Tag Archives: daughters
I’ve killed my fair share of spiders. I’ve never been one to consciously support stereotypical gender roles, but I fell easily into the role of family spider-getter. There is a little kind of spider that seems to thrive in our bathroom. They appear on a pretty regular basis. With legspan about the size of a nickel, they are harmless little creatures. This week, something pretty amazing happened.
“Daddy!” my six-year-old daughter screamed. “Come quick. There’s a spider.”
At hearing such a cry, most Dads would grab a magazine or tissue. Instead, I wished I could remember where I had put my magnifying glass.
“It’s so cool,” she said, as she sat and watched it crawl along the wall and spin its web. Mesmerized by the work.
Not too long ago, this scenario would have played out much differently. When my daughter was much littler, she had no particular fear of spiders, but by the time she was four or five, she was terrified. Given where our spiders like to hang out, this posed a problem at some very inopportune times.
“Daddy!” She would scream. “I have to go to the bathroom!” Long potty-trained, I wasn’t sure why she was screaming this at me with such ferocity. “So?” I would ask.
“There’s a spider in here!” So I would go in, armed with a tissue, and “take care” of the problem. I would explain, “These spiders are harmless. They won’t hurt you. There’s no reason to be afraid,” as I squashed the little guy into oblivion.
Then I realized something. My actions and my words were incongruous. My words were saying, “Fear not.” But my actions were saying, “This spider must die!” She heard my actions much louder than my words. By killing the spider every time I saw one, I was reinforcing the idea that the spider must be eradicated. It must be feared. So I did something strange. I stopped killing them.
“Daddy!” she would scream, “There’s a spider.” So I would go in, and explain to her that there was nothing to fear. “That little guy is harmless, I would say. He eats mosquitoes, which are annoying. I’m not going hurt him, because he’s not hurting us.” She was not happy with my decision, but eventually the power of nature’s call would overcome her fear. As she did what she had to do, she wouldn’t take her eye off the little spider.
This scenario repeated itself several times over the course of a few months. Eventually the fear was gone, and it was replaced with curiosity. Until one day she found herself excited to see a spider. Well, maybe not excited, but at least intrigued.
Yes, this is a story about my daughter and spiders, but I feel like it is so much more. Too often, when confronted with something different, our default reaction is fear. What if, instead of fear, we respond with time, care, and compassion. When curiosity or empathy replaces fear, maybe there is room for something more, like learning, relationship, and friendship.
Little ones are infamous for their love of repetition. I swear my three-year-old daughter could watch the same episode of Daniel Tiger on repeat all morning and be happy. I cannot tell you how many times she has said to me, immediately after finishing a book, “Again. Read it again Daddy.”
Most of the time, the repetition can be a little tedious. Well, I found a video that Lucy wants to watch over and over, and I’m totally okay with that. Watch this video, baby. Watch it again. Watch it as you go to preschool. Watch it on my lap and don’t worry about the tears rolling down my cheek. Watch it when you start middle school, even if you don’t want me to walk with you to school any more. Watch it in high school, and before you go on your first date. Watch it when you go to college, and know who and whose you are. Watch it when you feel discouraged. Watch it when some one tries to tell you that you do not count. Watch it when you feel like you cannot make a difference.
You are Malala. You are infinite hope. Hear these words. Hold onto these words. Watch it over and over and know that as long as I have strength to stand, it will be by your side.
“It is time for you to decide. Would you choose to fight for what you believed in? Would you do what is right? If I need you, would you stand tall with me, right here by my side? Be the change you want to see. Take a look through my eyes.”
Inspired by Malala Yousafzai’s incredible courage, this video was created by Girls of the World to support the Malala Fund. I found it here on Upworthy. Go to Malalafund.org to learn more about supporting education for girls. Follow The Malala Fund on Facebook.
