Feb 6 2013

“find your joy”

Here is my contribution to kick off C!C’s Devotional Journal entitled “find your joy”:

I have come that they may have life and have it abundantly.
John 10:10

As the idea for this devotional journal began to take shape, I knew that I would need to “practice what I preach” and thus began asking myself: “Jason, where do you find your joy?” In response I decided to start a list and pay attention to when I found myself joyful at the little things in my days. My search became a catalogue of surprise joys, and seemed to deepen the saturation of enjoyment that these little moments brought. Allow me to share the highlights:

  • The “Daddy’s home” rush and outpouring of affection
  • Stealing kisses with “the wife of my youth” in the kitchen
  • Spontaneous laughter, five throats strong, at the dinner table . . . or the hallway . . . or the restaurant . . . or in the car . . . or . . .
  • Reading Ps. 16:9 > “Therefore my heart is glad and my spirit rejoices; my body also rests securely,” and knowing that it is true in me.
  • Realizing that my back isn’t hurting
  • Realizing that my back is hurting but that it won’t hurt in heaven
  • Sudden moments of conviction reminding me that God has called me to such important tasks that I cannot succeed on my own . . . in order that He can succeed through me.
  • Watching family and friends learn to value and apply courage
  • Each new word that my kids learn which make me anticipate future conversations
  • Being pierced by the Word of God via fresh encouragement OR conviction from a passage as familiar as my “work jeans”
  • Finding the beauty in the dance of shepherding my wife AND being shepherded by her

Where do you find your joy?


Oct 19 2012

Getting Better At Looking Forward

I believe one of my deepest and profoundest callings as a man and as a father is to be a visionary.  I need to cultivate the ability to rise above the melee of my day to day and scan the landscape “up ahead”.  I need to have a sense of where I and my family are headed … and how that relates to where we want to be headed, where God desires us to be.  I need to scout out potential dangers and also look for life-giving oases, to help build each of us up in life, health and faith.

I had an idea as to one such oasis this past week in conjunction with Hannah’s first birthday.  I have hopes of starting a tradition to write a letter to each child on their birthday, recapping some highlights of the prior year of life and affirming my love and hopes for them.  I plan on saving these letters and will begin “delivering” them, one a year, starting with their 10th birthday.  Admittedly it would have been nice to think of this three years ago when Caleb turned one, but better late than never, right?

In an effort to maybe encourage and inspire some of you, and to kick off my new tradition, here’s my first letter. Shhhh, don’t tell Hannah.

Dearest Hannah,
Today is your 1 year birthday. One year of life with your snuggles. One year of life with giggles, your soft brown eyes, and your snot on my shoulder. For a while, my dear, we called you our little mouse, because you seemed so preciously small, quiet and observant. Now, you are everyday growing and showing us just how big your personality can be. And we love it. I love it.
I love you, and have loved you ever since we found out that God was giving us another child. We were surprised, and we were intimidated, but we knew that God had something special in store for you and our family. We knew this because the miracle of life is such a wonderful, mysterious blessing. And we knew you were going to be special because the Bible tells us that our Heavenly Father knows how to give good gifts to His children.
I have a few very special memories of your first few days on earth, now one year ago.
1) Standing in front of our hospital room window, with you bundled up in my arms – so small, so vulnerable, so practically perfect.  I looked down at you, prayed for wisdom, for protection, and for grace upon grace, and then it hit me … my nickname for you: peanut. My Peanut.
2) Your Gigi and Grandad drove up to Ottawa from Atlanta to be with our family during you birth and first week. I remember with particular joy when they came to the hospital to meet you for the first time, with your brother and sister in tow. My heart swelled to see you in the arms of MY parents … and also to see our entire family together for the first time.
3) That same hospital visit was your brother and sister’s first glimpse at their brand new sibling. Lillie was a little too young to be interested much beyond a kiss on the forehead before getting back to running around the lounge. Caleb on the other hand seemed awed by this little new addition and would often come by your side to watch you, ask questions, and give you little kisses on your hands. Ever since he’s been watching you, helping to take care of you, loving on you … and still likes kissing your hand.
The past year has been full of adventures and ups and downs as your mom and I have worked to find our “new normal” as a family of five.  God has again and again proven Himself faithful to guide, encourage and sustain all of us through every turn, every battleground, and every milestone.
I have found intense joy in seeing you grow, dear Hannah.  Walking at 11 months … your first words: “up” … your laughter … your eagerness to join in on what everyone else is doing … your uncanny ability to soften the heaets of strangers.  You are special and always will be.  Happy Birthday.

