back toward the cabin. Smoke rose from the cabin as family members talked and moved about behind the living room windows. I watched the rain hit the water; it pressed into the surface, bounced back, and left tiny craters. The rings formed by each raindrop merged into rings formed by thousands of other raindrops. The rain fell without wind, it was a rain which came not to disturb the landscape but to caress it softly. And as it caressed the earth it also worked on my soul. It was a rain which came not only to water the earth, but also to water my heart. As the raindrops pressed into the surface of the lake, they also pressed upon me. The storm was doing it’s work, a work unnoticed by others.

As I watched the raindrops I also looked for salamanders which are a familiar sight in the lake. They rise to the surface, take a breath, and quickly descend back to the muddy lake bottom. I didn’t see any “water dogs” that day in the rain. They must have been hiding in underwater bunkers. Or, maybe, they were going about the day like normal and the rain had obscured them from my vision. Maybe they rose to the surface, looked at me and questioned my sanity.

All was peace and quiet, except for the raindrops. I soaked up the moment, a moment longer than other moments, a moment filled with satisfaction, a moment which stands out from others for no other reason than it was mine alone to enjoy. On the water I was alone with my thoughts and resting in God’s goodness.

I prayed as I paddled across the lake. The God who is sovereign over nature was surely sovereign over my life. All my work troubles were gone in that moment, they were given to Him who makes the rain, the God who created the mountains, the Lord who created the earth. Surely the God who caused the rain could oversee the storms of my life. Surely He gave me this moment as an opportunity to worship Him, praise Him, trust Him.

God never promised ease or simplicity of life. He promised to never leave me, and He promised to be faithful. I know these truths, but like all of us, I need to be reminded of them from time to time. The best reminders come from reading Scripture and listening to faithful preaching and teaching. But God was kind enough that day to give me a different sort of reminder. He gave me a few moments of joy and rest, moments which linger in my soul. Alone in the rain, I was not alone – I was watched over by the Creator. As I sat in that canoe, God’s care for the earth joined with His concern for my soul.

Back at the cabin I took off wet clothes and warmed myself by the fire. The family was there playing games, telling stories, reading books. They asked if I had enjoyed the lake while out in the rain. What could I say in response? I said, yes. But the answer was insufficient. The enjoyment was more than met the eye of others. It was more than I could tell. It was a moment to be thankful for, a day to remember. I had been touched by the rain and the solitude, I had been alone, but not alone – for God was with me.

 

Parenting Like My Hair’s On Fire

A few years ago I read a book by Rafe Esquith titled Teach Like Your Hair’s On Fire.  Rafe is a teacher in the Los Angeles area and the story of what he has done with his class over the years is amazing.  Mr. Esquith shines when it comes to teaching with passion and inspiring his students learn.

Mr. Esquith tells of being so engrossed in a science lesson he didn’t realize his hair was on fire.  That’s passion!  His book’s title comes from that story.  Reading his book (and his other books) causes me to think about my own efforts as a father.  Do I parent with enough passion?  Am I so engrossed in teaching my children I would not realize if my hair was on fire?

First, I like to read to the family.  I realize not everyone enjoys reading, especially aloud, but I have found it to be a great way to deliberately engage with my children.  While reading I have a chance to stop and discuss topics of ethics, character, and theology.  These conversations don’t need to be long to be useful.  Reading alone doesn’t foster a passion for my children the way reading to the family does.  I feel like a blessed man when holding a book while my family is gathered around listening to me read.Sadly, not often enough.  Parenting is hard work, and with everything else I am called to do, it can easily take a back seat.  To maintain my passion and be deliberate as a parent I need a strategy.  Mine isn’t as clearly defined as I would like, but I maintain some helpful habits in order to keep passionate about raising the next generations to hope in God.

Second, I focus on God’s love for me.  God has been merciful to me a sinner and adopted me into his family.  As I focus on this reality it causes me to burst forth with love for my own children.  The more I learn about God, His world, and His will, the more I want my children to know about Him.  Reading the Scriptures, sitting under faithful preaching week after week, and fellowship with the body of Christ (the church), create a desire to share the love of God with others.  The closest “others” in my life are my own children.