I walked by the chapel on my way to lunch. “Come in,” my heart whispered. It was still racing a little. I didn’t want to stop. The adrenaline was still flowing after meeting at three different offices on Capitol Hill. At each office, I was with colleagues with the Healthy Families Healthy Planet project. Surrounded by my sisters in Christ, we made our case on behalf of women around the world in front of two Senators and a Congressman.
We walked the halls of the Temples of Power, and strode purposefully across the Capitol. We talked about the 222 million women that wish to delay their pregnancies, but cannot gain access to contraception. We spoke for the 270,000 women that die each year from complications to child birth and pregnancy. We spoke for the thousands of mothers that can be saved. We reminded the staffers that funding international maternal health and family planning initiatives could prevent 54 million unintended pregnancies, 26 million abortions, and 7 million miscarriages a year.
In just my second trip to Washington as an adult, I gained access to some of the most powerful people in the world. As I walked into the Dirksen Senate Office Building, I felt a sudden surge of desperation. I knew my facts. I knew the stories. Yet I was suddenly faced with the grandeur of it all and doubted. “Who am I?” I thought. Surrounded by so much marble and glass, I could not help but feel the power of my own insignificance. Then something funny happened. Each meeting was a little easier than the last. Each time I looked at my notes less, and looked into my heart more.
Now back from the three meetings in 90 minutes, I was still in high gear. Still breathing a little heavy. My mind did not want to stop. It wanted to keep going, keep talking, keep engaging. “Come in,” my heart beckoned. I walked into the chapel of the United Methodist Building. I stepped a few rows in, past another taking a similar pause, and sat. I breathed. My heart slowed. My mind opened. I prayed.
I prayed of exhaustion. Exhausted by the three days of learning and training. Exhausted by the walking and the waking early. Exhausted by the stories of the suffering women endure around the world. I prayed of mourning. Mourning despair of mothers who have lost children. Mourning my brother in Christ at the training that talked about his own mother losing 10 infant children over the course of her life. I prayed of celebration. Celebrating the strength of so many women. Celebrating the women in my life, and the women I was surrounded by at the training. Celebrating the victories, and the chance to speak the truth to power.
I prayed and sunk deeper into my chair as the Spirit washed over me. Then I saw the Bible, once again my heart beckoned, “Come.” I opened the Bible, and read the first verse my eyes focused on, “When Jesus entered the temple, the chief priests and elders of the people came to him as he was teaching. They asked, “What kind of authority do you have for doing these things? Who gave you this authority?” (Matthew 21:23, Common English Bible).
Who am I to do these things?
I am a father. I am a father who loves two daughters with all of my being. I am a father who dreams of their future and wants to open every pathway to joy in their lives. I am a father who wants to see my daughters grow to be educated, independent, powerful women. I am a father who wants nothing less for all the girls of the world. I am Papa Robb, who will stand up for the girls that no one else will stand for.
What kind of authority do you have for doing these things?
I claim the authority of the women that suffer needlessly. I claim the authority of the the motherless infants, and the wifeless fathers. I claim the authority of the communities that are stuck in the cycles of poverty that keep them from abundant life.
Who gave you this authority?
My authority lies in Christ Jesus, who came so that we may have life, and have it abundantly. I am given authority by the one who raised the widow’s son, who let Martha sit at his feet and learn, who engaged the foreign woman at the well, and defended the woman caught in adultery. I do these things by the power of the one who called out the most powerful men in the world, who defied their pomposity, and saw through their grandeur. I am given authority by the one who suffered crucifixion at the hands of the powerful, who suffered in silence and grace, determined to fulfill his mission of peace, justice, and salvation. I am given authority by the one who was Resurrected, and offers to me the same Resurrection. I am given authority by Jesus Christ, who has already claimed the victory
I finished my prayer. I thanked God for this moment. I thanked God for beckoning me to come.
And now I will go. I will go with the strength of the women and men I have met on this journey. I will go with the strength of knowledge. I will go with the strength of love. I will go with the strength of Jesus Christ, who came that all may have life, and have it abundantly. I will go with the promise that the work we do is just, the promise of God is steadfast, and the victory is already won.