Love always,

Dad


Aug 10 2012

Who are you listening to? Part 2

A few posts ago I wrote about the importance of listening to Jesus in order to receive the words/message that He may desire you to pass along.  Thus, in our marketing-saturated society, we’ve got to be careful who we’re listening to so that we don’t miss out on the best messages.  Well, thanks to a series of life circumstances over the past couple weeks, I’ve got version 2.0 of that message.

In all honesty, it’s been a tiring couple of weeks, physically and spiritually.  Sparing the details, there were travelings, sicknesses, losses, disappointments, unmet expectations, flat bicycle tires, and often a general feeling of being spiritually assailed by the evil one.  Enter into that picture a simple children’s praise CD that has put various Scripture verses to music.  (Caleb requests this one a lot.)

[ band strikes up ]

“Out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks . . . the mouth speaks.”

“Out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks . . . the mouth speaks.”

“Out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks . . . the mouth speaks.”

“Out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks . . . the mouth speaks . . . the mouth speaks . . . the mouth speaks.”

“Matthew 12:34″

And that’s the song.  Remarkably simple, with a fairly catchy tune (come take a ride in our swagger wagon . . . I’m telling you, Caleb will likely request it.)

Well here’s the rub.  I realized that in the midst of this difficult couple of weeks, my mouth wasn’t “clothing myself with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience” (Col. 3:12) like I would want.  The lyrics/verse of the song provided the reason why.  I had definitely been short-changing my time in the Word in the midst of the craziness.  My heart was overflowing with more woes that it was with the Word.  So in response, I dove into Psalms to help find my bearings.

The Lord rewarded my obedience with Psalm 25 .  Go ahead, take a few minutes and read it.  Put yourself into the Psalmist’s shoes and pray this from your perspective instead of David’s.  Pay attention to your heart as you meditate on the picture of God described in the chapter.  Pray that God would keep His Truth in your heart . . . and watch how your responses throughout the day change.  ‘Cause ya know . . . “Out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks.”


Mar 2 2012

what I’m listening to

Music is a powerful influence.  I’ve heard it said that music is the only thing that can enter a persons soul without getting permission from the mind (or something like that, anyway.)  Regardless, music has a tremendous ability to illicit deep seated emotions and move us in profound ways.

An album that I’ve been particularly fond of and moved by lately is “The One You Need” by Shane and Shane .  Songs about Liberty, celebrating our freedom in Christ.  Songs proclaiming the sufficiency of God’s grace, even (or especially) in the midst of hard times.  The title track is a moving description of a father’s prayer over his daughter.  It’s totally worth looking up the music video.

Last night, we put in the album after our family dinner and turned it up.  After a good romp around the room to “Liberty” the upbeat opener, the second number, a melodious song entitled, “Your Love,” began to play.  The flowing tune and powerfully descriptive lyrics drew out some of the old ballerina in Carrie.  I stood holding our youngest and watched in awe as my beautiful bride graciously spun across the floor with my two older children captivated.  As the dancing continued, my heart continually grew fuller as I marveled at the goodness that the Lord has lavished on my family.  As Lillie twirled like her mom, I saw there, also in the deep parts of my heart, a yearning for my children to follow us in knowing the love of the Lord as much as they mimic our movements.

God’s love often comes in the form of rebuke, discipline, and conviction, of which I’ve had plenty.  And thankfully, His love also comes in the form of twirls, giggles, and tender moments that fill the heart.  I love my God, and I love my family.