Third, I pray constantly.  No doubt, my prayer life could use improvement, I struggle to create space for deliberate prayer times.  On the other hand, as much as I struggle, I find myself praying as I go.  I pray while driving, while showering, and while walking the dog.  As I pray for parenting wisdom and for my own growth in Christ, I am putting myself in a position to be able to parent like my hair’s on fire.  These prayers flow into a sense of mission to see my children hope in Christ.  I know God desires little children to come unto Him and this gives me confidence to disciple and parent with abandon.  I am free to parent like my hair’s on fire because God is at work to use my efforts for His glory.

Mr. Esquith, as far as I know, isn’t a believer, yet his passion for teaching is an example I have learned from and been inspired by.  I hope my passion for my children contagious enough to be caught and causes them grow up and teach their own children with enthusiasm.

Giving Good Gifts

 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him! (Matthew 7:11)

I want to give good gifts to my children. I want to see their faces light up when they unwrap a gift and are delighted with it. I want to hear my five-year old say,”I always wanted that. It’s my favorite.”

Whenever that happens I’m as happy as they are.

But let’s face it, most gifts which are unwrapped at Christmas time are not the kind that last. They are gifts which wear our, rust out, break, tear,or otherwise end up in the garbage. Sometimes my wife and I give our children toys – things that spin, sparkle, and make noise. There’s nothing wrong with that. In fact, it’s these gifts that bring the biggest grins when the paper is torn and the box exposed. I’m happy to watch my children get excited about such gifts. But I know they are just novelties. I know today’s shiny object will be tossed away tomorrow.

In light of this we try to give our children gifts which will last much longer. We do this not by giving gifts which are manufactured better, but by giving gifts which will impact their lives longer – educational toys and books. We still give them clothes and shiny objects but we make educational gifts a priority.

As I think about gift giving this year I realize even books and educational gifts aren’t the best kind of gifts. Giving the best gifts is more abstract. The best gifts don’t come in packages to be wrapped and unwrapped.

Let me illustrate by listing some gifts which will be a blessing to my children but will never be place under the tree. These are good gifts which cost no money. Many more could be listed but these came to my mind today.

book-1667826__340

First – the gift of loving each other well. Our children need this. They need their parents to show affection to each other. By doing this we create a feeling of stability in the home. And we create a model for them to imitate.

Second – the gift of reading. By this I mean both reading to them and helping them become readers. We read a lot in our home. My wife reads to the children at lunch time. I read to them at dinner time. We talk about books and buy books. My wife’s vehicle is at the library so often it knows how to get there on its own. If my children take up the habit of reading good books because of the culture in our home, then we will have given them a good gift.

Third – the gift of prayer. My prayer life is far from what it should be and I don’t model it as it could be modeled. But I do pray with and for my children. This is a great gift to them which they will appreciate later in life. I pray for their salvation, I pray for their health, I pray about the things going on in their lives.

I’m reminded this year that the best gifts don’t come wrapped with a bow. The best gifts come from the heart and get unwrapped in the lives of my children each day.

 

 

 

 

 

Boys, Don’t Be Like That Guy

Music blared through the headphones hanging around his neck as he walked out the office door. He had just been fired. His employment lasted less than thirty minutes. The company I work for hires temporary labor on occasion. This time they needed an extra hand in the warehouse, loading and unloading product from delivery trucks.

Our lead warehouse technician walked through my office area and I heard him say, “Fire that guy. I don’t want him here any longer.” The warehouse manager asked what was going on. Later I heard the complete story.

This worker didn’t display any ambition or desire to work. He was standing on one end of the warehouse swaying to the rhythm playing in his ears while everyone else was on the other end of the warehouse unloading a truck. The lead warehouse technician yelled, “Hey, what are you doing? We’re all down here working.” The fool (in the Proverbs sense of the word) replied, “No one told me what to do.”

The lead warehouse tech said, “Can’t you see us down here sweating? Get off the sidelines and into the game.” The fool walked over and started working half heartedly, his music still playing in his ears.

I related this story to my boys and said, “Boys, don’t be like that guy. Show up ready to work. If you don’t know what to do, ask someone. Ask, ‘What can I do next? Where should I go now?’ Don’t ever just be standing there waiting to be told what to do. Don’t be like that. And don’t show up for work with earphones. You’re there to work not listen to music.”

