Category Archives: Personal Reflection

“Spring” fueled by vulnerability and emotion.

spring awakening

Top left, Adam Cerny and Anastasiya Newkirk as Melchior and Wendla. Top right: Aaron Lord as Moritz and Tina Hayz as Melchior’s Mother (and all other female adults). Bottom right: Cerny as Melchior

When I saw Spring Awakening for the first time, I had no idea what to expect. I knew that it was ‘R’ rated. I had seen on Wikipedia that some of the songs have adult language, and that it is about teenagers exploring the very adult themes of sexuality, suicide, abortion, faith, and doubt. I knew not to bring my daughter, but I had no idea what I was in for.

I had no idea that I would be treated to one of the most emotionally charged, passionate performances I have ever seen. That was 2014, when the Center for Living Arts presented Spring Awakening for the second time. I was so dumbfounded by the performance that for the first time in my life, I saw the same show again on the following weekend.

This time when I saw it, on Opening Night 2016, I had no excuse to be surprised. And yet shocked I was.

Shock is a dangerous word to use when describing art. There is a lot of art out there that is designed to simply shock. It has little value other than to cause disgust, hoping that it draws eyes in the same way that an auto accident draws gapers.

And while there are moments that can be described as shocking, that is never the point. Yes, lyrics like “totally f-ed” (which is sung with passionate, emotional, perfect articulation of a word that rhymes with ‘ducked’), and “it’s the bitch of living,” might give you a jolt. But the point is not to swear – it is to express a rage that rises under the weight of suppression and finally boils over in, dare I say, a climactic release.

Yes, watching a young man beg his Dad for another minute in the bathroom is a little uncomfortable. But the point is to show that the shame that the adults have attached to sexuality. It is to show that privacy is precious, and sometimes hard to come by.

Yes, watching the female cast explore their (totally clothed) bodies with their hands as they sing “Touch Me” made me feel a little like a dirty old man watching something I shouldn’t be watching. But the point is not to arouse. It is to reveal that there are things going on inside which they do not fully understand. Set up by the agonizing first scene of a girl’s mother unable to give even the most basic information about sex and reproduction to her daughter.

Yes, watching the main characters finally give in to their bodies in a passionate moment in the hay loft could be described as shocking. But the point is not voyeurism. A particular choice made by amazing Director Dino Hayz was made to show that these are two young people who care about each other and are doing something that feels natural and good. They are feeling something real for the first time in a culture that has told them over and over again that feeling anything is dangerous.

All of these moments, and more which I did not describe, are incredibly intimate. There are times in the cozy Center for Living Arts theater that some of the actors are literally inches away.

There’s not a moment that the actors can hide. They are there, exposed, even while fully clothed. They are so vulnerable that it brings you to the edge of discomfort. Some highlights:

Myka Waljasper, singing “The Dark I Know Well,” crushes me. Every time. She puts on the character of Martha like a well-worn coat. In both the 2014 and 2016 versions she sang the song beautifully. In 2014, I remember Martha more as brutalized and frightened. This year, she projects bold defiance to survive in the face of brutality.

Noel Huntley plays one of my favorite characters, Ilse. Her “Blue Wind,” comes right after a heartbreaking bit of nostalgia between her and Moritz. We all wish we could go back to their childhood. Back to a simpler time and play pirates. Ilse, who escaped one abusive home to find only an abusive community, sings of the blue wind of autumn, cold and sad. The misery of a lost childhood is clear in both her song and acting. In doing research for this review, I learned that she is 16 years old, and once again – almost a week after seeing the show, I’m shocked.

I imagine that someday I will see a production of Spring Awakening that does not include Aaron Lord as Moritz and Anastasiya Newkirk as Wendla. Frankly, it will be strange.