I’m not sure how I feel about vigilante justice, but I do know how I felt last night as I read Dugan Arnett’s piece in the Kansas City Star about Daisy Coleman. I made the mistake of reading the article in bed before trying to fall asleep. The story made that task almost impossible. The story is told very well by Arnett. Read it, then come back and skip the highlighted part below where I try to summarize the story.
Daisy Coleman was a 14 year old freshman when she and her 13-year-old friend sneaked out of her room to go to an older boy’s house. Matthew Barnett was senior. He was a football star. He was the object of many a school-girl crush. By the end of the night, he was the subject of nightmares.
If Arnett’s story is to be believed, Matthew Barnett is a rapist. He and his friends gave Daisy enough alcohol that she blacked out. He then raped her in his basement, and left her passed out in her own front yard wearing nothing but a t-shirt and sweatpants when it was 22 degrees outside. He does not deny having sex with her, he just claims that it was consensual. At 9 a.m. the next morning, about seven hours after her last drink, her blood alcohol level was .13. The incident was apparently filmed on one of the boys’ iPhones, shared with classmates that week at school. Daisy’s friend was also raped. Though she was not as intoxicated, she claims that she repeatedly told her assailant “no,” while he undressed her and had sex with her.
As if the nightmare of being raped and left out in the cold were not enough, things got worse for Daisy. Matthew Barnett was arrested, but never indicted. Never tried. Never stepped foot in a court room. Charges against him were dropped. Matthew Barnett was a football star in a football-mad town. The ensuing victim-blame that happened in Maryville, Missouri, is enough to make any objective person boil in rage. Daisy’s older brother, who was a teammate of Matthew Barnett, was threatened. Daisy’s mother was fired. Eventually the family moved 40 miles away. Their house burned down while it was on the market.
Making things even more maddening is that Matthew Barnett is the grandson of Rex Barnett. Rex is a former Missouri State Trooper and four-term Missouri State Representative. He, of course, denies using his influence to gain leniency for Matthew. The claim, of course, is dubious.
Where things stand right now, Matthew Barnett is a freshman at Central Missouri. Daisy Coleman is a suicidal young woman who had her life turned upside down. But that does not seem to be the end of the story.
The video below came out yesterday. Anonymous, a infamous group of online hackers have promised to take action.
Like I said, I have mixed feelings about vigilante justice. I’m afraid that in our culture we are much to quick to confuse vengeance with justice. I understand the desire for someone to be punished, but too often people are quick to be judge, jury, and executioner. It seems clear that someone needs to answer for what happened. I am a big believer in grace, but not grace without accountability. Anonymous has promised action, and though their move has not yet been made, others are sure to follow in some small way.
It has started. The article mentioned the A and G Restaurant. Its reviews on Yelp have been relentless. The University of Central Missouri’s Facebook page has also been blown up with bad reviews. There is a lot of anticipation brewing as to just what Anonymous is going to do. One unfortunate side effect of this desire for justice has been some threats to another Matthew Barnett – the wrong Matthew Barnett, who is a pastor in California. The Matthew Barnett in question no longer has a public Twitter account, although his last public statement on twitter showed how little he has learned from this experience.
The whole story is heartbreaking. It seems as if Daisy has been made a victim over and over. She was raped once, and it seems like she was raped over and over by the failed justice system and the community that turned their back on her. When I consider this from the perspective of a father of two daughters, the rage is hard to contain.
I would be angry at my 14-year-old daughter if she sneaked alcohol into her room and then sneaked out of the house to party with older guys. I need to do my best to teach her to be safe. I need to teach her to make wise choices. But do Daisy’s actions somehow justify her being raped, left in the cold for dead, and then tormented by a town that wanted to protect their football team? I’ve written about his before. It is clear that much more needs to be done. Our culture of rape acceptance and victim-blame is terrifying. Just last week a fraternity at Georgia Tech circulated an email that basically taught the brothers how to successfully rape girls. The problem seems to be getting worse, not better. Luckily, there is another way to teach rape prevention that is probably more thoughtful than my hackneyed list AND avoids victim-blame. Here is another great article on proper rape prevention education. We have to do better. For the sake of both or girls and boys. We need to do better.