I don’t know anything else about that temporary worker. Maybe he didn’t have parents to teach him how to work. If so, I feel sorry for him. I really do. It’s a tragedy for a young man to grow up without knowing how to engage at a jobsite. It a tragedy for the young man, for the company he works for, and for society at large.

And so, my advice to young men everywhere – boys, don’t be like that guy.

 

 

A Penny and My Thoughts

I saw it first. Before my son spied the penny tucked between carpet and baseboard I had seen it. A few minutes later I saw his hand slide into his pocket and quickly slide out again.

This was the opportunity I had expected when the copper first caught my eye.

“Calvin, what did you put in your pocket?”

“A penny,” he said.

“Put it back,” I commanded.

“Why?” he asked with a puzzled look.

It had been a while since we worked together. I still have my contractor’s license but don’t install floors for a living anymore. I only do small jobs in the evenings and weekends. There are a few things I miss about installing floors but the thing I miss most is bringing the kids to work with me. Not only do I miss spending time with them; I miss  opportunities to teach and train. I miss teaching them how to work hard, how to work smart, and many other lessons which present themselves throughout a day of work.

The reason he was puzzled about the penny was obvious to me and I saw a lesson. He had worked with me in the past in vacant apartments. In apartments, coins of all sorts are found under refrigerators, washers, and dryers. Like the penny he found today, we often found coins tucked between baseboards and the carpet we were removing. In a vacant apartment I always let my son keep the coins. But today we were in an occupied home. The penny belonged to the home owner.

“Does it belong to you?” I asked.

“No.” he said. But the look on his face said, “It’s just a penny and I always kept them before.”

“Put it back.” I told him.

“Where?” he asked.

I indicated a place and he set it there.

A few minutes later, out of earshot of the homeowner, I explained to him my reasoning.

“Even if it’s just a penny, it belongs to the owner of the house. A vacant apartment is different. No one is coming back to a vacant apartment. The coins have been left behind. But in an occupied home they belong to the homeowner.”

I was reminded of a lesson I learned from a business coach about working in peoples homes. I passed the lesson to my son.

“When working in someone’s home it’s never a good idea to put your hands into your pockets. If the homeowner walks by as your hand slides into your pocket and back out again, they may question what you put into your pocket. They may never say anything to you, but next week when they are missing a piece of jewelry they will remember your hand – and your pocket. Never give someone a reason not to trust you while working in their home.”

I think he understood the lesson. The incident reminded me of the wisdom of Deuteronomy six. There are some lessons learned best when we are spending time with our children. Whether lessons about pennies or the Law of God, some things are learned best by walking alongside a dad.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Where’s My Bible

My wife held our two year old girl on her lap during church this morning. When my daughter is quiet and not too wiggly we let her stay in the service. She like to be with us and says, “I don’t want to go to my class” when we pull into the church parking lot. Her “class” is the nursery.

The volunteers in the nursery are wonderful and we put her in nursery when it’s necessary. But we also think it’s important for her to learn to sit still and quiet in church – even at two.

Our church includes a Scripture reading as part of the service. Several men rotate and read in front of the congregation. This morning the reader was one of our elders. He asked us to open our Bibles to Philippians chapter two and follow along as he read.

It’s important to teach our children the value of the Word of God. As Christians our lives are centered on God’s Word. By it we are challenged, comforted, strengthened, and changed. Teaching our children the value of God’s Word can be done in various ways. This morning I realized our public reading was a benefit to all but in a special way it benefits the young. Those who can’t even read get a sense of the importance of the text when a room full of people are standing with Bibles in hand and listening to God’s Word.

This morning we stood for the Scripture reading. I reached for my Bible as my two year old said, “Where’s my Bible?” My wife and I were quick to tell her to be quiet in church. She was unfazed and asked again for her Bible. We grabbed her picture book Bible from her diaper bag and handed it to her. She seamed very pleased to have her Bible in hand like everyone else.

The reading had begun and I was still opening my Bible to Philippians. Just as I found it a hand reached up from my right side giving me a pocket New Testament. My four year old daughter wanted me to help find the right place in her Bible. I found Philippians chapter two and handed it back to her.

My four year old doesn’t read but just like the two year old she seemed very pleased to be doing what everyone else was doing.

I was pleased as well. It was a happy moment to have my four year old looking at her pocket New Testament and my two year old looking at her picture Bible as the man up front read about Christ.