Lord’s Mortiz is the nervous, hyper-anxious friend of Melchior. The weight of expectations is too much for him. Lord, reprising his role from 2014, makes it feel as if all of Mortiz’s anxiety travels up through his eyes and oozes into his hair. He channels the pre-1995 punk intensity of Billie Joe Armstrong. I half-expected him to break into, “Sometimes I give myself the creeps. Sometimes my mind plays tricks on me,” from Green Day’s ‘Basket Case,’ which was an anthem of my own youth.

When Newkirk is on the stage, it is almost impossible to stop watching her. From her first scene, when she defiantly tells her mother, “You don’t think that I believe in the stork, do you?” to her last, she reveals the heart of the show. The changes she experiences are the emotional center of it all, and Newkirk carries it well.

Adam Cerny gives Melchior a bright-eyed optimism that I hadn’t seen before. In the story, he is the voice of truth. He questions authority, sticks up for his bullied friend, and sees the world for what it could be. Somehow Cerny is able to make this teenager who is wise beyond his years at the same time naïve and joyful. His emotional scenes with Wendla are believable, and his agony and turmoil in the second act is gut-wrenching.

In the end, all of these performances matter only because of the story. It is a story that needs to be told. It is a story that I, as a pastor and father, need to hear. It is a reminder that winds change, no matter how much we wish they wouldn’t. Faithful begin to question. Boys grow into men. Girls grow into women. Grief heals. Grace abounds. And yes, winter turns to spring.

So we must be ready. We must embrace the change, not with lies or easy answers. We must face the truth of pain and struggle if we are ever to live with hope. In the end, the cast sings of the Purple Summer, when the butterfly sings and opens its wings. The Purple Summer, when we can look out in wonder. The Purple Summer, when we can hold onto one another, and allow grace of new life to flow.

Good art makes you feel. Great art makes you change. The story of Spring Awakening is a reminder that I cannot hide pain of change from my girls. I cannot shy away from the tough questions of the youth I am charged with leading. I cannot be another weight of expectations and judgment upon kids who are already shackled.  I can decide to either be a part of the cold blue wind, or hold onto the hope of the warm purple summer. I choose grace. Purple has always been a favorite color.

Spring Awakening is playing on Friday and Saturday, March 18 and 19 at 7:00 p.m. at The Center For Living Arts, which is located at 2008 4th Avenue, Rock Island Il. Go to http://centerforlivingarts.org for more information. You can go to the Spring Awakening Quad Cities Facebook page, as well.

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Music, Art, and Speakers for Peace, Justice, and Hope

The fourth Lion and Lamb Festival is coming back to the Quad Cities on September 17, 2016. Musicians, artists, and speakers are coming together for a full day of inspiration. From its inception, the Lion and Lamb Festival has endeavored to bring people together to talk, learn, sing, and grow together. Its purpose is to create community, and to encourage people to put their faith into action. At its foundation is a love of Christ, and a belief that faith should matter to people. Faith in a God of love, justice, and mercy should inspire people to take action. We are called to do justice, love kindness, and to walk humbly with God.

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I’ve been to every Lion and Lamb Festival, and without exception, what I remember most is friendships. At each one, I met extraordinary people. I met authors, musicians, parents, and people of faith who are growing. I met people who wanted to experience the world, and make a difference. I’ve created lasting friendships with people I met at Lion and Lamb Festival, and that is why its happening again this year. We want to create a place where people can come together and connect to each other and to God’s higher purpose on all of our lives.

In September, we will gather at Camp Milan Retreat Center for the second time. Camp Milan is a part of the Quad Cities, only a few miles from Moline and Rock Island. There will be a full day of concerts on an outdoor stage. A large grassy area is shaded by huge oaks. There is a small playground for kids and volunteers will lead kids activities inside, too. There’s even a basketball court to blow off a little energy. Local food trucks will be invited to provide great meals and sweet treats. Inside  the retreat center, speakers will share their stories. They will talk about their work, their service, and their ministry. Artists will be given a chance to talk about their inspiration and sell their work.