So where do we go from here? I don’t want vengeance. I don’t want retribution. All I want is what Daisy deserves: compassion and a trial. I want Matthew Barnett to answer for what he did. Also, I want to know how the people of Maryville that abandoned Daisy in her time of need can sleep at night.
I’ve always loved Calvin and Hobbes. When I came across this today, I teared up immediately. At my Mom and Dad’s house, we kept a lot of the toys that my sister, brother, and I played with as kids. Now my daughters, nieces, and nephews love them. I do not know who created this meme, but I found it at http://copingkoala.wordpress.com/
I held my daughter. I crawled into her bed, and wrapped her up in may arms. She nestled deeper into me. I smelled her hair and kissed her soft cheek. She took my hand, and pulled it under her head like a pillow. The alarm clock flashed 6:30, but time stood still. I prayed, thanking God for this moment. I paused, And allowed. Myself. To. Stop. Breathe. Deeply. She was safe in my arms, and there was no reason for either of us to ever get up.
It would have been so easy to just remain there. She was safe and warm, and as long as I could keep her there in my arms, nothing bad could happen to her. As soon as I whispered into her ear, “It’s time to get ready for school,” I would lose my grip. As long as I held her there she would come to no harm. She couldn’t have an accident. She couldn’t stub her toe, or burn her hand, or get hit by a car. No one could hurt here there. No one would call her stupid or make fun of her shirt. No one could exclude her from a game or break her heart. We lay there together, drifting in and out of sleep, and there was no reason at all for us to rise. Except for one: Babel.
The Tower of Babel story is found in the 11th chapter of Genesis. The first 11 chapters are generally recognized as a separate section within Genesis. Walt Brueggemann refers to it as the “Pre-History.” Terrence Fretheim calles Genesis 1:1-11:26 the “Primeval Story.” This section of Genesis includes the two creation stories, the first sin and expulsion from the Garden, the murder of Abel, and Noah and the flood. These are the foundational stories of God and the people God created. It is a myth in the sense that it is a story that explains why things are the way they are. And like all myth, the truth of the story does not lie in the facticity of the events, but rather in the meaning we draw from it about God and God’s created people.
The story goes like this:
All people on the earth had one language and the same words. When they traveled east, they found a valley in the land of Shinar and settled there. They said to each other, “Come, let’s make bricks and bake them hard.” They used bricks for stones and asphalt for mortar. They said, “Come, let’s build for ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the sky, and let’s make a name for ourselves so that we won’t be dispersed over all the earth.”
Then the LORD came down to see the city and the tower that the humans built. And the LORD said, “There is now one people and they all have one language. This is what they have begun to do, and now all that they plan to do will be possible for them. Come, let’s go down and mix up their language there so they won’t understand each other’s language.” Then the LORD dispersed them from there over all of the earth, and they stopped building the city. Therefore, it is named Babel, because there the LORD mixed up the language of all the earth; and from there the LORD dispersed them over all the earth. (Genesis 11:1-9, Common English Bible)
Beyond the simplistic questions about historical accuracy, there are deeper theological truths that can be found from this story. There are also troubling questions about the nature of God that rise quickly from the scattered remains of the people.
The main question is, “Why did God do that?” It seems like a strange God that is in action here. “There is now one people,” God declares. This kind of unity sounds like a good thing. In a world beset with division, barriers, walls, and wars, a united people sounds like a wonderful place to work toward, not a troubling situation that needs to be fixed.
The common interpretation of this passage is that the sin of the people was hubris. Many see the problem to be the grandiose plans. The sky, they say, is no place for humans, but instead is the realm of God. The sin of the people was to make themselves too high, and to try to compete with God. To understand the sin of Babel though, we must look closer at the motivation for the tower, and go back a little farther in human history. The people state the mission of the tower is to “make a name for ourselves, so that we will not be dispersed all over the earth.”