I did manage to snag a few precious moments of the “show”, so I hope you enjoy a sliver of what I did.

Family Dance (click to view)


Nov 1 2011

Growing in Grace

2Cor. 12:9 > “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’  Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” (italics added)

Eph. 1:7-8 > “In him we have redemption through is blood, the forgiveness of our sins, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished on us…” (italics added)

In a few short parenting moments last night, I turned a new corner in my understanding of grace.  What’s more, I’ve come to greater treasure the Lord for His lavish grace, and I’ve been convicted of how far I am from emulating Him as I ought.

The scene was fairly routine as the night began to wind down.  Bed time.  Long day.  Everybody is tired.  As we round the final corner and head towards lights out, Caleb asks, “Dad, do we have time to read a book?”  Now, I don’t have anything against reading books, but sometimes I just want the bed-time-routine to be over.  So selfishly, I just want to say, “No.”  But the fact that there is time to read a book together with the fact that he asked so nicely, it’s really hard to decline.  So here’s what I said:

Well buddy, I’ll tell you what.  If you can go finish your milk and have a good attitude through your bathroom chores, we’ll check the time and maybe read a book.

Seems like a pretty good response, huh?  Well, allow me to let you in on what what going on in my heart.

As Caleb headed to get started on that list of contingencies, I grabbed the Bible story book knowing full well that “there would be time.”  While grabbing the book and considering its contents the Holy Spirit split me wide open:

Don’t kid yourself, Jason.  You are not showing your son grace.  You’re making him work for your “favour.”  You’re making the expression of your love and generosity dependent on him conforming his behaviour.  Do you want him to have a good attitude because it makes your life easier or because you want him to know and do the right thing?  Aren’t you glad God doesn’t work that way with His grace and you?

Wow.  I sure am glad that God’s grace — the lavish grace that is sufficient for all that I lack and the grace that is greater than all my sin — isn’t couched in a list of qualifications.  God offers His favour to me unmerited, undeserving as I am, though I’ve done nothing to earn it.  Jesus is the one who earned His grace . . . I get it just by my faith-filled association in Christ.  What a privilege.

Now back to parenting, I don’t think the answer is to spoil my kids.  God has given me a responsibility to teach them right and wrong and the consequences of their actions.  But what I don’t want to do is to teach them that they need to work for my affection.  I don’t want them to learn love as a works-based privilege.  I want to be stern in discipline, teaching them what is right and wrong.  And at the same time, I want to be able to show them that I love them like God loves: freely, without manipulation, without qualification.  They are mine, I love them . . . just like I am His and He loves me.

Caleb and Hannah

Caleb and Hannah


Aug 26 2011

Scariest Moment — Turning It Over

Caleb & Lillie

Pool Time

I’ve had plenty of intense moments in my 30+ years thus far on earth.  Some of them, I would even classify as “scary.”  Examples of varying consequence come to mind:  university dining hall mystery meats, tuition payments, jumping off cliffs into rivers, sleeping on the cold ground in Malawi with malaria-carrying mosquitoes around, money troubles, health troubles of loved ones, moving away from family and support system, and the list could go on.  And yet, yesterday provided the scariest moment of my life — as I chugged through my to-do list in the basement office, a fearful scenario that has initiated in my head many times began playing out.

The kids were upstairs asleep.  Lillie had a bit of a fever earlier in the morning, and so Carrie had gone upstairs to check on her as she napped.  Next thing I know, Carrie is frantically calling my name to come upstairs because something is wrong with Lillie.  As Carrie had checked on her, she had begun to rouse herself from her nap only to lay down and go limp.  When Carrie picked her up, she went into a febrile seizure.  By the time I hit the top of the stairs, her lips were blue, face pale, eyes rolled back, and she was shaking.  As I tried to steady my voice in order to clearly speak to the 911 operator, I realized that I was the most scared I’d ever been.

Carrie held her, rocked her, wiped cool water over her head.  We spoke to her, and we begged the Lord to help us all.  That’s when the thought first flashed through my head: “Do you trust me?