The Lion and Lamb Festival is named for a part of Scripture where Isaiah describes a time when peace will transcend even the natural laws. There will be a day when swords will be beaten into plows, and even mortal enemies will lie down together. The Lion and Lamb Festival looks forward to this promise knowing that the arts are our best way to get there. The arts are a way for people to be connected, and to imagine a future of peace. Creators, dreams, and those who believe that music and art can change the world, you are invited to come and be a part of something. It’s not something big – at least not yet – but it can be something great.

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Star Wars Mystery Menu Dinner Party

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The menu for the Star Wars mystery menu dinner party.

For my daughter’s 7th birthday, we threw her a Mystery Menu Dinner Party. It is a three-course meal. Each course includes four items. The menu then consists of 12 different things, and all three courses must be ordered at the very start of the meal. No switching after the orders have been placed. The catch? The 12 items are not named clearly. The menu has simply clues as to what the item might actually be. In addition, three of the 12 items are their utensils.

The first time we did this, the kids had a blast. I promised the kids at the beginning of the dinner that all 9 food items were common kid-friendly foods. I also told them that, for tonight only, they were allowed to eat with their hands. They would be given unlimited napkins, and if they made a mess, it was okay. One of my favorite moments of that first dinner was when a little girl’s first course include animals crackers, a knife, a fork, and a spoon. Two courses later she was given a plate with Jell-O, spaghetti, macaroni and cheese, and pudding.

For her 8th and 9th birthday parties, we have done the same thing. Some of the kids have now been to three consecutive mystery dinners, and they love them. This year, we added a twist. The menu had a Star Wars theme, and I added drinks. The menu consisted of a total of 15 items – 9 foods, 3 utensils, 3 drinks – and three courses. For one of the courses, one of the kids ended up with a plate, a spoon, and three drinks. Earlier though, he became the only kid with the sloppy joe and the bun in the same course. He was quite proud of having an actual sandwich. Here were the menu items, and what the item actually meant.

  1. Sarlacc – Gummy worms
  2. Bantha Fodder – Sloppy Joe
  3. Princess Leia’s Hairdo – Hamburger bun
  4. Dagobah Swamp – Applesauce
  5. Ewok Fingers – Cocktail wieners in barbecue sauce
  6. Tie Fighters – Cheese and crackers, put togehter on a toothpick to resemble a Tie-Fighter.
  7. Rancor Legs – BBQ Chicken legs
  8. Thermal Detonators – Cuties (small, easily pealable oranges)
  9. Light Sabres – Pretzel Rods dipped in green-colored almond bark.
  10. Hydrospanner – Spoon
  11. Tusken Raider Spear – Fork
  12. Driod Antennae – Toothpicks
  13. Darth Vaderade – Fruit Punch
  14. Bantha Milk – Milk with one drop of blue food coloring
  15. Hoth Soup – Water

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star wars menu

You can download this and paste it right into a doc to print your menus.

Princess Leia Hair, Light Saber, Dagobah Swamp, Sarlac, with Darth Vaderade to drink.

Princess Leia Hair, Light Saber, Dagobah Swamp, Sarlac, with Darth Vaderade to drink.

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My girl enjoying with some Hoth Soup, Darth Vaderade, Bantha Fodder, a Droid Antenna, and a Thermal Detonator.

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She told him about means kids at school, and this was his amazing response

It is a moment I dread. My sweet, innocent, kind little girl comes home and tells me that someone at school was mean to her. I know it will happen someday, and I also know that my response would not be as cool as this guy’s. Khari is a rapper with a youtube channel, where he calls himself a “poet and published author.” His videos seem to have a largely positive message. At least a couple of his videos, “Through Thick and Thin,” and “Wonderfully Made,” are inspired by the beauty of his full-figured wife. The video below, he made for his daughters. It is everything I want to tell my girls. I hope that no one is ever mean to them. More realistically though, I hope that when someone is mean to them, they will know that they are loved.