The Tower would be a source of pride and strength. A tower is an important part of any settlement. The Tower draws travelers for trade. Conversely, it helps detect invaders from a distance. It provides a strategic advantage for defense, and serves as an economic hub. The Tower is an important ingredient in protection, safety, and settlement. The people knew that the tower will keep them from being scattered. These things do not, on the surface, appear to be troubling.
It is no more troubling than laying in bed in the morning with the one you love more than anything in the world, and deciding to stay there forever. Protection, safety, and settlement are not necessarily vices, but they are not innately virtuous either.
A look back at the beginning of the Pre-History reveals to us the problem with the Tower. Look at the first creation story. The work of God was started to create order and life out of chaos and emptiness. This creative work culminates in Genesis 1:27-28, where God not only creates humans, but gives us mission in the world.
“God created humanity, in God’s own image, in the divine image God created them, male and female God created them.
God blessed them and said to them, ‘Be fertile and multiply; fill the earth and master it. Take charge of the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, and everything crawling on the ground.'” (Genesis 1:27-28, Common English Bible)
God said, “Be fruitful and multiply. Fill the earth and master it.”
The sin of Babel was disobedience. Moreover, the people were creating their mission. God gave them a purpose, and they were refusing to act. The languages then, were not given as a punishment. The languages were given to people to help them get the job done. Not the job they intended, but the job God had given them. What has often been seen as a curse is actually God empowering the people to do what they would not do on their own. With this nudge, the Scriptures tell us that the people scattered. They fulfilled their mission, were fruitful and multiplied.
I understand the sin of Babel, and I understand the gift as well. I thank God every day for giving me those nudges. Time and again I have thought to myself, “I’m settled.” It seems like every time, God is there, confusing my language, pushing me to a new adventure, a new relationship, or a new mission.
Every morning I wake my daughter up to get her ready for school, I build my own little tower. I crawl into bed with her and wrap her in my arms and want so badly to keep her from being scattered. Every time I whisper into her ear, “Honey, it’s time to get ready for school,” I break the tower down. It is one of the hardest things I do.
Settlement and safety are not inherently bad things, but anything that works against God’s mission for the world must be worked through. It is so tempting to hold her and never let go. It would be so easy to keep her in my own Tower, but in trying to protect her, I would be hurting only her.
God has great plans for her. I’m not sure what they are, but who am I to get in her way? Who am I to ignore God’s calling on her life? She is made to love, to share kindness, to work for justice. She, as she has said, “was born to dance.” No one can dance with their Daddy weighing them down. So I help her to get ready. I send her out in the world equipped as best I can.
I kiss her goodbye, go upstairs and wake up her little sister. Maybe I can stay in the tower a little longer with her today.
I am the father of two daughters. They are young now, but I hope that someday soon they will go to college. At college, there are often safety tips. I remember hearing them when I was a college student. There will be warnings of the dangers of alcohol abuse. There will be warnings about walking alone on campus, about finding yourself alone in someone else’s room, and even about how to dress. The vast majority of these warnings will be directed toward girls, warning them of the ways that they can prevent themselves from being raped.
There are various statistics about the prevalence of rape on college campuses. A quick google search put the number of women that are victims of rape or attempted rape at anywhere between 1 in 50 and 1 in 4. The truth likely lies somewhere in between. “Rape Culture” on college campuses seems to be growing, as evidenced by the recent debate that Daniel Tosh sparked when making “rape jokes.” Much of the problem has lied with college administrations that are unwilling to punish, or sometimes even investigate, men accused of rape. Notre Dame’s football program was one such case that gained noteriety, but activists across the country have been raising their voices.\
So I decided I would chip in. I came up with this list of “Rape Prevention Tips For College.” I think this is almost 100% fool-proof.