After only a couple of minutes, the colour came back to her face . . . her eyes began to look a little more focused . . . her silence turned to moans which turned to a muffled cry . . . all good signs.  I woke Caleb up from his nap as the paramedics arrived and finally had more time to think.  Again: “Do you trust me?”  A few initial tests, a few gathered neighbours, and Carrie and Lillie headed off in the ambulance — stable — but still with plenty of questions.

As Caleb and I drove to CHEO, three references played repeatedly through my head:

  1. Lyrics from a Ginny Owens song:  “When the whole world turns against me, and I’m all by myself, and I cannot hear you answer my cries for help.  I’ll remember the suffering Your love put You through, and I will go through the valley, if You want me to.”
  2. 2Corinthians 12:9a > “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”
  3. Luke 22:42 > “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me.  Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.”

Thankfully, as it turns out, the seizure did not last long enough for serious concern, and while the infection causing the fever has not been identified, Lillie’s blood tests look fine.  As well, her body now seems to be responding to fever medication.  What’s more is that we learned that febrile seizures are not terribly uncommon in children under 5yrs when high fevers strike.

But while the seriousness of Lillie’s illness doesn’t warrant the level of fear that struck my heart, the thoughts and struggles in the midst of the fear are no less valuable.  As I prayed for my daughter and for my family, I was forced to face the reality: Will I trust in the valley?  Is His grace sufficient in my weakness?  Am I okay with HIS will being done?

Praise the Lord that Lillie seems to be doing just fine . . . and praise Him all the more that in this crucible moment, my heart connected with Truth and how the Lord has been faithful to me in the past, and I was able to respond in faith.

I pray that this will be an encouragement to all (including myself in days ahead) to be able to say, “All to Jesus, I surrender”  . . . and, “It is well with my soul.”


Jun 10 2011

my routine pick-me-up

Spring 2011

The Lord is good to give me little reminders during the day that do two things:

1.  Make me feel loved, wanted, respected and generally good about myself,

2. Make me humbled at realizing the significance of my influence in others’ lives.

One such reminder which happens most mornings, typically when I’ve run up to the kitchen from the basement office to top off a cup of coffee.

Caleb, my three year old, will usually look at me and say, “Dad, are you going back to work now?”

Yes, sir.  I’ll see you later.”

[pause, wait for it . . . ]

You’re my best buddy, dad.  And I love you and I like playing with you.  Okay, see you later.”

Then, though no one really sees it, I descend back to the basement with coffee in hand, grinning from ear to ear.

I am amazed at the opportunity adults have to influence the lives of children.  But not only children, anyone who gives us permission to step beyond the metaphorical “front porch” of our lives.

Some people will just wave from their porch as we walk by in life, some will invite us up to the porch swing for some lemonade (can you tell I’m from the South?), and many others will invite us in to “stay a while.”  Those relationships are the ones where we have such an incredible chance to bless one another.

I’ve been greatly encouraged these past few weeks as I’ve read through Galatians 6 in preparation for Sunday messages.  The truth there has left me with a deep prayer and desire to see our “household of faith” make significant investments in each others’ lives.  Whether it is the example we put before the children in our church, the effort we put forth in small groups, or general tenor of how we speak and relate to one another, I sincerely pray that

we [will] not get tired of doing good, for we will reap at the proper time if we don’t give up.  Therefore, as we have opportunity, we must work for the good of all, especially for those to belong to the household of faith. (Gal. 6:9-10)

So to my friends and church family:

You are my dear buddies.  And I love you and I love spending time with you.  Okay, see you later.”


Jun 3 2011

Girls

As the Lord continues to thrust me along this journey of life, faith, and fatherhood, it never ceases to amaze me the extend to which the pathways are laced with sweet opportunities for reflection and encouragement.  This week, as the Byers family of four packed into the technician’s room at a local ultrasound clinic, we met Byers #5 . . . a girl.