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For as long as I am able, and for as long as you want me to

carry“Will you carry me to bed?” she asks.

“Of course,” I say. I set aside the laptop, and get up off my chair. “One, two, up,” I say as she leaps up into my arms. I hold her close, smell her hair, kiss her head.

“Wait a second,” I say as I realize something. “Weren’t you just in the bathroom brushing your teeth?” I ask.

“Yes,” she says sheepishly.

“And you came in here to ask me to carry you to bed?”

“Yes.”

The bathroom where she was brushing her teeth is across the hall from her room. She was literally 15 steps from her bed when she finished rinsing. I was sitting in my chair, down the hall, in another room.This meant she walked an extra 40 feet or so to come get me to carry her to bed instead of just crawling in herself. I chuckle, and as I squeeze her through the door, he legs hits against the frame.

“I’m sorry sweety, are you okay?” I ask her as she falls into bed. I can tell it probably hurt, and I feel terrible that I banged her into the door. “I’m not sure I can carry you any more, you’re getting so big. You don’t fit through the door.”

Now she’s got her head buried in her pillow and she doesn’t respond as I  go and get her little sister. I pick her up from in front of the sink, carry her to her lofted bed and gently toss her in. She giggles. Then I notice that her sister is still laying with her head in her pillow. Then I notice her shoulders shuddering. It’s the telltale sign of sobbing. Now I’m afraid that I really hurt her leg.

“Are you okay? Did I really hurt you?” I ask as I lower myself to her bed and place my hand on her back.

“My leg is fine,” she says through her tears.

“Then what’s the matter?”

“You said you can’t carry me any more.”

I carry my daughters a lot. I think they know that there is a rare occasion that I deny scooping them up into my arms. I know it’s a sure way to get a big hug, and usually more. “I’ll carry you, but I get tired, so you have to kiss my cheek to give me strength,” I tell them. In the morning, I’m a rickshaw as my sleepy daughter gets ready for school. Every morning I can judge how well she slept by how much I have to carry her. Sometimes it’s just from her bed to the bathroom. After some late bed times, it is to the bathroom, then back to her room, then to the kitchen before she can bring herself to use her own legs. I never mind. Like I said, it’s a great way to get some cheek kisses. My little one and I have a whole routine that is like our own secret handshake, except with ear lobes and noses.

As she sobs into her pillow I realize the mistake I made was not in being careless with her body. It was being careless with her heart.

“Oh sweetheart,” I say. “I can still carry you. Of course I can still carry you,” I say as I turn her over and scoop her into my arms. The tears slow.

“I’m sorry. I made a mistake. I should have said, ‘I have to be more careful with you,’ I just felt bad that I banged your leg into the door. Next time we’ll just have to go in sideways or something, okay?”

She smiles and nods and squeezes me a little tighter. I look her in the eye and say, “I will carry you for as long as I am able, and as long as you want me to. I promise.”

It is a sincere promise. I will carry her as long as I am able and as long as she wants. I know that eventually one of those things will come. Physically, there is sure to be a time when I cannot carry her. She will become a grown woman. I will become an old man. To be honest though, the ability to carry her is one of the reasons I workout. In our last house, the ability to carry them both up the stairs without getting winded was a highlight of my fitness level on par with finishing my first 5K.

I know that there will be a time when she may be physically small enough for me to carry her, but she will not want her Daddy to do such childish things any more. I seldom tell her to “grow up” in admonishment. I know that she will. There will be a time when I put out my arms, and count, “one, two, up,” and she won’t leap into my arms. There will never, however, be a time when I won’t be willing to try.

This is my promise. For as long as I am able, and for as long as you want me to; I will carry you.

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#CancerSucks

teal ribbonCancer sucks.

Are there any two words written that were ever more true?  Is there anyone that read that sentence and didn’t think, “Yep, it sure does.”  It sucks more than the suckiest suck that has ever sucked.  Sorry about the 10-year-old mouth, but I think most would give me a pass.