1. Don’t rape anyone.
2. If you go out on a date with someone, don’t rape her.
3. If there is a girl at a party, and she is dressed very sexy, don’t rape her.
4. If you are with a girl that has had way too much to drink, don’t rape her.
5. If you see a girl, and she is passed out; walk by her, or help her get home, or find her friends. Don’t rape her.
6. If, at any time, you are unsure if what you are doing is rape, then stop doing that, immediately.
Maybe it is time that we start teaching men at college that raping someone isn’t okay. Every girl that gets drunk is not looking for sex. Every girl that wears a mini skirt isn’t waiting for you to get into it. Should women avoid dangerous situations? Sure. I will teach my daughters to be smart. I will likely get them to a Girls Fight Back seminar someday, where they will learn to defend themselves. I will teach my daughters to protect themselves.
As a father of two girls, I will do my part. I will do my best to teach my girls to respect themselves. But its not all on me, or on them. You fathers of boys need to step up too. Teach them, in no uncertain terms, that it is not okay to rape. You teach them not to lie. You teach them not to cheat. You teach them lots of things. You may be squeamish about it. It might be an uncomfortable topic, so I provided you with this list to help. Learn it. Live it.
I’ve been given a lot of Father’s Day gifts over the years. I’ve gotten shoes, books, a basketball, shirts, and pictures. When I was in eighth grade, I got a phone for my room. This might sound strange. Not many eighth graders get Father’s Day presents. I remember once telling a friend about the gift my Dad gave me for Father’s Day, and he was confused. My Dad always gave my sister and brother and me gifts for Father’s Day.
“Being a Father is the best thing that ever happened to me,” he would explain to us. “And I couldn’t be a Father if it wasn’t for you.” Although that was only technically true of my sister (his first born), I never argued the point. The message was clear, and it was one that I don’t think I truly grasped until I was a father myself. Becoming a father is the best thing that ever happened to me.
I am the father of two girls, and I adore them. Their laughter is beautiful music. Their smiles are the greatest of masterpieces. Their imagination is mind-boggling. Their dance is breath-taking. I savor every moment that we are together. They make me want to be a better person. I want to give them everything. On this Father’s Day, I want to give them a gift.
This year though, I’m not going to give them a doll or a toy. I’m not going to give them a book or a Blackhawks t-shirt. I’m going to give their gift to someone else, and they are compassionate enough to understand. Instead of giving to them, I am going to give to other daughters, because everytime I look at my daughters, I can’t help but see the future.
I dream of my daughters growing up in safety and health. I dream of them getting educated, finding their talents, discovering their gifts. I dream of them making lasting friendships and falling in love. I see tremendous giftedness in both of them, and my most important role as a father is to help them see and develop these gifts for themselves. My dream for them is to fulfill who they were created to be. My dreams for their future are a luxury that I will never take for granted.
My dreams for their futures are a luxury that most fathers in the world cannot afford. For most daughters of the world, safety, dignity, education, and health are unattainable dreams. So my gift to my daughters on this Father’s Day is to the daughters of the world. My gift this Father’s Day is a word of encouragement. It is a word of awareness. It is a call to action.
Maternal health is not a women’s issue. It is a global concern. For millions of women, giving birth is the most dangerous thing they will ever do. Motherhood should be a gift of life, but far too often it is a death sentence. In many places in the world, women are valued for little more than giving birth. They are treated as a walking uterus, to be valued if they give birth, and thrown away when or if they cannot. Girls are forced into motherhood too soon, when it is biologically possible but anatomically dangerous. They are not allowed to rest and heal between pregnancies. They have little access to contraception. If pregnant, health care is difficult to find, and often impossible to afford. And postpartum care is not even on the RADAR for most.
My faith does not let me standby and allow this to happen. Jesus raised the widow’s son because he had compassion for her. He healed the woman that was bleeding for 12 years, returning her to a life fully integrated into the community. He invited the women to learn at his feet, alongside the men. He debated a foreign woman at the well, and exulted her faith. Jesus believed that crazy notion that women are to be valued and treated with dignity and respect.