Truth be told and for whatever reason, we totally thought that it was going to be a boy.  Somehow, I’ve always thought boys are just easier.  In some ways it just seemed to make sense to have some more tough-little-testosterone to counter Caleb’s fire (and speed.)  We’d even pretty much decided on a boy’s name without many leads on a girl’s.  So, moral of this part of the story is that when we got the word: GIRL, Carrie and I looked each other with a sort of sheepish grin and giggled as if to say, “Okay, well hello little lady, here goes somethin’.”

Since pre-teen girls seem to make about as much sense to me as black holes (although super-nova might be a better comparison for energy output), looking ahead to those years with two young girls makes me quiver in my boots.  And yet, in praying through some of my thoughts and feelings, I’ve found a significant peace in turning the unknowns over to the Lord.  From there, I think the Holy Spirit whispered, “Now that I’ve got all the unknowns, let’s work together on the things you CAN do.”  Then the FIGHTclub rules came to mind:

1.  Know Yourself (busy, nervous about leading a family of five)
2.  Trust Your Saviour (Sovereign, Strong, Loving, All-Sufficient)
3.  Fight Your Sin (my family needs my grace based godliness)
4.  Carry Your Sword (my grounding point, my source of Truth)
5.  Stand with Your Brothers (other guys need me and I need other guys to help me in this fight)
6.  Do Hard Things (raising children, especially girls may be hard, but it is a very worthy calling … and a privilege)
7.  Be a Hero

This last one is what I deeply desire to be for my family . . . for my girls.  They’ll need a man who will be a tender warrior, fighting for them in a world that sets itself up against that which is true and pure and sacred.  They’ll need a dad who lives to show them the Hero that they have in Jesus, who gave His all to pay for our freedom, who conquered death to redeem us to Himself, and who stands in Heaven, waiting to receive us as His holy bride.

Lord, given all the baby girls that you’ve blessed Celebration! Church with, help us be good stewards of them.  Help us all, particularly the men, be the kind of heroes they will need to connect with all that You are for them.  Heavenly Father, strengthen us all to be like the Proverbs 31 woman who is “clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come,” because You are our Rock, our Strength . . . our Hero.


May 27 2011

Murphy or James ?

This week has been pretty wild at the Byers house.

With two kids, a pregnant wife, an active young church, and a family member visiting from Atlanta, we are all over the map.  Amusingly, dinner the other night seemed to be a crescendo.

It went something like this:

There was a woodworking project in the front yard, meat on the grill in the backyard (which thanks to some cheap charcoal was about an hour late), Lillie, Caleb and Christopher … and yes, Carrie, too were all getting pretty cranky with hunger.  Carrie and I finally gave up on the “planned” dinner and split up so one could occupy the crew at home while the other ran down the street for shwarma.  By the time the circus made it to the table for dinner, it was almost 8pm.  But the circus didn’t stop.

Caleb had to go “#2″ a few minutes into the meal, requiring more “divide and conquer” strategy, the dog had to out, and about three more trips to the kitchen happened before everyone had what they needed.  Oh, did I mention that somewhere in there Lillie threw her sippy-cup full of water off the table which happen to land right on Carrie’s big toe!?!

That was the moment where Carrie looked at me teetering between laughing and crying and blurted, “What is going on?”  As I chuckled before answering, it dawned on me.

Some would call it “Murphy,” some would call it “trails of many kinds“.

Let me be clear, my family’s shenanigans hardly match up against many of the trials that people, particularly Christians face all over the world.  And yet, they do represent an everyday opportunity stand on Biblical Truth in pursuit of the abundant life that Christ promises:

Consider it  all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.  And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. James 1:2-4 (NASB)

Standing on the promises of God, by faith, in the small things sets us up for the successful weathering of bigger storms.  And what’s more: we can find JOY in the middle of it all! Speaking for the Byers Family this week, this little drop of perspective has gone a long way to alleviate the stresses from crazy routines and bruised big toes.

So “Murphy vs. James” is not the big decision over baby names . . . it’s the decision to laugh at the realities of life, smile at the days ahead, and thank God for developing our faith.