My Mom has cancer.

Those words were hard to even type.  It’s not something I ever wanted to say again.  Six years ago her ovarian cancer went into remission.  Six doses of chemotherapy spread out over three week spans knocked it out. We hoped it was knocked out for good, but we have already established the sucky nature of cancer.

After my Dad told me the news, these are the things I did:

I cried. I sobbed full force, white-knuckled into my pillow. I know cancer. Cancer and I work in a lot of the same places. I can meet cancer at a hospital, or at someone’s home, or in a conversation at church, and I seem to know what to do. I’m not saying that I’m altogether comfortable with cancer, but we’re familiar. This time though, I wasn’t ready. I thought we had an agreement.  Cancer isn’t supposed to bother me at home, but like I said, Cancer sucks.

I hugged my wife, because it was her turn. We seem to take turns being strong in moments like this. It is strange, but I seldom recall a time when we were both crying at the same time. Someone told me once that I’m supposed to be the spiritual leader of our home. That’s bullshit (again, sorry about the language, but my emotions are pretty raw). We are partners. Sometimes I’m strong and confident and fearless and protective and all that stuff. Sometimes I’m not.  Sometimes I’m fragile and raw and broken. Sometimes she kicks me in the ass, and says, “Get up. Suck it up, and get after it.” Sometimes she holds me, strokes my head, and lets me just be broken. It seems like she always knows when she needs to do either, and I love her for this.

We went to our friends house. We have good friends. We have the kind of friends with whom we can play “Cards Against Humanity,” and hold nothing back. Nuh-thing. We share the big celebrations like weddings and births and C-League Volleyball championships (Go Spiking Vikings).  We share the mundane stuff of life like carpools, Tuesday dinner, red wine, and school plays. As soon as I was able to stand, I needed to see our friends. We’ve already buried two parents together, and they know more than anyone that there are somethings that even my lucky rocket-ship underpants won’t help. At their house, the conversation went something like this:

“I just found out that my Mom’s cancer is back.”

“That sucks.”

“Yep.”

Sometimes friends have the perfect words for the moment.

A couple of weeks passed before we were able to tell anyone beyond our very small circle. Finally yesterday I emailed the prayer chain at our church. I’m not sure why I was resistant. Sometimes I feel like a character in Harry Potter, afraid to say the name of You Know Who for fear that speaking it’s name will give it power.  Or maybe I can’t let go of ill-gotten notion that as a pastor, I shouldn’t be vulnerable. There are people in the church that are in need of care, and I how am I supposed to care for anyone when I’m hurting?

The text I’m preaching from on Sunday is 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, and starts with these words, “Rejoice always. Pray continually.  Give thanks in every situation because this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” You’ve got to be kidding me. (I typed and then deleted a certain expletive in between the words “be” and “kidding me” about five times. I decided to go with leaving it out, so you can re-read that sentence and put it back in, if you so choose).

Rejoice always? That’s going to be a hard sell.

That, however, might be the point. Rejoicing always isn’t about skipping along in a land of rainbows and gumdrops. Praying continually is not about kneeling, folding my hands, and closing my eyes to the world. Giving thanks in every situation isn’t about denying the parts of life that just plain suck.

I rejoice in the life my Mother has lived, and I rejoice in the life she continues to live. I rejoice in her strength. I rejoice in her faith. I rejoice that she just called me from Sam’s Club to ask if I needed a new top coat. “Yes,” I said as I paused from writing this very blog. “My overcoat is blue, and it would be nice to have a black one for funerals.”

You see, I deal with cancer all the time. Truth be told, we had no deal. I knew all along that cancer goes where cancer is not welcome. I’m not rejoicing in its return. Yet in the midst of all things I give thanks.