I believe the same, and so I am called by that same Jesus to do something. I am called to give my daughters – and all daughters – a gift.
- Go to Healthy Families, Healthy Planet. This initiative is funded by the United Nations Foundation, and housed by the United Methodist Church General Board of Church and Society. On this useful website, there are fact sheets, resources for worship, tips for hosting a panel discussion, and instructions on how to host a screening of the film, No Woman, No Cry.
- Find or host a screening of the incredible film No Woman, No Cry, which tells the story of four women with at-risk pregnancies. This is a touching, emotionally charged movie. It is documentary film-making at its best.
- Write to your Senators and Representatives, and tell them to support aid for international maternal health and family planning. Supporting women’s health is the single most cost-effective form of aid that we can give. Remember, Family Planning does not equal abortions. Increased access and education about contraception can reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies, and reduce the demand for abortions. US Aid to International family planning efforts in 2012 provided contraception to 31 million families. This helped prevent an estimated 9 million unintended pregnancies, and 4 million abortions. Maternal health and family planning is Pro-Life. (source: the Guttmacher Institute)
- Men, stand up and be heard. Too many believe that maternal health is a woman’s issue. In most of the world, men’s voices are the most influential in determining public policy and education. If more men demanded that their daughters were taken care of, it would happen. There are education programs being set up through developing nations teaching men about their role in family planning. Stand up men, for your sisters, your mothers, and your daughters. Do no take the dreams you have for them for granted.
Dads, give someone a Father’s Day gift. Give a daughter hope for a future where she is not sold into slavery for her uterus. Give a daughter hope for an education. Give a daughter a dream for her future. Give a daughter the gift of life, and life abundant.
What is your favorite hour of the week? I asked this question the other day on my facebook page after pondering it myself for a few days. A week is made up of 168 hours. With 7-8 hours of sleep a night (bed around midnight, up around 7), that leaves about 120 waking hours a week. Don’t worry, I used a calculator to figure it out.
Of those 120 hours, I couldn’t come up with one hour that I could define as my favorite, but I could think of a few every week that I genuinely cherish.
Sunday 8 a.m. -12 p.m. – Worship.
Okay, so it’s more than one hour, and it’s work. And it’s not always knock-your-socks-off, Holy-Spirit-filled, blow-the-doors-off-the-church worship. But sometimes it is. Sometimes the choir settles me into a peace that I wasn’t expecting. Sometimes the preaching inspires me to think about things in a new way. Sometimes the praise band gets me swaying and clapping my hands. Sometimes the kids singing or dancing fills my heart with unspeakable joy. Sometimes when I kneel at the altar with my wife and daughters, I am moved to tears of joy and sorrow, and I am empowered by God to be a better man. Sometimes I break the bread and share the cup and I know that I am in the very presence of Jesus Christ. Yeah, sometimes worship is just another hour. Most of the time it is so much more.
Monday 8-10 a.m. – Daddy Lucy Day.
Again, not just one hour, but these are two great hours. Monday is my Sabbath, which I guard with great resilience because it is Daddy-Lucy Day. There’s even a Daddy-Lucy Day theme song, which is remarkably similar to the Howdy Doody Song. My wife gets up in the morning and lets me sleep in, which is a remarkable gift. She then takes our daughter kindergarten and volunteers there all morning. This means I get to get two-year-old Lucy up in the morning. I take her first back to my bed, where we snuggle for as much as an hour. Then we go downstairs and I make coffee and breakfast. We sit together and read some books, and watch some Sesame Street or Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood. Sometimes we are out of our pajamas when Sarah gets home. Sometimes we’re not. She never get annoyed if the pile of laundry has not been folded, and smiles at us even if the kitchen sink still has dirty dishes. Those things can be done during a different, less favorite hour. Incidentally, I think this time would be on the list of all four of us. Ellie loves having Mommy with her at school, and my wife loves working with the students. It might be Mrs. Larson’s favorite time of the week too (because Sarah is not only an amazing wife and mother, but an incredibly gifted teacher).
Monday 7-8 p.m. – Volleyball.
When we fist moved to Moline, we were asked to be a part of a co-ed C-League Volleyball team. The team of four couples – all with kids under 6 – have become our best friends. We play hard, but we have a great time. We have an almost perfect mix of competitive spirit and light-heartedness that makes it fun. We like to win, but if we don’t we still have a great time. Plus, we’ve improved a lot over the last couple of years. Next Monday we are playing in the league’s Final Four!
Tuesday 6-8 p.m. Dinner with Friends
Our best friends and their kids come over every Tuesday for dinner. We say grace together, share a meal, then spend an hour or so talking and drinking wine while the kids play. The kids cry, they don’t like their vegetables, they make messes, they don’t share, they fight. We correct them. We don’t judge each other. We clean up. We hug. We share our lives; confess our failures; and celebrate our mundane, everyday triumphs. We laugh and know that next week we are going to do it at their house, and it will be one of the best couple of hours of the week.
Wednesday 5:30-8:00 p.m. – Wednesday Night Alive.
Dinner is at church. After dinner the kids go do music ministries or to the nursery. I lead a Bible study. Leading Bible study is one of my favorite things to do. We sit in couches and chairs and open up the Scriptures to each other. Then we watch the Spirit move.
Friday 1 p.m-? – Hy Vee Salad Bar
One of the highlights of my week has become the Hy-Vee Salad Bar. I bring my computer, books, and a notepad. I eat a healthy, delicious meal. I work. I blog. I read. I drink coffee. I am at my most productive around people. I leave full, but always happy that I passed on the fried egg rolls and pizza. The most unhealthy thing I have at lunch is the cream soup – which is always delicious.
Saturday 11-12 – Yoga
The early part of Saturday is pretty great too, but if at all possible, Saturday morning is going to include Yoga with our favorite instructor Sara. Yoga has become an important practice in our lives. Afterwards we feel stronger, healthier, and refreshed. My flexibility has improved tremendously, and much pain that I was developing from running has abated. It is also a wonderful hour of prayer and reflection as I whisper, “Come Holy Spirit” and breathe. I have had a couple of remarkable spiritual experiences during yoga practice. It is a powerful act of merging my spiritual and physical health.
Okay, so I had a few more than one favorite hour of the week. When I posted my question on Facebook, I received a variety of answers. Many involved times of quiet rest, or even sleep. A few picked the first hour of the weekend, or the first hour of the day. One said “the present one.” The first response was from C, who said, “What a great question! Seems innocuous, but might actually get to the heart of a person!” I think she’s right. People say all the time, “I don’t have time for…” The fact is, we have 120 hours a week and the way we fill them tells us about our priorities. Yes, life can get in the way sometimes. Circumstances can dictate choices that we wouldn’t otherwise make. But sometimes I fear we allow “I don’t have time for…” to be a convenient excuse.
What matters in your life? What do you love about your life? If you don’t have enough “favorite hours” of the week, then maybe it is time to take a hard look at things and start asking some tough questions. Loving God, living well, and doing good should lead to a life that is joyful and full of meaning. This doesn’t mean that we don’t have stress, but if we can hold onto those “favorite hours” then the stress becomes bearable. I invite you to reflect on this question, and as you start to come up with answers, see if there is a common thread or theme. See if there are ways you can multiply those hours. Cultivate “favorite hours,” even if it has to start with “favorite fifteen minutes.” Cherish the time you have, and guard your Sabbath rest.
My week is full of friends, food, family, and the Spirit. My life isn’t perfect, and I’m far from it, but when I look at the “favorite hours” of my week I realize that I am incredibly blessed. I hope you are too.I want to thank Natalie Bannon, who inspired this question in my heart. She writes a blog called Modern Mind Old Soul. Follow her on Twitter @NatalieBannon