I give thanks for a Mom who gives me more than I could ever imagine. I give thanks for her partner, my Dad, who taught me that its okay to take turns being strong. I give thanks for my brother and sister, for getting the teal bracelets and doing all the things I can’t do because of distance. I give thanks for my own partner, for being strong enough to hold me up from time to time. I give thanks for my daughters, who teach me every day about grace. I give thanks for my friends, who right now are probably thinking, “I thanked your Mom last night.” I give thanks for my church, who didn’t get an invulnerable pastor. They deserve better.

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An advent letter to my congregation

christmas eve candleDear Church,

This is our first Christmas together, and I cannot tell you how excited I am for Christmas Eve.  Every year, there are two moments I most look forward to at Christmas.  One is my daughters coming down the stairs on Christmas morning, pausing for a picture, then slowly making their way to see what magic transpired under the tree.  The other is singing “Silent Night, Holy Night,” as the lights are slowly turned down and the candles are lit in the sanctuary on Christmas Eve night.

I know that Easter is supposed to be the big day. Singing “Christ the Lord is Risen Today” with the throngs and the organ and the lilies and the spring air at Easter is pretty special, but it is Christmas that touches my heart like no other. I know that Christmas is wrought with commercialism, consumerism, and a secularity that some mourn.  Maybe that is why that moment is so special to me.  It is so needed.  It is that moment where nothing matters but joy.  I can block out the noise and the fear and the distractions.  Sure, “Silent Night,” has helped contribute to a falsely idyllic understanding of Christmas, but I’m okay with that.  It is a song that can end war, even if only for a moment.

I get a pretty special view for Christmas Eve.  I get to stand up front and look out at the faces of those gathered.  I can close my eyes and see it through the years.  I can picture each of the congregations I’ve had the awesome honor to serve.  I can see the faces of those who have supported me, shaped me, challenged me, and molded me into the man and pastor that I am today.  I can see the faces of young and old, woman and man, single and married, healthy and sick.

I can see the faces of people lit by the glow of a small candle as we sing those holy words, and I’m very much looking forward to singing it with you.  We haven’t been together very long, but things are going well.  No church is perfect, but I believe that I am right where I need to be.  Already we’ve laughed and cried together.  Already we’ve dreamed of a Kingdom future, and mourned the loss of pillars.  Already we’ve eaten too much, shared some of our scars, worried a little, and stumbled through some movements.   Already I can see the excitement and the energy.  I can see good things happening.  I can see people being fed without asking first if they deserve it.  I can see invitation that is born from joy, not fear.  I can see welcome.  I can see grace, and a desire to share lives,  not just small talk and pleasantries.  I can see the Body of Christ, redeemed by Christ’s love, reaching out into the world.

Incarnation.  That is what Christmas is all about.  It is the coming of light in a world of darkness.  It is God breaking through all of the barriers.  It is strength and power and might redefined in the form of a newborn baby.  Christmas is peace, love, joy, and hope.  And just as that candle spreads from the table in the sanctuary to those that are singing in the pews, Christmas is the light of Christ spreading into the hearts of the faithful, and being carried out into the world.  It is not about “happily ever after.”  It is about the presence of God in the midst of real life.

It is a reminder that right here in the world is a promise that God is with us.  Right here with the cancer is hope. Right here with the struggle and upheaval is peace.  Right here in the gathering of Christ’s people is joy.  Right here with our fellow humans, hurting, sinning, and falling, is love.

So I’m waiting for Christmas Eve, and not altogether patiently.  I’m waiting to wish you a Merry Christmas, and to see your face lit by the glow of a candle.  It’s my favorite time of year, and I’m so glad we can do this together.

In Christ,

Your pastor

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Two Rivers United Methodist Church

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The Dad Life (2:04 is me, to a T)

It’s the Dad Life, and I wouldn’t trade it for any other.

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Only those that failed to live

A poem I wrote on the occasion of a funeral of a friend.

“Celebration” by Robb McCoy

I celebrate the sunshine,

And the breaking of the dawn.

I celebrate this journey

That we have ventured on.

 

I knew the power of a laugh,

Always ready for a joke.

Through all my trials I could smile,

With Jesus as my yoke.

 

I never did it for the praise

Under Christ’s yoke I’ve bent

I’ve only hoped to hear God say,

“Well done good and faithful servant.”

 

All my joys were multiplied.

We danced until the end.

Now may your sorrows be divided

In the company of friends.

 

So when the choir sings the hymns,

With piano, organ, flute,

Remember all the seeds I’ve sown

And know that you’re the fruit.

 

And now when I lay down for sleep,

I know that there is be pain,

But promise me there will be no cries,

For a life that was spent in vain.

 

I celebrate the hearts I touched,

At peace I close my eye,

For only those that failed to live,

Should ever fear to die.

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I’m not babysitting, I’m her Dad.

20140203-095440.jpgMy wife has a part-time job, and my hours are very flexible.  This means I spend a lot of time with my two daughters during daytime hours.  We go to restaurants, grocery stores, nursing homes, and the office.

Both of my daughters are adorable and engaging.  They smile and wave at people.  They tell people things like, “Your shirt is pretty.”  This means that I have many conversations with strangers that I otherwise would not have.

Usually this is quite fun.  I like meeting new people, and I love how my girls brighten people’s day.  There is one conversation though, that gets on my nerves.  On a fairly regular basis, someone will ask me something like, “Are you babysitting today?”

Once I actually said, “No.  I’m her Dad.”  The woman looked at me a little puzzled, as if I didn’t understand her question.

What I wanted to say was:

No. I’m not a babysitter.  A babysitter is someone who occasionally watches a child, often for money.  A babysitter has temporary hours, and goes home.  I am her Daddy.  I cut her umbilical cord and handed her to her mother.  I never breast fed her, but I spent many long nights holding and feeding her.  There were a few months when there was no one on earth that could put her to sleep faster than me.  I changed diapers, wiped butts, and cleaned up puke.  I was at the helm of The Great Poopy Disaster of 2011.  The last time she had a stomach virus, the only place she wanted to sit was my lap.  I had to change shirts twice.  I once got a little bit of her poop in my mouth.

“I made up a song about how strong and smart she is, and sing it to her at night after carrying her to bed. Every morning before she gets out of bed to start school, I hold her.  I hold her and I pray for her and I kiss her sleepy head.  I know that in my arms she is safe, and I contemplate just staying there safe and warm forever.  Every morning we eventually get up, I cook her breakfast, pack her lunch, and kiss her goodbye when her ride gets here.  I send her into the world and pray to God that I sent her with enough love to get her through the day.

“I can make a pretty tight pony tail, paint a pretty neat fingernail, and I’ve taught her how to catch and throw a softball.  She’s my doctor, my hairstylist, and my makeup artist.  Sometimes she picks out my tie.

“We built a Lego Jabba’s Palace, and we’re working on the Rancor Pit.  I’m currently leading the best-of-101 game Stanley Cup air hockey series 23-17.  I took her to her first hockey game, her first Major League baseball game, her first ballet, and we have already set a date for December 18, 2015.

“The last snow day we had together, we turned on the TV a total of zero times.  I help her with homework, and taught her M&M math.  She told me when a boy hurt her feelings at school, and when her best friend was mean to her.  She has wiped many tears on my shirt.  My kisses work to heal boo-boos.

I’ve messed up plenty.  I’ve been the cause of more of those tears than I wish to admit. I get too angry over little things.  I get frustrated because she just won’t listen.  I wonder why she doesn’t seem to understand the phrase, “you need to hurry up.”  Sometimes I’m too busy, or too tired, or too selfish.   I’m not a perfect Dad, but by the grace of God I’m trying to be.  She teaches me everyday about the power of grace and forgiveness.  Being their Dad is the greatest, and most important thing I’ll ever do.

“So no, I’m not babysitting.  I’m her Dad.”

But usually I just say, “Yeah, Mom is working.  Aren’t I lucky?”

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